Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Bright House Networks vs. Verizon FIOS – HD and Internet in Tampa Bay

by Eric Stewart on Aug.16, 2008, under Home Stuff, Internet Service Providers, Life, TV

Basic info first, as most of the time people’s experiences are all a matter of context:

I had Bright House (BH) Networks in my old apartment in Temple Terrace, with an HD-DVR (see earlier blog posts about some of the things I encountered with it).

I now (briefly, as practically an hour after they finished setting it up, we were out the door to visit my SO’s parents) have Verizon FIOS (V-FIOS) in Lutz (but it’s so close to “New Tampa” it’s practically there).

Here’s the list of issues:

  • Missing from V-FIOS: Bay News 9. BN9 is run by BH, so go figure.
  • Missing from V-FIOS: History Channel in HD. Also missing – Science Channel in HD. Both of these I watched regularly. I haven’t done a side by side comparison yet, but I’m beginning to think that Verizon’s HD lineup currently lacks big time. However, my limited knowledge of how all this works thinks that it will be easier in the long run for V-FIOS to add HD channels (uncompressed!) than it will be for BH (which will probably have to use compression unless they start replacing all of their cabling with fiber).
  • I had to ask for the “HD National” channels. I don’t think they’re an extra charge, but if I get an HD box, I shouldn’t have to ask for the HD channels. If they do charge more, I’m going back to Bright House.
  • I don’t quite like the onscreen guide for Verizon FIOS yet. Perhaps it’s just a usage thing.
  • Not sure the setup for the DVR stuff is as user friendly as Bright House’s.
  • Verizon’s set top box (STB) definitely does not allow for easy adding of external hard drives to extend the available recording space. With the Bright House box, I could add a 500GB drive via an eSATA port on the back. And, I think the default space provided by the Verizon STB is smaller than the default space in BH’s unit.
  • According to the installers, three days prior to my install, Verizon offered a “basic” package for “cable ready” TVs, but they have discontinued this service. This sucks, as I had a TV I wanted to add to my bedroom as well as our “guest” room, but I didn’t want to bother with the expense of an additional box. With the oncoming switch in Feb. for broadcast TV to go HD, I think Verizon figured (and supposedly the government may have requested) that they didn’t need to provide the service any more. This leaves me with two useless TVs (and one of them is a decent 32″ TV).

Internet, on the other hand, seems a bit better:

  • V-FIOS’s service is provided through a single unit that combines the functions of a “cable modem” and “wireless router” that also has 4 10/100 copper ethernet ports on it. The unit is fully configurable (by default they set it up with a random SSID and use 64bit WEP, but I easily reconfigured the SSID and configured it for WPA2 and our laptops didn’t notice a difference when they were powered up). With BH, on the other hand, I had been using a cable modem (that I had had for a while) along with a “wireless router” (mind you, I had spent some money on a g capable wireless router that also had 4 10/100/1000 ports on them; the V-FIOS installers said they were in the middle of testing such a unit).

Disclaimer: We haven’t had a chance to really see how the speed situation is. I also suspect that Bright House may be providing similar services with it’s internet packages now.

So, right now I’m not sure it was such a good idea to switch – there are some features and channels missing with the V-FIOS service that I liked with BH. However, I’ll have to take the time to see if the V-FIOS service grows on me.

I must say that one of the reasons I decided to switch was the sales call I got from Bright House a week or two before closing on the house. The guy was straight off of a used-car lot and had to have been reading from a script, considering how fast he talked. That was the worst thing about it – the only time I got a word in edgewise was to tell the guy things like “I don’t need phone service” when he paused after saying “So how about I sign you up?”. His response was to launch into an “I understand that sir” and then rapidly describe yet another package (I guess without phone service) that he wanted to sign me up to. When he paused that second time after rattling off the services he thought I should have, I said, “No” and hung up. I turned to Erika and said, “That’s it, we’re switching to Verizon.”

However, after discussing the TV situation (which admittedly did involve the two of us saying that we could live without TVs in areas other than the living room), she said, “Hmmm, maybe we want to go back to Bright House.”

EDIT: Funny thing – I just realized I had blogged about the phone call and impending switching of services earlier this week. Wow, I forget things quick sometimes.


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