April 2008

Comcast Internet versus Verizon FiOS

I've been annoyed recently by some ads by Comcast about Verizon FiOS. They've been dumping a boatload of money to belittle Verizon FiOS, and for good reason. Verizon FiOS can blow cable out of the water.

Some of these Comcast ads show a glowing (literally) customer, enthusiastic about Verizon FiOS, because it's Fiber Optic. A Comcast customer belittles their excitement by explaining that Comcast has fiber too, and their fiber network is bigger than Verizons. The glowing customer flickers out.

That's the misleading part that really has me annoyed. It's no surprise to anyone that knows anything about networking that all modern communications networks are based on fiber.

But that's not the point.

Verizon FiOS represents something new, but something that's been a long time coming: Fiber optics to your door. You see, while both Comcast and Verizon have fiber networks, the fiber is for their own internal communications. The last little bit of the network, the so called Last Mile that reaches from their network to your home has in the past not been fiber. Until Verizon FiOS, this last mile has been copper phone wiring in the case of phone companies offering DSL, and coaxial cable in the case of the cable companies.

But Verizon FiOS changes that. Verizon is offering fiber all the way to your house, or as they call it, Fiber To The Premises (FTTP).

In the past, cable has had the advantage, because coaxial cable can carry much more data than copper phone wiring. That's why DSL has been slower (and cheaper) than cable internet.

But fiber is capable of carrying vastly more data than coaxial cable. Whoever can deliver and control fiber to the customer will have the edge for a long long time. There is no better technology on the horizon than fiber. This is because fiber has theoretical limits far higher than current systems. In other words, the fiber network they install today can also handle the next generation of data communications, and probably two or three generations after that. Fiber will last you for decades without rewiring. And by the way, this same fiber can easily handle all the TV programming a customer could wish for. Maybe this is also why Comcast is scared.

And so both sides are cranking up their ad campagins, which is fine. But it bugs me that Comcast is making misleading claims about offering fiber optics. Their network is bigger, simply because they're a bigger company. But they are not delivering fiber to their customers, and Verizon is (to some).

Now I'm not saying you must run out and get Verizon FiOS (it's only available in a few markets). Cable may be just fine to suit your needs. In fact, I use the older and slower DSL, and it suits my needs perfectly well, plus it's cheaper.

In the long run, Comcast will simply have to position themselves at the appropriate price point for whatever speeds thay can offer, and Verizon FiOS will do the same. But for now, Comcasts strategy seems to be to spend a ton of money on marketing to mislead their customers. So I hope this has cleared things up for you.

And just for the record, I don't work for Verizon, and don't make any money from saying this. Like I said, Comcast just annoyed me by being so misleading.

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