Reader is a Happy Camper After Changing to FiOS

Reader is a Happy Camper After Changing to FiOSLong time reader Don Naphen recently changed over to FiOS and I asked him to share his thoughts using his new system. Here is what he had to say.

Happy Sunday, Ron!

Well, it’s been exactly one week since I had FiOS installed, and I can’t say enough good things about it. The TV of course is excellent (as was DirecTV), but the biggest improvement has been with my broadband. Absolutely fantastic! With Comcast, I was getting around 10 Mbps download, and upload speeds were just a shade better than DLS. Now, after checking things out, I find my downloads are just a shade over 30 Mbps and uploads are hovering at 28 Mbps! Wow!

To be fair, I was using an older Check Point router made by ZoneAlarm, and that possibly was one reason for the slower stats. With Verizon, its cable modem and router are integrated in one unit with a solid built-in hardware firewall. The installation took just over four hours, as a fiber optics line had to be run from the pole to the house. My former Internet feed was from just outside my bedroom to the PC, so the tech used that as an access point. He then fed a line into the basement and found that the coax used by DirecTV was exactly the same as FiOS, so he just swapped over the new coax into the splitter! It saved a lot of work, as the feed into my living room was a custom job by my nephew who fed directly into the base of my fireplace (sealed off long time ago) to eliminate the ugly, dangling wires look. All in all I am one very happy camper. Oh, my nephew also ran a new dedicated electrical outlet (20 amps) to the breaker box and used a power strip that he hard wired to the hook up points. Very nice indeed!

I’m sure now that Comcast is looking at some serious competition, the price wars will begin. Collectively I was paying $150 for DirecTV/Comcast with no deals offered. Now I’m paying $94 a month and the TV package has more than I had with Comcast. Also, with all the stormy weather we’ve had, the dish had its share of “searching for satellite” prompts. That’s all history. The only pain is learning the new channel designations all over again!

Okay, I didn’t mean to fill your screen Ron, but thought I’d share some thoughts on a rainy Sunday morning here in the Greater Boston area. Time for another cup of coffee and to try and wake up. Take care and have a great day!

Don

Thanks Don. When my subscription concludes with DirecTV, FiOS is an option I will investigate.

Verizon Won’t Block P2P

There should be an image here!Seems like Verizon is taking an interesting stance on allowing its subscribers to use P2P networks. It is saying that, unlike Comcast, it’d never block them. Now, obviously, this doesn’t mean a green light to software, movie, and video game piracy — rather, that folks such as myself who use P2P options like BitTorrent can download legitimate things like Linux distros without fear of being cut off.

Now this is not to say that every ISP that says no to throttling and other interference, both private and government based, is worth applauding. I will say this, however: it beats the heck out of having everything metered to death.

I think that Comcast, like many cable companies, has a lot of nice people working in its offices. But its service is not something that I will be seeking out any time in the near future. This is not because I am being unfair — rather, the fact that my own needs are not being addressed by Comcast and companies like Comcast means that I am a very satisfied Verizon FiOS subscriber. You couldn’t pay me to use cable again.

[Photo above by takomabibelot / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Sorry, No FiOS For You!

Well this stinks… for those who don’t already have access to a fiber based connection. Worse is I have seen Qwest, among others, not moving at all. So even outside of Verizon territories, the likelihood of seeing anything better than that old copper cable is simply not happening. But how about blazing fast 1.5 DSL! Yeah, this is the fastest option Qwest offers in my mom’s neck of the woods. Did I mention this is a town nearly twice the size of the one I live in? Sad, Qwest…

Now I totally understand Verizon’s concern — money is tight and it has spent a lot of it on advertising for its existing FiOS offerings. I mean, I actually shook my head at a guy here next door who was getting cable added for Internet based on some idiot ad he found on TV. It wasn’t even cheaper! We have FiOS boxes on our homes, yet this individual opted for the power of 1980s copper!

But I digress. So what can Verizon do to help get some of that FiOS love in its areas that simply cannot not afford all of the manpower needed? Well, geeks are not above shoveling dirt for the promise of a little more fiber (Internet) in their diet! Obviously the hardcore stuff has to be done by pros, but surely Verizon could offset some of the cost through a newspaper announcement to the geeks of the area to pick up their shovels and help make FiOS happen in their home town? Okay, on the best day this is likely entirely too Utopian to ever happen or even be practical. That said, at least it would allow those set to cable or worse, some kind of hope for broadband with speeds comparable to elsewhere.

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Comcast Usage – Good News With Some Bad News

Honestly, I never was really too big on the idea of having my data metered, but I also realize that this is up to the ISP in question. Yes, because of the lack of competition in many areas, Comcast — among other ISPs — are free to do the following.

Now this was not something I received — I actually had it sent to me. Thankfully, my ISP is based on a fiber connection, not cable or DSL, and is also able to use the latest technology to ensure I am not going to be metered. But one thing appears to be clear, folks: cable companies are looking to start metering your usage and that stinks.

Some folks might ask why this is a big deal? Well, I would point out that in my household alone, we are using Hulu, Roku (Netflix, Amazon On-Demand), surfing the Web and downloading Linux distros, updates, and the list goes on. There is no way I would want to waste my time trying to figure out whether or not I am using up my quota of allowed Internet. Thankfully, I chose to live in an area where I have three broadband choices. Obviously, for many others, this is not always an option. But for those who do have a choice, Comcast is going to lose its biggest broadband usage customers as metered usage is not the way to go.

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Fiber Country

Normally I would say that threatening to open up your own ISP is not going to ensure more broadband choices in your town. However if it is merely a matter of the ISPs dragging their feet and they are slowly moving this direction, then clearly seeing your city threatening to start its own fiber option is certainly one approach to getting the ISP’s attention.

The above linked article is an exception to the rule. Normally a city is not going to bother with something like this, especially in this economy. But there are likely some regions that are full of people who are more than willing to help their city pay for it. Could be interesting.

I am lucky as I am free from the nightmare that is known as cable broadband. While others are bouncing up and down the “peak time” train along with whatever bandwidth limiting stupidity is being set forth this time, I enjoy FiOS with 20up and 20down. Yes, it is as fast as it sounds. It should be noted that FiOS access was one of the considerations when we had our home built. Location is everything these days it seems. And if I had stayed in my old home town merely 30+ mile north, I would have been able to get DSL maybe, most likely cable only. Qwest does not have fiber in that area. I am now living in Verizon country. Thank goodness for that.

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Verizon – Comcast – Twitter

Today I saw something interesting happen. Community reps from two competing ISPs coming together in good humor. Really refreshing, actually. Hopefully more companies out there are able to do this. First, start off by reading this Twitter “tweet” from a Comcast social media rep. And I quote.

We changed the greeting on our phone system. Call 1-800-COMCAST and tell me what you thing of the initial greeting

You’ll end up with a quick intro from Ben Stein and Shaquille O’Neal. Very funny stuff!

It’s brilliant on multiple levels. Obviously the first level is that Comcast is breaking up the usual routine one would expect when calling in for assistance. Again, it’s a no-brainer. But the second win comes from the fact that it is a simple, yet effective move being admired by the Comcast competition.

As for the casual person out there such as myself, I find it refreshing and amusing. Even though I happen to be an FiOS customer using Verizon service, I found the fact that Comcast could lighten things up a little to be really cool. Hopefully Comcast, among other ISPs, will continue lightening the mood some. Stuff like this helps us to remember that the company is staffed by “real people” rather than just “representatives.”

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Broadband Reminders

Today I had a friendly reminder that broadband connections do not mean always on. For whatever reason, I found that my connection was down today. Needless to say, this was not going to work. So after resetting my FiOS ONT, resetting my router (as rebooting did not help), and still finding no success to be had, I finally broke down and called tech support.

Right away, I knew from personal experience that it would save me a lot of time if I explained that I do this sort of thing for a living. Despite being “retired” from PC repair, I knew enough to make sure the support staff realized that I had already tried the usual routine. Oddly enough, despite it not being apparent at first, they actually heard me.

Verizon staff did a connection test to my ONT and found the problem there. Rather than wasting my time rebooting the router and ONT ’til the world looked level, they simply did something on their end with the ONT that fixed the issue. So even though the ONT showed a status light indicating that things were fine, clearly that was not the case. Even worse, restarting the ONT w/battery removal for the reset did not do it. No, it took the tech support team doing whatever they did on their end to get this resolved.

Thankfully, through a little bit of patience, things worked out. And because I eliminated what the problem wasn’t, verified through the router that I was not successfully obtaining an IP address from Verizon, I was able to prevent more wasted time with another router being sent out when it was not the problem.

I also made sure not to bother explaining that the provided Actiontec Router that Verizon leases has one of the worst routers I have ever owned. But I need to use it for my coaxial connection, despite the fact that the routing tables take a nose dive in router mode. Luckily, I use my Draytek as my main router while keeping the Actiontec in bridge mode to take me from coaxial to ethernet.

At the end of the day, the setup works very well. Still, in hindsight I wish I had just asked Verizon to run CAT5 to my home office rather tapping into the existing coaxial running throughout the house.

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What Broadband?

Obviously I am unable to speak for everyone out there, but I for one find the following to be just sad. Countries such as Romania and Bulgaria beat out the US in download speeds while they also beat us silly in upload speeds. How could this be and is it all that accurate? Regarding accuracy, yes, I think it is and without the spin. As to why, I guess that is a combination of the ISP industry stranglehold along with the overall size of the US.

But when I see countries that would generally be considered post-Soviet states blowing the doors off of ISPs here in the US, one has to wonder if these same ISPs can seriously consider themselves competitive. Sure, they might be competitive with each other with cutesy terms like “powerboost” or “faster than dial-up.” Yet at the end the day, on a global scale, this whole situation remains completely pathetic.

Socialize the ISPs, people say? Honestly, I do not think this is the answer to ANYTHING, much less to ISPs getting with the program. No, I feel that more competition is needed and speaking for myself, I am hopeful it will be fiber from companies such as Verizon. Yes cable providers, I am speaking directly to you and your “we use fiber” half truth. There is no fiber to my door, except for what Verizon provided before I moved in here. Your technology is old, tired, and frustrating. I remain hopeful that the phone companies kick the heck out of your bottom line enough to get you to invest into something besides “powerboosting” for a few seconds.

How about consistent speeds? Just a thought…

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Router Reminders

Over the years, I like to think that I have become fairly in-tune with what my networking needs are. Which ports need to be opened, which devices need to be added into the networking scheme of things and, of course, how to set all of this up. As luck would have it, apparently I had a brain lapse somewhere along the way.

As things turned out, Saturday was not a good day for my Internet to suddenly stop working. I am on FiOS, which also means that my specific setup was using Coax instead of the CAT5/6 method. And because of this, I run a Draytek Vigor 2820N router along with the Verizon provided Actiontec model. I use the Actiontec as a bridge, as it is craptastic when it comes to NAT errors.

Well, I went through what I figured would get everything back to working order. Reset my ONT, bother routers, and so on. No love. Finally after some more troubleshooting, I discovered that it appears that something had changed with the Actiontec router itself. After speaking with a few others about it, the claim was it did not appear that there was a firmware upgrade, despite the fact that it took place at 12 am on the nose, PST.

In a blind moment of common sense, I reset both routers WITHOUT remembering to back up my router(‘s) configuration(s). Crap, this is a problem as I do not remember what all I had in the way of port configurations. Oh well, the most important was no-IP and SSH.

Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, I could not get my bridge and router to play ball. At first, I could not get Internet access at all. Then I realized that going with 192.168.1.1 for the Actiontec and 192.168.2.1 for my own router was not working. So it came down to going with different subnet — on my router was then set for 192.168.10.1 — bingo. This did the trick. Despite the router admin being inaccessible once set up as a bridge when connected to the other router, the Actiontec needed to have access to … 2.1, apparently.

Then I needed to figure out why I was not having any luck with my port forwarding. After a lot of going back and forth, it turned out that again, it was the Actiontec at fault. Rather, the guy setting up the Actiontec — me.

While I did tone down the built in firewall as much as possioble, there was an additional firewall checkbox in the Coax settings in the advanced settings. Unchecking this, I was back in business.

So what is the moral of the story? Be patient, double check the obvious, and never assume that your configuration is “perfect” no matter how many times you double check it. In the end, it is the most obvious mistakes that can be the most eluding.

Verizon Has A Lot To Learn About CRM

Today, for what I believe to now be the fifth time since moving here, I have received yet another priority mail package soliciting me to buy their FiOS service offered in my area. Now from a marketing perspective, it is clever to use USPS Priority mail to deliver this to me as clearly, I would be an idiot to simply discard this envelope without so much as opening it. After all, it must be important to arrive in this fashion, right? Perhaps, but there is one little problem that remains – I have been an existing FiOS customer for months now.

Yes, clearly Verizon has never heard of effective CRM software. CRM (customer relationship management) software can do mysterious things, like cross reference a person’s name/address to verify that the target recipient of a multi-million dollar mailing is not going to existing customers!

Apparently, this technology used by people on shoe string budgets is light years beyond comprehension here for Verizon? Look, I love the service – FiOS @ 20 down/ 20 up is AWESOME. Obviously there are no issues on the technology end of things. Despite this something is clearly broken somewhere in the marketing dept. Why not use something so simple to avoid a mistake that is so costly? Cannot speak for everyone, but the issue just escapes me personally. CRM software – it is a lot more than a glorified address book these days! Might I suggest that Verizon look into this solution ASAP?

Daisy Chains And FiOS

It took some RAM testing, the old fashion way to get my PC back up and running. Even before I approved the comments making the RAM check suggestion as seen in this post, I opted to pull a stick that I had some suspicions on. Sure enough, that did the trick, problems solved… including random cursor freezes when I finally got things working otherwise. So that is behind me.

On another front, I decided to go ahead and tackle the next upcoming issue. Those of you with FiOS who like me, were foolish enough to go with the Coax vs the CAT5 option now stuck with the Actiontec router, likely find that when things get to really moving on the box, you end up with NAT errors. Basically, FiOS may be fast, but the Verizon router obviously needs to be re-thought out.

So doing what any geek would do, I decided to go ahead and daisy chain my Actiontec into my much better D-Link Gamer’s Lounge router. The Gamer’s Lounge may be dated, but it remains the strongest performing router to date. And as luck would have it, the instructions on getting the daisy chain setup with the Actiontec into bridge mode is fairly straight forward.

Any latency or speed loss? Nope, things are doing really well. The last speed test gave me readings of 21 Mbps down and 18 Mbps up. Works for me as the pings look good as well. Why the crazy upload speed? Simple, when I am doing any video work or FTP stuff, having access to 20-ish speeds mean I get things done MUCH faster.

Am I sorry I did not switch out the routers sooner? Definitely, I am actually noticing better performance since setting up the daisy chain. If you are on FiOS and are sick of NAT going nose up on you when you are simply trying to enjoy the speed you are paying for, use the previously linked tutorial…but follow it VERY closely as you can screw things up pretty easily.

First Impressions Of FiOS

So today is my first day with FiOS. Since the builders of this development built this house as “fiber ready” from the start, the Verizon installer found everything needed very easily as the line was already about a foot from the area where the outside box was to go – sweet. The installation went smoothly and even though I am surprised by Verizon’s choice to issues routers with WEP by default with their router, WPA2 is available once you are setup and underway. You simply need to select it yourself from the router UI.

One area of disappointment is the continued reliance of Windows software to setup the connection – thankfully I had my Windows box unpacked already in anticipation of this. But short of that, I can not express just how much better, cooler and just plain FASTER this is than my old Comcast connection. Subscribing to connection rate of 20-up and 20-down, I am blown away at how responsive and more productive I am able to be with this as my connection is no longer coming to a screeching halt during the middle of the day. This is largely why I opted against bothering with a cable based business class connection instead of going with fiber.

As for the provided Actiontec router, I am still feeling my way around with it. At first I figured I might be looking into doing a daisy chain as I preferred my old router for wireless access. However as I use this one, it appears that I am not need to. Perhaps I need to get enough PCs running at the same time in order to really see how much it takes to heat this puppy up? Time will tell I suppose.

Do I recommend FiOS in areas where it is available? Oh my, oh yes, oh yes I do and with great excitement. If Verizon is able to get this launched into more areas, keep their eye on the ball with regard to consistent speeds without throttling their users, cable could be in real trouble. As for alleged privacy issues, I have no problems here. Besides if I was concerned, I would simply using my HotSpot VPN access which has proven to be fast enough for my needs anyway. Besides, being as my banking and email access are all encrypted anyway, I really am not all that concerned about it anyway.

On a slightly unrelated note, if you are finding that comments are not happening for you – we are aware of it and are working on it. Sorry for any inconvenience.

VPN, FiOS And Moving

As of today, I am officially a home owner – my wife and I just closed on our new house today. And with that, comes FiOS installation along with all of the fun that comes with a new move. Good stuff. Yet due to other recent events, I have found myself using a hotspot compatible VPN option as I had what you might consider to be a rather abrupt data intrusion that came about from my data being unencrypted during my time using a public hotspot. Needless to say, I have begun taking steps to correct this. And this brings me to an important question – when connecting to a VPN service targeting the wifi hotspot audience, connecting over PPTP (Windows VPN), is there any damage done to my privacy by using OpenDNS for my DNS servers?

As it turns out, one can indeed apparently connect to a VPN and use OpenDNS servers. However I have only done so in testing as I need to be 100% that I am not comprimising the point of the VPN tunnel by using these DNS servers over that of what my VPN provider might be providing otherwise.

So let’s have it VPN/security experts out there, help me to set this straight once and for all. Comment to this thread so that I can be sure that using OpenDNS servers for DNS is not simply defeating the purpose of using the VPN tunnel in the first place. Thanks everyone!

Comcast Coming Clean?

Hearing news that Comcast has finally opted to be straight forward with their customers regarding actual bandwidth usage caps demonstrates a reality check on the part of the US ISP. Users such as myself honestly did not mind Comcast setting up limits, so long as we understood clearly what those limits entailed.

For me, having Comcast set forth usage limits enables me as a consumer to better decided which ISP package makes sense for my needs. In my case, clearly FiOS will be where I am headed as I am simply not seeing clear value for moving up to Comcast business class.  While each area is understandably different, the location I live in presents absolultely nothing even close the promised speed or consistancy seen on TV. A few extra seconds of “PowerBoost” only to taper down due to an obviously overloaded network is simply not going to meet with my needs, despite being just fine for most people I suppose.

For $70, I can get 20 up and down for bandwidth speeds plus research has demonstrated to me that FiOS is generally providing stable speeds as it has not been overbuilt to the point I have see with cable in my area. So Comcast is limiting their users? Fair enough, I am sure it will happen to FiOS as well…eventually. But Comcast needs to couple these limits with less emphasis on marketing lingo such as “PowerBoost” which has been proven on numerous occasions to be more about short speed bursts than anything of real value. In the end, I believe cable Internet companies will need to triple their expansion efforts as living in two completely sides of my home state indicates to me that their bandwidth lag goes far beyond issues with one or two regional routers. Am I wrong?

A Wii For A Comcast Agreement?

Right off the bat, well played…well played indeed. You instantly hooked my wife with the offer of a free Wii when subscribing to the Comcast Triple Play services. And to be honest, if I planned on using Comcast for Internet and TV again, this might be something worth considering. But I really do not want to deal with landline phone service again. It’s just not something we have used in years. That and I am not really interested in a two year service contract. For those of you looking for a new gaming system, a three for one cable package, I am sure it’s a great deal.

No, for me, this comercial seen below goes much further than merely offering a service – it’s clever marketing that is apparently working.

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My wife was totally ready to sign-up so long as the cost for the services rendered made sense for our needs. Comcast, you are getting better. You nearly cost me my FiOS connection! But in all seriousness, it’s a good play overall for what you are providing. That said, give me 20/20 up and down for my Internet connectivity with unfettered access and I might even consider the offer.