Hey Verizon, show us some upstream FiOS love

If you want to get the most out of your Verizon FiOS (fiber to the home) Internet connection, here are your top two tiers:

FiOS tiers

I have the one on the left, and that’s what I’m paying for it. The service is rock-solid and reliable. So is support, as rarely as I’ve needed it.

But when I go to work, my upstream speeds are higher — up to 100 Mbps. I get more done. And I’m not the only techie who appreciates high upstream speeds. Boston is the world’s biggest college town, and full of other industries (pharma, big science, finance) that are staffed by professionals that could use the speed too.

But Verizon does this weird thing with the next tier up: they cut back the upstream speed from 25 Mbps to 20 Mbps. At double the price. WTF is that all about? When I ordered the 25 Mbps tier several months ago, the guy on the phone told me the reason was “just marketing.” He also said “We could give you 100Mbps tomorrow and blow everybody else out of the water.”

So why not?

Oddly, all of FiOS’ “Triple Play” (Internet + TV + phone) bundles here have relatively low Internet speeds, compared to the two tiers above. If the Net is your main interest, you might be better off without the TV and the phone. (In fact, we had the other two “plays” we got FiOS originally, and dumped them later, mostly because  we hardly used them.) If you view more bundles, your best speeds are still just 25/25Mbps.

My request (and advice — and companies do pay me for this stuff) to Verizon is to do two things:

  1. Come up with a sensible offering — one that doesn’t subtract upstream value at twice the price.
  2. Try localizing a bit. Boston isn’t Red Bank. (And no offense to that town or other FiOS service areas.) See what happens when you super-serve a region with an offering that makes sense for it.

Maybe Verizon is doing that, sort of, with its business offerings. But getting to the actual offerings requires many clicks and filling out forms. Where I finally arrived in my latest hunt was a page with this set of choices:

First, this is much better than what I remember about my last look at FiOS business deals.

Second, that 35/35 offering is attractive.

Third, once again, we have an upstream speed drop when you go to the highest tier.

Fourth, the “static” offering is poorly explained. What this means is a real IP address, rather than one dynamically assigned by the router. This is real Internet stuff, so the customer can, say, run a server. (The copy does say “host websites.”) But, unless I’m missing it, nowhere does it say how many IP addresses the customer gets. For customers who care about this stuff, that’s the first question that will come up.

Fifth, the examples are poor. Here are some of the things that serious professional customers might care about:

  1. Offsite storage or backup
  2. Virtual computing in the cloud, such as with Amazon’s EC2
  3. Running servers in a co-lo or some other heavy-lifting environment
  4. Remote rendering, such as RenderCore

Verizon (or any ISP) could offer any of those services locally themselves, taking advantage of low latencies. In fact, in some cases that can be a huge advantage, and therefore a selling point.

Again, the service I’ve had all along with FiOS (going on three years now) has been solid and good — so good, in fact, that I miss it a lot when I’m gone. (Such as with this example here.) I just want it to be better. Hope this helps.

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  1. David’s avatar

    It looks like 50/20 and 35/35 both give you 70Mbps combined. Could this be an equipment limitation?

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    That makes mathematical sense, but it doesn’t square with what the the guy tod me about being able to give customers 100Mb tomorrow. Of course, the guy could have been wrong. Or exaggerating.

  3. sy’s avatar

    i don’t understand how you get fios in arlington (!), but i can’t get it at my place, which is within spitting distance of all the bio/tech in kendall square. sigh.

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    As I understand it, Verizon picks towns for FiOS based on several factors: 1) Lack of political or other resistance; 2) high number of households passed by wires on poles; 3) ease of installation; 4) other favorable demographic factors.

    I’ve heard that both Somerville and Cambridge were considered ideal but failed on factor #1; but I also don’t know first-hand. Newton has FiOS, and is nothing like Arlington (far more upscale and suburban, many fewer houses passed over a given distance). Maybe somebody from Verizon can weigh in with reasons.

  5. Jan Dawson’s avatar

    There’s an ongoing conflict between simplicity and choice. Whenever the big telcos offer too many choices for this sort of thing, ordinary customers get confused/overwhelmed. At the same time, Verizon (and to a lesser extent other broadband providers) has to weigh giving you everything you want today against holding something back for the future. They could release 100Mbit/s today but almost no-one wants it, and there are very few applications for which most users could really use that much upstream bandwidth. I have no doubt that in time that sort of bandwidth will be more mainstream, but today I’d say well under 5% of the population has any real need for more than 5-10Mbit/s up, and those that do need it are using it for something work-related.

    In addition, Verizon (and others) are localizing their options, but more in response to local competition than local demand (which is hard to generalize, especially when you’re marketing to a wide area – e.g. the Boston TV market which includes not only Arlington but also JP, Roxbury, Quincy and many other areas where there’s probably far less demand.

    I’m not saying it all makes perfect sense, but there are reasons for all this that the average customer service rep isn’t going to be able to give you, and that PR people probably wouldn’t want to.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Jan, I could argue the particulars (and some I wouldn’t — I think you’re correct on those), but I’m not sure either one of us would get to an answer to why they cut upstream speeds while doubling the price. If the reason isn’t technical (and maybe it is), then what is it? Is it the actual nature of the demand they’ve seen it so far? Do customers who opt for the higher speeds tend to do work that requires more downstream and less upstream capacity? Could be, but I don’t know.

    What I guess is that nobody — including Verizon — knows yet what necessities fiber can mother. Nor what to offer beyond raw capacity, plus phone and TV. But hey, I might be wrong about that too. Being wrong is a great way to learn.

  7. John CZ Czwartacki’s avatar

    Doc, always great to read about your first-hand FiOS experience. I, and all your readers, always learn something from your stuff (and from the comments your posts generate).

    As you know, the service is built to be fast and reliable, just as your experience has born out. It also designed with future-proof flexibility to handle growing demand for bandwidth for years to come.

    We are listening to super-users like you, which is why we have increased speeds within the last year and are always updating and improving in response to the market.

    The customer service rep was correct when he said FiOS supports three-figure Internet speeds today and we’re always testing new technologies that will push speeds even higher. (Witness our 10Gig FiOS tests http://newscenter.verizon.com/press-releases/verizon/2010/Verizon-s-Second-Field-Trial-of-10-Gigabit-per-Second-XG-PON-Fiber-to-the-Premises-System-Affirms-FiOS-Network-Design-Is-Future-Ready.html)

    We’re seeing consumer demand for more bandwidth continue to grow, which is reflected in Verizon’s decision earlier this year as (I mentioned and you’ve witnessed) to roll out our 25/25 and 35/35 symmetrical speeds for the consumer market.

    I’m told to fully anticipate that Verizon will pump up its Internet speeds to meet the bandwidth demand of its customers. When and where? I can’t say for obvious competitive reasons, but let’s just say others will be reacting to our speed (increases and symmetry) for years to come.

    Stay cool and enjoy your time in “Free” Paris!

    CZ w/ Verizon

  8. Jan Dawson’s avatar

    The 5Mbit/s disparity in upstream speeds does seem odd – there is no technical reason I’m aware of, and as I mentioned earlier Verizon does offer slightly different speed combos in different markets in response to competitive dynamics.

    On the whole, though, I think a more incremental approach to increasing speeds makes sense – if there are new use cases and applications which grow out of 20-25Mbit/s upstream bandwidth, speeds can be increased in response. But when there’s (I’m guessing) low takeup of those options, and very little to take advantage of them, there’s no point in going higher yet.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    CZ, great to see you weigh in here, and to back what the customer rep said too. (Also interesting to read about the tests.) Looking forward to all improvements, and thanks again.

    FWIW, I think a lot of ordinary users could become “super-users” if they knew what could be done. For that it helps to better differentiate Internet and TV capacities, and to promote Internet benefits separately from TV ones. Again, local testing should help here.

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