Archive for the ‘HDTV Services’ Category

Never Say Never: More on FiOS TV and Internet

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know that I love my FiOS broadband connection, but I’ve had no end of trouble with my Verizon FiOS Internet account. Over the past few months I’ve written several items about my flirtation with Verizon’s FiOS TV (conventional and digital HDTV television programming — like the cable or dish companies — via fiber optic). I backed out of the idea on installation day when I discovered I needed to opt for a new router, which would be assigning IP addresses to Verizon’s set-top TV boxes along with the other 20-plus computers on my network.

There followed some several items on these pages about another concern I had with FiOS TV, the fact that video-on-demand movies and shows use the same bandwidth pool in the FiOS architecture as the Internet access. I became concerned that concurrent video-on-demand programming and heavy Internet usage might result in slower performance. Verizon has been peeling back the onion and explaining this to me. There’s a little additional detail later on in this post.

But first let me deliver some good news. The account problems I’ve had with FiOS — which have amounted to Verizon’s records showing me as having standard DSL instead of FiOS — have been fully rectified. Frank Boersma, director, set-top box and in-home network engineering at Verizon, whom I quoted in this recent post, was able to set in motion a resolution process. The problem dates back to my original FiOS Internet installation date, early in January of 2006.


Link of the Month: Why You Want 1080p

Friday, September 28th, 2007

This Link of the Month delivers probably more than you ever wanted to know about 1080p, the current high water mark for quality of digital media presentation on flat-panel HDTVs and Blu-ray and HD DVD players. But a number of Scot’s Newsletter readers have written to ask me why I felt it was important to pay extra for 1080p with 1,920-by-1,024-pixel resolution when I made My Panasonic Plasma Purchase back in June.

This article, High Definition 1080p TV: Why You Should Be Concerned, authored by Brian Florian and Colin Miller from the March 2007 edition of the Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, explains and shows why 1080p is better than 1080i and lesser-resolution HDTV formats. If you’re buying a large flat-panel HDTV that’s 50 inches or larger in size and you’re into watching movies, the 1080p format delivers noticeably better quality with a Blu-ray or HD DVD player.

While I’m revisiting this subject, it’s probably worth pointing out that Consumer Reports just picked the Panasonic’s 50-inch 1080p HDTV model TH-50PZ700U as it’s best rated plasma. That’s the model I purchased. The same Consumer Reports article (in the November 2007 issue) provides some insights into the advantages of 1080p. CR makes the point that there are 720p sets that provide at least as good picture quality as some 1080p sets. That’s especially the case with HDTVs that are smaller than 50 inches, where the quality improvement is harder to discern. If you’re not a movie lover or if you’re buying a second widescreen TV, 720p is probably just fine for, say, a 42-inch set.

Last Word on FiOS TV

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Over the past few issues of the newsletter, I’ve discussed the pluses and minuses of Verizon’s FiOS TV service. I’ve had Verizon’s FiOS Internet service since January of 2006, but I recently decided to skip Verizon’s FiOS TV digital entertainment package. I decided to upgrade my existing Comcast digital cable TV service to support my flat-panel HDTV. To get caught up, check these articles:

Last time, I offered something of an apology for my earlier surmise that there might be some impingement of broadband Internet throughput because Verizon also uses that pipe to send video-on-demand programming, such as movies and shows. In my household, I have five televisions and set-top boxes connecting them to digital programming. My kids are addicted to on-demand children’s programming, and my oldest loves to order free on-demand movies. Personally, I’m more into Netflix. But there’s a lot of on-demand programming going on in the Finnie household. So I got to thinking: Would multiple on-demand TV programming coming down the pipe diminish the bandwidth available to my Internet connection?

It turns out that my concern actually does have some merit, although only in the worst-case scenarios.


Good News About FiOS TV

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

I’ve already made my decision. For now, I’m sticking with Comcast for HDTV and cable. But I’m willing to admit that, very likely, some of my concerns about the potential to impinge on FiOS Internet bandwidth may have been unfounded.

Martin Heller, a past colleague of mine who reads the newsletter, wrote me to tell me that he tested FiOS TV related to my concern about erosion of broadband Internet performance while data-intensive, on-demand programming was being downloaded and played, and the results are very encouraging. Martin wrote:

“I did a controlled FiOS speed test using the speed test, with and without an on-demand movie playing. Internet bandwidth was not affected by the TV in my tests: I measured 20Mbps down and 4Mbps up whether or not on-demand programming was playing.

“I did notice some latency that seemed to correlate with the TV activity. Without any TV activity, the speed test dial jumped immediately to 10+, moving up more gradually from there. With the on-demand movie going, it took a second for the speed reading to go up, but by the end of the test it was at essentially the same value as the tests run without TV activity.”

Thank you, Martin, for performing this test.


FiOS TV Has Drawbacks

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

I signed up to have Verizon install FiOS TV in my home on May 29th. Newer SFNL subscribers may not realize that I’m lucky enough to have 15Mbps FiOS FTTP (fiber optic to the premises) broadband at my home.

I adore my FiOS broadband service, and so it was a natural extension to consider expanding it to FiOS TV (digital and HD) cable-TV-like service when it became available in my hometown.

But when the FiOS tech arrived to install it, I learned two things that the salesperson neglected to tell me:

1. Verizon uses your broadband access for on-demand TV, downloading the channel guide, and other data transfers specific to you or your town. Verizon says that they have a way to increase the bandwidth for these downloads so that it doesn’t take away from your Internet service, but I’m not buying that. I’m willing to listen to them explain this, but so far, no one I’ve talked to at Verizon can offer one. (In fact, in my latest conversation on the subject, a Verizon Encore customer rep supervisor got angry with me saying that I didn’t need to know how it worked, it just did. In my experience when the customer service people get defensive about a technical question, there’s a problem.)