by Amy Maclean Fee Fi Fo Fios Cliff Brain is a cable subscriber-but not for much longer. Frustrated with what he feels is indifference from Comcast, he’s dropping cable-modem service and going with Verizon’s new FTTH service Fios. He’s one example of the type of customer Verizon is snagging. He’s far from a stranger to Comcast, fitting the bill of what some might call a high-maintenance subscriber. He’s part of a local citizen cable action committee. He’s spoken with Comcast regional vps and govt affairs reps. He even laughed that he overheard a supervisor tell a tech over his walkie-talkie that he’s a jerk. "I said, ‘He’s right, but you still have to give me service.’" Brain lives in CableFAX’s backyard of Silver Spring, MD, and he’s posted a review online about his whole Fios experience. "Bottom line: I’m keeping it," he wrote. When I contacted Brain to ask if he’d talk about his Fios service, I expected him to tell me he made the switch because of the fast speeds. Perhaps it was because he wanted to be one of the 1st on his block to have it. But that wasn’t the case. "I like to be the 100th customer rather than the 1st," he said. As for Fios’ 15 Mbps/2 Mbps speeds, the upload speed is great, but "1.5 Mbps /768kbps would be fine for me," he explained. So, why Fios? "I’m exasperated with Comcast again," Brain said, detailing numerous service visits and billing problems. His latest frustration is that he says he was billed incorrectly for HSD. He complained; Comcast fixed it and offered him an even better promotion, but he decided enough is enough. "The offer is cheaper than what I’m paying now, but this happens once a year," Brain said, noting that his Comcast HSD subscription is set to be terminated at the end of this billing cycle. As for Fios, he said he was really happy with the Verizon install (he called on Feb 19 to place the order; it was installed Mar 8). In fact, he’d called Verizon the day of the install to see if it wanted to reschedule because of snow/freezing rain; the answer was no. "Verizon is making a real effort to do things right, and treat people like they have competition for a change," he said. There were some hiccups. Brain, who has VoIP and wireless, had no landline and experienced some difficulty getting the order completed initially, even though he says Verizon was willing to serve him. Eventually, he decided to sign up for a Verizon landline and Fios. He really likes the latency on FIOS, but there are things he prefers about Comcast (no port blocking, DHCP authentication as opposed to PPOE). "Comcast has a marvelous network. I’m waiting for them to show me a reason to stay and they haven’t." While Verizon doesn’t have the capability to offer video in Silver Spring, Brian said he’d be interested in it. For now, he’s a DBS sub. Trendspotting UBS broke down some industry trends in a note to investors Fri, and much of the big picture seems to favor cable. Analyst Aryeh Bourkoff notes Verizon’s decision to push the roll out of video to the second half of ’05 was caused by the inevitable delays of having to obtain franchise rights. "Verizon has so far gained franchises in a total of 5 cities- -4 in Texas … and 1 in Beaumont, CA, and [it’s] in negotiations with several municipalities in VA," Bourkoff writes. That said, should SBC be successful in bypassing video franchise requirements, "Verizon is likely to quickly abandon its current plans and switch" to IP as well. — UBS expects cable to respond to recent DSL gains "with aggressive pricing and bundling promotions," a la Cablevision’s $90 bundle. On the telephony side, Bourkoff predicts Time Warner Cable could add up to 300K VoIP subs/Q, based on CVC’s earlier results. Given its sub base, Comcast is capable of doubling that (600K). — Anthony Crupi

The Daily


Infrastructure, Debt Ceiling Dominate DC

All eyes on Washington this week. Not only is there the threat of a government shutdown, but there’s also the possibility of Biden’s $1 trillion bill being sunk by Progressives who won’t vote for the

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