FiOS problems: the potholes in Verizon’s fiber internet “fast lane”

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People were ecstatic when Verizon first introduced its FiOS service to a handful of households in the community of Keller, Tex., in 2005. By replacing copper wires with fiber optic cables, the broadband company made a promise of high-speed Internet and a kaleidoscope of HD programming for one convenient price. Though the bundled package has become more robust and elaborate over the years — incorporating quicker Internet speeds, on-demand content, and options for additional phone features along the way — it’s also been met with scores of criticism regarding the company’s handling of apparent billing, installation, and streaming speed woes.

Related: Netflix streaming speeds plummet on FiOS

The service seemed like the next evolutionary step in Internet and home connectivity, at least on paper, but lately it appears as though said step comes at a cost of frustration and consumer inconvenience. Below are a few examples of the most prevalent problems consumers complain about. Granted, the points below represent individual cases that may not be reflect the whole consumer base, but they do provide some insight regarding the company’s recent actions. Are the practices and problems that different than, say, those plaguing Comast? It’s hard to tell, but certainly not everyone is happy with Verizon.

Access, installation, and customer service

Verizon has been steadily expanding its fiber network ever since laying the initial ground work in Texas. The service now operates in various regions through out 18 states, but rollout in many regions across the United States has been spotty at best. For instance, the company signed a contract in which it was to deliver fiber to every neighborhood in New York City, yet it skipped many buildings, floors, and blocks citing its inability to get landlords’ permission. The company is required to “pass all households” in the burrows, but that doesn’t mean it’s required to hook up the service to the adjacent homes. It’s by no means an isolated incident, but it does go to show that the service may still be unavailable despite being supposedly available in your region or household.

FiOS Van

However, access to Verizon FiOS doesn’t seem to be the only issue. Poor customer service has been more than prevalent among the most notable broadband providers as of late — take Comcast’s recent decision to place a customer on hold for three hours before closing or the painful eight minutes tech journalist and critic Ryan Block endured while trying to cancel his service — with Verizon being no exception. The recent incidents aren’t as cringe-worthy as the aforementioned circumstances surrounding Comcast, but Verizon also isn’t known for its stellar customer service or repair technicians. A quick glance of Consumer Affairs, an independent advocacy and reviews site, reveals consumers frequently encounter a general lack of communication between employees, elongated installation times, improper use of equipment, and a variety of other issues. Forbes contributor Joan Lappin even went so far as to recount her 2012 ordeal with Verizon on the site, detailing the ensuing headache and issues she faced when she tried to move apartments within the same building. No broadband service is immune from such instances, but I’ve heard similar incidents from family, friends, and co-workers.


Like many broadband service providers, proper billing does not seem to be Verizon’s forte. There are frequent reports of customers being inconsistently charged more than than they were original quoted at, along with some saying they were being billed multiple times within the same pay period before cancelling their service. Digital Trends CEO Ian Bell even ran into similar issues when he first signed up for the program in 2009, and though five years is plenty of time for change, customers still report similar situations arising around the country. The billing issues are not something that are unique to Verizon by any means, but they are a constant headache for customers.

Service quality

Naturally, when the installation is complete and the service is paid for, what matters most is the service… right? Though complaints regarding Verizon’s streaming speeds and quality aren’t nearly as prolific as those regarding its customer service department, the company continues to receive an extreme amount of flack regarding its ability to stream content using Netflix Instant. As evident from July 2014’s Netflix ISP speed index, the average streaming speed on Verizon FiOS as plummeted to the lowest point in the last 15 months, with an average speed of 1.61 Mbps. Verizon is also being accused of throttling customers connection to Amazon Web Services, the service power Netflix Instant, though the company continues to refute the claim despite software engineer David Raphael’s testing and a Verizon representative telling him the company limits bandwidth to cloud providers. Other factors — such as the site servers and the way the traffic is routed over the Internet — do play a role in streaming quality, but there’s no denying Verizon FiOS is at the bottom of the ladder in terms of streaming speed while using Netflix.

Netflix ISP Speed Index for July, 2014.
Netflix ISP Speed Index for July, 2014.

The bottom line

Verizon is fraught with problems as much as the next broadband service provider. However, there’s no denying customers are fed up with the poor quality of the company’s customer service department, frequent billing issues, and the lackluster streaming results while using Netflix Instant. Most issues can’t be avoided, nor can they be alleviated, but you can always call the customer service hotline to dispute the claims — or simply follow our guide on how to set up a VPN to speed up Netflix. There’s no telling whether the FiOS service will get better in the years to come, but thankfully, you can always terminate your service for a measly $360.