I am really getting frustrated with high speed Internet here in Charleston. Most of Charleston, whether a business or residential address does NOT have access to fiber. In the few business locations that do have access the fiber is at least $100/Mb and you can only get pricing that low if you sign a 3 year contract with steep disconnect penalties. Then you get to pay all those fun telecommunications fees on top which makes it more like $140/month. Days like today make me miss the REAL Internet available in Boston and Los Angeles.
Why am I writing about this on a blog about software development? Because the access of RELIABLE high speed Internet is critical to productivity. Case in point. My main workstation was acting up this morning. Time for a reboot and when I do that I install all the Windows Security Updates. First issue, could not connect to the Internet at all. Reboot the modem, my router, and my PC. Finally get connected but it is S-L-O-W. Windows is pulling a piddly-little 58MB of update files. On my 20Mb/2Mb service (fastest Knology provides) it should take seconds. 20 minutes later the file is downloaded. Not good. So I connect to Speed Test (not a “tweaked ISP version”) and find this:
As suspected, my throughput with Knology is less than 1/10th of the promised speed on the download side. As it says the download from a test server less than 100 miles away is worse than 61% of other US services, a grade they give a D+.
This means pushing my updates, pulling new repos, pulling test data, and more all take 10x longer than normal. In an average development day that sucks. It means drinking 5x as much coffee as a 20-second operation now takes 3 minutes. Literally.
What are the other choices here at my home office in Mount Pleasant?
They have THE WORST customer service in the industry. By far. Hands down. They are also expensive and while I’ve not tried their new “highly touted” (meaning 3 sales people/month coming to my door) AT&T Uverse service, the speeds are horrific. They also cannot keep a network online. Last time I used the, over 5 years ago, the service was off multiple times/week and average throughput was < 1Mbps/256k. Welcome back to dial-up days. I guess that should be expected from an old-fashioned telco. At least they finally upgraded from the telegraph this year as I was having a hard time typing in my passwords in Morse Code!
High speed Internet, yup they have it. I can get 50Mbps/10Mbps service at my house. It actually is almost that fast most of the time. Until 10 of my neighbors get online and start streaming Honey Boo Boo on Hulu. Any evening the actual throughput drops to more like 5Mbps/2Mbps. Comcast swears up & down that this does not happen and that they don’t pool resources on a business class line. It is a lie. Real world tests prove otherwise and like clockwork the network comes back up to full speed when the “normal people” go back to work.
Also like clockwork… the network goes offline. Just about every week on Friday and Saturday evening after midnight the network goes offline. Sometimes for 20 minutes, sometimes for several hours. You will also find that many Saturday mornings it is still not online. That sucks when you are trying to push out a new development release.
Comcast swears they do not do routine maintenance at that time. I find that hard to believe. Literally nearly every-single Friday or Saturday this happens. The Internet is completely offline and I can see in the modem log files it is the head end router (their end) not responding.
So true high speed but always off. Also kind of pricey at $150/month for just the Internet service alone.
Finally Knology dropped some new lines in the ground 2 summers ago. I could now choose something besides the OMFG This Is HORRIBLE service of Bellsouth and the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t service of Comcast. Knology would save the day, or so I thought. Last year I decided to finally “make the switch”. 20M/2M service for Internet plus phone plus TV for just $130/month after taxes. Great! Not as fast as Comcast, but I’ll take it.
The honeymoon was perfect. I always got 20M/2M or BETTER speeds. The network connection NEVER EVER NEVER went down. I think I had 3 minutes of down time in 6 months.
Then the “in laws” arrived. And by “in laws” I mean Knology got bought out by a company that was trying to become the next big conglomerate to follow in the footsteps of Comcast. It didn’t take long. Within a month my new in laws trashed the place. Someone decided to reconfigure the network and while Knology claims “backhoe in idaho” (Atlanta actaully) the network was 100% completely dead for most of the southeast for more than 3 days.
First of all, if a SINGLE network fiber can shut down the entire southeast segment of the network and you are an ISP then you’re doing it wrong. Fire the CTO. Now. The guy is an idiot. And while you are at it fire the network engineer. Secondly, it is obvious from the network routes (thanks traceroute) that the configuration of the network was notably changed.
After the “backhoe was backed up” and the problem was fixed, nothing has ever been the same. The in laws may have left but the damage to the relationship at home has been done. And just to remind you of the experience, the “in laws” send a friendly post card in the mail every now & then… OK about every DAY…. by giving you 1/10th your contracted service speed. The New Knology (post merger) has completely FUBARed their network. Now days of 1Mb downloads are common and it is killing my productivity.
Not too mention I can no longer stream Honey Boo Boo without waiting 12 hours… I might as well watch it on… GASP…. regular ol’ television. I’ll have plenty of time while I wait for my Windows Update to download.
Grade: A (last summery) to D+ (today)
High Tech Yes, High Speed No
Apparently, even with all the high tech businesses in the neighborhood, NONE of the perks that come with it have trickled out into the local economy. Benefit Focus and Blackbaud are miles from my home, they have high speed. But they only pulled private fiber to their buildings. Google is up in Goose Greek about 20 miles away. Again, nothing for us down here in Charleston County as the major trunks all stop right outside of town at their facility. Amazon is in the upstate and again has a private fiber network that nobody up there can get. People Matter is moving in downtown, I’m not sure what they are using but I’m guessing they will provision with AT&T or SCANA directly to get a dark fiber lit. Again, the network here is not improving.
Part of the problem is that SCANA owns 80% of the fiber in the ground. More than half of it is not lit. But I’ve tried working with them in the past and they want an exorbitant rate to utilize their lines. You also can’t get it very far from the main Route 26 corridor, which means tens-of-thousands of dollars to run it to most “outlying” locations like the “boonies of Mount Pleasant” (a significant metro area adjacent to downtown Charleston).
I’m not sure what “powers that be” are stopping new companies from getting into the ISP business, but some unusual market factors are at work. Charleston Metro Area hosts over 300,000 residents and it growing by more than 10% annually. It is an up-and-coming major metro market yet there is near-zero investment in high speed infrastructure ANYWHERE in the state. You can see from $7.2 BILLION dollars that was offered by the US Government to improve high speed just how much South Carolina earned in comparison to our neighbors.
So here I wait for some new savior to come along. Google Fiber…. Verizon FIOS… maybe some company down the street on a private fiber line will install WiMAX. I can dream can’t I?
Looks like my 10MB download is finally done… back to work…. for now.