It Sure is Great to Have ‘Hair on Fire’ Internet During a Pandemic

Check out the speed of our Cox Gigablast service in the image above. The speedtest on the left was a server on the Cox network close to my home, and the one on the right is a connection to a test server all the way across the country in New Jersey. This kind of speed is incredibly useful for us, especially during this time with us all working and staying in our homes. If you can get this kind of speed as well, it might be worth it to upgrade your internet connection now.

My wife and I were fine on our previous Cox internet speed (300Mbps down and 30Mbps up) but then the pandemic hit. Our online usage spiked dramatically and then our son moved home for the foreseeable future and was online all the time. Then his work figured out how to let him perform his analysis work from home, and that word “dramatically” became two words, “Oh-oh!”

That “oh-oh” was because our son would need to download HUGE files (300-600GB in size) as well as be consuming tons of bandwidth every work day. As such, I knew we’d need significantly faster speeds and a lot more bandwidth. Fortunately Cox fiber to the home was available in our brand new development, so even my slower speed was brought to the curb with fiber. But I discovered that it wasn’t simple to get upgraded to Cox’ Gigablast service, a broadband tier which promised speeds and throughput close to 1 gigabit per second download speeds and nearly the same for uploading.

An example of an optical network
terminal on the exterior of a house

Now that we knew significantly faster speeds and bandwidth was needed, I upgraded online in my Cox account. I was puzzled that, after several hours and multiple reboots of my modem and router, the speeds were the same. I then called in to technical support and discovered that I needed an optical network terminal (ONT) which would replace my modem in order to achieve these speeds.

This need for an ONT was puzzling as a Cox fiber expert had to come out a couple of months after our internet was installed as we had an outage (a crimped optical connector by the original tech cracked) and this expert indicated that I could simply go online and upgrade to get Gigablast. My expectations were then set but, after talking to customer support folks on the phone didn’t really know what was needed and why it wasn’t working, and couldn’t help me figure out what was needed.

Next I called in to tech support and, as I discovered on this phone call, what that fiber expert had told me was incorrect: I absolutely had to have that ONT to make Gigablast work.

In order to set up this upgrade to Gigablast:

  • The smart support tech told me that he’d have to “roll a truck” but that couldn’t happen until the end of April. Mainly because no truck tech could enter a home due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
  • He escalated it up the support chain but there was no way the ONT could be put in because it had to be tech-installed inside the house, he said. I then suggested what I’d read about online: Install the ONT on the exterior of the house.
  • The tech put me on hold and escalated it to his boss who then said that yes, it could likely be installed on the exterior of the house.
  • The original tech then told me he could roll a truck for the next day.

During my multiple hour hold time for the original customer support and then during the tech support call, I found the Cox president’s email address on the web and sent him an email. I wanted him to understand that multiple people within customer and technical support really didn’t understand how this all worked, and how incredibly hard it was to upgrade and give him more money!

The spirit of my note was NOT to rant or bitch about the service, but instead was intended to help him understand, from a customer’s perspective, that the process of upgrading to this expensive tier of service was fundamentally broken. That email got me to ‘executive escalation’ and the day after three fiber expert technicians appeared. Within a couple of hours I was up-and-running with a Gigablast fiber connection from Cox!

I’ve left out a bunch of the details as this was a fairly painful process. Fortunately the Cox folks rallied and got it working four days after I initially set up the upgrade, and they were patient, helpful and clearly were working hard to get it installed and working for us and for that I’m grateful.

SO HOW ARE THE SPEEDS, BORSCH?

Wow. Hair on fire fast. Wow. This Gigablast speed has changed everything. Our use of online meeting tech (e.g., WebEx; Zoom; Jitsi Meet; Skype) is SO much better and faster…and we’re involved in A LOT of these daily. We have fewer dropouts with these services which, as it turns out, is the best part of faster speeds. This is especially important to my wife and I because of our son’s massive usage of our connection, which would have caused big disruptions of our online communications with our previously slower speeds.

Watching TV is fast as well. Virtually zero buffering occurs now but actually did before. As all of our TV is streaming, this makes it a much better experience than before.

What I did NOT expect was how much better my use of Vimeo and Flickr are as I deal with uploading media. Just the other day I had to upload a client’s video we edited and the file size was over 4GBs. While that was never that bad, but I started the upload and suddenly it seemed like it was done! The same thing happened when I uploaded about 600MBs of photos and it seemed like they were done instantly. Surprisingly fast, even though intellectually I’m aware of speeds and how it works…but the positive workflow aspects still amazed me.

If you are doing a ton of work on the internet at this time and can afford this type of speed tier (ours, with tax, will be about $110/month) then consider it.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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