Tech News Summary for May 2nd, 2013.

Why You REALLY Don’t Need That Verizon FiOS Upgrade

In February I’ll be transitioning from Cairn University (Systems Administrator) to Calvary Community Church (Pastor). This has numerous implications – one being that I will no longer have a Cairn University cell phone. So, tonight, I decided to look into some of my options.

I already have Verizon (through Cairn) for my cell and also have Verizon FiOS at my home. Why not check if Verizon offers a bundle of wireless and FiOS? Maybe I could save a few bucks!

I used live chat on Verizon’s website to speak with a representative who informed me:

“You can bundle your verizon wireless service with Verizon residential services but for that you need to have double play and your Internet plan should be 50/25 Mbps or above.”

Well, if I have to pay more to get the wireless bundle so I can save money….err…I don’t think that is going to end up saving me money, so I said no thanks. I was then told that my plan was a “very old one” and that I should consider upgrading – because “your speed will increase and you can save a lot of time.” Yes, we’ll be coming back to that statement in a few minutes…but let us finish the story first.

The representative convinced me just to see what the upgrade price was – I agreed. Right now I pay around $60 for 10 Mbps (download) and 2 Mbps (upload). For $80/mo. I could get Verizon Fios Quantum which would give me 50 Mbps (download) 25 Mbps (upload) speeds.

I still wasn’t interested – so the representative tried one last pitch, “Your current plan is very old and no longer offered by Verizon so it is advisable to upgrade your internet plan.” Ohh, my.

Well my non-technical friends, let me explain to you why this is a load of hogwash, why you probably don’t need the service levels you currently have from Verizon, and why you almost certainly shouldn’t be upgrading your service at all!

Why You Don’t Need More Mbps…

Let us say you buy a car. It can go 200 mph, and lets assume that there are no speed limits. You still never get your car past 125 mph, b/c it just becomes unmanageable and you’d end up swerving off the road and dying. Realistically, you usually travel around 80 mph and oftentimes you are only going 35 mph. It is cool to tell your friends, “Hey, my car can go 200 mph” but it really doesn’t affect your day-to-day life…other than the fact that you are much poorer due to increased car payments!

It is similar with internet speeds. There is a cool factor to having really fast internet speeds – but there is very little practical use for them for the average consumer, small, or even medium business.

For example, lets say that you have six people in your household and each of you is simultaneously watching Hulu at the exact same moment (video is one of the heavier bandwidth consumers on the internet). The average bandwidth used by Hulu per person is 700 kbps * 6 = 4200 kbps. Now, mbps is simply 1000 kbps1Okay geeks, I know, I’m simplifying., so altogether all six people would be using 4.2 mbps. So what exactly is that other 45 mbps Verizon is offering you doing? That is right NOTHING!

Who Needs This Much Bandwidth?

I’m an IT guy. Compared to most people I consume a LOT of bandwidth. I have five computers scattered throughout the house. I use auto-syncing software to automatically sync my files across multiple computers constantly, I usually have twenty or thirty tabs open in my web browsers, and I frequently add a Hulu or YouTube video on top of that. How much bandwidth am I using? Lets put it this way: I’ll rarely if ever hit the cap on my account.

There are certain, very limited cases in which you might want this much bandwidth, for example:

  • If you are continuously transferring very large files across the internet (e.g. at a business that is web-based and deals with images or videos that they are constantly sending to others).
  • If you have dozens or hundreds of individuals logged onto your network at any given moment.
  • If you are running intense computational software that continuously communicates with remote servers.

Here are instances where you don’t need this much bandwidth:

  • Playing video games (yes, yes, even your new-fangled games).
  • Watching videos.
  • Browsing the internet.
  • Checking your email.
  • Checking Facebook.
  • Doing all of these things at the same time.

My recommendation: Get the lowest speed possible from Verizon for FiOS you can, and don’t ever upgrade your service unless you REALLY need to.

Most likely if you are experiencing speed issues it is for another reason than that you have saturated the bandwidth available to you. For example:

  • Your computer is old and slow (buy a new one).
  • Your child is downloading illegal bittorrents (you can download legal bittorrents, and you can also put a cap on how much data bittorrent will use).
  • Your computer has been infested by viruses which are using your machine to send out spam emails or attack foreign countries’ websites.

If you are wondering if you need to upgrade your internet service, leave me a comment below with your situation and I’ll give you my honest opinion.

This Ain’t the Only Game in Town

While what Verizon is doing is frustrating, they aren’t the only folks in town playing this game with consumers. Most internet service providers do this sort of upselling and overselling. They prey on those who don’t have a deep knowledge of technology – which coincidentally is oftentimes those of us who can least afford extra expenses.

But this is also a common practice in computer sales. I see this very frequently with hard drives. A hard drive’s size determines how many pictures of your kid, how many Celine Dion songs, how many old episodes of MASH, you can store on your hard drive at any one time. So, manufacturers sell you a 500 GB or 1 TB hard drive in your computer. It is unlikely you’ll ever use even half of it!

Not only that, but that big hard drive will make your computer run faster right? Nope. Most likely it will run slower. Why? Because in order to give you that big hard drive at a low price they gave you a slow hard drive. This means your computer begins feeling sluggish much sooner and you end up buying a replacement or getting unnecessary upgrades – all b/c the hard drive you bought is too big for your needs and runs slower than your needs.

Concluding Thoughts

Businesses should make their money from offering a product that has worth to the consumer. Businesses should seek to serve the consumer, not exploit them. Currently, many businesses in the U.S. and around the world exploit their customers – and yes, Verizon, I’m pointing my finger at you!

Verizon FiOS – Incompetence?

Background:


On July 8th, 2008 I wrote a post raving about Verizon FiOS, a high-speed fiber-to-home internet solution that has clearly kicked the butt of all the competition on a performance/cost basis. I’d been using the service for around two years at that juncture. On October 20th, 2008 I wrote another post, this time chronicling the extreme distress I was experiencing with my Verizon FiOS connection. It is now November 5th, 2008 and my issue is still not resolved. The problem began on 10/16 and continues to the present. I have spent 10+ hours on the phone with Verizon over a period of days and have opened multiple tickets including PADQ01JC660 and PADQ01KD8X (which was closed for an unknown reason) and now PAFS010562.

The Problem:

Verizon’s first tier technical support is decent, they can fix 99% of mom and pop problems. This means if you have a standard problem (e.g. router died or needs to be rebooted, you need to enter a password, ip needs to be renewed, etc.) you’ll most likely have no problem getting rapid support. The issue is with escalation. After the first level of support their are “Network Technicians”, these are the people who are supposed to analyze and resolve complex issues. Unfortunately, multitudinous experiences indicates:

  • Network Technicians do not communicate concerning tickets.
  • Network Technicians do not perform necessary troubleshooting on tickets.

I should note, as a Network Engineer, I understand some of the dilemma faced by network technicians. First, one is constantly bombarded by a large number of false positives. People will insist they have a problem that is your fault when it is their own. Second, network technicians generally tend to enjoy working on problems more than communicating about problems. Okay, this is natural…but this has been ridiculous. Ignore it once, okay – not the best idea but understandable. Ignore it twice – okay, bad idea. Ignore it three (four, five) times and now we are getting to the point of inciting righteous anger on the part of the consumer.

The Resolution:

I can’t remark on the specifics of resolving this issue, since I am not within the Verizon NT group, but I will comment generally on ways to resolve this sort of consumer abuse:

  • Ensure network techs. are not overtasked. A network tech. will let “questionable” problems fall through the cracks when he is over-engaged by “real” problems.
  • Enable a linking method for tickets and an analysis system that will detect repeat callers and allow for appropriate escalation to resolve the issue.
  • Offer a web-based ticketing system with tickets automatically visible via phone call. Allow consumers to view and respond to ticket modifications.1This way if a ticket is closed, the consumer knows it…rather than waiting a day or two to call back in about the issue to find out that the NT never did anything with the issue.
  • Its all about communication. If a network tech. doesn’t believe its a real issue he needs to communicate this back to the first tier tech., and the first tier tech. needs to talk to the consumer more…But in no case should a ticket simply be dropped.

UPDATE 11/07/08:

Well, life is back to normal…after around two weeks. I called in and told them I would remain on the line until the NT was available. They told me he would call back within 48 hours. I insisted on knowing what the tech. thought was the problem. The NT said he would call back in four hours. I still insisted on knowing what the tech. thought was the problem, this didn’t get very far…I concluded by asking the first tier helpdesk to inform the NT that I was placing all Verizon related tickets online and that if this news made it into mainstream press the NT could be assured Verizon higher-ups would be looking for someone to sacrifice. I received a call-back within an hour or two. The problem had been resolved. It had been an issue with the configuration of their Juniper switches…I am happy now but think that my suggestions above still carry significant weight. It shouldn’t have taken two weeks to make a configuration change.

Image thanks to striatic’s generous creative commons license.