Verizon FiOS vs. Cox Cable: One year later

The most popular post on this blog — by far — is this year-old entry outlining my experiences in switching from Cox digital cable to Verizon FiOS. Now that a year has gone by, I thought I’d revisit my decision.

I chose FiOS for a simple reason: I thought the quality of the digital feed would be better than Cox. It was, and I assume that with the technical limitations faced by digital cable, it remains so. That hasn’t made FiOS a complete picnic, though — I formally declared the FiOS DVR a POS back in January. Although I am now ready to lift its POS status because of software/functionality improvements, the DVR has yet to match the overall reliability and usefulness of my year-ago Cox DVR (which presumably is even better now).

So, using the original post as a template, let’s outline my experiences after a year.

PICTURE/SOUND QUALITY: I have been very, very happy with this aspect of FiOS. I had occasional problems with signal dropouts in my first few months, but these seem to have gone away. The HD channels remain of exceptionally high quality; they are significantly better than my Cox pictures and sound — although, again, Cox may have improved things in the last year.

DVR/PROGRAM GUIDE: I have outlined my woes with this throughout the comment section of my original post. FiOS finally — FINALLY — has gone to a 16:9 format for the program guide, and the searchability functions are quite nice. This has improved; it still could be better. Video on Demand has been a sporadic problem, especially movie rentals; although the quality is high, a rental will occasionally “dump out” back to a menu screen for no apparent reason. You can quickly resume the viewing of the video, but this shouldn’t happen and I wonder if Verizon occasionally has capacity issues with handling high-demand video.

INTERNET QUALITY: Never a problem with Cox; never a problem with FiOS; has been completely bulletproof. Hasn’t gone down once in a year. FiOS is capable of considerably higher speeds than Cox, but it is unlikely you will notice a difference because there are so many mitigating factors in the speed of a connection between, say, two websites.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: I have no idea how Verizon rates on this front. I have not had one reason to call Verizon for service in a year — which, when you stop and think about it, is a good thing. Cox had the best customer service of any utility company I’ve ever used, anywhere; my initial experiences with Verizon were very negative.

So there you have it. One year has gone by and I have been, oh, 80 to 90 percent satisfied with my FiOS service. My biggest issues revolved around the DVR/cable box but — for now, at least — almost all of those issues are gone. I haven’t had to use Verizon’s customer service at all and my service has been completely reliable through a very, very rough winter. Thus, I am going to remain a Verizon customer.

Randy

23 Comments

  1. Good to know. Thanks for posting these comparisons. Both this and Blackberry vs. iPhone have been valuable.

  2. I set up an appointment with Verizon to install the FIOS three-pack in our new house this week. Somehow, they completely lost the order. I waited 4 hours on a weekday for their tech to show up, and only after the window closed did I realize their mistake. Happily, when I called to reschedule, they threw in a couple months worth of HBO and Cinemax for free. And I guess, truth be told, I don’t have time to watch HD movies when I should be packing.

    I’m a little concerned about your comments about the DVR. Having been spoiled by TIVO since early-adoptering it in 2000, I hope it’s not a giant step backwards. I guess we’ll see.

  3. Oh, there’s not a cable company DVR that really holds a candle to TiVO. It’s possible to use TiVO with FiOS, but you have to buy the appropriate TiVO box and have the FiOS crew put in a cable card.

  4. Boy, the hd cable box is pretty awful. What’s the secret to make it work right?

    We’re especially having frustration with the On-Demand function. We put a movie on pause, and the thing timed out. We went back to the movie only to find that it didn’t save our spot. That’s bad enough, but the fast-forward is only so fast. So it takes 10 minutes to get back to the spot 30 minutes in. They didn’t seriously design it to work that way, did they?

    Also, is it possible to add additional hard disk to the unit so the DVR will save more than a couple HD programs? I guess I’m completely spoiled by Tivo.

  5. The on-demand problems are probably not a function of the box — they are a problem of the servers attached to the box by Verizon. We have the same problem from time to time. On Demand on FiOS is seriously not good. You can’t add storage to the Motorola box for reasons unknown to all of mankind. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that it will only save a couple of programs, though — but no cable/TV provider DVR can hold a candle to TiVO (and they don’t cost as much, either). For our uses, the amount of storage is fine, but any TiVO fan is likely to be sorely disappointed. Of course, you always have the option of dropping the FiOS DVR and going to TiVO.

    When I rent an ‘on demand’ movie, it typically *does* save the spot where I stopped, though, so I don’t know what’s up with that. However, I rarely make it through one without being dumped out and sent back to the menu. I think I am likely to start dealing with this by getting a Netflix streaming device of one sort or another.

  6. Thank You Randy, Very Helpful. I now have a Lynksys router and the Verizon order says I am geting 25/25. Is this more expensive than other options? Is it true? Thanks

  7. As a representative of a large cable company, I would like to thank you for your diplomatic and professional review and comparison of FiOS and your local cable provider. I have little experience using FiOS, and from a technological standpoint, FiOS is certanly an interesting product. With that said, my cable company has been incorporating Fiber in their transport for many years now, long before any telco decided to step up to the plate and update their antiquated twisted-pair analog system. Although we do not extend fiber to the actual premise, we have mile upon mile of fiber running throughout our service areas providing robust and scalable services to your homes and businesses. Although FiOS extends the fiber to the side of your home, chances are they are going to use the very same RG-6 Coaxial cable and Cat-3 wiring previously run by cable companies such as Comcast, Cox or other providers. Therefore, Verizon has a significant amount of spin incorporated in their marketing campaigns. Although the fiber extends a little further than cable, the services are ultimately delivered over the copper wiring in your home no matter who your provider is.

    Furthermore, Verizon’s cost of acquiring new customers is significantly higher than cable’s. The fiber drop alone consumes several hours of their technician’s time which is inherently expensive because they are union and are paid higher than most service technicians in the industry. Secondly, the materials and equipment needed is also expensive and splicing the fiber is a tedious process. As a result, the cost is always passed onto the customer through extensive contractual obligations and potential installation-associated fees. With cable, at least in the areas I am familiar with on a regular basis, they are able to pipe through bandwidths exceeding the 50/50 Meg mark while simultaneously delivery minimally compressed and highly robust video, voice and return. With the advent of switched video, they have also further increased the available bandwidth to better serve users in need of increased bandwidth demands.

    Finally, FiOS might offer 200 channels more than cable, however, pay attention to the channels that are being included. Chances are many of the channels you will continue to watch will be part of the traditional cable company’s Expanded service including networks such as CNN, NatGeo, Disney, ESPN etc. Companies like to fluff up their channel offerings by advetising extensive tonnages which include many obscure channels that most consumers will never watch.

    In conclusion, I would like to congratulate Verizon on finally improving their plant, even though it is mostly in response to losing 40-50% of the telephony market to cable companies when cable pioneered CDTPS telephone. Its unfortunate that it did in fact take Verizon so long to catch up to cable’s technology and digital deployment. Let’s not forget how long companies such as Comcast, Cox and Time Warner have been delivering service over a fiber plant in light of FiOS delivering fiber to the side of your house. In the end, your TVs only accept copper, and most computers are connected to internet via copper as well. FiOS certanly is a fine product, and as soon as they work out their customer service kinks and smooth out delivery issues, they will continue to be a strong contender in the digital world. However, try not to turn your backs on the cable company that has been there for you all these years delivering high quality, affordable communications to your home simply because Verizon is offering Fiber to your house…using bandwidth capacities that you currently do not need and channels that you will never watch as leverage.

    Thanks!

  8. Thank you for posting this information. Fios is about to become available in my area and we were debating making the switch from Cox Cable and your experiences are helpful.
    What I’m most interested in are the package value and the DVR. Did your bill dramatically increase after your first year? It sounds like you only have the TV and internet, right? Our fear is getting roped into something entirely new for the inital savings, only to turn around in a year and be paying double.
    As for the DVR, is it true to only need one with Fios for multiple TVs? What if both TVs are on – are you limited to what someone else is watching on the DVR list?
    Your thoughts?
    Thanks!

  9. You’ll have to check out some of these things yourself. I do believe that the DVR system allows you to use a single DVR all through the house, but Verizon can help you with that. Verizon’s DVR has rather limited storage and doesn’t allow you to hang an external hard drive off of it, which blows BTW.

    It is true that my rate creeped up a bit after a year, but it’s still cheaper than what I was paying for Cox, even though I have many more movie channels with FiOS and many, many more HD channels than I was getting with Cox when I left them two years ago.

    With the exception of some continuing issues with TV on demand (FiOS regularly dumps me out of programs unexpectedly), I remain very happy with FiOS.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience with switching from Cox Cable to Verizon Fios. i have been a long time customer of Cox and recently have become frustrated by the increase in price every year for service. I finally decided to make the plunge to FiOS but until it’s installed I figured I’d Google feedback from others to see if they have regretted their decision to change. Your post seems honest and objective. Based on that I’m going to go forward with the change. I’ll keep you posted on my experience.

  11. One issue with Fios that was I was not aware of when contracting with Verizon… apparently you can’t watch TV through your computer (even with a set-top box). I believe you still can with regular cable service like Cox. If anyone has any other experience with this or has found a work-a-round please let me know. I’m about to cancel my TV portion of my Fios bundle because I rarely have a chance to watch TV anymore and I’m tired of the rental costs associated with set top boxes and DVRs.

  12. First of all let me say that you have a great blog!
    Let me give my opinion on the Fios-Verizon v. Cox in N. Virginia:
    I left Cox because of the constant price increases. Now I experience the same with Fios-Verizon. A set top box went from 4.99 to 8.00. The basic service from 79 to 135. My final bill that used to be 130 rental of equipment and taxes included is now $240. What did I add? The movies bundle that included HBO. That would be a increase of 19 for the basic (Swhowtime etc) to 40 including all the “premium channel”. Well this is still $40 but all the rest has increased without explanation.The customer service of Verizon is something incredible. In order to talk to anyone you punch your telephone number a couple of times, than you have to punch your Account number. After a few options you finally get to talk to someone. Again your number, name and account number are required for them to say Hello. Finally they ask if they have permission to “see you account”?!?!? If you are able to keep your cool you have a person that apparently knows little about the billing, service. I seems to are talking to unpaid intern in his/her first week. The technical service seems a bit better – if you are lucky enough to get one . Advice: Never agree to “chat” with customer service. Besides taking 3 to 6 minutes to interact they seem to be less knowledgeable than the people of the phone. I am going back to Cox for a while to enjoy the “new customer”rate and I will keep alternating to get a better rate. My Cox experience with the Internet is superior to Fios-Verizon. The TV experience would rate the same. Telephone after I changed to FIOS is terrible with fanny noises, buzzes and interrupted calls.

  13. I’m with Cox right now, but I’m planning to go to Verizon in a few months. Does anyone subscribe to Netflix? Is the buffereing any different from the on demand movies? I plan to use Vonage for phone and Netflix for movies. I’d appreciate any suggestions and/or comments. Thanks

  14. Is it true that we cannot see TV on Verizon? We have been watching shows on COX, and are thinking of changing to Verizon.

    Also, we have lots of stored Cox emails. If we import them to the computer on Entourage, will that save the old messages we want to save? Or will they all be lost when we switch to Verizon?

    Thank you!

  15. Wow,

    I really appreciate all of you but especially Randy for getting all this started.
    Great information, I still am not sure what I’ll be doing.
    Thanks!

  16. Great comparison and info on your blog Randy.

    I am looking to cut costs and move from Cox to FIOS, mindful of their lack of customer service.

    In the Falls Church / Fairfax / NoVA the Cox intro bundle has crept up to $140.11. (before fees and taxes).

    This includes basic phone w/ caller ID (no long distance), Internet and expanded basic TV. No premium channels, DVRs, or anything else beside 1 digital gateway / Advanced TV / receiver required for “On Demand” and Cox “Freezone” programs.

    Verizon’s equivalent is $100.00 a month for two years.

    So… $140.11 – $100.00 = $40.11

    $40.11 X 24 months = $962.64

    This seems great up front but I’m concerned about hidden install charges or other “Gotchas” that people only discover after the fact. Any info on recent “practices” by either company to re-coupe their $$$?

    Thanks.

  17. I’ve been away from Cox for so long now that I really am not qualified to talk about it any more, but I have experienced no gotchas with Verizon. After the Verizon contract expired, my current bundle creeped up to within a few dollars of what I was paying for Cox several years ago, but the Verizon bundle includes three movie tiers (HBO, Showtime and Starz) and far more HD channels than I was getting from Cox at the time. I remain happy and am thinking about re-bundling.

    I will say that I don’t like Verizon’s movies-on-demand service. It is expensive and I despise its interface. I’m going to get a new Blu-Ray DVD player some time soon that has streaming capabilities in order to solve that problem.

  18. Thanks for the comments. I am a longtime Verizon customer for phone and Internet (FIOS). We had Cox TV. We had installed Verizon TV yesterday. At the moment, not a good experience. The quality of the picture in HD boxes when there is no movement taking place in the picture is similar to Cox. Where there is movement (sports, someone walking, film footage of cars or people moving, etc.), it is significantly degraded from the Cox picture. Significant pixillation shows up and blurriness with movement on the screen. On the non-HD TV’s in the home, the picture is simply inferior to Cox and particularly when it comes to anything that has movement in it. This is surprising and disappointing since I had heard so much about FIOS TV. I agree with other commenters as to frustrating Verizon customer service. I was on the phone last evening after the install for an hour…today more than an hour just trying to get help and the help getting answers, arranging for service techs, etc. Waiting for 30 – 60 minutes for a representative is not acceptable. Never had that kind of a wait with Cox. Am not sure what is going on, but am giving Verizon the opportunity to correct the degradation in the quality of the picture if they can, and if not, we will terminate that service and return to Cox or some other service. Would appreciate hearing if anyone has experienced the pixillation issue where there is blurriness of that part of a picture where there is movement.

  19. THANK YOU!! VERY HELPFUL, in making my decision, in re: Cox vs. Verizon Fios, long story short, made the same decision, switched over from Cox-Verizon Fios, VERY SATISFIED!! This web page was the “deal breaker” for me!! VERY IMFORMATIVE!! Again, t/y for taking the time to do so, VERY, VERY, HELPFUL!!

  20. Thank you! The two posts here on FiOS vs. Cox — both of which are several years old now — have been read more than 23,000 times. That speaks to the lack of basic information out there. Note that the original post is more than four years old — and since I have remained a Verizon customer, I can’t speak as to any potential improvements in the Cox offerings since that time. But I have remained happy with FiOS.

  21. I had used Verizon for over 30 years, mostly because they were the only player in town for most of that time. I had so many horrible experiences with their phone and internet service, that, at the end, I was very happy to switch providers, and will never use them again.

    For my home:

    – refusal to install service to correct their error for several months (no cell phones back then). They were breaking the law, so I had to get the State Corporation Commission involved.

    – In the end, the copper line died, and they insisted on installing FIOS, for which they said they would charge me. When I cancelled that and switched to Comcast (I already had Comcast internet, which is excellent), they came and started digging. I canceled the order a second time and they came out the next day and stated digging again.

    For my business:

    – They kept calling with deceptive “deals” that they claimed would save money, but always did the opposite.

    – They allowed random 3rd parties I never heard of to post fraudulent charges to my phone bill for services I never ordered, and then refused to remove the items from my bill, saying it is between me and the merchant.

    – They overbilled me consistently for internet services for several months in a row, correcting the error each time I called, and then sent a letter saying that bills would be wrong for 4 or 5 more months due to a software glitch.

    – I subscribed to “business DSL” (this was before FIOS) and it died every afternoon. I called to complain and they said to try using the service after 5, when it would be much better. It was, but that hardly qualifies as “service”, let alone business class service.

    – I helped a customer of mine who wanted to use a VPN through his FIOS home connection. When it failed, he called Verizon tech support who apparently knew next to nothing about networking. Only when I called the modem manufacturer did they explain that Verizon’s configuration prevents the use of such things

  22. Great article. I had FIOS for a very long time. In the end, the cons for FIOS are their customer service issues, unwillingness to stay competitive after initial deals expire, unauthorized charges, etc. the pros are generally cost for the triple play.

    I went with cox because for all things considered for the services are competitive for what I am interested (not triple play), their customer service has been pretty good, and I can’t tell the difference between existing services. Saving money with convienance.

    Both are fine in the end. Comes out to total costs and keeping to commitments. Consider recording, with knowledge, either business. Since there was a lot of posts going to FIOS – there is balance that people are switching to cox from FIOS.

  23. Fios has great picture quality. I have been a cox customer for years. As others have stated cox has very good customer service and they pick up the phone fairly quickly when you need them. I had a version business acct. some years ago and found customer service and billing to be a nightmare. Fios is not available in my area and I belive that Verizon has stopped expanding fios? My brother and mother-in law both have fios and I am always impressed with the picture quality they get.. Significantly superior to cox in this respect, at least in these cases. We all have large flat screens and home that were built in the past 10 years or less. I have the top of the line contour system from cox. Prices have slowly gone up, I have to keep dropping services and negotiating to keep the price down.

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