Sunday, May 24, 2009
Tech: Observations On FiOS After Two Days
- 20/5 Internet service (20 Mbit/s down, 5 Mbit/s up) that will make Helen's work go a lot faster. We were getting 10/1 with Time-Warner.
- Diffident service with Time-Warner. Probably the most egregious of this was last year's discovery that TW believes that Internet is an entertainment service — this is what their service supervisor told me directly. We had problems early last year with our Internet access going every time it rained; we tried and tried to get someone out to look at it when it was actually raining, but thanks in part to TW's use of contracted service personnel, but mainly due to the haphazard nature of scheduling, this never happened. As a result, we were told that the only way to get this matter fixed was to upgrade to business class service, at a substantially higher price (from $39/mo to $79/mo, from memory). TW did eventually fix the problem once we upgraded, but I never forgot their attitude that customer service, and especially, that working hardware is optional.
- Actually making the DVR worse. After our move in November, 2007, we changed DVRs, and the new one was much, much worse. We're Extra Innings subscribers, so this was pretty significant. The old DVR allowed you to see a tabular display, hour-by-hour, of which teams were playing and at what times. The new one (both are Scientific Atlanta units) allows you to do this, but you have to inconsistently drill down to see who's playing. That is, if the same game is on two different channels (one NTSC, the other HD, for instance) or there are multiple broadcasts of the same game (one delayed for prime time, as often happens with Dodger games played on the East coast), you will see that there is a game at a certain time, but not who the contestants are. The user interface appears to have been designed by people who don't watch television, or at least, who don't watch Extra Innings.
So, about FiOS. Two weeks ago, an installer ran fiber to our demarc at the top of our house, and Friday we got a different pair of installers to do the actual connection. There were some mechanical difficulties (the connector they use for fiber is about an inch around or more, which means it didn't go into the 3/4" conduit of our house), but they managed to overcome those. The installation went cleanly, and by the afternoon we had a working system. (I almost have e-mail back, but we'll see how that goes; one of the consequences of running my own sendmail server.)
The DVR is significantly dumber, if much flashier — far too much drilling down to find things, more than even the Scientific Atlanta unit we had previously; often times the organization is essentially random (browsing is not by alpha order in parts, which is weird). However, the remote is better: Helen reports she was able to program the remote so it can control the volume on the receiver rather than on the TV or the DVR even if the remote is set to the set-top box (STB as an acronym is weird). Also, the remote is backlit, handy when you're working in low light. Also, the remote is much faster at the "turn everything on" function, which we use all the time. Minor nit: there's no "Live" button to turn on the DVR back to live, though there does appear to be an equivalent not named that.
Virtually all the channels appear in HD, though the quality seems to vary. We get some channels in HD that we didn't under Time Warner, in particular WGN America, which is a big deal for Helen. The installers kindly gave us HDMI cables for our TVs, and the improvement in broadcast quality is noticeable and impressive; we're getting 1080i on some channels that we were only getting 720p previously.
No matter what else happens, given that our phone service is coming off this line, I have to believe Verizon will take better care of us than the "entertainment" attitude that Time-Warner gave us.
I noticed that TW in my neighborhood (South Pasadena) finally lists the MLB Network as being available. It was supposed to become available in February, then March, then they stopped giving a date. I was told that Adelphia was to blame.
Bob — yes, that's exactly it. Verizon serves my neighborhood in Rossmoor; AT&T used to be Pac*Bell then SBC, and in those neighborhoods, you can get U-Verse. U-Verse plants a fiber drop to the neighborhood, and then runs 20 Mb/s to the home at cable lengths up to 5,000 feet. One of the things that I've heard is that U-Verse doesn't allow a customer to watch more than two HD channels at once, which means that if you have two DVRs in your house, you can only be watching two programs but you can't be recording a third.
With U-Verse, you can only schedule and delete programs from the "master" DVR.