Third wire question

Scott Bradner writes,

Network neutrality exists as an issue primarily because there is little real competition for residential high-speed Internet service.
In most of the United States there are only one or two ISPs — that is, a monopoly or a duopoly — offering residential Internet connections — if there are any high-speed service offerings at all. A number of technologies have been touted as a potential “third wire” (after the phone line and cable coax) into the home, but none has shown much deployment.

Where I live, not far from where Scott works (also where I work, for what it’s worth), we have more than three wires going into the house, and past us on the street. We have Comcast cable, Verizon DSL (phone wire), RCN fiber and Verizon FiOS (also fiber). Since Verizon offers the best Internet deal — 20Mb symmetrical service — we go with them. (And yes, it rocks. Worse, it spoils. I only upload large numbers of photos when I’m home. And they all go up in seconds or minutes.)

What Scott has me wondering is if Verizon is only offering its symmetrical service where there are also two or more competitors. Anybody know?*

It would be interesting data, if true, and an argument on behalf of a robust marketplace.

* CZ does, and notes in the comments below (also on his blog) that Verizon offers symmetrical service to all its FiOS customers. When I ordered the service, and got on the horn with a technician to shake down the setup, he told me it was only being offered in certain areas. Maybe that was wrong information, or right only at that point in time, which was several months ago.


  1. cthrall’s avatar

    I live in Dorchester, across the Charles. We can get Comcast, Verizon DSL, and I *think* we can get RCN. But no Fios, not yet.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Of those your best internet bet would be RCN. They had 20Mb down and 2Mb up, last I looked. That’s not bad, except for fiber, which is what it is. But still.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, CZ. I added that to the post, with a pointer to your post on the subject.

    Some questions…

    1) Why doesn’t Verizon promote symmetrical service with FiOS? Plans & Pricing doesn’t mention it at all.

    2) Why not bundle it with premium services such as gaming or offline storage and sharing?

    I didn’t know those were even available. In fact, neither did the technician I called back when I set up the symmetrical service. He asked if I was a gamer, and I said no, I was an uploader who planned to send photos to Flickr and to get backup storage from Amazon’s S3. He’d never heard of that, and obviously didn’t know about the offline storage and sharing option at the last link. Could be that wasn’t available at the time.

    In any case, symmetrical Internet is an enormous Verizon advantage. It should depend on something more than word-of-mouth (or word-of-blog in this case) for promoting it.

  4. Jon Garfunkel’s avatar


    A Google search of FiOS symmetrical brings up the PR push last October.

    From Gizmodo last month: “Verizon is kinda sorta using their total lack of filtering as an underground marketing thing already, which is especially effective when coupled with FiOS’s insane speeds.”

    Doc: what sort of marketing strategy do you suggest they pursue? It seems like they are following your old advice: speaking directly to their early adopters on the particularly online communities where they regularly visible (and not, say, doing a massive TV blitz).


  5. Doc Searls’s avatar


    I have no problem with Verizon not pushing its symmetrical service by conventional means, but it should at least make clear on the FiOS Website that it’s an available option.

    Maybe that’s made clear somewhere and I’m missing it.

    CZ, is the “underground marketing thing” a strategy?

  6. Jon Garfunkel’s avatar


    Just to clarify: are we just missing the word “symmetrical”? The website says “Now, get up to 15Mbps for downloads AND uploads!”

    I also wanted to clarify– at some times the NN crowd makes symmetrical bandwidth a moral issue. I just think it’s an economical issue. I’ll be happy when FiOS comes to my corner of Brighton, but I’m not about to move just yet or uptick my Speakeasy toll.

    Also, I read Scott’s column. This phrase jumped out at me:
    “The FCC has been painting a picture of competition in the residential ISP market that almost no one believes.”

    Now, I’m not a regular reader of Bradner or NetworkWorld (and rhetorical hocus-pocus like this don’t encourage me any further), but I presume that somewhere somebody’s been digging into the substance of this matter. The FCC *has* the data on this, here. So, let’s ask: do they have the right data? According to Table 16 of their most recent report, 66% of zip codes have one or more cable provider, 47% of zip codes have two or more ADSL services, 40% have one more SDSL services, 44% of zip codes have three or more cable or DSL. (There’s also 90% served by mobile wireless and satellite, but I don’t think these have the upload speeds you’re looking for.)

    Maybe somebody else has better numbers, such as dslreports. But that’s where we expect IDG and NetworkWorld to illuminate the data.

  7. Jon Garfunkel’s avatar

    Ok– I stand a little corrected. Google result #8 brought me to this techdirt article FCC Releases Its Bogus Broadband Data Once Again. And the uproar over bad data has been going on long enough that Senator Inouye (D-HI) introduced a bill last October (S.1492) to order the FCC to improve their reporting.

    Why this has been held up I don’t know, but I suppose that John Czwartacki at Verizon might have a little more pull than your or I. But, when I searched the Verizon blog, I didn’t see any preference statement either way.

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    … and I stand more corrected. Last time I looked at the FiOS site, and at the deal offerings, the symmetrical offer wasn’t there at all. Now it is. Not sure if I missed it in the first place or if it’s been put up there since then.

    FWIW, this site from Verizon pushes 15/15 speeds for FiOS Internet Premium. Its premium services page shows that plan is $64.99/mo. I believe that’s what I’m paying for, btw. But I dunno. I do know it’s a small amount more than I was paying before for 20/5.

    Interestingly, my deal here is for 20/20 symmetrical (or at least it was when I ordered it), though it usually comes to 20/15. (I just checked here and it was 20.5/16.7.) No complaints, though. Fifteen on the upstream side is far better than just about everything else out there that isn’t inside a generous company or university.

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