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Ordering Internet Feels Like Buying A Car

Fargo's William H Macy

Fargo’s William H Macy

Have you ever haggled to get a lower price for a car? It’s a known practice. But most people don’t realize that it’s the same when ordering or renewing your internet service.

I had been paying for relatively slow but fast enough for me 15/15 Mbps Verizon FIOS service for $40/month. This was a two year deal which recently shot up to $75/month. So I called and asked what they could do. I even said that I wanted to cancel my service. Sometimes this gets you transferred to retention people who can offer you more. In this case, the representative said that he had to go off and talk to folks about what they could offer. Remember in Fargo when William H. Macey was selling a car to people and pretended to go talk to his boss? That’s what this felt like.

When the Verizon representative came back, he said that the best he could do was $50/month for 50/50 Mbps service. I said that I didn’t need that speed, but he said that it was the lowest speed currently offered by Verizon. I said that wasn’t good enough so he went to go to talk to people again. This time he came back and said that he could do it for $45/month.

Meanwhile, I was discussing the same topic with a Verizon online web chat person. This person said the best they could do was $40/month for 25/25 Mbps speed. So I hung up the phone and ordered through the web.

I don’t know if I got the best deal possible. I know someone who was recently given 30/30 Mbps for $45/month so it seems a little random. Both the phone and web person said that 30/30 wasn’t a current speed option. My guess is that the offers depend a little on who you happen to reach and what deals the sales people are told they can offer at the time.

Sadly, just like with buying a car, it’s the uninformed folks who can’t figure out the system and have to pay too much. These are often older folks who get tricked into buying an “internet security package” or are told that they need 50/50 Mbps speeds to watch Netflix. It’s no better than selling someone a pretend car undercoating.

When to Upgrade to a New Computer

New iMac

Clients regularly ask me when they should upgrade their computers. Most businesses upgrade desktop computers every 4-6 years and laptops every 2-4 years. But how often should you upgrade? Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Computer Release Cycles. It is typically best to buy a new computer model early after it is released. This can give you the latest technology and a longer product life. If a new model is just around the corner and you aren’t in dire need, consider waiting.
  2. CPUs. The Central Processing Unit is a key component and is usually made by Intel. A new model will often be released to coincide with the latest intel CPUs (and associated motherboard, RAM, etc). Buying the latest CPUs can mean that the computer will typically allow operating system updates for a longer period.
  3. Hard Drive (HD) versus Solid State Drive (SSD). I strongly recommend SSDs over traditional hard drives. SSDs do not have a spinning platter. They’re more energy efficient and super fast. Many people will find this gives the greatest perceptible difference in speed. Most new computers and all new Macs have an option for an SSD or a hybrid option that uses both an SSD and HD for improved performance (Apple refers to this hybrid option as a Fusion drive).
  4. Usage. Heavy computer users such as graphics designers and developers will find it more useful to upgrade quickly than people who mainly edit documents and use a web browser. Consider if the efficiency of your work would improve enough to warrant an upgrade.
  5. Hassle. Upgrading, especially on PCs can be annoying and take a great deal of time to configure the computer as you like. Macs are easier to upgrade, especially if you have an Apple store nearby. They will upgrade you for free and move over all your files.
  6. PC or Mac. A sad situation that I regularly see is a PC user upgrading after their computer has been infected by a virus. This makes some sense. If the computer has been compromised and is already a few years old, it could be considered “totaled” if the money and time spent on wiping the computer and reinstalling the operating system would be better spent on a new machine. Because of this, I often recommend that people consider Apple computers (Macs) if their needs don’t include Windows specific software. Macs in my experience don’t get viruses, don’t need additional antivirus software, and tend to have higher quality parts that last longer than the typical PC. Because of these factors, Macs have a lower total cost of ownership in my experience, despite having a higher initial cost.
  7. Security. If you have a Windows 95/98/XP PC or a Mac that is around 8 years old, you should consider an upgrade for security reasons. If your computer can’t upgrade to the latest operating system or latest web browser, then it won’t have the latest security patches and could be vulnerable to attacks.
  8. Deals. PC deals come and go all the time from Dell and others. Apple has one sale a year on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. Apple does offer Education and Refurbished deals. Some Apple resellers offer minor deals, especially on older products.

Beeping FIOS battery

Has your FIOS or other internet box started beeping? The internet box that is usually just inside the house is called an Optical Network Terminal (ONT). (Note that the ONT plugs into another box with an antenna. This is the router.) The ONT has a Battery Backup Unit (BBU) since you need to have the ability to make 911 phone calls in the event of a power outage. But the rechargeable batteries usually just last 2-3 years.

Instead of having Verizon or your internet provider replace the battery, you can usually do so yourself if you’re comfortable opening the ONT and unplugging the battery. Replacement batteries are available at places like Amazon, BatteryMart, and Mighty Max Battery. They typically cost $30-50.

For my Verizon FIOS ONT, I had to purchase a battery that was comparable with the Goldtop HG GT12080-HG. The key things to look at are the terminal connection type, volts, and amps. My model has F2 terminals, 12 volts, and 8Ah.  You also want to make sure the dimensions fit or that the battery claims to be a direct replacement for your model.

Goldtop HG GT12080-HG Battery

Never 10

Another great tool for people who don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10:
Never 10 by Steve Gibson

If you like running Windows 7 or 8, you unfortunately need a utility like this to stop Microsoft from nagging you or automatically upgrading without your permission.

“I Don’t Want Windows 10”

Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 hard. If you don’t upgrade, you get barraged with notifications and some people even report that Windows 10 is being installed without their permission.

If you don’t want Windows 10, there’s a neat Github project that stops the Windows 10 reminders, aptly called “I Don’t Want Windows 10”:
https://github.com/rn10950/I-Dont-Want-Windows-10

Windows 10 offers some improvements, but it’s not necessary for many folks. If you’re happy enough with Windows 7 or 8 on an old computer, you shouldn’t feel pressured to upgrade. Try “I Don’t Want Windows 10” to stop the pestering messages.