Two More Years of Verizon FiOS! (Sorry, Comcast)

Dave Zatz —  August 17, 2014 — 47 Comments

verizon-math

For three of the last four years, I’ve been fortunate to live in markets where there’s choice in Internet and cable. Because where there’s competition, consumers generally see better rates and service. After Cox was unable to effectively support CableCARD in relation to SDV, despite contrary ra-ra reports to the FCC (indicating no complaints), we made our first jump to Verizon FiOS. A year or so later, when we flipped our 1976 house for new construction, we once again had a choice – that time between Comcast and Verizon. And, believe it or not, a deciding factor in choosing Verizon over Comcast was their decision to block HBO GO on Roku.

Fast forward two years, my Verizon agreement is up today. Which both VZ and Comcast must know given the quantity of mailers we’ve received these last couple weeks. 30 days ago, it’d have been a hard decision to make. But Ryan Block’s painful attempt to cancel service and Scott Lewis’ difficulty in getting CableCARD in his TiVo going, in conjunction with Comcast’s continued HBO GO Roku blockade, sealed the deal… despite promises of several hundred-dollar gift cards and the real interesting Xfinity plan (displayed below) of basic cable, Internet, and HBO GO (that I couldn’t actually watch on my preferred streamer).

xfinity-hbo-plan

Of course, FiOS isn’t without it’s flaws given obscene $5 CableCARD rentals and Netflix performance continues to tank. But the thought of having a Comcast installer out and potentially choosing to engage customer service to cancel 12 months later just terrifies me. Verizon customers who re-up aren’t eligible for the best deals and I wasn’t energized enough to call in for the cancellations department, although I did attempt some cursory FiOS negotiation via online chat and Twitter support. After stepping through the permutations, by agreeing to a new two year deal that locks in prices (along with a $230 ETF), I was able to effectively keep our existing $80 Internet+TV rate… by dropping my channel count (and doing some fancy mathematical computations, as screen captured above). So while we’re giving up ESPN and E!, we’re gaining BBC America – which has cost us over the last two years, as we’ve purchased seasons of Sherlock, Luther, and Orphan Black via Amazon Instant. As expected, as soon as I locked in my renewal, complimentary HBO was dropped. Fortunately, the online rep offered me a 12 month dealio for 50% off, which I expect to add back in should they honor it.

On the Internet front, our 50/25Mbps FiOS service recently went symmetrical to 50/50. Yet, in most areas of our home, we’re only seeing a fraction of that. Verizon’s WiFi router doesn’t provide the best coverage, but I’ll experiment with alternate locations for potential improvement. Or pick up a WiFi router of my own to overcome these shortcomings… which I’d have had to do on Comcast’s lower tiers, anyhow. Generally speaking, our Internet has been rock solid – especially now that YouTube stuttering appears to have resolved itself over the last year. And, unlike cable, there’s no nightly slowdown as I don’t share bandwidth with the neighbors.

Fortunately, our plan elements aren’t locked in stone, just the commitment to Verizon. So if we’re feeling withdrawal as college football resumes, we can easily upgrade to the sports channel tier. Lastly, despite my new two-year agreement with Verizon. Should Netflix become unusable, should Comcast get their act together, etc I wouldn’t hesitate (much) on eating the ETF (which drops by $10/month).

47 responses to Two More Years of Verizon FiOS! (Sorry, Comcast)

  1. You pay only $80 for everything? Does that include cable boxes/cablecards? Not bad.

    Get a real router. We gave up on the FIOS one years ago and put a real Netgear AC router behind the FIOS one (turning off the FIOS WiFi) to create its own internal subnet. Sure, routing some services outside requires an extra step or two, but the range is much better and more consistent. Plus 5GHz.

  2. $80 for TV and Internet. There was no way to keep my existing television package and keep the same rate. Not without calling in, anyway. Verizon is weird in that the tier we were on (Preferred) doesn’t contain all the channels that the tier below (Select) contains, most notably BBCA and BBC World News – which we want, but weren’t willing to go up a tier (Extreme) for it, especially after the increase in price. CableCARD is $5 and then there’s taxes. So it’s been and will stay $90ish a month, during the months I don’t have HBO or SHO. Of course, I have no set-top fees as I provide my own TiVo hardware.

    In the old Fairfax house, I did what you describe in disabling Actiontec wireless and using my own hardwired wireless router. However, in the last few months, I’ve sold my two prior routers. Will probably pick up one of the recommended Netgear or ASUS models. It just kinda irks me that I have a wireless router and I need a better one to overcome it. If I were a newer Verizon customer paying a rental fee for the router, I’d be more upset I guess. Also, while we’re geeking out, I tried running both a second Actiontec and then an Apple Airport Extreme as wireless bridges – while both started good, eventually the network would get jacked up so it’s not sustainable. Also has made reviewing this Netgear extender very difficult.

  3. I recently switched to FiOS from Bright House Networks. I love the lack of copy controls on everything but HBO. I did opt for the $99 one-time cost for the Vz FiOS Actiontec router vs paying monthly for the rental. I do have an ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router upstairs connected to an Actiontec MoCA adapter to extend my network. I’m also on the 50/25 plan and my current speed test results are running around 58 Mbps download and 31 Mbps upload. I’ve tried connecting wirelessly to both the FiOS router and the ASUS router and get similar results.

    Regarding monthly charges, my monthly cost is around $105/mo (before taxes) for:

    Double Play – $74.99/mo
    – FiOS TV Extreme HD
    – Double Play 50/25
    – $10 Bundle 24 Mo Credit
    – $5 24 Mo FiOS Internet Bundle Discount
    – $40 Bundle 24 Mo Credit

    CableCARD – $4.99/mo

    Fully loaded entertainment pack $48.99 per month – Free for 3 months then 50% discount for months 4 to 12 – $24.50

    I will probably reduce, drop or change the fully loaded entertainment pack after the 12 month promotion expires.

  4. Wow, Sam – you got an amazing new customer promo there with the $40 off/mo.

    Via wireless, I hit about 20-30% advertised speeds in common areas of the home. When testing Ethernet straight into the Actiontec, I’m pretty close to advertised speeds. Given my failures in extending the network, I’m thinking just one real good router. Though the layout, size, and construction of this house is much different than the prior one where that approach worked – who knows if it’ll work out here.

  5. Dave, are you saying I didn’t need the Actiontec router from Verizon at all? I thought it was a requirement to have a Vz managed device.

    The only thing hardwired to the FiOS Actiontec are my Roamio and Ooma phone but I should connect my laptop directly to the GigE ports and retest.

    BTW, the challenge with the $40 bundle is I’ve had to call Verizon more than once so that it sticks on my bill. The challenge is I made a change prior to the installation – added the CableCARD and removed the VZ set top box. The change f*ed up the bundle resulting in the customer service headaches. They’ve been pretty good about correcting it for the first two months after I’ve received my bill but I’ve grown fatigued by calling them every time I receive a bill. Note to self… don’t change a Verizon bundle until after it is firmly established on your bill. I should have just kept the set top box for $11.99/mo and made sure it didn’t impact my bundle credits.

  6. If you don’t care to use VZ set top boxes you can have them configure your ONT for Ethernet connectivity instead of coax for internet. I do that an use my own hardware don’t have the Actiontec hooked up at all.

  7. In many cases, you want/need the Actiontec in play. Whether or not you use it for wireless is the decision. You could try putting the Netgear directly on the Actiontec router and disabling Actiontec wireless. See what happens to your coverage. But we’re more clutter-sensitive than most. :) As a TiVo owner… I don’t have an Ethernet drop near my prime TV viewing locations, so I keep the Actiontec around for MoCA. There are of course several ways to slice and dice it all and maybe I need to revisit it in light of Mike’s response.

    Sam, the only times I’ve had problems with Verizon is when making changes to my plan. And it’s happened several times, including losing one of my original plan discounts by accepting BS “free” services (that turned out to only be free for 3 months). The only safe thing seems to be individually adding and removing HBO and SHO – that’s gone well all but once, when it was bundled. Also, in general, I try to start with Verizon Twitter support – they seem more responsive and empowered, without the desire to upsell. Bonus: They know how to pair CableCARDs.

  8. You don’t need the actiontec router if your a) don’t care about VOD and b) have the Ethernet port turned on in the ONT. The Ethernet port can be turned on by fios tech support.

  9. @Bunklung,

    Thanks… my ONT is in the garage which makes it inconvenient to connect via Ethernet to my router. The FiOS tech did tell me that the MoCA from the ONT is the “old” version and doesn’t support speeds over 100 Mbps which isn’t an issue with my 50/50 plan.

  10. Bunk, you need it if you’re a TiVo user who doesn’t have Ethernet near the TiVo, which will in turn become a MoCA bridge to feed my Minis. Again, more than one way to slice and dice it. But I have way more coax jacks and at better locations for coverage than the three Ethernet jacks or homerun in the deep recesses of the basement. For me, it’s probably not worth tearing up what’s working and simpler to just hang a better WiFi router from the Actiontec.

  11. If you have TV, you need the ActionTec router to talk with your cableboxes and provide guide and VOD data via MoCA.

    As Dave suggested, putting the new router behind the ActionTec (using a different subnet like 192.168.3.x) can work. That’s what we do. Or you can configure ways to use the ActionTec’s subnet (usually 192.168.1.x) and just use the second router for WiFi, but that setup is more complex and convoluted to manage. Not hard per se, just a pain.

    I had read that there are ways to use the ethernet option at the ONT and somehow attach the MoCA router in there for guide/VOD connections. But I’ve never tried it.

  12. I second the VZ Twitter support–definitely more helpful and less stressful than any other method.

  13. When I re-upped with Verizon back in June, I did so on the phone & was able to keep my existing package at the same price. An online renewal would’ve been $25 more. No issues with the Actiontec router or Youtube or Netflix. Was able to get the the latest revision of their router, which I’ve had for a while now, free of charge by going to a Fios retail store & being… assertive. After the Comcast debacle, no chance I would ever go with them, so Fios is really the only choice in my area (Philly suburbs).

  14. I do have the newer Actiontec router for whatever it’s worth… I previously worked it out via backchannels and a former FiOS employee. So I’d tested that as primary with my previous generation Actiontec as a MoCA-powered wireless bridge to extend the network. But, as mentioned, it seemed to destabilize things (as did the Apple and now Netgear). Also, my Fitbit Aria scale is the only thing that doesn’t let me run 100% 802.11n, which possibly limits performance.

  15. ‘So while we’re giving up ESPN’

    make friends with someone who can authorize the WatchESPN channel on your Roku…

  16. Dave,
    What you do is use both the actionec and the a second router connected to the actiontec on another floor, with the same sid and password. Then you’ll have Better to coverage. Also I assume you have the g router. If you dump to 75 they’ll send you the n for free then bump it back down.

  17. I have Fios and don’t use the actiontec router. I have their triple play ($120 a month for 25/25 internet, phone and the ultimate package with all movie channels). I use the Apple airport router and it gets much better range than I did with my old actiontec. I have a TiVo so I don’t need the router for anything and I have plenty of Ethernet available near my boxes though I do use Moca to bridge to my Mini.

  18. Bill, never thought of that. My mom is forced to pay for Comcast through her condo association, despite not really watching TV these days. So maybe that’s an option for College Game Day the weekends we’re not at the wing place. Speaking of Mom and Roku, her remote stopped working. Need to swing by and figure out what’s up with that.

    Ananth, I have the n Actiontec in play (and a g in storage).

  19. I also have a TiVo and use Ethernet, and ditched the Actiontec after about a year for a cheap, commodity dd-wrt router.

    And it was bliss. The Actiontec sorta works for limited purposes, it’s true. But it’s really nice to have a full, normal router that can handle full, normal router purposes. I had no idea how much happier I’d be. There are countless things I can now do that were simply impossible to accomplish with the Actiontec.

    Obviously if Ethernet is simply not an option for you, this does you no good, but if you can somehow wrangle an Ethernet setup in your home, (which seems a wise forward-thinking investment), and if you ever want to have proper control over your LAN and WAN, ditch that Actiontec as fast as you can.

  20. “I use the Apple airport router and it gets much better range than I did with my old actiontec.”

    Never understood the mania for judging routers by WiFi performance. And never understood the appeal of the quite limited and expensive Apple routers. (The Apple routers offer a bit more control than the Actiontec, but still nothing like a normal router.)

    IMHO, get a cheap dd-wrt router, and rely on cheap WiFi access points. Better performance, better control, and cheaper.

  21. “Obviously if Ethernet is simply not an option for you, this does you no good”

    Though I wonder if a normal, full-functioned router along with an dumb Ethernet->MoCA bridge might not totally solve problems like Dave’s…

  22. Dave,

    Doesn’t the Roamio Plus/Pro have built in MoCA bridge that will work for your minis?

  23. Second what Mike said – the only reasons to use the Actiontec are if you’re using their DVR (and I’m told this is only their older ones) or if you’re getting phone service as well and need caller ID. We’re using our own Ceton Tuner and we don’t have landlines (seriously, who does that these days?) so we’re quite happily using our own router plugged directly into the ethernet port on the ONT. You’re using the TiVo, and I didn’t get a sense you have a landline, so it’s as simple as a call to or chat with tech support to turn on the ethernet port. Plug in your router and enjoy.

  24. “Second what Mike said – the only reasons to use the Actiontec are if you’re using their DVR…”

    Well, another potential reason is the one Dave outlines, where he’s got a Coax but not Ethernet wired home. But as posited upthread, a dumb Ethernet/MoCA bridge might well solve the problem.

    (Also wonder if Sam could use outdoor (weatherproof) Ethernet cable to connect from his ONT to a router, but obviously don’t know the specifics of his physical home setup. Just know he’d likely be happier sans Actiontec.)

  25. varun, Mike, I have a TiVo Premiere Elite that feeds two Minis – so I need Verizon’s MoCA … or coax and Ethernet co-located to use the TiVo’s bridging capabilities. Or I could use the second Actiontec in a variety of ways, but the network doesn’t stay stable with two entry points.

    Chucky, house was built on spec and all the wiring decisions were made before I arrived. I’d obviously have done it differently … before they put up the drywall. Having the second Actiontec, to connect over MoCA and provide additional Ethernet jacks in a key location, I figured it’d all work out. Obviously, it didn’t happen like that. But I will say while the Actiontec may not provide the coverage or configurability of some others, it’s generally been “good enough” (providing more reporting and port forwarding options than Apple, for example – but of course no VPN capabilities). If I’d flipped to Comcast, I would have had to make some changes and there are a few ways to attack it. Might have tried that Actiontec-as-a-bridge trick first, instead of paying for similar.

    However, the story has a pretty happy ending. For now, anyway. I just moved the existing n Actiontec from the guest bedroom to the family room TV stand. I stole the coax from the Mini to feed the router and then feed the Mini via Ethernet. (Something I couldn’t have done a few months back when the Elite was in the family room, unless I split the coax.) Speed tests in family room, bedroom, deck, and kitchen now coming in at 35-40ish, versus 15ish. Still need to move the Hue and Sonos bridges down tho… Fortunately, I’ll be able to remove the Sonos bridge from the equation soon.

  26. “Or I could use the second Actiontec in a variety of ways, but the network doesn’t stay stable with two entry points.”

    Hence my suggestion that a dumb Ethernet->MoCA bridge might solve your problem. (Whereas the Actiontec routers get wonky whenever you try to absolutely anything non-basic with them, including using them as bridges…)

  27. We have a landline because 1) cell reception is spotty in our neighborhood, though we do have a femotocell to mitigate that (sometimes) and 2) (related) we want reliable 911/emergency service for the kids. (For us, who cares, but for the kids we care.)

    Also, I kinda like that the house has a contact number that anyone (including the kids) can answer, vs. cell phones which are more individualized. Yeah, I’m old fashioned.

  28. Dave,
    Just as a point of reference, I cancelled FiOS and moved to Cox a few months ago. Shortly after cancelling (within 2 months), I started getting offers from Verizon since there was already an ONT on my house. The discount makes Select HD + 50/50 $50 before taxes, fees and equipment for a 2-year agreement. I stopped receiving mailings about it, but it is still available online by entering in my address on Verizon’s site. The discounts show up as $55 total when signing a 2-year agreement. My deal with Cox was $70 for the equivalent of Prime HD + 50Mbps (which is now $65 on Verizon offer for me, when I include a cable card that is a part of the Cox bundle). I would lose money switching back, plus I wouldn’t be able to watch Netflix (with 75Mbps service it would regularly drop to the point of not being able to watch it) and have to pay the deceptive RSN fee. In the future, I will consider returning to FiOS, but for the time being there is no real reason to (and not that I really care, but my 50Mbps Cox service is about to be upgraded to 100 – upload still stuck at 10 though).

  29. Josh, yeah the best deals are reserved for non-customers. I probably could have worked harder by calling in, but as I mentioned most of my account mess ups and sole area of Verizon frustration is speaking with humans who gum up the works. Prior to the Ryan/Scott stuff, I was very interested in Comcast’s deal – the $50 displayed above and there was a $60 one somewhere between Select and Prime I think, both for 12 months. They’d have hit me with a modem rental fee, but the first CableCARD may still be free, so that’d mostly have been a wash. Maybe next time I’ll cancel service … and re-up in my wife’s name. ;)

  30. Lots of folks cancel service in their names and get new customer deals by using their spouse/partner’s name.

    Right now I’m paying $135/mo total for Prime TV, 25/25, phone, 2 cable cards, and HBO (50% off for 1 yr). I’d be paying around $103 on a spouse/new customer deal (drop phone for cheap VOIP, keep everything else the same) if it weren’t for my contract. Actually, now I’m wondering out loud if taking the ETF hit is worth it for the savings. It’d pay for itself in 6 months.

  31. Meh, you’ve got MoCA. Just drop a MoCA bridge someplace and add a Wi-Fi extender. Problem solved.

    Personally I’d disable the Wi-Fi on the VZ router and get your own, but that’s me.

  32. I’d rather run Actiontec or something else. But not both. More to manage. I can avoid the double NAT, but I’d have to put the WiFi router into stupid mode – so while I might make some gains in coverage and speed, I wouldn’t get a VPN and I’d still manage port forwarding thru the Actiontec. After one day behind the family room TV, coverage and speeds via the Actiontec are much improved. Not sure why I didn’t think of this a few months ago when I bought the second Mini and moved the Elite into the basement.

  33. “I’d rather run Actiontec or something else. But not both.”

    Right.

    But I’d say you’re missing the point. (Or else, I’m missing some point.)

    What I’m saying, and what I think Glenn is saying, is to kill the Actiontec with extreme prejudice. Stick it way in the back of a closet. Burn it in your backyard. Fill it with concrete and dump it in a river. Just as the Actiontec can’t competently do any standard router functions other than the very limited subset Verizon precisely intends it to do for the narrowly average customer, it can’t competently act as a MoCA bridge.

    Then get a dumb MoCA bridge, a cheap full-functioned router, and cheap WiFi access points. You’ll have your LAN and your WAN interface fully under your control, with better overall performance, and the ability to custom configure to your heart’s content without wonkiness and headaches. IMHO, well worth it.

  34. So, yeah, there are three options:

    1) Actiontec (as is)
    2) Actiontec + WiFi Router
    3) WiFi Router + MoCA Bridge, Powerline, New Ethernet drop

    Ideally, I’d go with 3 and get a few more drops. But the two locations that I want wired are hard to get to and would require opening the walls. So I’ll probably just do nothing for now as I’ve already had decent improvement (thanks to TiVo).

  35. Still confused. Why would ditching the Actiontec somehow imply bringing Powerline and new Ethernet drops into the mix?

    4) Router + dumb MoCA bridge

    How is this any different than your current setup, other than suddenly having a full-fledged competent router that gives you fine-grained control over your LAN and exempts you from wonkiness, headaches, and limitations?

  36. I should have used “ors” instead of commas. If I had Verizon flip me from MoCA to Ethernet, I could go with MoCA bridges OR Powerline OR Ethernet in conjunction with a new router. But it’s two new devices (one one device and a lot of plaster) for somewhat minimal gain – I got my cameras and Slingboxes forwarded just fine, YouTube no longer stutters, just increased my bandwidth and coverage (thanks to TiVo bridging), and I pay $3/mo for 5GB VPN for use in coffee houses when T-Mobile isn’t around. It’s all good. :)

  37. Actually, after touring the basement, instead of putting Ethernet with the coax, there is one Ethernet jack down there a couple feet from the homerun that I could easily run coax to/from behind the wall. With that config, I’d only need a WiFi router and MoCA/Ethernet flippage on Verizon’s part. Of course, I’d also have to reorient the basement as the Premiere is currently on the opposing wall. I should probably just leave well enough alone (as I’ve got a large blog migration project on my hands, given my host’s implosion).

  38. Yes. The Actiontec is a piece of crap. I have five of the Actiontec MoCA routers gathering dust in my closet. They have given them to me over the last seven years. I got one when I requested a cable card. And they sent me the router by mistake. I spent an hour on the phone trying to get it returned and in the end I gave up. Now if they send me something by mistake I don’t even bother. It’s not worth the effort to spend the time on the phone to try and return it.

    Anyway I’ve been using my own routers with FiOS for seven years now. They run circles around what the Actiontecs can do.

    I too recently signed a new two year agreement. I got the Ultimate HD, 75 internet and home phone service for $140 a month. I made the mistake of dropping my 150 internet to save $20. Then once I was dropped down the cost to go back up became $50 more. I wish now I had kept the 150Mb/s service for only $20 more. Especially since the speeds are symmetrical now. Just about every day I miss that extra speed when I hit the 84 Mb/s download limit of the 75 Mb/s tier. And it takes me much longer to download content. I could just kick myself for doing that.

  39. Dave,

    Do you also pay for a STB? I am looking to switch to FIOS but don’t see a way to order a cablecard and not order the STB.

  40. I don’t have a FiOS set top. For the initial order, if CableCARD only, you might have to talk to someone on the phone. Once in the system, you can order and activate additional cards solely online. Even Verizon who supports CableCARD better than all others… we’re still kinda second class citizens (but with our own routers).

  41. Dave,
    I noticed that about the ordering new with CableCards the other day. Interestingly, when I started service in 2011, I was able to order online with only receiving a CableCard. It is interesting that they took that option away.
    Josh

  42. Dave,
    I noticed that about the ordering new with CableCards the other day. Interestingly, when I started service in 2011, I was able to order online with only receiving a CableCard. It is interesting that they took that option away.
    Josh

  43. watched Monday Night Football in HD last night via the WatchESPN channel on my Roku…

    haven’t had cable since 2008.

  44. I’d say you’ve had cable… you just haven’t paid for it. ;)

  45. So I ordered Fios today and then called them to add the cable card. They even asked if this was for a Tivo which surprised me. However they weren’t able to remove the STB. Does anyone know if I tell the installer not to install the STB if that will get it taken off my bill?

  46. Glenn,

    I assume you received a pretty good bundle price that included the STB for $11.99? I would make sure they don’t screw up your bundle when you return the STB. This happened to me and I need to call monthly to get my bundle adjusted properly. I’m still waiting for them to permanently correct my monthly billing to reflect the correct 24 month promotions.

    Just a word of caution…
    ~Sam

  47. UPDATE: Verizon hooked up FiOS today. The installer didn’t have a cablecard on the order (which I added as soon as I finished the online order) but he had one on the truck. The cablecard install went smoothly otherwise. For the STB he didn’t install it. He said that as long as it didn’t show one as installed, I shouldn’t get billed for it. I hope he is right and I don’t have the problems Sam mentioned.

    Not knowing what the installer would do, I did reach out to Verizon Direct on DSLReports before the install. They promised me that if I got the box and mailed it back in (they would send me a postage paid return label), it would be taken off my order however I might be charged for the days I had the STB.

    Thanks for everyone’s input!

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