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I've finally had a chance to read all the e-mail that piled up in my inbox after last Thursday's column--travel and a nasty cold kept me from finishing that until last night--and one thing's clear: Verizon's got a serious public-image problem.

Most of the dozens of e-mail responses that I received voiced the same basic thought: Yeah, what is up with this Fios-deployment nonsense? Except that many of my correspondents were... less than gentle about voicing that frustration.

The angriest notes came from readers who were within feet of a Fios connection but still couldn't tap into it. Here was one North Bethesda resident's tale:

FiOS cables were put in the ground about 15 feet from my back bedroom window in January of this year, but i have been met with stonewalling and misinformation at every turn when attempting to hook up to the service. Repeated calls to Verizon and inquiries on their website have been met with "the service is not available in your area yet."

A Springfielder also reported that Fios cables had apparently been installed only for decorative purposes:

They came through our West Springfield neighborhood over two years ago, tearing up the street... and most everyone's lawn laying new conduit. They gave every indication that they also were also putting the fiber in the ground Yet, after all that time and expense, FIOS is still not available on our street, and I have been unable to get any sense as to when it might be.

Yet another had this dismaying report:

Seeing a Verizon FIOS truck does NOT mean that FIOS service is at hand. In July I saw a FIOS truck- stopped and talked to the tech. He was installing FIOS cable in the street on which I live. Give them a month he said. I keep on checking but no FIOS and here it is the end of Sept.

The story also drew 67 comments that were no more favorable towards Verizon--though one reader suggested one way to acquire a little extra insight into Verizon's Fios plans:

Strike up a conversation with the guy in the truck. They are far more talkative than the plastic heads at HQ. Guys in my area have gone as far as shown me maps of where certain things are that are 'pre-cursors' to FIOS in a neighborhood (i.e. nodes and fiber) and often will give me a guesstimate on when they'll be around 'doing some digging'.

A few folks wanted to know how to find the documents Verizon has posted about its Fios-rollout plans in Virginia and Maryland. Virginia residents, click this link (PDF) for a listing of September's locations. Marylanders: This map (PDF) shows deployment zones in Montgomery County, while this page offers a set of Microsoft Word files listing installation locations in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

Finally, I missed one other major local jurisdiction that you might expect to have Fios service--considering its density and demographics--but which does not. That would be Alexandria. Verizon's Christy Reap confirmed for me this morning that Fios has not yet been deployed anywhere in the city. I'm sorry I got that wrong; look for a correction in the paper and online by tomorrow.

Here's the thing, though: Many of the people venting over Verizon also expressed a strong wish to have a choice besides Comcast or Cox for their Internet and TV service. They would gladly give Verizon their money if they could--but the more this company pushes them away, the less they seem interested in continuing to wait for Verizon to show up at their door.

I don't want to make this post all about Verizon-bashing (you should see some of the gripes I get about some cable-modem services!), so I'll end with this question: If you have Fios now, how long did you have to wait to get it? Was it worth that delay?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 2, 2007; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Telecom  
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Comments

It came to Herndon about six months after I first heard of it. I won't go back to cable or satellite, even with the crappy new software on the DVR.

Posted by: Herndon | October 2, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Fios actually came to my building earlier this year, but the pricing structure has kept me away, since you only get the best price on broadband if you also buy TV and phone service from them. About the same time, Earthlink announced plans to set up a WiFi network in Arlington which would roll out this fall, at a price comparable to their dialup service. But I haven't heard a word about it since. Anybody know what's happened with that?

Posted by: arthur | October 2, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I live in Arlington and got FiOS as soon as I moved into my house in April 2005. But I'm switching to Comcast's triple play. The prices of Comcast's and Verizon's triple-play bundles are comparable (at least the initial prices), but Verizon requires a two-year commitment for telephone service, and I'm not willing to do that, with what is going on in the telephone industry. Interestingly, Verizon overnighted me a letter saying "We would like to talk to you about the pending order to disconnect your Verizon service.... We are constantly creating new discounted competitive bundles to meet your broadband and entertainment needs. So please call us today to learn more about what we are willing to do to keep you as our customer. We have great rates and special discounts...." I called, and the nice woman said that I could get their "new fiber service" -- she didn't know I already had it. How's that for service? When I said that the reason I was going with Comcast was that I didn't want to make a two-year commitment, all she could do was transfer me to the "fiber department" -- she stayed on hold with me, but we never got through.
The FiOS service (telephone and Internet) has been just fine, and I'm a little bit afraid of subjecting myself to Comcast's customer service (though my Comcast cable hasn't given me any trouble). But I had to go with the better deal. Maybe Verizon will win me back some day.

Posted by: Doug | October 2, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Note that deployment is focused on where they got the best TV deal from the county. That must be where the money is.

Posted by: George | October 2, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Some of these people with lines installed who get the "service not available in your area" may just need to ask to speak to a manager. Apparently they are being very sloppy at updating their databases with exact addresses which have service available. 6 months after the lines were in, I had called several times and got the same answer - "service not available yet, maybe they still need to hook the line into a node" etc. Finally I talked to a manager, and we checked the address of my next door neighbor (no service) and then the house two doors down (Tada! service is available!). So if they give you this response even though the lines have been installed on your street, talk to a manager or check some other house numbers on your street - it may be just a database entry error.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I moved into my house on Huntsman Blvd in Springfield, two years ago this past July. I had FIOS hooked up that November if I remember correctly. I had to wait about 2 months from the time I had even heard of FIOS to my install time. Worth it? VERY much so. The TV service is great (except for their recent "upgrade" to the new DVR interface and service) and the internet connection is phenomonal. 15MB down and 2-3MB up. I love it.

Posted by: Dave | October 2, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I moved up here from Florida about a year ago. I had FIOS down there, and I was very happy with it (after one service call a couple weeks after the initial installation). They weren't offering TV service at the time I signed up, but just having that looming kept Comcast from raising the rates that year, for the first time since I had started with them. FIOS might not be the ultimate service, but at least it gets some competition into the field.

Posted by: FIOS Service | October 2, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

So, wait - if you get FiOS, you have to give up TiVo?

Posted by: JF | October 2, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I've had FIOS for a year now and very happy with it. The big problem with installation was the contractor they hired to do the actual digging and miss utility to do the marking. They kept pushing the install date back but once that was sorted out it took about 4 hours to install. The installers did a fantastic job.

Posted by: neb5 | October 2, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

When I moved into my house last August (in a Philadelphia suburb), I was told FiOS was "coming soon." It didn't materialize until a year later, but since the wire needed to cross my neighbor's driveway, my request for service was put on hold, and they eventually forgot about it. A month later, I convinced them to revive my order, and I finally got my FiOS last week. It's faster than my Comcast connection, but I had to manually reset my router after the first day. We'll see how reliable it turns out to be. And contrary to what the installer suggested to me verbally, FiOS TV doesn't support TiVo. They claim to have cable cards, but say they only work for the analog channels. I find this extremely hard to believe, but I'm not going to sign up for the service just to find out.

Posted by: David | October 2, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Verizon keeps pushing hard out here, but I'm less than enthusiastic over the idea that I have to have one of their boxes for each TV. Talking to their folks I can't get a straight answer as to whether the box is required for "premium" service or for all channels. For the mean time I'll stay with TimeWarner/Adelphia...

Posted by: Hermosa Beach | October 2, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

They dug up my neighborhood in Prince William County this summer and distributed leaflets offering early adopter rates. I called and was told that my installation would be on September 23rd. Still haven't heard from them. My next door neighbor works for Verizon, and she can't get any info about availability either. FIOS for Virginia is based in Richmond, apparently.

Posted by: WA2CHI | October 2, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

You can use Tivo with Fios... period. The Series 2 works with the analog channels OR using the Fios cable box and the Tivo IR cables. The Series 3 & HD Tivo work with cable cards that Verizon will supply (there's a monthly charge for the cards, but it's ~$3-5).

Given it's 3rd party hardware, the techs may not be totally up to speed on the hookups, but I wouldn't expect them to know everything about a fancy new plasma TV either.

Posted by: Tom | October 2, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Last summer vzn tore up my neighborhood, and started offering a few months later. Funny thing is some neighbors had gotten hooked up before vzn even advertised the lines were hot. Ive had it since Jan and couldnt be happier with it.

Posted by: eb | October 2, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

We got FiOS (Internet and phone, no TV) in Leesburg, VA a little more than two years ago, and it was great (I was happy with the UHF antenna in my attic, which I could use to pull in HDTV from as far away as Baltimore - 50 miles). Unfortunately, we ended up moving to a neighborhood where FiOS was not available (HOA is locked into OpenBand long-term contact for TV / Internet / phone), just before completing the one-year commitment, so I had to return the router.

Posted by: Charles | October 2, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

FiOs was definitely worth the wait. With Cox I could not get digital surround sound; the sound would cut out at odd times, enough to make it unwatchable. With FiOS we get great HD pictures and surround sound.

You do not have to have a box for each TV, but without a box the TV only gets about the first 100 channels (and no premium channels).

Posted by: Falls Church | October 2, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I think I had to wait about 2 months or so from when the fiber was laid to when it was available to order. I was a DirecTV customer before but git feed up with their customer service and their bogus change to "leasing" equipment. I had an HD Tivo box I bought before they started this lease and when I wanted to upgrade they demanded I send back the box I paid money for or they would charge me $500 for the new box. Even when I cancelled they wanted the old boxes back that I had paid for. Anyway I think FiOS is worth it. Their internet service is great and I really like their TV service. excellent picture quality which blew away DirecTV. My biggest complaint is that DirecTv is out there advertising 150 HD channels and the Verizon folks are not trying to counter it or give an indication when they add teh next batch of HD channels. Very frustrating.

Posted by: owendylan | October 2, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I have had FIOS installed in Potomac,MD for well over a year. It was available about 4 mos after they laid the cable in the neighborhood. It's worth wait since it's always on (unlike Comcast) and is faster by far than cable. It even stays on when the power in the neighbohood fails.

Posted by: john m | October 3, 2007 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I don't have FIOS but it's been available in my building in Falls Church for about 18 months now. Judging from Verizon's FIOS usenet discussion group, most people seem to be very satisfied with FIOS around the country. The thing holding me back is the two-year commitment. If they would make that one year, I'd probably bite.

Posted by: Henry | October 3, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

and if you are in a condo or apartment, fios deployment could be a long way off.Verizon has been even slower on developing a multi-unit deployment method. It's frustrating, since it allows the heavy handed Comcast monopoly to raise rates at will!

Posted by: Mike | October 3, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

About 10 years ago the city of Tacoma, WA got tired of the foot dragging by private cable companies in building a fiber optic network, so the city ran the cable themselves. My friends down there report lower prices, better service and a wider choice of ISPs than I get with Comcast up in Seattle. There's something to be said for having municipalities run the cable and then having private companies truly compete for customers.

Posted by: Norm | October 3, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Doug,

Beware of expecting utility grade service from Comcast. My Intgernet and TV service was rock-solid for several years. Then the Internet service died - for a week - Comcast was at my house 3 times until at my urging they replaced the wire from the utility pole to my house. First, it was spliced once, and second, the wire passed through a tree and had been chewed on by a squirrel. There was a 10 db loss from the pole to the house before replacement and a 3 db loss after replacement. They did not know enough to check this possibility to the third call, and when they did measure the loss, the guy said 10 db was within normal range for that cable distance but said he'd replace the line if I requested it. I did, and guess what - Internet service returned to normal. It was clear to me that the loss was too much because I found myself that if I moved my cable modem in the house to bypass the last splitter before the modem, the service worked. That splitter introduced a 3 db signal loss. I will NEVER give a company like that my telephone service, and I don't think anyone else should either. I'm no Verizon lover eitherm but at least they treat their service like a utility instead of an entertainment system.

Posted by: Arlington | October 3, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I got FiOS as soon as I moved into my new (60 year old) house in Bethesda. For the user asking about TiVO, yes, you can use TiVO - I have two Series 2 boxes and the serial cables will connect to the Verizon boxes to change the channels. Only problem is when Verizon updates the software to the boxes it turns the power off - and TiVO has no way to know. So you just have to look at it to make sure it stays on. Otherwise, signal is fantastic and clear (clearer if I go direct from box than through TiVO with TiVO's caching), my TiVOs with lifetime subscriptions work great!

Posted by: ssolomo | October 3, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

When I heard about FiOS, I was really excited that such high speed Internet was coming to this area.
However, now the more I Think about it, the more I am thinking I would NOT get it even if it was available to me.
The BIGGEST reason for this:
CUSTOMER SERVICE

My parents have FiOS and I know others that have it. I've also had Verizon service in the past, and it's by far the worst customer service you could ever ask for.

Cox on the other hand, has decent speed internet and I have never once had any trouble with their representatives. I never have to hold more than a few minutes and the people are always friendly and helpful.

I'd rather not lock into a 1 year contract w/ a company that's going to most likely cause me to deal with their crappy people for a product that is slightly better than what I have, it's not worth it at all.

Posted by: Justin | October 3, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I've had FIOS for over two years here in Falls Church. I love it. I chatted with techs every day the trucks were here to get updates. The dedicated customer service reps are great,once you get to them, and it costs less than Cox. Quality excellent. There were some bumps in the road when the new program guide was implemented this summer but it's fine now. A tip for calling customer service...start shouting "agent" as soon as you get the voice "guide" when ya call.

Posted by: Tina | October 4, 2007 6:41 AM | Report abuse

FIOS was available Westchester County NY several months ago, but TV was just offered a week ago in my town. A rep told me that TV has to be negotiated with every town and their policy is to say nothing to the consumer until the service is actually available; apparently when Verizon gave customers estimates in the past, the consumer would complain to the town if dates weren't met.

I agree with other posters, the technicians are helpful and share info, but the info isn't always accurate.

Posted by: kevin | October 9, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Kevin is absolutely right. I managed the Government and External Affairs group for Bell Atlantic Video Services until 2000 (just prior to BA merging with GTE and becomign Verizon); we managed Regulatory offerings, dealth with Home Owners Associations, state governments (13 or 14 states at that time), etc. We even helped some customers fight their HOA's in court of before the FCC when the Telecom Act was amended in 1996 to allow people to put satellite dishes and antennae on their rooftops. Prior to using DirecTV as their video service, Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and Pacific Bell formed a joint venture called TELE-TV (I worked for them), which offered true video-on-demand (you could call up the movie/tv show at 12:12 am and it would play, unlike the "viewing blocks" we still see today) and was originally offered via DSL. It was also here where much of the Beta testing of various kinds of MPEG was performed, which ultimately led to DVD's (I wrote a White Paper explaining why TELE-TV/Bell Atlantic should spend $500,000 to expand our facility's capabilities to be able to make DVD's for the studios, but the higher ups decided that Satellite was the way to go).

As early as 1993, Bell Atlantic (prior to the NYNEX merger) had designs for running FTTC (Fiber To The Curb) throughout the region, in an effort to upgrade existing services and introduce new services. That was put on hold while we negotiated with the Justice Dept. and other gov't entitites about our ability to buy NYNEX (they called it a merger of equals, but it wasn't).

Unfortunately for we consumers, greed got in the way of good customer service, and the fiber plan went away. It wasn't until the cable industry spent billions of $$ and came out of their competitive slump with a slew of new, competitive products did the Phone Company realize it needed to act to a changing environment.

Throughout all of this, we had to deal with EACH municipality where cable licenses were granted, in order to try to compete. Ironically, we were also called upon to argue AGAINST cable's "infringement" on the Phone Co's. business. Both sides have monopolies in place, whether they admit it or not, and it's the consumer who suffers.

If you REALLY want the service, or you just want a more competitive service offering, talk to your local politicos (County Comissioners, city council members, etc.) and DEMAND that they act swiftly to approve whatever service you want (whether it be cable in a location/building where the Phone Co. has the monopoly or vice versa). It will only come through concerted effort - believe me, I know, because I did it along the entire Eastern Seaboard for a number of years, and the places where the consumers yelled the loudest and most often were the ones that changed the most and the fastest.

For those of you like Mike (who commented on the MDU "model") who live in a condo or apartment, you might be out of luck for a while, because (despite the appearance of not having a Multi-Dwelling Unit model - I know they have one, because my group wrote the original one in 1996) Verizon might not be ALLOWED into the building due to a contractual obligation to a provider of some sort. Some MDU's have been successful in having their contracts obviated or outright voided, but only when the residents were able to definitively prove that the service they were receiving was sub-standard or priced excessively beyond what the "going rate" was in their vacinity for the same services.

I hope my ramblings help those of you who are frustrated with the pace of getting service in your area! There are a number of factors in place - just remember that there is no shortage of incompetent "help" people, no matter the organization or government entity!!!

Posted by: David | October 9, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I really don't care if FIOS ever comes to Alexandria. I get my DSL from a 3rd party that I've had for years, from back when Verizon kept telling me it wasn't available in my neighborhood. I switched to DirecTV from Comcast 7 years ago and have never looked back. With DirecTV's HD DVR and all the new HD channels they're rolling out (32 new ones so far this month), I'm quite happy with my service.

Posted by: Alexandria | October 10, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Rob,
I found your story about Verizon and their FIOS deployment and tactics very accurate. We in the Pasadena, Md area have the same dilema. Verizon installed their FIOS north, west and south of my area. All attempts to find out why they ditched our area or if they're going back to complete the installation have gone unanswered. Verizon states on some pages that they don't want to give COMCAST or other competitors any information about their FIOS deployment. I find this ridiculous because FIOS puts out their construction web page that shows appromimately were their crews are suppose to be installing FIOS. Now, back to Pasadena MD. I've called Verizon, checked the availability site and can't order the service. I called our county information office and asked why Anne Arundel county was basically "dissed" by Verizon. I was told that Verizon was still working in the county but not near my area. Just this past month, Verizon appears to have abandon Anne Arundel county and deployed up to Baltimore county. Why have Verizon left Anne Arundel when the job isn't complete? Why hasn't our information office gotten more involved in inspecting Verizon work around the county to see where they've missed completing the installation. I hope someone reads this and can shed some light on Verizon's mystisim

Posted by: Pasadena MD | October 21, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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