NE SPARC – Fiber Internet

I can remember February 2018 and the anticipation of getting fiber internet from AT&T in the Lakes. Watching the linemen string up the fiber on the poles, and having conversations with our neighbor who works with AT&T about the progress of construction. For me, fiber internet in the home is the holy grail for any geek or technology enthusiast. Well fast forward 2 years later, and our power company (Nemepa) is in the neighborhood stringing up fiber and getting into the internet business. The branding of product is being called “NESPARC“. What this means for us as customers is competitive pricing.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve worked in Technology for 20+ years, and have been taking things apart that might not have made it back together for the past 30 years… I wanted to clarify that before I go into the next part of the this post about Fiber Internet, to indicate how enthusiastically geeky I am. 

Most of us have access to the internet and own several devices that rely on the internet to function. The internet, the cloud, Wi-Fi, all terms that get interchanged, but ultimately end up at the same place. It’s all one big connected network, the only difference is being public (outside your home) or private (inside your home). Our devices communicate with each other over networks, the maximum capacity of those networks is measured by the term of bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the theoretical maximum, and is not the same as the speed you actually achieve.

Access to public networks (the Internet) is brought to your home by either a copper wire or fiber. Copper cable transmits information over an electrical pulse, while fiber uses pulses of infrared laser light over stands of optical glass as narrow as a human hair. Light is faster than electrical pulses, so fiber can transmit more bits of data per second and offer higher bandwidth. All data signals degrade over distance, but copper suffers a 94% signal loss over distances greater than 100 meters, or the height of the Statue of Liberty, while fiber only loses 3% over the same distance.

Should you care about any of this? Probably not, but if you ever needed some trivial knowledge about the difference between copper and fiber for the next time you’re on Jeopardy, now you know! The only take away is when more customers switch to fiber, from the same old copper wires that have been around since the Telegraph, in time will decrease the cost and improve the quality of services available.

For me personally, not only am I looking forward to another fiber option in our market to create competition on cost, but also the quality of services provided. When AT&T brought fiber into the lakes, I was a Maxxsouth customer. I happily paid the price required for the 1 gigabit per second download speed, and settled for the 15 megabits per second upload speed. Here comes AT&T offering the prospect of 1 gigabit speeds in both directions. The change from Maxxsouth (which relied on copper) to AT&T fiber also meant that when the power went out in the Lakes, my internet connection didn’t fail because I have all my private equipment power by a battery back up. I’ve worked from home for the past 5 years, there is nothing more infuriating for me than to be working and lose power and internet.

The quality of fiber services provided by AT&T were consistently fast as advertised in the beginning, but all great things come to an end in my experience. There has been a steady and measurable decrease in the speed provided compared to the speeds I’m paying for. Residential and Business customers connect to the same internet, but there is only service level agreements for Businesses compared to Residential customers being supplied with “best effort”. This business model is true with all internet service providers.

Max Bandwidth 1 Gbps Down/Up 1 Gbps Down/Up 1 Gbps Down / 15 Mbps Up
Monthly Usage Caps? No No (on 1 Gbps plan only) No (on 1Gbps plan only)
Cost per Month $84.90 $100 $100
Require Hardware/Modem No (Uses ONT – Optical Network Terminal) Yes (Residential Gateway – AT&T Property) Yes (Modem – Rent or Buy your own)
Use own Router Yes Yes (with some moderate configuration) Yes
Available in the Lakes Within the next 30 days Yes Yes
Contract Required No Yes No

Above is a comparison table of the 3 providers available to the Lakes at the present. Depending on your personal needs, you likely do not need the fastest speed possible. But if you are paying the premium price, you should get the premium service.

Check the current speed of your internet connection by clicking the link here: 

This speed test is available at anytime by clicking on the “Internet Speed Test” link under important links on our website.