Verizon FiOS TV - Part II

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| Observations by Alan D. Percy on VoIP enabling technology, industry and our personal reach for success.

Verizon FiOS TV - Part II

Okay, it has been a few weeks since the last post on my FiOS installation and I promised you a review of the newly activated television capabilities.

FiOS TV is installed pretty much like any other cable TV with one big exception - Fiberoptics cable from the central office to the Optical Network Terminator (ONT) in my basement.  From there, it is standard RJ-6 cable-TV coax cable to each of the Motorola Set Top Boxes (STBs).  The data traffic from the STBs goes over the same coax, avoiding a separate Ethernet and/or phone line run to each box (which was required for DirecTV). The installer was able to re-use the existing wiring in my house, which dramatically simplified installation.   Score: A+

Channel Selection
The channel selection on FiOS TV is actually pretty good, with a wide array of the normal cable channels and all our local channels.  The SD and HD versions of the channels are both available, but at different channel numbers (add 500 for the HD version, which is a little annoying)  Score: A

Picture Quality
The picture so far has been good (HD channels are awesome), but not perfect - we occasionally get drop-outs and pixelization. It won't be affected by rain/snow, so that's better than the DirecTV, but the picture quality is about the same. It's way better than my neighbor's Time Warner cable.  Score: B+

Set Top Box (non-DVR)
I have two Standard Definition TVs in the house that have the basic non-DVR STB.  Seems to work as you would expect, and there are a few cool "widgets" like real-time weather and some games that can be played on the TV.  Score: A

Remote ControlIMG_3062A.JPG
First the good - it comes with a remote.  Otherwise, whoever designed this remote, must have never actually used it.  There are some real bone-head button positioning and/or missing buttons.  Example: want to go to a specific channel to a one-digit channel? You punch in the number, then look around for an enter or okay button - oh there it is, in the middle of the four way direction buttons.    Dumb.  Watching a movie and start fast forward past the commercials, then hit play, oops the DVR button is right next to Play and guess what happens?  It kicks you out of the movie and to the DVR menu!  It does have one power button that can control both the STB, receiver and TV, but it has only one button for both on and off.  If one of the devices missed the IR command, everything gets messed up and you have to either get out of your chair and push the power button on the device that missed the command or go through a series of selecting that device and hitting the power button again to get it back in sync.  Try explaining that to your wife!  It seems like the remote was designed for the SD STB without a DVR, then they added some buttons for the DVR, but didn't really think it through very well.  Someone at Motorola needs to toss this design in the trash and start over.  Score: F

Pay-per-View / On Demand View
We've watched a number of either PPV or OD programs and the selection is a nice addition to the stuff that we normally would record on the DVR.  The nicest part of the OD programming is when you want to go back to an old episode of a show or forget to record it.  Some of the PPV and OD is HD too, but only a small sub-set.  The menus to find programs and search is are pretty confusing - so much that my wife has not yet figured it out.  Score: B+

This is where the wheels come off Verizon FiOS TV.  (I had really high hopes too)  Let's just put it this way: it's a good thing the DVR service is free the first year, otherwise this would be back in a box back on the way to Verizon.  The Motorola HD DVR QIP 7216 is so full of bugs and other odd issues that is borders on fraud by asking someone to pay for this.  I noted in the last posting about how the optical audio output doesn't come on until you go to a menu to activate it (after every power-on), but the bugs continue and they are far worse.  It records programs that it can't playback.  It gets confused about the live TV feed and DVR playback.  It gets stuck and requires a power cycle to regain control.   It Crashes.  You name it and it does it (or doesn't do it).  It's not just me either - after talking to some neighbors, they are all suffering the same issues. Score: F-

Ignoring the above just for a second - I can see how Verizon FiOS Triple Bundle could be a reasonable value.  Internet, phone and TV at one reasonable price.  But the DVR issues kill it.  Also - FiOS suffers from what I call "bundle shock" - when you combine all three things on one bill, the total cost really shocks you.  "I pay that much for communications?!?"  (By the way, It's still cheaper to use Vonage for your phone.)  Score: B

What's Next
I've heard that you can use an HD Tivo with FiOS and I'm researching what I need to order to give that a try.  Initial searching found that I can order CableCards from Verizon and plug them into the back of a HD TiVo.  I just need to figure out how to order both parts (and get permission from my wife to buy the Tivos.)

Final Thoughts on FiOS Triple Bundle
The Internet is awesome - really fast and a good value.  The phone service is still kind of pricey, but it sounds and works great - I just wish it had the on-line control that our Vonage service has (and comparable pricing).  The TV service is okay if you don't want a DVR - otherwise it's a let-down.  
Final Score: C

Once I get the TiVo installed and working, I'll post another report.  Until then, I have an adapation of a Dire Straights song stuck in my head:  "I want my, I want my DirecTV"

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I really hope that you find more information on the TiVo deal. I've had FiOS since early March, and I have called Verizon, checked numerous websites, done numerous Google searches, and even more sources than that. I would love to replace my terrible DVR with a TiVo!

So if you find something out that would be great...

Hmm. Alan, thanks for trying this out and reporting on your experiences. FIOS will show up in my neighborhood soon, and the faster Internet speeds are quite enticing. However, my current Dish Network DVR works like a charm and I'd definitely want a working DVR if I was to move to a TV source other than Dish.

I can recall the phone guys saying that the Cablecos didn't know how to do telephony. Here the shoe is on the other foot. Kids, can we all pronounce "Best of Breed"?

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