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Friday September 19, 2008 9:59 pm
Verizon FiOS vs. Comcast: Feature-by-feature
Ten days ago, Verizon FiOS TV officially launched here in Washington state. I was actually invited to speak at the launch event that took place that day, alongside Verizon representatives, and local government officials. I was specifically chosen as a case study of just how good FiOS is, since I literally moved specifically because Comcast was way too slow for the things we expected out of our Internet connection here at Gear Live HQ. It was an event meant to talk up the advantages of FiOS over cable (specifically, Comcast, in this area). Obviously, with FiOS looming over their territory, Comcast went into damage control mode to combat Verizon’s claims that they were the best option for Internet and television services. We were sent both the FiOS press release and the Comcast press release, and we figured we would respond to the claims of each, point-by-point.
For some background, we’ve been Comcast customers for over six years, for both Internet and television services. When we moved for FiOS 15 months ago, Comcast was still our cable television provider. As of today, I am a FiOS customer for both Internet and television, and as of 10 days ago, am no longer a Comcast customer. Now, on with the comparisons.
To start, here are the points that Comcast wanted to get across. These are the reasons that they feel they are a better value to consumers than Verizon FiOS. Let’s take a look at each:
Comcast has been using Fiber-Optic technology for more than 10 years – Comcast’s reliable hybrid fiber-coaxial system contains more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cables directly into each neighborhood we serve.
While this may be true, we fail to see how this makes Comcast a better alternative than FiOS. How do the 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable affect me? It is just the method used to deliver the signal to the node, that fiber doesn’t come all the way to my physical house, the way FiOS does. By the same token, how does the 10 year timeframe affect me? I could care less how long you’ve been doing it, especially if someone else hasn’t been doing it as long, and is doing it better.
Network reliability – A new state-of-the-art network monitoring center, located in Everett, ensures that network issues are identified and corrected well before they impact customers.
Well, that is a good thing. We know it is there, and know it’s purpose. But again, how does this help me, the consumer, when comparing Comcast to FiOS? Is Comcast trying to imply that Verizon doesn’t have a network monitoring center? I know for a fact that they do. It would be silly and irresponsible for either of them not to.
Local customer service – More than 3,000 local Washington state employees, including nearly 1,000 customer service representatives in call centers in Lynnwood, Everett and Fife, are available 24-7 to help customers. These employees ensure that nearly 100 percent of all calls made by Washington Comcast customers are answered by a Comcast Washington employee.
Now, this is something that I can see as a beneficial point. I live in Washington state, and it is just more convenient when I get a service representative on the phone who is from the same local area. I like that. The thing is, both times that I had to call Verizon for support in the past 15 months, I ended up on the phone with someone from Washington state. So this isn’t any better than what FiOS does. Oh, and when I was with Comcast for Internet, I was calling them way more than twice every 15 months. It was more like twice per month.
Comcast bundles – Comcast offers competitive pricing on similar bundles of video, voice and high-speed data services that include up to 16 Mbps down and up to 2 Mbps up.
I find that one to be amusing, seriously. Sure, the pricing on that bundle is competitive with the FiOS bundle of the same speed, but Comcast also was careful to point out their max speed of 16/2. Now, when I left Comcast Internet for FiOS Internet, Comcasts maximum speed was 8/0.768, so they have definitely improved a bit. However, my initial FiOS speed was 30/15. Today, I am on 50/20. There is just no comparison between FiOS at 50/20 and Comcast at 16/2. Comcast simply can’t touch FiOS.
Best value – Comcast’s high-speed Internet service includes more than $325 in free features such as McAfee Security Suite, PhotoShow Deluxe, Rhapsody Radio Plus and The Fan. In addition, an equivalent FiOS phone package can cost as much as $485 more per year than Comcast’s phone service.
Verizon offers similar software packages and gimmicks to make their service look more attractive. I call this one a wash. I personally haven’t used either of these “bonus” feature packages. When I buy service, it is for the service, not for the add-ons. The note about phone service is definitely true, if you were to only get phone service. Both companies offer Internet/TV/Voice packages for $99 a month.
More On Demand – Comcast customers can choose from more than 7,000 titles On Demand, including hundreds of programs in high definition with almost 75% of it being FREE content. Verizon offers significantly fewer titles On Demand and much less FREE content.
See, this one at surface level makes it appear that Comcast’s On Demand offering is better than FiOS TV’s. I just can’t agree with that. Now, this is obviously something that is purely based on a person’s entertainment tastes, but from where I sit, while Comcast had more On Demand content, FiOS TV has better On Demand content - including a bunch of stuff that Comcast doesn’t have, that I would have wished they did. Things like Blip.tv On Demand, where I can see great web content right from the DVR interface. By the way, look out for Gear Live’s video shows to be featured On Demand with FiOS TV soon. Let’s see if we can get on Comcast as well.
FiOS offers limited customer service – The Verizon FiOS call center is only available Monday-Friday, leaving customers without billing, sales and technical support on weekends.
Hands down, this is the first point on the list where I feel Comcast knocks it out of the park - until I realize there is a lie right in it! It is untrue that technical support is unavailable on weekends to FiOS customers. Tech support is the one thing you can get support-wise with FiOS at any time of day, any day of the week. However, it is true that you only get billing and sales support during business hours Monday-Friday. It sucks that Verizon is that way, here’s hoping they change it. For now, Comcast wins in the 24x7x365 support.
FiOS customers without contracts pay more – Verizon doesn’t require contracts, but they charge more if customers decide not to sign a contract. In addition, they charge for cancelling your contract. Comcast does not require contracts for service, and customers are free to cancel at any time without penalty.
Comcast is right on this one as well. They don’t require any contracts, but neither does Verizon. You can choose to enter into a contract with Verizon, and if you do, you get a further discount on services. Still, if we are calling a spade a spade, then Comcast is contract-free, and Verizon isn’t. Comcast wins here.
But you know what Comcast failed to mention? While they don’t have contracts, they will have Internet usage caps beginning next month. If you are a Comcast Internet subscriber, you will have a cap of 250GB usage per month. If you go above that, watch out. Seriously. With FiOS Internet, you can use as much as you want, and you aren’t sharing your connection with all your neighbors. It’s your line, coming directly into your home.
Comcast’s investment in new products and services – Comcast’s Washington market invests an average of $100 million a year to maintain and improve its network, with plans over the next six to 12 months to deliver dramatically faster Internet speeds and dozens more high definition channels.
While it’s nice to hear that Comcast is planning to improve their network, they are playing catch-up at this time. Verizon Internet speeds completely obliterate anything that Comcast offers. When it comes to HDTV, again, FiOS blows Comcast away (despite what those dishonest Comcast ads on television tell you). With Comcast, I had about 25 HD channels. The move to FiOS TV left me with 101 HD channels. That is a sizable difference.
So there you have it, that was Comcast’s entire list. That was their attempt at convincing consumers that they are the better choice when choosing between them and FiOS. I think it was a pretty poor showing, especially considering that they slipped in a blatant lie. Let’s move on to the FiOS data, provided by Verizon.
Again, breaking it down point-by-point:
- Only the Verizon FiOS network delivers America’s top-rated, fastest Internet up to 50 Mbps
- Verizon FiOS offers connection speeds up to 53 times faster than dial-up
- Fiber optic speeds up to 50 Mbps give you the power to upload/download photos, movies and user-generated content in a flash (e.g. 200 pictures in only 90 seconds)
Can’t argue with them here, although I do wonder why they compare their speeds to dial-up rather than cable.
- FiOS offers an amazing picture quality up to five times clearer than regular TV
- Verizon FiOS offers 100 HD channels and 100% digital quality, crystal clear picture and studding sound on all channels
- Unlike many cable providers, FiOS TV Quality is not deteriorated by the recompression of video signals before they are passed on to customers
Again, spot on. While to me this seems like it’s mostly fluff, the one important piece here is that FiOS doesn’t recompress their video signals. That means significantly fewer compression artifacts when watching high definition programming. Seriously, this is like night and day when compared to the HD programming quality we got with Comcast.
Reliability & Performance
- Verizon FiOS is the top-rated broadband service in America
- FiOS Phone Service handles over a billion calls a day with 99.9% network reliability
- With a dedicated line from Verizon’s home office directly to each customer’s home, FiOS Internet performance does not slow down during peak times
Here, they are addressing me as a consumer specifically with stats, and then they give the information that the connection doesn’t slow down during peak times, which it most certainly does with cable, especially if you live in a densely-populated area.
- Verizon FiOS makes entertainment easy with Home Media DVR
- Verizon FiOS is the only service to offer Multi-room DVR and Verizon Media Manager
- Verizon FiOS offers over 10,000 Video on Demand titles per month
What I like here are the specifics. Instead of using terms like “more”, the way Comcast did, Verizon lays it out there - they have over 10,000 VOD titles per month. That is obviously more than I will end up watching, if Comcast has more than that, then that is also more than I will end up watching. The thing is, it’s about the quality of the programming, not the quantity. Quality is where FiOS wins that battle.
The other thing of note here is the Home Media DVR. This is another thing that Comcast just can’t touch. I can stream audio and video content from my PC to my FiOS DVR to play on my television and through my speaker system. The FiOS IMG DVR software is far and away better than the slow, horrible, poor excuse for an interface that Comcast is currently using. Multi-room DVR allows me to watch content stored on one DVR on other DVRs in my home - again, something Comcast has never offered.
So there you have it, those are the details provided by both Comcast and Verizon as they pertain to their entertainment and Internet packages. If you have the choice between these two specific services in your area, feel free to use my thoughts above as a guide. Like I said, I was a Comcast customer for over 6 years, and I know their services very well. Once I went with FiOS Internet, I was blown away. My recent switch to FiOS TV was just as mind-blowing. The fact that you get your own line of fiber, directly to your home, to carry all your communications is amazing.
Do you agree? Are we way off base? Let us know your thoughts.
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