Maybe Verizon ought to stick to phones

Thought I was going to laugh up a lung when I heard this line on a radio ad: "Verizon FiOS TV: So real it's like being at the game."

Yes, it's like being at the game on the wrong day, or when you're sitting behind a pole that's flanked by two fat guys wearing cowboy hats.

What I'm trying to say here in a roundabout way is that Verizon's FiOS TV stinks.

You want more specifics? ... Fine, it really, really stinks.

As in my family experienced at least four significant service outages between March 17 and May 12. And I say "at least" because, well, not only are our TVs not on 24 hours a day (it just seems that way) we didn't start taking note of the chronic nature of the outages until they began to stick out like a broken television set. An outage or two may have vaporized from the memory bank before the pattern became annoying enough to register.

But the one on March 17 sure was memorable because it prevented me from watching my favorite college basketball team, Boston College, play Georgetown in what turned out to be a fabulous game despite being a BC loss. They say you're not supposed to go to bed mad? I went to bed mad ... and without TV.

On April 11 the object of my sports anticipation was a pitching match-up between Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez. When I got home from work the kids were watching a DVD ... and I didn't have to ask why. (This time service was restored just before the game.)

Three Saturdays ago I awoke to a parental nightmare: no TV, meaning no Saturday morning cartoons (now factor in that we have 5-year-old triplets). I know that a better father would have seized the opportunity to teach the kids calculus or the violin, but my parenting skills are not the issue here.

The fourth outage doesn't have a date attached because, well, we're talking about real life and we weren't taking notes. My wife remembers this one clearly, though, because it happened on her day watch and included a special two-for-one bonus: The phone was out as well as the TV.

In most if not all of these cases we dutifully called the Verizon service line and spoke with polite individuals who informed us that the problem was not in our set, or peculiar to our neighborhood or community. In fact, we were told each time that the outage was regional in nature (if you live in one of the 42 FiOS-enabled Massachusetts communities, perhaps you feel our pain ... if so, please drop me a line at buzz@nww.com.)

So what does Verizon have to say for itself? I asked the company's public relations department prior to posting a version of this column on my blog. They asked for details about the outages. I provided the details. They said they "appreciated the chance to respond." I waited a few days as a courtesy ... all for this:

"Again, thank you for contacting us, but rather than giving you a statement for your blog, we'll respond to it when we see it. If I've misunderstood - and this is a news story rather than a blog - please let me know."

Dissing the blog: Now that’s just adding insult to injury. (By the way, you can register a vote in our online poll about FiOS TV.)

A final note: A day or two after the March 17 outage I received a call from a Verizon representative who apologized profusely for the inconvenience and said the company would be sending us a gift certificate from a national retail chain as compensation. I recall being genuinely impressed by both the gesture and the attempt at restitution.

Ten weeks later and three more outages later, we're still waiting for the gift certificate. I'm no longer impressed.

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