Verizon FiOS: The Installation

Posted on 2008.02.03 (Sunday). Filed under: Coffee, Entertainment, Food and Beverage, Hardware, Internet, Service Providers, Speed Tests, Technology, Television, Verizon FiOS | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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I just did two speed tests, to test a theory about whether or not Microsoft Internet Explorer would be slower or faster while browsing the web versus Mozilla Firefox. The speed test at 3:47PM GMT is MSIE, the other is Firefox.I wasn’t expecting a big difference in results, and I wasn’t shown one either. My boredom got the better of me, I suppose.

I was finally able to get some pictures on the exterior of my home, without the presence of rain a few moments ago. Now, with the sun high in the sky, though, I still wasn’t able to get my camera aimed towards a few other things I wanted to show, such as how the line looks running from pole to home, or a close-up of the box on the pole either. C’est la vie.

Anyway, all that aside, I’m going to attempt to take you through what happened here on the 29th day of the year.I had been up late the preceding night, and was about to go to bed at 3 or 4am. I thought to myself, usually I wake up from such a late sleep around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. No good; I stayed awake instead. I knew Verizon would be here between 8 and 12, and they had called twice to confirm the guy would arrive a few minutes after 8 on the day of the installation.

This didn’t work out as it was supposed to, he got “held up” and was “a little behind”, finally arriving around 10:20am or so. I was a bit peeved at first, but having experience in customer service, told myself he must be stuck with some disgruntled customer or some unexpected event during the course of a routine maintenance call befell upon him. I wish I would’ve asked him what took so long, being that we got along great during the course of the install, but I never got around to it.The installer’s name was Fabio, and he was more than happy to walk into a home where we offered coffee, cake, breakfast, and whatever else. He said he had already eaten some toast before he got here, and downed a huge coffee a short while before, as well. This worked out great in my book, because I had one Keurig K-Cup left, and I didn’t want to give it to anyone!

I greeted him at the door, and introduced myself, and my grandmother. I told Fabio to follow me, saying “I have a lot of ideas, and I was wondering what you thought — You can either help me out here, or kick me in the ass and push me outta the way, but I just wanted to run this by you first.” He followed me into the back room of the house (the den–where I’mtyping this right this moment), and I showed him what I had. I pointed out that from this room, we would be able to connect to the first splitter in the house (for TV) over an existing wire that used to run into the old television in here years ago, the two Ethernet cables running to my computers, a line running to the main telephone box outside, and a wall socket that was available.

He was very open to my suggestions, and wasn’t pushy, and wasn’t a “know-it-all” who had to see for himself. I was surprised that he took my word for what it was, and worked with me 100%. I was expecting to show the technician what I wanted, and to hear him give me a run-down on what he thought would be better. I was expecting him to investigate all that I had explained, and to make sure I knew what I was talking about, by checking all the lines I was speaking of, and making sure they went where I said they did. That just didn’t happen.

When I explained to him where the lines run, and that we could tap into everything back here, he was more than happy to accept it all. Sometimes, I understand that a tech 100_0557must investigate the matters to be sure of what he’s doing, but at other times, I’d much rather someone believe in my ability to know what the hell I’m talking about. I guess I sounded good. His only question was about the cable line I had running to the first splitter. Since that cable ran clear across my house, from one side to the other, he said that they should really use RG-6 cable (the new standard) instead of RG-59 (RG59 on top, RG6 on bottom in right-side photo) which is what I had. He agreed to try it, but I could tell he had his reservations. (From Wikipedia: “[RG-59] Generally has poor shielding but will carry a HQ HD signal or video over short distances. Not legal for use with any CATV or MATV system.)

He went out to his van after we discussed all this, picked up a wiring schematic, and began to peruse the telephone poles. I stood outside for a good minute having a smoke, before I decided that its too cold out for being without a coat, and went inside. Fabio spent about 15 minutes out there walking up and down the street. I began to think to myself “this guy is lost”. Turns out, that the diagrams they provided him at the garage were wrong, and the boxes he needed to connect to weren’t where they were supposed to be. He told me it should be on one of the 2 poles across the street from my home and there wasn’t anything there.

He went on to further explicate the diagram to me, pointing at poles and boxes. We both came to the conclusion that it should come off a third pole a bit further from my home. That being said, he climbed up there and poked around, coming down just to tell me that its definitely one of these two boxes on this third pole, but the boxes are improperly labeled and they’re still not where they belong on the diagram. So, he called a supervisor to come down to rectify the situation.

100_0551 - CopyWhile we waited for the arrival of a supervisor, Fabio began to work on drilling holes in my den, to run the two wires the ONT (one to the battery back-up, the other is the coaxial line for the TV and Internet), and installing the ONT on the outside of the home.The drilling process was, at the least, entertaining. He had three separate drill-bits, all of which seemed rather dull to me (and it took a while). Not his fault, and I can understand Verizon wanting to save money and not buy a new set of bits for the entire fleet. (good bits can get !&@*ing expensive) They get the job done, that’s all that matters.

So there you have it, I now have two holes in my house. I really don’t understand why these companies don’t fill the holes with silicon or some type of caulking. I can’t call it bad business on Verizon’s behalf– Cablevision didn’t do it either, when they put a hole in my home for the VOIP that I had. In fact, it was completely unnecessary for Cablevision to do that, as their modem was inside the house, as is the spot where the outside box terminates. Instead, Cablevision ran a wire from inside downstairs, to inside upstairs, to outside, to come back inside downstairs. ON TOP of that, they drilled a hole clear thru my wall here in the den, in the middle of the room, and did not even secure the jack to the wall! The guy just left it loose, hanging there. At least Verizion had the decency to stick the holes inconspicuously in a corner, behind a chair, out of the way and out of sight, and where he did have to insert a splitter, he secured that to the wall, properly!

After that, he went to the van and pulled out some RG-6 cabling, enough to span the width of my home. He decided that the RG-59 wire I had running, which I mentioned earlier, really needed to be replaced, so that’s what this was for. He gave the cable to me, and went downstairs to pass it up to him through my air-conditioning vent (where I had already ran some of my own Ethernet wires previously), and I ran this thru my ceiling to where the first splitter was.

The ONT installation was rather painless, he made 3 or 4 small holes in the brick to insert the plugs that accept the screws to mount the plate that secures the ONT to the wall, and that was it. (is that a run on sentence?) It’s a beautiful looking piece of technological advancement, at least, on the inside. The outside is rather plain looking, and until I got used to it over the past two or three days, I thought 16c65f40it were a bit of an eyesore on the house.

The photograph at the right shows you the inside of the ONT. This photograph comes from Daniel Bricklin’s website (used with permission), where he has also documented his own FiOS experience back in 2005 in Newton, Massachusetts. By the way, in mentioning Mr. Brickln, I should also state that it was his write-up on the installation which prompted me to do my own. Mr. Bricklin is one of the co-creators of “VisiCalc, the first computer spreadsheet program as we know them today.” -Some of you might find his history, details about VisiCalc, and other things, quite interesting on his website, and I suggest you browse through it.

As Fabio finished drilling holes and secured the battery back-up to my wall, he received a call from his supervisor who had arrived, and was outside checking the poles in his bucket-truck. He wasn’t up there too long before hydraulic fluid began to leak from the truck, bringing his bucket-riding to an end for the day. However, in his short while up there, he was able to ascertain what was what, and told Fabio and what we had already thought — that the line must come off the box we were talking about earlier.

He went off on his merry way, and Fabio began to string the lines along as directed, to my house. He used 165 ft. of fiber optic cable in total to get to my home from the connection on the pole. He explained to me that when he came to the home with the wire, that the drop we already have for the existing copper connections would not be able to be used, as it bends about four or five times around the house. I didn’t argue about his having to add a new drop on my upstairs dormer, as I had read before that this type of line shouldn’t make ANY bends, if at all possible. So, he finished running the fiber, and installing the new drop, after I had okayed it.

(This is where I had wante d to take a picture to show the drop to the pole, but the sun was blotting out view… but you can see the new drop and how it isn’t bent anywhere, just kinda curved from point a to the gutter to the next fastener).

100_0549 - CopyAfter everything was laid down, he handed me the set-top boxes so that I could begin moving TVs around and VCRs and DVD players and 100_0549 - Copy (2)whatnot, and changing them. I was more than happy to help, and I suppose he was quite relieved that he had some assistance. I placed those all where they had to go, and prepared them to be set-up. While I was running around the house doing that, I stopped out to meet him by the van where he was making up some wires or whatnot, to have him create some RG-6 lines for me that I needed.

By the time I finished replacing any RG-59 that I could with RG-6, he had finished hooking up the dial tone outside to the ONT, and he went to lunch. (He hooked this straight to the box that comes into the house, the original box, and didn’t use the crap Cablevision setup).I took his battery operated screwdriver to put pilot holes for the router, and then affixed it to the wall where I wanted it, as he ran around the house finding all the RG-6 I had installed, and putting the BNC connectors on the ends (that’s the part that screws into your cable inputs on the TVs and stuff).I borrowed his stapler and cutters back and forth, getting everything pristine and proper how I liked it.

He had ran into some issues with getting a signal for his laptop to do all the activations and details, so there was a bit of a pause in operations until that finally began to work. Your cable company will come in and install things, and then the customer calls the company and they turn it on from their office. Some satellite providers will call it in, and have the office activate it for them while they’re here. With Verizon, some things are called in and confirmed, and the activations for all the boxes, router, and phone porting are done by the technician on his laptop, which really wastes some time. If their office was prepared to do that sort of thing, he could be moving on to the next step while they did that, but.. they don’t. The tech apologized to me for the long wait in the activation process, and confided in me that he hopes Verizon begins to do these things remotely, because spending 6-8 hours on a triple-play installation really makes him feel unprofessional in the eyes of the weary customer who would typically exclaim “Six to eight hours??!!”

We had a problem getting the HD DVR to work in the upstairs bedroom. It wasn’t receiving a good enough signal to work. Fabio explained to me that the DVR’s are usually100_0556 very sensitive to a clear signal, and that we might not be able to use that upstairs. Verizon prefers to use the customer’s existing wires where possible. The problem with the signal upstairs was that half of the wire running towards it was a very very old RG-59 wire that has been here since 1980, when Cablevision was first installed in my home… and it had went thru some walls, small holes, and a few things were installed since then (like Central A/C and some extra Natural Gas pipes) that made it impossible to replace in one day. I switched the set top box to a standard, and it worked just fine up there. (later on I came back into the bedroom upstairs armed with a signal-amplifier that Cabelvision had provided me with, and this made that HD DVR box work just fine)

Once that was sorted, we came downstairs and he plugged a pen-drive in my laptop, which ran a program to automatically configure the new Actiontec router. I then had to go to the FiOS website to be “optimized” for their 20/20. (it edits some things in the registry–and it IS necessary). I was getting 6Mbit upload until I “optimized”, then I was able to get my full 20/20. Also, I noticed that Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 2 that I was running, was not compatible with the Windows Registry settings or something, because I could not achieve full upload with it. I had to use MSIE or regular Firefox 2. (I prefer Firefox over MSIE any day of the week.)

At about 7pm, finally, everything was done, and I was happy. Please see the pictures below that show where the wires were running, what everything looks like, and to get a better understanding.

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