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[I started writing this message about two weeks ago when the topic of 
FIOS first came up, but waited a few days for Verizon to get back to me 
with promised information, which they never did, and so the message sat 
in my drafts folder. Now that FIOS is being talked about again, it 
reminded me to post it.]

James Kramer wrote:
> What is the deal with FIOS.  Do they permit servers?

They have a business grade service with a FAQ that implies they permit

20M/5M service starts at $60/month.

However, I called to get additional pricing, as they don't list
pricing for static IPs on their web site, and was told they "absolutely
block *all* ports, such as 25 and 80" on the dynamic IP service, because
they see it as a "legal liability." (I didn't quibble over their
definition of "all ports.") It seems they take a different stance on the
issue than pretty much any other ISP providing business grade service.

I was told that if you buy the service with a static IP, which costs
$100 (for the same 20M/5M speed w/5 IPs, $1 each additional IP), they
don't block any ports and do permit servers.

Unlike most ISPs that charge $10 or $20 for a static IP, they charge a
$40 premium. Undoubtedly they're rolling into that cost an expectation
that customers of this service are going to utilize more bandwidth,
particularly upstream.

(The only other time I've seen terms as silly as this is when I looked 
into RCN's cable modem offering for business. They charged something 
like $20 or $30 per month for one static IP, on top of a premium monthly 
fee, and still imposed a "no server" policy. Huh? Made no sense to me.)

I asked to see a copy of the terms of service specifically for the
static IP service to see what it said about port blocking, but was
referred to this more generic TOS that does include statements that they
may block ports:

I again asked for the TOS for the static IP package and was told they'd 
have to look it up and get back to me. They never did.

While as others have mentioned it can make sense to combine an
inexpensive, consumer grade Internet connectivity service that blocks
ports with an off-site hosting service. This works well if your hosting
needs are web and maybe mail. But what happens when you want to run your
own Asterisk server, or other things that may benefit from being located
locally? Proxy everything through an off-site virtual server?

This whole concept that Internet users are just passive consumers of 
broadcast content is quickly becoming obsolete, and personally I'd 
rather not do business with a company that does get that.

Matthew Gillen wrote:
> Why do they want to restrict customers? 

Well, if we buy in to their "liability" argument, it would seem they are 
either afraid of getting sued by customers for letting "bad things" get 
into their customers' computers, or they're afraid of being sued by 
third parties that are attacked by compromised computers on Verizon's 

If the issue was the first one, then they could allow willing customers 
to sign a waiver saying they won't sue Verizon. Or in the latter case, 
have customers indemnify Verizon for any problems caused by the 
customers' computers.

(There shouldn't be any great burden with implementing such blocking on 
a per-customer basis. They could simply incorporate the blocking into 
the router they supply to the customer. It's supposedly already a 
violation of the terms of service to replace their router, so if the 
customer did that, they'd be off the liability hook anyway (assuming 
they write an appropriate clause into their TOS).)

The real question is what magically changes about the situation that 
inbound connections are no longer a liability just because the customer 
is paying more money? Are we supposed to believe that the higher price 
goes to defray potential legal expenses? Sure.

> Does it cost them money?  Or are they just afraid you'll actually use
> the amount of bandwidth that they're advertising is available to
> you...

I think this is what it comes down to. Bandwidth. And they assume 
servers=high bandwidth. Plus, they optimize their networks for a 
broadcast model, so they're short on upstream bandwidth, which is of 
course what servers impact.

This seems to ignore the reality that a residence running a few 
computers with peer-to-peer file sharing probably dwarfs the amount of 
bandwidth used by the typical small business web site.

So instead of port blocking, why don't they implement bandwidth quotas?

Ward Vandewege wrote:
> I suspect they also don't want to cannibalize their 'business'
> offerings, where they can charge substantially more for the privilege
> of running servers (and an SLA, of course).

This does seem to be a big part of it, though it isn't the business 
service in general, but only the premium business service, as regular 
business service still blocks ports. And as you pointed out, so far even 
with the premium service you don't get an SLA.

> If Verizon would stop thinking as a telephone company (where *every feature*
> costs extra - caller id, voicemail, etc) and start thinking as a data
> company, this sort of nonsense would probably go away real soon. But I don't
> see that happen anytime soon. Not without some serious competition.

That'd be nice, but I doubt they'll learn their lesson as long as we 
keep buying data services from them and putting up with the terms. And 
if you want low-cost, fiber service, you don't have much choice.

The real concern I have with FIOS is actually Verizon tech support. I've 
had to deal with their tech support for business DSL a few times, and I 
found them to be laughably incompetent and disorganized (with a typical 
call getting bounced among departments all across the East Coast).

Has anyone tried business-grade FIOS and tested out their tech support? 
Or for that matter, residential support?

Dan Ritter wrote:
> Gamers are concerned with round trip time, and they usually do
> know it. They also (as a group) have noted that sufficient
> quantity of uncommitted bandwidth is usually a decent proxy for
> a low RTT.
> VOIP users are discovering that good gaming performance is
> well-correlated with good sound quality.

We've had reports on this list in the past that latency on FIOS is poor.
Anyone care to substantiate or refute that?

Other FIOS tidbits:

As mentioned in Dan Bricklin's[1] posting, when you install FIOS, they
switch over your analog copper phone lines to the fiber. This may not be
desirable if you prefer to have an independent land-line, one that
doesn't depend on a back-up battery, or have DSL piggybacked on the
line. (They mention that if you have Verizon DSL, they discontinue it
when they switch you over to FIOS. I assume they're smart enough to
leave the line alone if you have DSL from another party.) I was told by
the phone rep. that if you have concerns about the switch over, you can

(I've read speculation that the reason why they are so quick to switch 
existing lines over from copper to fiber (and apparently immediately rip 
out the copper lines) is that there is no government mandate that they 
have to share the fiber, unlike with the copper. So eliminating the 
copper, eliminates a form of competition.)

Ted Roche wrote:
> FIOS doesn't have to be asymetrical, but most of the cable/telephone
> companies still think they are selling a broadcast model.

True. A blog posting referenced by Dan Bricklin's[1] posting mentions this:

"The 15mbps they reserve for their Internet service is less than 1% of
that capacity!" [2]

If you look at the specs for the "Optical Network Terminal"[3] (the gray 
box the fiber terminates to on the side of your house/business) it can 
actually handle "622/155 Mbps asymmetrically." So while asymmetry is 
designed right into the hardware, they're still offering to sell only a 
small fraction of the available capacity.

Some other interesting bits about the Optical Network Terminal (ONT):

The network interface isn't just a passive connection. It's an active 
router, and it can be used to remotely control how much bandwidth you get:

   The Ethernet service is an IEEE 802.1d transparent bridge based on
   RFC-2684. Class of service as well as bandwidth is controlled
   through provider provisionable options. Bandwidth is allocated on a
   per PVC basis based on peak and sustained cell rates as defined by the
   ITU. The Ethernet port supports streaming IP video and IPTV content
   delivery and meets ITU 802.1p QoS standards at the MAC level.

(That's from the residential ONT data sheet. It also says it will have 
"NAT routing with DHCP support" and "Layer 3" (routing I presume) in a 
future release. The ONT made for small businesses already supports NAT 
on the Ethernet interface. It also separately has two T-1 connections.)

Similarly the analog phone interface is like a miniature phone switch 
(or technically, a line card for a phone switch). It handles dial tone, 
ringing, caller ID, DTMF/pulse decoding, etc.

Interestingly both ONT data sheet say the analog phone interface will 
some day support the SIP protocol for VoIP. If that happens, you can 
sure bet Verizon will never let you use it with a third party VoIP provider.

I was also curious to see how they handled their CATV service. One 
logical approach would be to stream video over the existing IP 
connection and decode it in a set top box. If they did this, it would 
have some serious privacy implications, as Verizon would then know 
exactly what channel you were watching at all times. But it turns out 
they actually send full spectrum CATV over the fiber:

   ...ONT provides a 55?870 MHz Cable Television (CATV) AM-VSB service
   over the 1550 nm optical wavelength on the PON in compliance with the
   G.983.3 standard. The CATV service can handle a variety of digital and
   analog channels. The ONT functions as an addressable tap on the cable
   plant and can be enabled or disabled remotely to control CATV theft.

Another confirmation of how the CATV setup works is that the base analog 
service can be viewed on any cable-ready TV.

This blurb makes some mention of the optical frequencies. Elsewhere they 

   Network Interfaces
     Downstream ? 622 Mbps @ 1490 nm received optical power
                  levels -8 to -28 dBm
     Upstream ? 155 Mbps @ 1310 nm transmitted optical power
                levels 0 to +4 dBm
     Video ? AM-VSB Cable Video Distribution @ 1550 nm received optical
             power levels, +1 dBm to -5 dBm

I was surprised to see the fact that they use 3 optical wavelengths over 
the fiber mentioned in a TV commercial for FIOS. Rather technical for a 
TV commercial.

It seems like some great technology. It's just too bad it's in Verizon's 
hands. :-)



Tom Metro
Venture Logic, Newton, MA, USA
"Enterprise solutions through open source."
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