Monday, April 20, 2009

Switching to FIOS from Comcast - free ceiling hole with purchase

We have had the adventure of switching from Comcast Cable (and Internet) to Verizon FIOS TV (and internet and phone , which we had already) over the past week. It turns out that Verizon FIOS altogether is cheaper (by about $40/month) than Comcast TV and Internet and Verizon phone at what I will describe as similar service (I have all the movie channels) even though I appear to have lots more channels (regular and HD) with FIOS TV than Comcast.

The installation was very professional except for one gaff which I describe below. It is interesting to realize that the fiber optic cable comes to the house and that the box in the garage is now the central nexus for the cable, internet and telephone. It is like having a mini-switching station (with battery backup) right in the house.

The only problems with the installation, he started too late (5pm) and ended too late (10pm) and had some misgivings about the splitter configuration and signal to the rest of the house for the cable. And finally, he fell through the ceiling of the garage.

You read that correctly, the poor guy fell through the ceiling of my garage. That hole is about two feet by five feet. Now he didn't fall to the floor or he really would have hurt himself, tahnk goodness. He said he held himself up in the hole, but I didn't see him do this because I was in the house. I really feel bad for him, because nobody wants to get hurt at work, and I certainly don;t want him to hurt himself working for me. It didn't occur to me to take him up in the attic and explain to only walk where wood was on the ceiling joists or on the joists themselves. He said he got confused by a pile of siding left up there by the previous owners and thought that it was wood to stand on. No it wasn't. At that point he called a friend to help figure out the splitter situation, and probably to calm his nerves and complete the job since he had removed all of the Comcast boxes at this point.

As to the ceiling, Verizon sent out there contractor the next day and explained that we neded to to get two quotes and then get the ceiling fixed and then we can get reimbursed. I would have been more aggravated if the installer had fallen through the ceiling of the living spaces of the house. Mostly I feel bad for the guy. Getting the estimates will be a pain.

Meanwhile on the lenthening evening of the install, the (now two) installers had many misgivings about the strength of the signal to some of the TV's in the house through the various splitters and the old low quality legacy cable from the previous Comcast (or maybe even Heritage Cable) installation, but after some false starts and making sure that the computer could see the IP addresses of the set top boxes they just plugged everything in and it worked, mostly.

The two digital TV's (both Sharp Aquos) had skips in the picture every so often with a black screen(big one, furthest from the input) or a green screen (small one closer to the input). It occurred while the installers were there but they said that it was due possibly to the signal or too the boxes still downloading all of their guide information, and he assured me it would correct itself. I suppose he was too tired and hurt to want to fix it anyway so he said that Verizon would contact us about the ceiling and we could get more help if the problem continued then. I intended to have another installer come and review the issue but I learned more over the next few days.

The issue about the cable signal caused me to rewire the house this past weekend. It was an adventure to get the cable from the attic over the house to the attic over the garage, but not go outside and through the gutters like Comcast had it, not drill holes through the wall, and not have it run on the roof as was tentatively suggested. It was a fun adventure and involved threading the wire puller down the wall of the house and then pulling cable from the garage back up. I am glad I did it, but the bottom line is I probably didn't have to.

I love the internet because if you Google an obscure questions like "green screen on FIOS TV", you get an answer or two. Turns out the interruptions on one TV and the green blackouts on the other are a known incompatibility between the Motorola set-top boxes and the Sharp Aquos TV's. Each company( and Verizon in the forum stories) claims the other has implemented the HDMI interface incorrectly. Thus I can't use the HDMI output if I don't want to have this issue. I have switched the TV's to take the video component output (red, blue, green) from the boxes. The TV says it is still 1080i and the picture looks just as good so maybe this is my fix. many discussions of the HDMI vs component discussion say to try both and see which is better. In my case I see no difference in the vidoe quality. Is HDMI inherently better than component? Is there an expert out there that knows the answer?

I suppose I could call FIOS and complain. Having rewired the house to avoid the low cable signal red herring and having looked up this issue on the internet, I am armed with knowledge to get it fixed faster, but we shall see. If it is truly a software error, replacing the boxes with the same kind won't help. I suppose I need a software upgrade on the TV or on the boxes. Should I put up with this, should I complain?

The long and the short of it is, even with these issues. Watching FIOS through the components on the two HD TV's still looks good. The old CRT TV's in the rest of the house are fine. The computer appears fast, I don't recall the Comcast rates. Here is the speed test for FIOS.

The FIOS TV has a better picture than I had with Comcast, tons more channels, faster internet, and the phone works. It is promised to be cheaper, subsequent bills will prove that out. Since I now have Verizon FIOS instead of Comcast it appears that FIOS wins, ceiling hole, component output and all.


The Dad said...

Well, no fire and you have tv. Sounds better than some installs.

We just got a letter that ATT is ending their VOIP phone service which we use for our home phone. C'mon FIOS, when you gonna hit our 'hood?

Richard said...

I haven't heard the fire story. You will have to provide a link.

Ah Pittsburgh, so high tech with all of those fancy schools, yet so behind sometimes. I have heard you should always call Verizon because the internet databases are not kept up to date. Maybe you do have FIOS available. is it in the area but not to your particular address yet?

Howard said...

That might be worse installation experience than mine.

I'd say if the picture quality looks the same to you, who cares what anyone else says?

My other FiOS experience is every time I call them to complain about anything, they offer me something free. I'm sure you can get something over the cost of the repair for pain and suffering.

Richard said...

In spite of the hole in my ceiling, I think Howard had a worse installation than I did. At least my stuff worked when they left.

Read about the fire during a FIOS installation here:

or here: