I love ads like this, because they're never not true; no matter how slow your connection is, it's ALWAYS "up to" 50 Mbps. And how many people know what 50 Mbps means, anyway? Unfortunately for consumers, the world of Internet Service Providers is dominated by jargon-slinging monopolies whose customer satisfaction ratings are marginally better than Congress's.
But there are, finally, options for many New Yorkers. Time Warner just upgraded our internet speed and cable modem free. A cynic might suspect that this unprecedented generosity was triggered by the recent arrival of Verizon FiOS.
Verizon FiOS gets much better ratings than the local cable options. Unlike cable, FiOS Internet is not a shared pipe that can slow down at peak periods. FiOS TV is reportedly a higher quality picture. So isn't it a no-brainer to switch? Maybe, maybe not. Here's why.
All the major providers offer the three services most people are seeking:
- broadband (high speed) Internet service,
- a gazillion TV channels, and
- telephone service over the internet (VOIP)
(There are some technical differences; for a good explanation, click here).
And they all want to lock you in to spending as much as possible with them, so you'll spend less for each service if you buy them as a bundle from a single provider, the so-called "triple play."
Comparing services is tricky, though. There are different tiers of Internet access speed, and pricing is further obscured by special "deals" for new customers, limited time discounts, and add-on fees for the modem, router, WiFi, voicemail, service contracts, etc.
(Most broadband companies also tout "free" extras like email addresses, spam filtering software, and tablet PC's, which add little if any value).
I'd love to switch to FiOS, but careful investigation revealed that because of differences in the wiring approaches of Time Warner and Verizon FiOS, we can't use FiOS TV in our apartment without rewiring. We could use FiOS for internet and phone and cable for TV, but splitting the service means double the aggravation and at best saves a few dollars per month.
What should you do?
1. If Verizon FiOs is available in your building (find out here), check how the speed and price compare to what you have now. (To decide how much speed you need, see here). Add up the total costs for two years to get a good overall picture.
2. Don't commit until you know for a fact that you can have all the services you want where you want them. Some key questions in addition to the pricing:
- Where will the wires enter your apartment?
- How will Internet and telephone and TV service get distributed around your home?
- Where will Verizon's equipment sit and how big is it?
- Do you have power outlets available where they are needed?
- Do they offer all the TV channels you can't live without?
- Do they include all the services (voicemail, wholehome DVR) you can't live without?
- Would switching affect any of your existing equipment, such as telephones and routers?
- Who hooks them up?
- If you're considering giving up a wired landline phone, are you willing to live without telephone service (except, maybe, cellular) during a blackout?
Some of these questions can only be answered by a site visit, which should be free.
3. Negotiate! If you have two options, you may be able to get additional services or discounts (extra channels, or a cheaper bundle with Verizon Wireless cell phone service)but only if you ask.
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Enjoy the last of summer.