Fiber connectivity can make a huge difference in your life. When we started planning our move, my first requirement was that we find a home with fiber connectivity. It was not a snap decision. My work career in technology will hit four decades in 2022, and all of those years have revolved around a home office. Recent changes in what is expected from home office workers have reinforced the lessons learned from years of trying to stay connected enough to do my job.
Like many people who have been on a cable modem for decades, my experience has been a roller-coaster with some very frustrating experiences. Our most recent home before the move was in a new subdivision serviced by a national cable company. By the time we moved in February 2021, our speeds had increased to 488 Mbps down and 24 Mbps up. Because of bundling our phone service also was delivered by cable modem. The numbers looked impressive on the surface.
However, with a job that involves clients in over twenty states and a home office over seven hours driving away from our corporate office, experience had taught me that I could still expect problems with video conferencing which had become critical to meeting the needs of our clients since the pandemic.
Video conferencing with our cable modem, even with the best speeds that my cable modem company could deliver, involved using both the phone and my computer to establish a video conference link. Other collaborative tools like Slack were not consistently reliable when making phone calls or sharing screens. Even worse, sharing files was anything but instant since many of the proposals I prepared often reached sizes that were unimaginable just a few years ago. I depended on tools like Box for sharing files and an unreliable Internet connection is a nightmare when sharing files or screens in real time.
When we got to the point of making an offer on a new home, we had two homes with fiber connectivity and one with DSL. We quickly discarded the DSL home and bought one of the fiber homes. Having a symmetric 500 Mbps fiber connection provided by our local telephone company has taken connectivity worries out of my life and office. Now when I am joining a video conference whether through Zoom, Teams, or GoToMeeting, all I do is click a link for crystal clear voice and video. I no longer tie up our home phone line for audio in what can only be described as often frustrating video conferences where my participation was often flaky because of connectivity problems.
My biggest worry beyond office connectivity in making the switch to fiber was my wife and how she would take to streaming. What we could get through streaming turned out to be far more flexible and entertaining than I expected. While my wife cannot see all of her favorite shows live, she has not had to give up any shows and and she has found a far broader choice of shows. We get local live television through Paramount+. We rotate through a number of streaming services, cancelling them sometimes for several months until their content has been refreshed. My wife who is somewhat reluctant with technology changes has learned how to stream the shows that she wants without help from me.
In our previous home, our cable service had the most basic TV service, the best Internet, and nationwide phone service. It took constant vigilance and regular arguments with the cable company to keep our bills under $180 per month. By the time we moved, our efforts to stay within the $180 meant we not longer had PBS, and saw only a very few sports events. Even the Weather Channel had disappeared from our service.
In addition to the monthly expense, an average of once a month, I went through an often frustrating reset of my cable modem due to loss of connectivity. I also had to switch out my cable modem every few years. At least twice during those switches, I lost connectivity for a day or more due to problems getting the new modems configured.
I do not miss my cable bills or the headaches. I love our fiber connection.
Our current costs with symmetric 500 Mbps (which not everyone needs- we have 29 connected devices in our home), nationwide/Canadian VOIP telephone service and a monthly budget of $40 in rotating streaming services is $140. Every service that we have now is better than what we had before. The almost $500 in annual savings is certainly a welcome bonus. We experimented with streaming while we were on cable, and there is no doubt in my mind that streaming is far better with the fiber than what we had in our previous house. We just don’t have buffering issues now. I have also found that a simple large battery backup allows me to run our fiber network during power outages. There have been NO connectivity battles and I have not even talked to our Internet service provider since I signed up for service ten months ago.
With all that and what fiber to the home can provide now and in the future, I do not see us ever buying another home without fiber.
David Sobotta is a VP and Senior Broadband Analyst with WideOpen Networks which is currently building fiber to the home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He and his wife live in a very rural subdivision in Davie County near Mocksville, NC.