Blog Post

What Broadband Competition Looks Like in Harlem

My building only had one broadband provider until recently, as Stacey reported last week. But that’s changing, as Verizon (s VZ) FiOS just became available in my building, and the company is making a huge push to get people connected. So for those of you in other areas of the country, where broadband competition may be the choice between basic cable and DSL, here’s what true competition looks like.

Verizon made a six-hour marketing push in my building’s lobby to inform residents about its broadband and TV services, as well as the cost and speed difference between its service and that of incumbent provider Time Warner Cable (s TWC).

Verizon brought out a wall display unit, as well as Subway subs, cookies and water to attract a crowd in the lobby of my 1,200-unit building. But it wasn’t just cookies that the company used to bring attention to its services; Verizon is offering up some pretty dramatic deals to get people signed up as well.

The company quoted me a price of $116 per month for a triple-play bundle that includes more than 300 HD video channels and DVR; broadband Internet for 35Mbps upstream and 20Mbps downstream; and  phone service with unlimited local and long-distance calling in the U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But that’s not all. Mike, the Verizon rep I spoke with, said he could cut $20 from the quoted price for 12 months, making monthly pricing $96 for the first year. In addition to that, the company offered a $150 Target gift card on the spot to residents who signed up for the service today and a $150 “cash back” Visa card that representatives say will be mailed out 60 days after service starts.

I followed up with Time Warner Cable to see how its prices compared. For $99 a month, the cable provider offers a similar triple-play bundle, with a comparable pay TV subscription and phone service. But the Time Warner Cable broadband package that is part of that deal is much slower than Verizon’s, with a maximum download speed of 15Mbps and a max upload of just 768kbps. (In my speed test last week, I found my service to be running closer to 9Mbps down and 500kbps up.)

My phone rep at Time Warner Cable — whose name was Brett, and who claimed to be a former Verizon refugee — noted that, unlike Verizon, Time Warner Cable had no contracts or cancellation fees for its services. In contrast, Verizon has a $179 cancellation fee for those who decide that FiOS is not for them before the first year of their contract is up.

Brett also warned me that while I would spend a comparable amount on the broadband package itself, my cost of using FiOS would also include the price of having an ONT installed in my apartment and drawing power. He estimated that the ONT by itself could increase my electric bill by $15 to $20 per month, which would offset much of my savings from a lower initial pricing, as well as some of the “cash back” incentives that FiOS was offering.

In the end, I decided to sign up for FiOS. While I’m not a heavy cable TV watcher, the boost in broadband speed and unlimited calling on Verizon’s phone service seemed a fair enough trade-off for the $70 more that I will spend per month over my current broadband-only bill. Given the amount of video streaming and data transfers that I do, the increase in data speed seems worth it.

Plus, as Mike said when I told him I was a reporter interested in writing a story about broadband competition,”Then you should totally get FiOS. It’ll help you write your stories a lot faster.”

Oh Mike, if only that were the case.

11 Responses to “What Broadband Competition Looks Like in Harlem”

  1. I’m a mile to the East of you and still no FIOS yet. It’s a one-horse show over here by Popeye’s Famous Friend Chicken.

    Your building does have abject hugeness over my relative villa.

  2. I’ve had FIOS in Texas for several years and absolutely love it. One big surprise – the techs actually show up on time. One install was for FIOS internet only. Then I added TV, and at a later date had another box brought out and a new jack installed.

    The HD looks great. No complaints at all.

  3. I am in Washington Heights and I am waiting for FIOS to get here. My question is whether you are in east Harlem or west Harlem. The Heights is right above west Harlem so I hoping you are in west Harlem because hopefully that means FIOS is coming my way. TWC sucks big time.

    • Ryan Lawler


      I’m in West Harlem, right by Fairway/Dinosaur BBQ. So there’s hope that FiOS will be in your neighborhood soon! That said, my building is huge (1,200 units), so it might be a priority over some of the other buildings nearby. Not sure that physical proximity means that much in these rollouts; after all, I can see why Verizon might want to target a larger group of potential customers in one huge MDU than go door-to-door to the brownstones nearby.

  4. Ryan Lawler

    Thanks for the comments. I think what’s interesting about this is the potential amount of misinformation being bandied about, not just from FiOS, but also from Time Warner. The number of HD channels, the amount of power an ONT draws, etc. were all meant to influence my decision in one way or another. I cover the space and consider myself fairly technical, but I can see how someone that is not as educated about these subjects as I am could be easily confused or misled.

    The other interesting thing is how much money Verizon is spending to acquire these customers. Between one-time cash-back incentives and pricing discounts, the company is giving up $500 to acquire a customer — and that’s before a technician spends four hours installing the service.

  5. FiOS is amazing and such a superior product from it’s visual presentation on the tube, and the speed with which it let’s you surf both channels and websites, it is entirely worth the very fair rate.

  6. FiOS is the absolute best experience ever, you can’t go wrong with it.

    I have to laugh at Time Warner trying to combat the service by implying there is some sort of “price” involved in having the ONT installed, considering that it is installed for free.

    Also, the ONT draws very little power. At most, it draws 18 watts, even less when the battery is not charging. I’ve had FiOS for five years and it costs me less than $1 a month extra in electricity. DVRs draw more power than the ONT.

    Not including the premium channels, Verizon has 117 HD Channels in wide distribution, Time Warner has 32 in wide distribution and 69 channels in limited distribution, for a total of 101 HD channels. FiOS does have the most HD channels, but not 300 of them as the sales rep said.