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).
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).