Q. The Fios box in our house is once again beeping every 15 minutes because the backup battery needs to be replaced. Is there any way to silence that thing?
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A. There is, and it’s a little counterintuitive: If you disconnect the battery, the Fios “battery backup unit” should stop nagging you about replacing it.
That’s “should” but not “will,” because the answer depends on the age of the Fios hardware in question, Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell explained. If yours was installed after March 2013, it’s already programmed to silence the battery-replacement alarm if you pull the battery.
With an older unit, Mitchell’s advice was to experiment: “Try pulling the battery; it won’t harm anything and, if the alarm goes quiet, it’s problem solved.”.
I did just that with the 2010-vintage box in our basement, and the result was silence.
If you get a different result and your Fios installation is as old or as older as mine, you should try asking Verizon for a replacement battery-backup unit. Mitchell said Verizon will replace “early-generation” backup devices at no charge.
This situation results from Verizon’s decision early on to ensure that subscribers to its fiber-optic broadband service could still use corded phones for the first several hours of a power outage. With Fios, as with cable-based phone service, your calling service no longer comes over a copper wire to the nearest “central office” and so can’t get electricity from it.
To provide that reserve power, Fios boxes have long included the battery backup unit and its 12-volt lead-acid battery. A tech-support note says that this battery usually lasts “between 2 and 4 years, depending on the average temperature of the environment.”.
Ours made it through four years in a cool, dry corner of the basement, and then I needed a day or two to pin down the mysterious beep we kept hearing every 15 minutes. Not wanting to pay Verizon’s $39.99 list price for a replacement, I bought a $24 battery off Amazon–which did not last a year.
Verizon has since moved away from mandatory, expensive battery backup, Mitchell said: “We have seen an upswing in customers who simply do not want to deal with battery backup.”.
It’s not only that smartphones and tablets can let you keep communicating during a power outage. They will also last for a lot longer than eight hours on battery, and the wireless networks that connect them have grown far more resilient–as I realized firsthand during 40 or so hours without power after Hurricane Sandy.
In late 2013, the company made the battery backup unit an extra-cost option on new installs. Fios subscribers who do want to ensure their phone line stays on for a while in a blackout now have a backup option that doesn’t require buying an expensive lead-acid battery every few years: a $40 PowerReserve box that uses 12 standard D-cells to lend up to 20 hours of phone use.
Tip: A broadband-finding site from the cable industry.
I’ve written before about how the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map can serve as a rough guide to who provides high-speed Internet access at a particular address. But its lack of price data kept it from earning my unqualified endorsement even before I started finding cases where the map’s data did not match what people could actually get in their homes.
A different broadband-mapping site, Go2Broadband, can deliver more precise results–but only for some providers. This site is run by CableLabs, a cable-industry research-and-development group, and as such it does an excellent job of displaying what kind of service you can get at what cost from the incumbent cable operator at any given address. It also includes price data, although not fine-print costs like rental fees for a DVR or a cable modem (you should buy your own modem anyway).
And because this site plugs into the databases of the major cable operators, it can even tell you what services are currently active at an address. But it won’t show DSL or fiber-optic broadband, and some smaller cable operators don’t appear in its results either. For example, Go2Broadband reported that a Washington, D.C., Address where RCN offers cable Internet could only get service from Comcast.
Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.Com/robpegoraro.