Qwest Fiber: The first two weeks

After moving into our new house in Spring of 2008, we made the switch from Comcast over to Qwest, which I’ve been mostly happy with.  I was especially excited to hear the rumors that Fiber was soon coming to Qwest and our part of town.  When I got the email a few weeks ago, I wasted no time to get signed up.  After about two weeks in, I wanted to offer some initial thoughts on the service and hopefully set the expectations for those who may be considering the service.

First off, the speed is pretty exceptional, especially for DSL.  Running a speed test at peak times, we’ve had a pretty steady downstream of 14.7Mb/S, with nearly 4Mb/s upload.  I’ve definitely experienced the fast steeds on my downloading and streaming.  The uploading has been especially exceptional.  We uploaded a bunch of pictures to print in what seemed like a fraction of the time that we were used to it taking.  The service has been very reliable as far as uptime is concerned.  I’ve been pretty happy with the actual fiber.

The modem/router on the other hand.  leaves a lot to be desired.  Previously we were using the M1000 DSL connected to a D-Link router that we’ve been very happy with.  The M1000 is incompatible with the Fiber technology, so we were forced to upgrade our modem to the ActionTech Q1000, which doubles as a router.  This router has pretty much driven me to pull my hair out.  Aside from connecting our computers to the Internet, we use an Xbox connected to Live, as well as have some Remote Desktop ports open into my desktop computer.  However, I had the hardest time making the latter two activities work.  I first tried to use the router in a bridge mode, so that I could use my current router, but that left me with notable latency and issues with port forwarding.  After some considerable work with the router, I was able to solve my port-forwarding issues (which required some application settings to be configured), but was still having the worst time getting the Xbox connected to XboxLive.  I finally solved that problem, after a crazy firm-ware upgrade (which at first bricked my router).  Right now things are working correctly for the most part, but I really wish Qwest would offer a stand-alone modem, especially with the third issue.

.The cost of upgrade/installation.  We got our first bill from the changes, and Qwest charged me a whopping $122 for “service addition & changes”.  Obviously the modem/router cost was included in this charge, but this is still a pretty baffling fee for a self-installation.  Part of the reason was that this was such a shock was because the chat agent that placed the order for me didn’t inform of these charges.  In fairness, I didn’t ask for the total of the new charges, but I think that anything over $100 should warrant a notification when you place the order.  If you’re considering upgrading to the Fiber, be ready for this charge.  This also reinforces my wish of having a stand-alone modem device that would have likely been cheaper.

I think if you’re salivating for faster internet service and live in an area where this Fiber is available, it’s a great solution.  However if you have the slightest hesitation, this modem/router may keep you on the slower side of the fence.

Tech Gripe: Does Qwest cap uploads?

This is another question/technology gripe I’m throwing out there to see if anyone is experiencing the same thing: Does Qwest DSL drop your connection when you’re uploading large files?

I was doing some Greenfoot work tonight, and am trying to upload our new tracks to a hosting/steaming service.  The service is asking for WAV files so that they can encode on-the-fly – fair enough.  I upload the WAV files ranging from 40-55mb, not huge by any means, but sizeable.  I tried uploading directly to the web site, but about 20% into the upload my DSL connection drops for a few minutes, reconnecting to a different IP address and breaking my upload.  I’ve tried different protocols/applications (Live Mesh, FTP), which resulted in the same behavior.  I’ve eliminated any doubt that this is being caused by a specific machine, then eliminated my router from the equation.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me using Qwest DSL, so I’m left with my original question: Is Qwest dropping DSL connections that are uploading large files?

I *think* I’m solving the issue by breaking the file into 2mb pieces, FTP’ing the files to a non-DSL machine and uploading them that way.  Talk about a pain in the ass!

Trying to lose the cable

The countdown is on until closing on the house (39 days!) and all of those pre-move activities need to get in gear.  One of those things is figuring out how our information utilities – TV & Internet.  Currently I’m paying a hefty $150 check to Comcast each month for both digital cable and Internet.  If you were to itemize my bill you would see:

  • 1 HD DVR Digital Receiver
  • 1 Standard Digital Receiver
  • Cable Internet (I own the modem)
  • Digital Plus (or whatever it’s called) that includes the music videos tier
  • Sports Tier package (thanks Comcast v. NFL Network)
  • HBO (to watch Inside the NFL)

One of the advantages of moving is to reassess whether you’re using all of those services and better define your needs.  Things have changed since I originally subscribed to this package and I’m realizing I don’t need the bazillion channels that I’m not watching.  I also no longer need HBO as Inside the NFL has been canceled from the network.  A good HD package is important to me, and I want a DVR that actually works rather than the piece-of-crap that Comcast gives us.  I also want the NFL Network, and do resent paying an extra $5 a month to Comcast just to get it.  The music videos are nice, but not really necessary.  With that in mind, I’m evaluating my satellite options:

DirectTV: $55.96 (for 12 months, rates hike back up to $73.96). Setup Costs: None, but $99 DVR purchase fee.  Pros: You get Sci-Fi in HD (good for BSG) and they have a good offering of HD channels (includes NFL Network on standard HD tier).  They also have the NFL Sunday Ticket package available, something I may be interested in having in the fall.  Cons: Their DVR is rated as moderate, price hikes $20 after 1 year.

Dish Network: $52.99 (no indication of price hike) Setup Costs: $50 (opted out of 2 year agreement), doesn’t indicate about DVR costs.  The HD channels are good, not as many as DirectTV but it does have the NFL Network. Pros: Cheapest solution and offers the best value of HD that I watch.  The DVR is the highest rated on CNet. Cons: Not sure about DVR charges, no NFL Sunday Ticket option.

Comcast: $102 but if I remove HBO it’ll drop $11. Setup Costs: Unknown since it would transfer.  Decent selection of HD channels. Pros: It’s what we know and most convenient to move. Cons: Crappy DVR, still need to pay $5/month for NFL Network, no Sunday Ticket option.

The Internet Wrinkle

Dish Network looks like the best option to go with for now, but now comes the Internet wrinkle: I want high speed Internet, and Comcast offers the fastest download speeds.  I like to game from my Xbox Live, so a consistent speed is needed as well.  However, I’m pissed about their throttling and wouldn’t mind canceling the service.  DSL isn’t an attractive option because of the slower download speed and the fact that I we may need a phone line (don’t know about naked DSL in Fort Collins).  There are some WiFi providers in Northern Colorado, but I’m concerned that my HOA will prevent me from putting an antenna on the roof.

The ideal situation: I would like to go Dish + Comcast High Speed.  My friend Kyle told me that he had it done before and a splitter can be installed, however this result in momentary connection loss, which can be very bad for gaming.  The other thing I’m not sure about is that there are currently only 2 cable drops in the house (Living + Master Bedroom) so it may be difficult to split those cables as well.  I could always run another cable to the office area, but I realize what a pain it is to run cables through finished walls.

If anyone has any ideas about the Internet solution (either naked DSL or some Comcast tips), I would greatly appreciate any input.

Update: After further research Qwest advertises up to 7mbps and offers naked DSL for $45 a month – comparable to what Comcast is doing.  I’ll have to research this.