The Big FiOS Surprise


In January 2009 I signed up for FiOS TV and Internet service (but not phone service) with the last post about my troubled experiences here.

Things improved slightly during the last 18 months, or more accurately, I adjusted my expectations down a bit.

FiOS Set Top Box TroubleThe DVR is still just terrible. The biggest issue is that it’s hardly a DVR during the new TV season. The hard drive is so small that there’s not enough room to leave recordings on it for very long. My DirecTV DVR would have shows, in HD, going back many months. Here we have to pretty much watch shows live or run the very real risk of having them get deleted automatically.

I have audio and video drop-outs here and there and several channels exhibit a horizontal studder that has to be seen to be believed. For example, watching Star Trek, anytime the Enterprise moves from left to right it literally does so by jumping in stages across the screen. FiOS reps blame the network but I never saw this issue on DirecTV and I see it on virtually every FiOS install I encounter.

Add to this that every time I call, since I don’t have phone service with them, it takes me forever to get my account up. I don’t have a Verizon phone number and that gives their reps (and the automated menus) fits.

The latest problem exposed one of the biggest surprises yet. Verizon FiOS demands that you use an ActionTec-branded router. Now I’ve been in networking a long time and this is a brand no one was familiar with. These routers are required if you want guide data, access to OnDemand and other features. The problem is they’re terrible routers. People have all kinds of trouble with them.

Ours was bad enough that we switched over our network setup (not easy) to reduce its impact on our in-house network (it’s really only required for full TV service and just gets in the way for Internet service). However, of late it appears the unit has developed issues as no matter how we have it connected it causes problems. Phone service (VoIP) drops out. Online videos studder. Websites time-out. We can’t use our Xbox and stay connected to Xbox Live.

Here’s the surprise: I call Verizon and go through all my usual difficulties reaching an agent. I tell them about the problem with the router and ask about getting a new one. Turns out that if your account is over a year old you now own the router and if you want a new one it’s on you to go buy it. Let me get this straight. Verizon requires that you use a specific router but if it has trouble then, too bad, you have to go buy a lousy router you don’t need for anything else and it’s $150.

There is another option. Support will send you a refurbished unit but I’ve tried that twice now and gotten an even older version of my already-old ActionTec.

Amazing….. Require specific equipment that frankly stinks and then when it knowingly fails leave it up to the customer to replace the equipment. Brilliant strategy that one.

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