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Happy New Years from WideOpen Blacksburg!

  • Posted on: 2 January 2024
  • By: djoyce

Happy New Year! In 2024, we're thrilled to announce that WideOpen Blacksburg is expanding into new neighborhoods, bringing lightning-fast, fiber-optic internet to more households. Our team will be working diligently to make this a reality, and we're committed to providing you with the best service possible. Thank you for choosing WideOpen, and here's to a year filled with seamless connections and improved online experiences.

Best Regards,
The WideOpen Blacksburg Team

The Internet Year of How Much

  • Posted on: 21 December 2022
  • By: woadmin

Consumer Reports recently reported that 84% of their members in March 2022, agreed that Internet service is “as important as water or electricity.” National surveys mirror those numbers with the latest number there being an April 2020 survey showing 80% of all surveyed consumers saying the same thing.

With the importance of Internet services clearly established in most people’s minds, the two questions that beg for answers are how much should you pay for your Internet connectivity and how much Internet should you get for that money.

Consumer reports also published a study on November 17, 2022. It was based on the analysis of 22,000 Internet services bills. They found that “the median cost of high-speed Internet service was $74.99 with nearly half of households paying prices between $60 and $90 per month.”

They also found that it was hard for people who bundled services to actually tell what they are paying because many companies would rather you not know exactly what you are paying so you cannot comparison shop. All this comes at time when the FCC is planning to require what have been called Broadband Nutrition Labels so that you clearly understand what you are getting.

At WideOpen, we are ready for the labels. We already have very clear, easy-to-understand pricing. You will find our pricing displayed on our homepage. On that page along with our pricing are the speeds which will be delivered to your router through our fiber. To find pricing and speeds on the first page is actually fairly rare in the world of Internet pricing.

As part of my job at WideOpen, I also help other communities understand the broadband challenges that they face. One of the first things we deliver to them is a service provider report which details the pricing and speeds available by zip code by provider. I would estimate that less than one in ten Internet service provider of the many that I have surveyed have detailed speed and pricing information on their first page.

Some service providers will not give you pricing without an exact address. They often cloak this in “we have to know your location to make sure we are providing services there” which sort of makes sense except I have had customer service reps tell me they keep the information hidden because they charge different prices in different neighborhoods.

For those service providers who are reluctant to put their pricing on the web, I have to call and talk to a customer support representative. That kind of situation put a consumers at a real disadvantage. Because the only thing in writing would be your notes.

Even then companies can be very vague on speeds and what costs are included. On a recent call I was told, “We just estimate those extra fees. You will see the exact number on your first bill.” Then there are the special discounts that disappear and result in radically higher prices after the first year. Some of the stranger fees masquerading as government fees are there just to pump up the company’s bottomline.

Still I was totally surprised recently when I was told on the phone that the price that I would pay for Internet service would increase $10 a year for the next three years which did not match what was on the web. Sorting out which was right would not be fun.

None of those things happen when you choose WideOpen Blacksburg’s fiber. Our pricing has no gimmicks and the speeds that get delivered to your router are the speeds that we advertise.

Anyone with a technical background will tell you that the speed that gets delivered to your computer has a number of variables included whether your computers have a wired or wireless connection. Some routers are not as efficient in handling high speeds. While I am not on the WideOpen Blacksburg Network , I am on a fiber network in North Carolina where I live. A router swap made a huge difference in my network speeds.

My theory on how much broadband you need, is to budget a specific of money monthly. Then find the most reliable and fastest Internet you can get for that money. I cringe when I see people paying over $200 and sometimes over $300 for bundled Internet, TV, and telephone. I pay far less with fiber and streaming services. You just need to be sensible about the streaming services you use.

Certainly, our symmetric 500 Mbps up and down is right in the sweet spot, $75, or the median cost for Internet connectivity costs discovered by the Consumer Reports study. The difference with our service is that you will actually get 500 Mbps down/ 500 Mbps up, not the much smaller numbers that CR found in their study which included a look at premium services.

Because of the nature of CR study, you cannot draw an exact conclusion on advertised speeds versus actual speeds. However a chart like the one in their report should at least prompt you to run a speed test to see if you are getting close to what you were told you would be getting. Today, at my computer not the router, I tested 936 Mbps down / 939 Mbps up so I am pleased with what I am getting. Are you pleased with your speeds and the price you pay?

David Sobotta
Vice President
WideOpen Networks

1. Page 3- What Consumer Reports Learned From 22,000 Internet Bills.- Dec. 17, 2022

Choose The Right Technology For The Decade

  • Posted on: 17 November 2022
  • By: djoyce

Blacksburg, Virginia, 11/17/2022

Coax Cable

If you’re an adult enjoying the last couple of months in 2022, you likely have faced your fair share of technology decisions. Maybe you remember the decision to get your first cell phone or even better, the decision to upgrade your flip phone to a smartphone? Then there is the life-changing decision to completely give up your landline telephone. Haven’t done that yet? There is still time.

The point is that technology changes and there comes a time when we all move to the next technology. Some of us move faster than others. One of the technologies that I championed for years even before coming to WideOpen is fiber. Some of you have our fiber near your homes in Blacksburg but have yet to take advantage of it even as WideOpen Blacksburg continues signing up customers.

I have been in the technology industry for over four decades whether you believe me or other industry experts, fiber is the future for Internet connectivity for homes.

The reason that I can say this so confidently is that even the old line cable and DSL companies are deploying fiber to the home (FTTH). Verizon long ago stopped doing copper-based DSL as did AT&T. Both are now focusing on only fiber. Recently, we started running into Xfinity/Comcast FTTH. Here is what Xfinity says about fiber.

We’re excited to bring a new all-Internet Protocol (IP) technology, fiber-only network known as EPON (or Ethernet Passive Optical Network) to some communities in your area! If your community has arranged for Comcast to build this new network, you’ll have a faster internet connection, with fast download and dramatically faster upload speeds, access to more advanced TV service and a more reliable network.

So the question is why are they NOT offering you fiber in your Blacksburg neighborhood. The truth is that fiber is expensive to build and if they are already getting revenue from you, they are unlikely to invest a great deal more money to get the same amount of money or less from you.

The other truth is that cable companies are very happy to have you caught between a hard place and a rock with no other company offering better, less expensive Internet connectivity. When cable companies are pressed by communities, they prefer to cloud the decision process by talking about speed upgrades to your current copper cable network. Those rarely come to fruition unless there are competing providers threatening to swoop in and take revenue from the incumbent cable provider.

Industry experts such as the CEO of Bell, Canada’s largest provider of Internet connectivity, have thrown some cold water on the idea that the next generation of coax cable technology, DOCSIS 4.0, is going to solve the upload speed problem for coax cable providers.

The CEO of Canadian operator Bell became the latest to cast doubt on DOCSIS technology’s ability to compete over the long term. His comments came in response to a question about whether Comcast’s recent multi-gigabit DOCSIS demo has Bell concerned that cable players in the country might be able to put up more of a fight against fiber than originally expected.

Bell’s CEO Mirko Bibic argued the trial was conducted in a lab environment – not in real world field conditions. From Bell’s perspective, it still doesn’t see a true path to multi-gig symmetrical speeds using DOCSIS.

“The true symmetrical DOCSIS path is quite unclear, and it’s going to take a while. And even then, I don’t think they’re going to come close to our upload speeds, and it’s going to be an expensive proposition either way,” he said. Bibic said that means operators have to choose: swallow the cost and deploy fiber or make an expensive investment in DOCSIS that has an uncertain payoff.*

To put the final nail in the coax coffin, on November 15, as part of our consulting business we talked to a cable company in another part of the country looking for help. They need help because they have recently been awarded a grant to build 141 miles of fiber and they have also decided to upgrade all of their copper coax connections to fiber.

Actually, the coax-cable coffin has room for one more nail. After realizing that there were no pieces of coax cable in my equipment closet that I could haul out for a picture, I went looking. I went to Walgreen’s which had a wall full of HDMI, Ethernet, and USB C cables but no coax cable, I tried and also struck out at our local Food Lion. I was headed to Lowe’s Home Improvement when I decided to try Dollar General. They had one coax cable but it was behind the counter. It is probably a good rule that if you only find your cables at Dollar General, maybe it is time to start thinking about upgrading how you connect.

All of this means that fiber is future and you should check to see if our fiber is near your home, and if it is, you have another technology decision to make. Are you ready to move up to the Internet’s gold standard of home connectivity- fiber to your house?

If you still need some convincing that you should be thinking about switching to fiber, try this link about staying technologically ahead of your grown kids, Keeping Updated Just Enough to Stifle Giggles.

Or if you really want a dose of how much fun cable technology updates can be, try this post about the last time I upgraded our cable box in 2018. It was the my last cable upgrade since I am lucky enough to be on a fiber network run by North Carolina telephone company that long ago saw the light so to speak and began the process of upgrading their copper network to fiber.

- David Sobotta, Vice President, WideOpen Networks

*Bell isn’t convinced DOCSIS can deliver symmetrical speeds
By Diana Goovaerts, Nov 9, 2022 Fierce Telecom

Connections for the Future

  • Posted on: 15 August 2022
  • By: djoyce

Blacksburg, Virginia, 08/15/2022

Speed Test

Things have changed a lot since the original iMac® introduced “simple” Internet connections. Steve Jobs also introduced USB to us in with the iMac 1998. It was a technology developed at Intel and popularized by Apple. USB replaced a myriad of other connections because it was better, faster, more reliable and easier to use.

Today the number of USB devices on my desk surprises even me and I feel like I was there for USB’s birth. USB provides connections for all sorts of devices to Macs, Windows and Linux computers. They all work.

Most of us in 1998 ending up using the modem to get to the Internet and not the Ethernet port. Connecting to the Internet was often not as easy or simple as the marketing brochures promised. Fortunately, technology changes and those changes have made it much easier to connect and stay connected to today’s Internet.

WideOpen Blacksburg offers symmetric fiber Internet connectivity to its customers. Almost everyone living in Blacksburg today has a home Internet connection but not everyone has fiber. Fiber is better, faster, more secure, and easier on users. It is also competitively priced. Fiber, just like USB, will replace less technologically advanced Internet connections over the next ten years or so. If you do not have or understand fiber, maybe you are wondering why our symmetric fiber is such a big deal?

For lots of good reasons, fiber is often called the gold standard for home Internet connections. Technology adoption moves in stages. Most people are familiar with the technology adoption curve. We all know about the innovators and early adopters but just where do fiber to the home users fit in that curve?

We will get that answer but first let’s get some basic understanding of how to evaluate home Internet connections by looking at concepts that are familiar to everyone. When the first Interstate highways were built in the fifties they were a huge technological advance over two lane highways.

The one thing that was quickly discovered about Interstate highways is that the communities that had immediate access prospered. Also businesses and people who quickly figured out how to take advantage of them did exceptionally well. Interstate highways had the capacity to move huge amounts of traffic much more easily than two-lane roads which were often clogged with slow traffic.

Fiber is an even more capable technological advance than Interstate highways. While you have to build more lanes to increase the capacity of Interstate highways, with fiber you increase capacity by changing the electronics at the ends. It would be like putting a bigger entrance and a larger exit on a stretch of highway and magically more lanes appearing in the road between them. Fiber is technologically advanced because it moves information with light.

Fiber is also proven technology. Fiber has been the Internet backbone for decades. TAT-8, a transatlantic fiber optic cable, was built in 1988 and linked the United Kingdom, France and the US. Fiber is also a well-tested commercial technology which has become a cost effective way to deliver Internet connectivity to homes. WideOpen was involved in the design and construction of nDanville, the Danville, Virginia fiber network. Their fiber network by all measures contributed to their economic revitalization. Amazingly, Danville’s fiber network has been in operation since 2008. Since FTTH (fiber to the home) was being offered in 2008 in Danville, we are well past the early adopter phase. In the fall of 2011, Danville became the home of a Cray Super Computer. Their fiber infrastructure played a role in bringing it to town. Since FTTH (fiber to the home) was being offered in 2008, we are well past the early adopter phase.

Fiber is superior technology because it moves information faster. The best way to understand the advantage fiber is to look at the fiber speeds that are already available. Chattanooga, Tennessee’s fiber provider, ECB, deployed 10 Gbps residential connections in 2015. In August 2022, they announced the availability of symmetric 25 Gbps for residences and business. It is unlikely that there are many people who need that much bandwidth today, but it does mean the fiber that we build to your house today will be more than capable of meeting your full connectivity needs now and far in the future.

Looking at the big picture of Internet connectivity from an individual homeowner’s perspective is easy if you have recently gotten a fiber connection like I did. When we moved to Mocksville, North Carolina, eighteen months ago, we evaluated a number of things from the perspective of how will it meet our needs five or even ten years from now? Our Internet connectivity was one of our prime concerns and having been on the Internet since 1993, my understanding of the technology gave me the tools that I needed to make a decision.

I am in my eleventh year working for WideOpen and like my previous years in technology at Apple, it has been as a remote worker with a home office and an Internet connection. It did not take a lot of math to figure out that the coax-cable technology we had been using for years was not improving fast enough to meet my business and personal needs. Beyond work, I take thousands of photographs a year and store some big files from my books in the cloud. I am not unusual in today’s world.

In fact even if you are an average US household, you likely use more data than you think. The data we use is growing rapidly and that growth has shown no real signs of slowing as our economy is reshaped by new pandemic-driven work habits.

“Consumer broadband consumption in North America reached a milestone in the fourth quarter of 2021 as averages hit 536.3 gigabytes (GB) – surpassing half a terabyte (TB) – according to a new study from OpenVault.”

“That figure represents an increase of 165% when compared to the average of 203GB per month OpenVault found in its Q4 2017 study.”

As you read the balance of this article keep in mind that your bandwidth needs are going to grow a lot over the next few years. Your broadband connection should be able to handle that growth.

Almost nine years ago in 2013, when I wrote an article, “ Just How Bad Is Your Internet Connection ,” our cable connection delivered 32.24 Mbps down and 5.49 Mbps up. When we moved in Feb. 2021, we were getting 484 down and 24 Mbps up. While it looks fast (and the download speed is except my network ping reading was at 27 milliseconds- ping is a good measure of the responsiveness or delay in your connection), what it really shows is that our download speed was fifteen times what it had been nine years earlier but our upload speed had NOT even gotten to five times what it was. My needs as a video conference user/content provider were not being met.

It is obvious to heavier users of the “Cloud,” that coax speeds have focused on downloads and not successfully pushed ahead with faster upload speeds that we need. In their defense, the technology to increase upload speeds with coax cable is difficult and sometimes requires a lot of tuning. As is often the case with a technology like coax that is pushing its limits, users’ needs are growing faster in different directions (uploads) than coax cable technology can easily deliver today. The recording industry tried a number of things before iTunes® and similar services driven by new more scalable technology won the day.

As many people learned during the pandemic, upload speeds matter and if you are sharing a connection with people in your own household and your household is also on shared bandwidth with your neighborhood instead of using fiber which provides more individual bandwidth, you can get frustrated. Work does not get completed on time, video conferences don’t go as planned and files, including homework ones might not get where they need to hit those all important deadlines.

The questions we asked ourselves when deciding to jump from one technology to another one were pretty simple. Is the new technology proven technology? Is it better technology? Is it reasonably priced? Will it provide my family with a better experience and will it have the capability to grow with our needs over the years?

I answered all of those questions in the affirmative so I went with fiber. The only thing cable had going for it was a low priced introductory offer but I remember well how the rates rapidly went up at the end of the second year when I signed up the last time.

While I am living in rural Davie County, North Carolina, across the road from a twenty acre soybean field, I have Gig fiber with speed regularly exceeding 900 Mbps up and down. My ping has dropped from 27 ms to 1 or 2 ms so I have a much more responsive connection. I could have chosen any of at least three other technologies. On July 31, our power flickered out for a couple of minutes during a thunderstorm. As the Internet and our WiFi came back up a minute or so later, I was reminded of all the similar times that I had spent staring at cable modem lights for what seemed like ages as I waited for all the signals to sync so the Internet could return.

If you decide to not to go with fiber, remember cable companies are still working to commercialize the technology that will allow them to theoretically compete with the fastest upload speeds that we are offering today to our customers in Blacksburg. Are you willing to wait the years that it will take them to get DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications) 4.0 finalized, out of the labs, debugged and deployed in the field? You will also be gambling on the cost that they will eventually charge you.

Fiber is a proven technology, now available at a competitive price. To quote the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Meanwhile, fiber systems have at least a 10,000 (yes ten…thousand) fold advantage over cable systems in terms of raw bandwidth.” What that means for an individual homeowner is that there is plenty of proven technology already in place to make your fiber connection even better next year and five or ten years down the road.

I mentioned fiber is the “gold standard”of Internet connectivity. With ever more photos and videos being produced in your home along with all the other always-on digital services that are rapidly becoming essential to our lives, why wouldn’t you go for the gold and snatch a great fiber connection with symmetrical upload speeds?

I cannot think of a single reason. There are video solutions out there for streaming that mimic the cable experience. There is someone in our house, my wife, who was convinced that streaming would be impossible to learn. That turned out not to be the case. She now owns our Amazon Fire remote. Remember the first self-serve gas pumps and ATMs? When they came out, we were all surprised that we mastered them without very much angst.

Wherever you are in the broadband world and whatever technology you have, take a close look at local companies providing fiber . It is likely they will be committed to providing great service because they are your neighbors.

iMac® and iTunes® are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.

1. Light Reading- Average data consumption eclipses half a terabyte per month

- David Sobotta, Vice President, WideOpen Networks