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Verizon FiOS Internet Details

October 29, 2005

After all of the fooling around getting the order in place, the installation of 15/2 FiOS went pretty smoothly yesterday. The tech arrived and had everything installed and running within the scheduled window, and was cheerful and pleasant — a new experience with Verizon, and (knocking on wood) maybe the way things will go from here.

The equipment installed was a little different from what I’d expected. There are essentially three components, one mounted at the service entrance, one mounted inside (that requires a power outlet) and an off-the-shelf consumer broadband router (a D-Link DI-604).

The inside component is strictly a battery backup, and as such, it needs to be mounted physically very near the outside gear at the service entrance; a heavy-gauge cable is run between the two. The battery backup consists of a housing for a gel-cell battery, with a set of status lights and alarms, and an external power supply that’s mounted next to the unit and plugged into the wall.

The whole point of the battery backup is that (in addition to everything else) Verizon wants to displace their existing copper POTS plant, and offer phone service over the same connection and device. As such, they need to keep the fiber lit and provide talk battery for 911 emergency service even in the event of a power failure. Keeping the rest of the connection live (internet, TV) is incidental.

The heavy lifting is all done by the box at the service entrance. I only got a brief peek inside, but the fiber runs into this box, and it splits it off into up to 4 voice lines, a 100 MB ethernet line, and an RF connection for the TV service. The voice and ethernet all are connected with RJ-45 jacks, while the TV service is a type-F coax connector. There is also an LED panel that indicates link status and the status for each service. All services are cabled from this box to the inside service locations.

Ethernet was run over Cat-5e, and as mentioned, run to an off-the-shelf D-Link router. Once this was hooked up, the tech spent about five minutes with me setting it up.

The internet connection is made using PPPOE, and at install time you have to go through a series of activation pages at Verizon that establishes the relationship between your connection and your account, and lets you set up a username and password that are used for PPPOE and mail. Once this is done, you plug your username and password into the router’s PPPOE settings, restart it, and you’re good to go. I was pleased to see that you can set the mail account to forward to another address, in case you’re in the habit of using an e-mail address that isn’t tied to your provider (a very good idea in general). By forwarding this, you make sure you don’t miss out on service information announcements, etc.

Once the tech left, I re-routed the cable and attached it to my D-Link DGL-4300 router. It accepted the PPPOE login information and came up with service with no problem at all.

In brief testing, download performance looks great — I have done several large real-world (not “test page”) downloads that were able to sustain 14.75 mb/sec, and burst as high as 15.3 mb/sec. I haven’t had an opportunity to do upload tests yet, but I’m very much looking forward to a 2mb upload for doing work on servers; I was doing well to get 128kb through Comcast most days.

It’s a safe bet that for most purposes, your speeds will be limited by how fast the server at the other end can route information to you, and how fast your machine is prepared to deal with it, not by how fast your connection is — since my poor little PowerBook can’t render web pages as fast as the old 6mb Comcast connection can send them, my web browsing experience isn’t much different (and boy am I ready for a Pentium-based PowerBook).

Most everything else seems to be running properly; I’ve successfully made and received calls on my Vonage lines, and normal ‘net services seem to be running okay.

On the whole, this all looks pretty good — it’s fast, and it’s tough to beat the price. I’m going to continue my Comcast service for the time being, just on the general grounds that one or the other of them should be running any given day, but obviously FiOS is going to be the preferred connection right now.

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