Tagged: Verizon

Robo-Calls End Today

One of the hallmarks of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has been the advent of bundling. As a Verizon FiOS customer, the double-play bundle of reasonably fast Internet (almost symmetrical 25 Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream) and a fiber optic landline costs significantly less than the broadband-only service at the same speed. Rather than settle for a slower connection at a lower price, I take the “free” fiber-optic telephone.

“Wait,” you might be asking, “What’s the difference between a fiber-optic telephone line and a regular landline?” One big difference is that in the event of a power outage, your new fangled fiber-optic phone will only work with a big backup battery pack.[1] The one on my kitchen wall measures 11-inches by 17-inches, the same size as a tabloid sheet. Your old plain copper-wire telephone works if the electrical grid goes awry, which does happen, but not your trusty mobile phone or the new fiber phone.

With FiOS, you get free furniture.

As far as the benefits and drawbacks go, that’s the trade off for zero-cent-per-minute long-distance calling. Let’s call that an even swap.

But what makes fiber phone kind of a bad deal is that I still get robo-calls during competitive elections, such as today’s New York City primary election. We don’t (yet) get those on mobile phones, but we do received them on a line that is tethered by glass.

In order to get a less throttled Internet connection for less money, I’ve had to endure countless robo-calls during the last few weeks. Because Verizon FiOS voicemail will email you an audio file of your message, it has been really easy to collect some of the more memorable robo-calls of this primary season. Here are some of them.

Daniel Squadron

A common template for the robo-calls is to get someone recognizable to “call” you to discuss the candidate’s strengths and the newspapers endorsing the candidates. Here’s one where Senator Chuck Schumer waxes about Daniel Squadron, the candidate for public advocate.

Bill Thompson

My name gets me on some Latino-targeted lists, for marketing, banking, and now electioneering. Here’s Bill Thompson’s campaign calling me. Notice how it is both in English and then en español.

The message identifies me as someone with an immigrant’s experience. It mentions his family’s experience of immigrating and struggling in this new land. It also uses “community” [“communidad”] as a way of tapping into my Latino sensibilities to relate to this candidate.

Peter Vallone

Using the immigrant experience is a powerful strategy for creating sympathies between a voter and a candidate. Peter Vallone, Jr., who is running for Queens Borough President, has been aggressively sending email and postal mail. One of the latter was a flyer about the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship, which his campaign calls the city’s “original Dream Act.” None of the calls I received mentioned the scholarship, but instead mentioned his strengths as a “law and order” candidate. Here he is doing his own calling but still following the template of strengths and endorsements.

Christine Quinn

As persistent as Vallone was, the Christine Quinn campaign was the most aggressive, likely due to her well-funded campaign. The campaign called early in the summer to ask if “she could count on my vote.” They sent a high school student to my apartment to talk with me about Quinn and distribute some literature. And speaking of literature, the campaign has mailed me a flyer or ten in the last few weeks.

And, again, because of my Latino name and background, some Spanish-speaking luminaries have been calling me to talk about Quinn’s strengths and endorsements.

And pulling out all the stops today, Election Day, she “called” me herself.

Anthony Weiner

Last and late to the party was Anthony Weiner. He didn’t play up the Latino angle, which is probably wise because it could remind me about Carlos Danger and all that unpleasantness. Instead, he kindly asked me to join a telephone “town hall” conversation.

Since it was during my Monday night class, I missed it. And he called me to remind me that I bailed on him.

I’m not sure what the second call was meant to accomplish other to have me think of him. It did, and I am.

Today, I’m happy because the robo-calls should end after this primary election. Or else, I guess there’s always the run-off in October.

  1. According to Verizon’s Terms and Conditions, “Where applicable, battery backup available for standard fiber-based voice service, FiOS Digital Voice & E911 (but not other voice services).”  ↩

Verizon FiOS Speeds are Back!

Over the last month, we in Long Island City have experienced some very poor upload speeds over Verizon FiOS. My earlier post on this subject has roused some interest among the geekier among us here in north Brooklyn and Western Queens.

Stephen Mike in Greenpoint posted on this site on Tuesday that our FiOS upload problems have been fixed. He’s right! My upload speeds, according to SamKnows, have indeed improved since yesterday.

Date Average (Mbps)
May 15, 2012 3.98
May 16, 2012 7.36
May 17, 2012 7.00
May 18, 2012 6.87
May 19, 2012 5.50
May 20, 2012 7.01
May 21, 2012 5.30
May 22, 2012 31.14

As you can see, I am now getting above the advertised 25 Mbps symmetrical downstream and upstream rates.

One troubling sign is that Packet Loss still remains consistent, although I might have to wait until the monthly report to get a sense of its condition.

Date Failure Rate (%)
May 15, 2012 3.74
May 16, 2012 2.48
May 17, 2012 1.99
May 18, 2012 2.30
May 19, 2012 2.99
May 20, 2012 1.91
May 21, 2012 2.58
May 22, 2012 3.33

Thanks, StephenMike in Greenpoint!

Our Verizon FiOS and Poor Upload Speeds in April

We have Verizon FiOS in Long Island City, and in April 2012, our connection significantly worsened on the upstream.

In March, our Verizon FiOS broadband had significantly improved, not in terms of upload and download speed, but the latency and packet loss had improved dramatically. I had posited that Verizon technicians had done some work to improve our connection. I was very happy.

The monthly SamKnows report arrived today, and it looks like it reverted back to a pretty poor connection. SamKnows performs hourly tests for download, upload, latency, and packet loss. In April, our download speed remained robust at a little over the advertised 25 Mbps rate. However, around April 18th, the upload speed plunged to about 7 Mbps, less than a third of the advertised 25 Mbps rate.

April 2012 Download

April 2012 Upload

At the same time, the packet loss climbed dramatically suggesting that there was a compromised connection on the upstream causing this problem. This is unacceptable. The reason I came to Verizon was for the robust upstream. I upload a lot of files, as is the joy of being a media scholar and shutterbug, and I need a zippy symmetrical connection.

April 2012 Packet Loss

If anyone in the neighborhood finds this and wants to report their results, please share in the comments.

Did Verizon Fix Our “Internet” This Month?

Since the beginning of the new year, I upgraded our broadband from a copper wire service, specifically Time Warner Cable’s Road Runner, to a fiber optic connection from Verizon. Immediately, we more than doubled the downstream throughput: from an average 11 Mbps to more than 25 Mbps. The biggest difference, however, came in the upstream. Whereas our upstream was about 500 kbps with the copper wire cable, it is now about 25 Mbps with fiber optic. Theoretically, I can now upload files at about 50 times the speed. None of this, however, should come as a surprise. Not only is fiber more capacious than copper wire, the Verizon 25/25 service is also more expensive than Road Runner’s 10/0.5 service.

Independently, we also signed up for SamKnows broadband monitoring, which is how the FCC is measuring the nation’s broadband capabilities. Each month, SamKnows sends a summary of our broadband connection.

Here is our downstream


…and our upstream.


As you can see, the connection is pretty stable. It is consistently around the advertised 25 Mbps, which is good. Uploading and downloading files always seems zippy, and when we stream video, it always looks very sharp. I never notice any buffering delays or any sudden pixelation in the picture.

However, two other very important metrics have been off. Our latency and our packet loss, which should be low, have been inordinately high.



Even with good throughput, latency can slow down broadband by delaying the connection with a remote host. Similarly, packet loss can cause errors that will result in either a “dropped” connection or requiring redundant, duplicate connection.

As you can see, it looks like those two metrics have dropped significantly around March 24. I wonder if there was an equipment upgrade on that date that might have improved the “fidelity” of our broadband connection.

From a purely observational perspective, I haven’t noticed any improvements in our connection. In fact, I thought our connection had been getting slower over the last week, but, of course, these kinds of observations can be deceiving.

(Via SamKnows.)