Verizon FIOS: non-basic install a nightmare
June 15, 2010
We jumped on the FIOS bandwagon for our last move in hopes of super-fast internet speeds. While cable was long-touted as an outstanding alternative over DSL, our Comcast connection wasn’t perfect, and the 12MB advertised speeds were hardly that. So when we moved to a location previously wired for FIOS, we thought we’d be in for smooth sailing, since the only major complaints about FIOS we encountered were regarding a fresh install. Supposedly, once everything was in, people experienced Internet ecstasy.
Making the order.
The process we went through just to get FIOS activated was nothing short of a monstrous affair, however, at least as far as activating utilities go. While we already scouted out the information we needed for the plans we wanted, we were ambushed by our electric company when we activated power at our new residence. They claimed to be a FIOS partner, and could go ahead and take out FIOS order, thus not necessitating a call directly to FIOS. If anyone ever tells you this, tell them they are liars, and immediately hang up.
We told them no such thing, and though the convenience worth it. Little did we know that our power company could only offer us plans that were not the lowest advertised, nor were the packages very customizable. Of course, we didn’t know this until the basic order had already gone through, so by the time we hung up the phone, we had to call Verizon anyway to sort things out. And so began our phone call march, because getting through to a human being at Verizon is no easy process, especially when Verizon bounces you from operator to operator, oftentimes dropping the call midway through. Complicating the calling chain was the fact that our mobile phone number, representing the only phone we own, was not bound to a local area code, which meant that we were routinely routed to a Verizon office hundreds of miles away, instead of dealing with someone who could handle local orders.
Hours later, we finally got our order fixed. Not fixed per se, because we basically had to start a new order, and the rep we spoke to promised to delete the original order once it entered their system (apparently there’s lag in this). It’s worth noting that when we explained that our power company took our FIOS order, the immediate response was, “Yeah, don’t do that.” This was a common thought among Verizon reps we spoke to, which begs the question as to why Verizon has affiliates like power companies in the first place, since even Verizon employees think it’s a bad idea. (Apparently, numerous calls are fielded every day in which Verizon employees need to fix issues with customer orders thanks to affiliates screwing them up.)
Of course, the original order didn’t get cleared when it should have been even after we lined up our correct order. This required even more phone calls to the local office after we received e-mails and phone messages concerning the first order.
There were two non-standard requests with our order, both of which caused us pain in getting things set up. The first was that we had a TiVo HD unit that we previously used with Comcast, which we were told would work with FIOS. When the FIOS installer showed up (mind you, they provide a window of four or eight hours, effectively making you take the day off of work), he didn’t know much about TiVo at all. He fumbled through the TiVo menus and eventually got a signal to show up, and was thus content with this part of the setup. He did not, however, make sure that the on-screen guide worked, so when he was done, none of the channels matched up with their descriptions. We would later find out that fixing this was a simple matter of re-running the TiVo setup process, but Verizon was useless in providing this information. Their response to my concerns that things weren’t working as intended was, “We don’t support non-Verizon supplied hardware.” Yet they do, actually, because they bothered going so far as to install the Cable Card we’re leasing from them. In other words, they did a half-ass job; either support setting up the TiVo in full, or don’t do it at all and just hand customers their Cable Card.
Verizon’s shitty router.
The second FIOS install obstacle was that we didn’t want to use their supplied router, because we already had an Apple Time Capsule which handled our routing needs. This was a non-issue with a cable modem, but as our brief time using DSL showed us, things would be more complicated if the supplied modem had a built-in router. We addressed this in advance with the FIOS installer, and he said it wouldn’t be a problem - he wasn’t authorized to make changes to the provided router, but the included manual had all the instructions necessary to disable the routing capabilities of the Verizon device, such that we could just hook our Time Capsule up to it. Liar.
First off, no manual was supplied with the router. There was a quick setup guide, but no in-depth instructions. Naturally, he took off before we could go through the supplied guides in depth, so we were left hanging. We explored the firmware options via the router’s web interface, searched the web, and came up empty-handed: the supplied device did not have a way to disable the router. Sure, we could have just sucked it up and used our Time Capsule for backup purposes only, but we liked Back to My Mac working as intended, didn’t want redundant DHCP, and are, quite simply, stubborn. So, back to the phone, being transferred from person to person, and ultimately coming upon a solution.
Originally, we thought we needed a networking interface module (NIM) to use as a basic modem, which we could then plug our Time Capsule into. It turns out that NIMs weren’t being distributed by Verizon anymore, however, despite the fact that not every rep we spoke to knew about this, so we were transferred to their business department twice because they could supposedly provide us with such a mythical NIM. The real solution, however, is simply to have Verizon deactivate the internet-over-coax signal, and enable the internet-over-ethernet signal on the main FIOS box (installed in our basement). This meant that we’d still have a coax cable running from the FIOS box to our television (not first through their router), and we’d have an ethernet cable running from the FIOS box to our Time Capsule. Figuring this out wasn’t easy, because one Verizon rep was insistent that the ethernet port on the FIOS box was for technician troubleshooting purposes only (this despite the fact that we pointed to internet resources saying otherwise).
Sadly, when the signal switching was eventually done, another Verizon rep refused to stay on the line to verify that things were then working as intended. Of course, they weren’t, so we were now back to having no internet. Calling back, and explaining the changes made to our setup, a new rep insisted that we needed to reattach the router such that they could try to query it, even though we explained that internet-over-coax was disabled. She was insistent that they could still query the router, though we knew she was wrong. Eventually, she agreed to send over a technician again to sort things out.
Of course, by then we were back on the internet searching for solutions, and we finally found one. It turns out that once the signal-switching occurred, the internet-over-ethernet worked so long as the Verizon supplied router was attache to the FIOS box over ethernet. This then required us to login to the router’s web interface and ask for the IP to be released and reassigned. Once we pressed the “release” button, we needed to swap out the Verizon router for the Time Capsule. The IP was reassigned to our own router, and we were up and running. Up and running about 10 hours after the original technician showed up.
The biggest conclusion here is that Verizon employees who handle FIOS tech support (on and off-site both) have no consistency ins training. Some are positively clueless about Verizon-supplied hardware, while a few have either been around long enough, or taken the time to research the equipment, and thus know enough to properly inform Verizon customers. Either way, the installation process is long and painstaking even without a fresh install.
Of course, if we had simply ordered a regular package, complete with Verizon’s comparatively poor DVR and configuration-limited router, perhaps the entire installation for us would have taken no more than two hours. But this isn’t 1999, and installing broadband internet in homes where many people have their own routers and DVRs shouldn’t be a troublesome experience for the customers or the on-site technicians.
Of course, now that everything’s installed, our service has been rock-solid over the last month, so at least there’s that. Speeds are much faster than via Comcast (and for less money), which is certainly nice. But we knew to expect that going in, so while the end-service may get an “A,” the customer service during install gets a “D” a best. Not exactly what we expected considering all the AT&T slamming in favor of Verizon. Even Comcast, which as a comparatively poor reputation, has never caused us as much pain when we had a problem, and in most cases were responsive and better informed than the many Verizon folks we spoke to. Something worth keeping in mind if you ever make a similar leap over to FIOS.