Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fi Fi Fo FIOS!

Over a year ago a friend of mine installed FIOS (fiber optics) at their home and raved about it. I, of course, looked on from the sideline with envy, since Verizon hadn't laid down their fiber optics networks in my area. I checked the availability every few months. And then it happened: I saw a few trucks out in my neighborhood putting up wires, and then I finally get a confirmation that I could get it.

I wanted FIOS because it's the best technologies right now for broadband Internet and media delivery. We can get up to 50 Mbps and that's a whole lot of speed. I don't really need that much speed, so I opted for the cheapest tier: 15 Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. The funny thing is, it's still abbout $10 cheaper than my Comcast subscription, and a whole lot faster (cable was 5 Mbps/758Kbps).

Installation day couldn't come sooner, and by Monday morning I was anxious with anticipation. All that for downloading movies faster on the Internet! :-) But anyway, they had to delay the appointment because they were running late with other projects. Soon 4:30 P.M. rolled around and the Verizon truck was at the door.

The FIOS tech guy was a funny dude. He talked a million words a minute and asked me to help him and he kept saying he didn't want to fall (he had to climb a ladder to wire the cables). Apparently he was doing this freelance so he did not have worker's comp. So if he got hurt, he said, he would be out of the job without pay or any kind of compensation.

Also, FIOS is a FTTP (fiber to the premise) technology, and each may serve up to 32 fibers, or 32 homes. Every home will have their own fiber, so they don't have share with their neighbors, unlike cable. With cable services, the bandwidth is shared among the cable TV and Internet subscribers on your block, so at peak hours, there is much degradation. With fiber, it's consistent. The only speed limitation would be based on your physical location and cost of the main lines.

Anyway, the process took about three hours from start to finish. I already had an existing line and installation for cable, so he basically used the same wiring. He installed an ONT (optical Network Terminal) on the outside of the house, then ran a cable through a hole to the inside, and installed a battery pack on the wall. Since it's a powered line, he said we should be careful, unlike dealing with cable. And in case of power failure, the battery backup pack should last for about 6 hours so I could still have phone service.

Once everything was hooked up, he connected the computer to a new wireless router, an Actiontec MI42WR, which looked like a mini computer. It's a great router. He then went outside to turn on the service and that was it. The rest was simply to set up the network, and he left it up to me since I told him I was an IT guy.

There's nothing to install on my computer, which is great. I hate it when they insist on installing crappy software on my computer. Everything I need is in the firmware of the router, which is very easy to configure.

I tested the connection, using, and it gave me a score of 20 Mbps/6.1 Mbps. That's super fast, faster than the service I ordered (15Mbps/5Mbps). But I'm not complaining.

Installation and setup were a cinch, but I've been doing this for a long time. I have to say I'm very impressed with the speed. For once I was able to download an HD movie trailer (from in mere seconds. I used to have to stop and wait for the files to download before I could play. Not anymore. It took about 15 seconds to download a 2 minute HD trailer (about 120 MB). Tivo updates also took minutes instead of an hour. The upload speed (from 768Kbps to 6.1Mbps) is a huge gain, which would come in handy for peer-to-peer games or swapping.

The wireless signal throughout the house is very strong. The only issue is that every time my laptop woke up from sleep mode, I had to key in the WEP key again to reconnect (I have a closed network without SSID broadcast -- let's just say my neighbors are not to be trusted).

The only issue I have now is with the Tivo server. It's flaky, but I have a feeling it may have to do with DHCP so I'll need to tweak them to use static IPs.

It is amazing how we used to have to live with 2400 or 5600 baud (remember "baud"?) modems. I was watching a movie that was made not too long ago (about 10 years) and they were using modems to connect to the Internet. How backwards. And a few years ago I thought what I had with cable was good enough. 5 Mbps? Who needs all that speed. Now it was like watching paint dry sometimes. So I'm really psyched about the improved speed, not to mention the $10 saving off my monthly bill.

Needless to say, I'm very happy.


Dawn Colclasure said...

Very cool, Ray. I'm glad it all worked out. :) This is the first I've heard of FIOS. I'll have to look into it.

Ray Wong said...

Yeah. I recommend it, if it's available in your area. It's fast. And it's $10 cheaper than cable.

Not only that, since you own that FIOS line, you have the bandwidth all to yourself. With cable, you have to share with your neighbors, so it can get really congested during peak hours when your neighbors are watching cable TV or using the Internet.