55 Support Tickets Later And Your Verizon FiOS TV Service Still Doesn't Work

Andrew writes: “I had been a satisfied customer of Verizon for several years – I have had phone service with them since the days of Bell Atlantic and have had their fiber-optic internet service (FiOS) since March 2005. In March 2007, I decided to switch cable providers and signed up for Verizon’s FiOS TV service as it was cheaper than Comcast and supposedly provided superior picture quality. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Here are some of the issues with FiOS TV that I’ve run into over the course of the past year:

  • chronic “tiling” and image degradation since Q2/Q3 2007
  • audio/video “freezing” and “dropouts” * numerous canceled technician appointments
  • complete loss of all three services (POTS, internet, TV) on two separate occasions – services down anywhere from 24-72 hours
  • clueless, unresponsive technical support
  • “tiling” on HBO video on demand

For the non-techies, “tiling” is a term used to describe when the image becomes distorted and is broken up into little blocks.

(For a detailed history of all the problems I have experienced with FiOS since March 2007, see my full review of the service at dslreports.com: according to technical support, I have 55 unique support tickets under my name, the majority of which are related to problems with FiOS TV.)

Since March 2007, I have been forced to use the “nuclear option” – contacting Verizon’s “Presidential Appeals” department – on two separate occasions, as their first-level technical support was unable to resolve anything in a timely manner. So far, the appeals department is 0 for 2 – each time, the problem was not resolved.

I contacted the presidential appeals department because HBO video on demand would not function properly; signs of tiling would appear every few minutes. Numerous technicians were dispatched and were unable to resolve the situation. Several weeks passed before the representative working for the appeals department came across an internal Verizon document stating that this was a “known issue” and a fix would be implemented in August 2007. To this day, this has not yet been fixed; according to a Verizon employee who posts on the FiOS TV message board, a fix is supposedly still being tested.

Weeks later, I was forced to contact presidential appeals for a second time when the normal levels of support were unable to resolve issues with the image quality; once again, several technicians were dispatched but were ultimately unable to resolve the issue. At one point, in an act of desperation, the local group decided to replace most of the components up to and inside the home. The measures were ineffective; the problems continued. A local manager was eventually dispatched out to the home; he claimed that the sub-par image quality was a result of “electrical issues” having to do with the wiring inside the home. End of discussion, case closed. (A visit from an electrician several weeks later would show that this claim was incorrect.)

So, I doubt that contacting the presidential appeals department will help to resolve the chronic issues that I continue to experience with the service.

The quality of the FiOS TV service since October 2007 has been at an all-time low; for the past four months, I have been forced to deal with severe tiling, audio/video “freezing”/”dropouts” and generally sub-par image quality. Verizon’s technical support group insisted on dispatching more field technicians out to the home; the technicians were unable to find a cause for the problems. On several occasions, technicians did not show up at the home at all. This continued until mid-January when Verizon’s network group eventually discovered a problem with their video distribution equipment in the local central office. This seemed to correct some of the problems with “tiling”; however, image quality continued to be sub-par.

So far, Verizon has wasted time and money replacing:

  • 8x optical network terminals ($$$)
  • 4x battery backup units
  • 4x set top boxes ($$$)
  • 3x coaxial cable splitters
  • 1x length of fiber and conduit
  • 1x length of RG6
  • 1x Actiontec MI424-WR router 0x fiber distribution terminal

On January 31, a technician finally diagnosed the problem to be with the fiber distribution terminal – the only piece of equipment yet to be replaced. He informed me that somebody would be out the following day to replace it; par for the course, nobody showed up to replace it. I was eventually informed (after hounding technical support and a supervisor, daily, for any sort of update) that the piece of equipment in question would be replaced sometime next week. We’ll see – I don’t have high expectations at this point, given how difficult it has been to get Verizon to actually take a look at a problem or fix anything.

Dumping FiOS TV and switching back to Comcast is currently not an option as I am locked into a triple play contract with Big Red until 2009 – I have better and more important things to do with my money than to pay the early termination fee.

You can always call your local franchise authority if Verizon needs a kick in their fiber pants. The franchise authorities can scare telecoms into action, but Verizon seems pretty busy replacing equipment. What do you wise Consumerists recommend? Light up the comments with your insights.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Nighthawke says:

    Nuke’em with a three hit combo. Hit the local franchise authority, then fire off a thunderbolt to the state PUC, then EECB the whole works to Verizon’s execs.

  2. You gotta leave their sorry asses, that’s the only option IMHO.

  3. Zimorodok says:

    If they can’t, or won’t, deliver the services you agreed to in the contract, then consider the contract null & void. Cancel the service and contest the ETF in small claims court.

  4. john_nyc says:

    A buddy of mine at work had a similar experience with FIOS. He ended up paying the ETF just to be rid of it (which the cable company partially offset with a credit). It was either that or continue to have no TV/phone/net.

    This is why when they lit my block I opted to stay with Comcast (even though they suck, too). At least it works.

  5. goller321 says:

    @Zimorodok: I have to agree. There’s no way they can hold you to a contract that doesn’t deliver the service promised. Hell, I’d have stopped paying months ago and told them they don’t get another dime until it’s fixed.

  6. swalve says:

    a) It’s pretty surprising after all that stuff they don’t have an answer.

    b) It’s also surprising that this person is willing to continue fighting.

  7. evslin says:

    Uhh… 55 tickets?

    I’d be gone after 5, but hey that’s just me. I can only imagine the amount of patience required to put up with that much crap.

  8. Buran says:

    @BayStateDarren: No kidding. If they still can’t fix their crap, WHY are you still their customer?

  9. inkedfusion says:

    I would have called the nuke line and demand Head Office. Then tell them that they are going to refund me a good portion of my monthly bill since I didnt have the service half the time and then also that my contract is going to be completely canceled and they are not even going to mention a ETF. If you havent gotten what was advertised then you shouldnt be paying for a migraine and a bunch of strangers to come in and out of your hours a few dozen times. If I wanted that I would put my house on the market and have a Open House

  10. dreamsneverend says:

    Since the launch of FIOS I’ve come to these conclusions:

    1) When it works, FIOS it the #$%^
    2) When you don’t have any customer service needs Verizon is the @#$%
    3) HFC (Hybrid Fiber-Coax) providers tend to respond to customer service issues quicker, but sometimes have contractors who royally suck do the jobs.
    4) HFC providers (at least here in the Tampa Bay area) don’t require contracts. So you can ditch them easily when they piss you off.

  11. Half Beast says:

    My hats off to you for dealing with this most Sisyphean issue head-on.
    I know I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to put up with it if other options were available. The only reason I haven’t left Comcast is because they’re the only game in town ’round here when it comes to high-speed internet service…

  12. UniKyrn says:

    It’s not surprising when those TV via the net things don’t work, what’s surprising is that they ever worked well enough in trials to fool the carrier into trying to deploy it. The network protocols used to distribute TV channels are a fragile house of cards.

    That certainly doesn’t excuse Verizon though, they gambled and are now in trouble. It doesn’t matter why they can’t provide the service, just that they can’t, so they’ve violated the contract and you should tell them so as you cancel without penalty.

  13. Mr. Gunn says:

    I hear holding a shotgun to the contractor’s head until he fixes things works fairly well.

  14. BuriedCaesar says:

    Since Andrew obviously seems to have the patience of Job, perhaps a name change is in order, too. And then he can quit paying for the service he’s not getting and Verizon will have fun finding him. If they even bother…

  15. LAGirl says:

    funny thing happened today…

    i was meeting a new client at his home to discuss accounting/bookkeeping. i had to grab a parking pass from the client, and walk it back to my car. as i crossed the street, i saw a guy carrying a clipboard + wearing a Verizon FIOS shirt. looked like he was walking the neighborhood, trying to make some sales. he stopped and asked if my client’s house was a duplex. i mumbled ‘yeah, i guess.’ but honestly, after reading all about Verizon FIOS on Consumerist, i wanted to yell at him to get the hell out of there and never come back.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Problems aside… I live in an area serviced by Qwest. Qwest has no plans to do fiber to the home.

    So much for the “ride the light” TV commercials of the 90′s.

    I don’t know that I’d get FiOS TV service – its problematic. AT&T u-Verse? Any product the deathstar creates has great marketing and then indifferent-at-best execution. I bet they even named it u-Verse partially because it’s easy to pronounce in Indian English – because that’s where most of deathstar’s customer service calls go. I stopped doing business with deathstar in the mid 90′s and the AT&T brand is persona non grata in my home.

    For high-bandwidth straight-up IP though… maybe, just maybe.

    But oh man, access to that bandwidth… My big problem is upstream on my DSL. I have foreign friends clamoring for me to host slingboxes so they can get their US TV fix… but we can’t justify the cost of SDSL services that have the upstream bandwidth needed for the multiple video streams.

  17. dkush21 says:

    I think the easiest and best way to sock it back to these companies is to pass a law that there can be no more ETF’s. Then you will see the companies start resolving issues immediately because they can’t afford to lose their customers.

  18. Ace in the Hole says:

    You should go to “War” with Verizon. Next executive meeting, go in there and shoot the place up …

    Wait … someone tried that at a city council meeting … it didn’t work …

    Okay, plan B.

  19. nrwfos says:

    I can’t imagine that you’ve put up with this so long. Obviously Verizon is over-invested with FIOS and can’t pull free to fix the system. You must have signed a contract that said that you would receive certain services for a length of time. But did they specify what quality? Is there any way to tie good, continuing quality to the terms of the contract? If you can, then definitely go to small claims court (be sure to figure out how much you stand to pay out or lose if you break the contract before suing to make sure small claims is the proper court in your jurisdiction). The problem you’d have assuming that Verizon meets you in court is that they never specified what quality you’d receive, so any service at all could keep you tied to the contract. This is the risk anyone takes when service quality is questionable or even very bad. Just having service is all it requires. But Verizon is hopefully so busy putting out fires (real and figurative) that they won’t bother with you. Many times the publicity is what gets them off your back…so try to do that in some way.

    This makes me so glad that I only have Comcast internet to worry about. There is no other choice around here except dial-up here.

  20. radio1 says:

    55 support ticket to deal with? Major problems with TV service? Wasted time and no-show techs? And the OP says, they can’t be bothered with paying an ETF?

    It would be easier, cheaper and would save the guy’s sanity if he just canceled everything and switch to an alternate content provider.

    Tell Comcast that sob story and they’ll probably put him a TV commercial with gratis service for at least a year.

  21. STrRedWolf says:

    Since there is something already in the works, let that play out. If it doesn’t work, forget customer support. Forget the head office. Head straight to the local franchise regulation agency mentioned above. Also grab a video camera and tape the problems on the screen. You may need to consult a lawyer if it gets worse.

    Couldn’t some lemon laws be used in this case?

  22. buccaneerdude says:

    Unfortunately your local franchise authority may not be an option, depending where you live. The teleco lobbyists have been pushing (and succeeding) to bypass local authority and use much broader state jurisdicition. Another interesting note regarding the customers service was the “fixes” taken to resolve the issue. Verizon’s alleged all fiber network included fixes to coaxial cable splitters and RG-6 (coaxial) cable. These cables all carry RF signal and not the pure light that Verizon loves to show in their commercials.

  23. elf6c says:

    Show us your Verizon face!

  24. OldTimer says:

    WOW

    I just had FIOS internet installed and love it. I live near a radio tower also and no longer hear the news with a phone call so that is a plus. I do not have TV available but after reading this I might stick with Direct TV.

    Good Luck

  25. mikefast says:

    We had months of daily 15 minute lapses in our FIOS phone service, but a formal email complaint to the FCC brought immediate and effective correction of the problem.

    Verizon cut off long-distance service at my office for several months, claiming non-payment of a bill, but could not restore it from April through July 2007. After we switched to Vonage and closed Verizon service they continued to bill us until another formal complaint to the FCC. Apparently each time my justified complaint reached an appropriate supervisor at Verizon. Has anyone else used this approach?

  26. rkwadd says:

    FiOS TV/Internet/Phone combo costs me the same as Comcast Cable/Verizon DSL/Verizon phone all purchased seperately. The TV is now digital instead of analog and has about 200 more channels, a better picture, better sound, that fancy guide thing, and the ability to do the DVR thing (extra $$$ of course). FiOS internet is 5x faster (literally, measured by my actual connection speed not what’s advertised) and I can play online games now without being kicked off for slow internet. The phone comes with unlimited long distance, caller ID, etc where it used to be local only, no frills.
    So what I’m hoping is that the 2 year agreement wasn’t a deal with the devil. And that I will never need customer service.
    Oh, and if you want to plug in another device (like DVD player) to your DVR/Cable box so you don’t always have to switch plugs on your TV, forget it. That is not supported even though the boxes have front and rear inputs.

  27. FLConsumer says:

    I know I’m going to seem like I’m a cranky old fart in posting this, BUT:

    Despite Verizon running FIOS into my neighborhood later on this year, I will NOT be dropping my DSL service for it. DSL’s now a proven technology with a large knowledgebase of information on it. There also is no shortage of equipment and providers I can use with it. All of that speed, all of the channels, all of the promises are 100% useless when the service isn’t working.

    Similarly, I still have a POTS land-line phone, mainly because my insurance co requires my alarm system be connected to a POTS line + cellular backup. I personally use VoIP for everything but know darn well that it’s more fragile than POTS and is solely dependent upon the stability of the internet connection.

  28. heathero617 says:

    We went back to verizon last june to escape the monopoly of comcast once fios became available here. I’ll just sum it up by saying they screwed up bad and i’ve been fighting with them ever since. I finally after 8 long months got a number for a presidential complaint and i wanted to share it here. So noone else ever has to spend almost 500 minutes on the phone trying to resolve issues and get this number.

    Presidential complaints can be made at this number
    1-800-483-7988

    Best of luck to all.

  29. rebeccc says:

    I had Verizon FIOS Internet and it rarely worked. I called their Technical Support and they didn’t do anything but tell me to reboot. they finally sent me another FIOS Router, but that didn’t work either. So I told them I was leaving to Comcast. Verizon told me to send their two FIOS Routers back to them. I sent them via UPS to Verizon with tracking numbers back in October.

    Verizon continued to send me invoices charging me for equipment and I continued to call them and provide proof of return of equipment. Each time, a customer service agent would tell me that they had received the equipment and I would get an adjusted bill.

    Now in February ’08, Verizon has Collectors after me for $148.20 for not returning the routers. I called Verizon and they said once they turn an account over to collections, they are not able to do anything. I reminded them of the last 6 times I spoke with them and they promised that I would get credited. They said there was nothing they could do for me now.

    Any ideas?? Who can I call to get this under control? The collectors want money or they are going to “ding” my credit record.

  30. phybertek says:

    I feel bad for Andrew because this was exactly the stuff I worked on during my 2+ years in FIOS. I got to see the worst of the worst issues and work with alot of smart people to fix them. I loved fixing chronic issues and the satisfaction that came with getting the issues fixed.
    I was one of the first video trained reps in my FSC and the challenge of the job and all the issues that I saw in video due to the sheer number of variables ( u did update your lcd tv firmware didn’t you?)
    I loved the job but it was my time to leave but if anyone has FIOS questions feel free to email me. Its a good product with good people behind it but like Scotty from Star Trek said “The more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain”.