- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2008

If you can possibly do it, now might be the time to add more fiber to your life. I’m not talking about diet, but rather fiber-optic service, or FiOS, as Verizon calls it. Since the installation of this broadband Internet, television and voice-telephone service late last week, I’ve been on Cloud 9 — it’s that good.

Download speeds are either just above or just below the 15 megabits-per-second Verizon offered in my service package. Using two different online tests, I saw readings of 15.4 mbps or 14.5 mbps when downloading an Internet page. That’s roughly three times my previous speed with Comcast’s cable-based Internet service.

Upload speeds are close to the 2 mbps advertised by Verizon; speed meters clocked the upload at about 1.7 or 1.8 mbps. More important, those upload speeds were consistent when tested with servers in Seattle; by contrast, download speeds were cut to about 5.6 mbps from the distant server.

Numbers, however, are an abstraction unless there is some context: How does the service perform in actual use? Well, whether I’m surfing a local site or one decidedly distant, such as www.ehawaii.gov, the state government portal for Hawaii, the page loads extremely quickly. I’ve seen equally good speeds when loading Web pages I reliably thought were hosted in Israel, South Korea and Japan, all geographically distant locations.

I’m also impressed that, generally, there’s little in the way of hiccups with the FiOS Internet service. With my previous Internet provider, streaming audio would often “hiccup” at the beginning or during a transmission. Here, there’s no “rebuffering stream” message onscreen when connecting to a remote source. Instead, there’s crisp, clear sound from the get-go.

I haven’t used FiOS for Voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP, telephony yet, but I suspect the experience will be more than satisfactory. Ditto for online video chats, or so I hope.

The bottom line is that the FiOS service, so far, is exactly as advertised. This means a consistent experience for Internet use and the hope of greater multimedia satisfaction. That’s important not only because I’m paying for all this but also because, if the future of media is to converge in the Internet, we’re going to need reliable, solid and high-capacity transmissions that can handle all this data. So far, Verizon FiOS delivers.

Other aspects of the FiOS package should be noted: Telephone service is included, with national long distance a part of the deal. We’ve got more channels of television than we’d ever have time to watch. And the total package, in both the first and second years, will cost less than we paid for separate telephone and cable/Internet packages.

Using an Elgato EyeTV 200 unit and a Verizon-supplied cable box, I’m able to watch many of the television channels on an Apple IMac (STET) desktop. The computer also is attached to a wireless router that sends an encrypted Wi-Fi signal throughout our house. Wireless performance is good, but on the second floor, three levels up from the basement, where my office is located, Ineeded to add an AirPort (STET) Express module to boost wireless reception. Once this $99 item from Apple was attached, the upstairs Mac could log on to the Internet.

I’m sure there will be more lessons as our superbroadband adventure continues. But after years and years of cable monopolies, it’s nice to have an alternative, and to have it work so very, very well.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www.washington times.com/blogs.

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