Installation and Review - Cincinnati Bell Fioptics TV

6/28/14

After being a DirecTV customer for years I finally decided to give a local TV provider (Cincinnati Bell Fioptics) a try with providing my TV service. I didn't find too many helpful articles on the web on what I could expect with the initial installation, or the overall quality of the service, so I decided to add one myself.

Cincinnati Bell Fioptics Install


I've been using Fioptics Internet service for several years now and could not be happier. The speeds and reliability have been excellent, but I was hesitant to try out their TV service based on some of the experiences I'd heard from other people in the past.

DirecTV had always provided great service, the only complaints I had were experiencing regular outages every time a thunderstorm approached and at times during the winter with heavy snow/ice along with the service itself being fairly expensive. I always felt like DirecTV 'nickel and dimed' you to death with small additional charges each month. 

Admittedly the motivating factors here were to save money and do business with a local Cincinnati-based company. Once I bundled my current Fioptics Internet with Fioptics TV service through Cincinnati Bell I was set to save around $40 per month compared to paying for Directv and Internet separately. Since Cincinnati Bell doesn't require a contract with their service and free installation to match, making the switch became a much easier decision. 

The channel selection offered through Fioptics TV matched what I had with DirecTV, from the total channels offered to the HD channels available. It appears that their channel selection offering is as large, if not larger, compared to DirecTV. (Haven't confirmed this)

The Installation:

The Installation Technician (Boyd) arrived on time and was very professional. No kidding. He took his time with the install, did things right, and even cleaned up some of the mess the DirecTV Installer left behind years ago. Easily one of the best installation experiences I've ever had. 

Since I was upgrading to the TV service he needed to install a Fiber Optic cable run all the way to the house. (Yes, please) From there he utilized all of the existing coaxial cable that was being used throughout the house with DirecTV so no extra holes and wiring were needed in the rooms with TV's, which was great. 

The Fiber Optic cable run is laying above ground in my front yard as of now, they're coming back out in 7-10 days to permanently bury the cable underground.



The Demarcation (NID) location of the Fiber Optic cable run to the house. From here a CAT-5e network cable runs inside to a drop near the TV/Internet Gateway.


The Cat5e cable drop entering the house that runs to the TV/Internet Gateway. A coaxial cable runs from the Gateway back outside to connect to the rooms with TV's.





Coaxial cable then connects from the Gateway to all of the existing coaxial cable inside that connects to all four of my TV's throughout the house.



TV/Internet Gateway - Front View




Since Cincinnati Bell was offering a promotion for their 30mbps Fioptics Internet plan I upgraded to that speed during the install as well. So far the connection has been strong with great ping times.

Great Download and Upload speeds utilizing Fioptics Internet



The entire installation took a while, about 4-5 hours total. There's a lot of equipment and new wiring that needs to be installed outside of the house which takes some time when installed correctly. Again, he did a great job and paid attention to detail so it was well worth it in my opinion.

Weatherproof wiring enclosure system installed outside




The Service:

The service is great. Again, not kidding. It's working great. The HD channels actually look better compared to DirecTV, and that really surprised me. DirecTV's HD channels always had great quality but the Fioptics HD TV channels just look a little clearer and better to me.



With Fioptics TV you get whole-home DVR service. With my previous DirecTV service I had DVR boxes with each TV so this was a change for me. This service has worked just fine so far, and I admit it's nice to record programs/movies from any TV in the house and watch them later from any other TV in the house. Of course this feature was available with DirecTV, I just didn't want to deal with the new equipment and service agreement needed to get it. 

What I don't like, and what I miss the most, is the ability to pause live TV. This feature is only available on the TV where the actual DVR box is located, not the other TV's. I figured out a work around that works OK, since you can record programs from any TV in the house I just do that when I want to pause live TV. You can then just rewind the show you're recording as you would by pausing live TV. This works well as long as you remember to delete the shows you 'recorded' once you're finished watching them. 

The boxes themselves are fine and the Installation Technician programmed the remote controls to work on all of the TV's in the house. The guide is responsive but looks a little outdated. However it works well and gives me more than enough program information that I need. The boxes have clocks on the front, something I haven't had with DirecTV but a useful feature at times.



The boxes have clocks on the front, something I haven't had with DirecTV but a useful feature at times.




Closing:

It's only been a few days but I haven't experienced any issues with quality, outages or overall performance. The service has been solid, and I have absolutely no regrets at this time. 

Obviously I need much more time to see how reliable this service really is, but I couldn't be more pleased at this point with the decision to switch providers and save some money each month. Doing business with a local company that treats their employees well is very important to me also.


Update 7/1/14:

Since it's been a couple of weeks I thought I'd add an update of how things are going. A couple of items to note:

On Demand:

The On Demand selection that Fioptics offers vs what DirecTV does isn't even close. DirecTV really excels in the amount of content offered via On Demand. Fioptics On Demand is VERY limited when it comes to free content available on the channels you subscribe to. I have yet to purchase any paid On Demand content with Fioptics so can't offer an opinion on how well that works.

DVR performance:

The DVR has been buggy a few times. Seems to happen most when you pause live TV and come back later to watch. The video stream will freeze for a couple of seconds and the audio drops out. This would happen every couple of minutes. A reboot of the DVR resolves the issue for a while, but you lose all of the content you just had paused of course. Slightly frustrating, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that this is an issue they get worked out in the future.


Update 12/27/14:

The service has been pretty reliable. There have been times over the past six months when the cable box would freeze and I've had to reset it. I also remember resetting (powering off and on) the main Gateway device a couple of times to resolve issues with the TV service.

They've released a few updates to the Cable (STB) boxes which has cleared up the pausing live TV bug I experienced before, or maybe they cleared that up on their end. Not sure, but either way it seems to work just fine now. Back in the late summer the TBS channel would freeze quite often just watching it normally (not other channels, just TBS), but that's no longer the case.

Fioptics Internet on the other hand has been rock-solid for me. I honestly cannot remember that part of the service ever giving me any issues. I've subscribed to that for a few years now and it's been absolutely perfect. I'm a heavy user too, I work in IT so I rely heavily on that connection. I also use Netflix and other video/audio streaming services often. Again, no problems there at all.

What started as an experiment turned into any other entertainment service you depend on daily. I don't think about it much, it usually just works. It's not been perfect, but it's not been a nightmare experience either. And honestly, it's better and more reliable than it was just 6 months ago.

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