5x Faster Internet for $5

June 7, 2013

CableOnelogo_2Earlier this week my internet provider, Cable One, announced that as of June 10, 2013 it would be dropping the monthly data cap with overage fees on its 50 Mbps (megabits per second) internet service. They started offering that 50 Mbps service two years ago for $50/month, but internet-only users like myself, who chose not to bundle television and phone service with it, faced a 50 GB/month (gigabyte per month) cap with $0.50/GB overage fee, while those with the provider’s television/internet/phone bundle had a 100 GB/month cap with the same overage fee.

Since I’ve been using about 90 GB/month (CableOne subscribers can see their usage on their MyAccount website), moving to the old 50 Mbps plan from my uncapped Premium 10 Mbps plan would have increased my monthly bill from $53/month to approximately $70/month, plus the cost of renting or purchasing a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. That was too steep for me, so I stayed on the uncapped slower plan. Their change in policy, however, meant I could upgrade to the faster plan at minimal cost.

The faster plan is not necessarily unlimited; Cable One says they will still have a soft cap of 300 GB/month, urging subscribers who exceed that cap to move to new plans they will eventually offer: 60 Mbps with a 400 GB/month cap and 70 Mbps with a 500 GB/month cap.

Once CableOne pushed out a revision to their service agreement, confirming that the higher 300 GB/month cap would be going into effect, I went to my local CableOne office and upgraded to their 50 Mbps plan. I told them I had a DOCSIS 2.0 modem (a D-Link DCM-202), which I purchased years back to avoid rental charges. They said it would max out at between 20 and 30 Mbps, so I decided to rent from them a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, a Motorola SB6180. Switching to the 50 Mbps plan for $50/month, plus $8/month for the modem rental, increased my monthly cost for internet service from $53/month to $58/month. Paying $5 more per month for five times more bandwidth makes good sense. I could buy a used Motorola SB6180 for $40, but given the speed at which the internet is evolving (pun intended), I’ll probably just rent from them.

I went home and swapped out the cable modems. The internet came right up, but I didn’t have time until that evening to test the bandwidth. Aargh!  It was still running at 10 Mbps for downloads instead of the 50 Mbps I had purchased.

I was distracted by other business for a few days and then today I confirmed I was still only getting 10 Mbps. So I telephoned their local number and their automated system directed me to one of their internet support folks. He rebooted my modem, and voila! My download bandwidth quintupled. I should have thought of rebooting the modem myself, but their tech support was prompt and painless.

Below are the bandwidth results I’ve been getting with speedtest.net on my desktop computer and its iOS app on my iPad and iPhone 5, all via my Apple Airport Extreme A1354 router.

Device Connection Type Download Speed (Mbps) Upload Speed (Mbps)
Windows 7 Desktop Ethernet to Airport Extreme Router 47-48 2.2
iPad Airport Extreme Router
802.11n 5 GHz WiFi
20 2.4
Airport Extreme Router
802.11n 2.5 GHz WiFi
18 2.4
iPhone 5 Airport Extreme Router
802.11n 5 GHz WiFi
22 2.4
Airport Extreme Router
802.11n 2.5 GHz WiFi
21 2.4

Speedtest.net says my desktop’s internet download bandwidth is faster than 73% of the U.S., but the overhead on my WiFi network lowers my real-world WiFi speed to about 20 Mbps, which is faster than about 65% of the U.S.

Will this speed upgrade make a significant difference in my internet experience?  Yes, if it prevents some of the pauses and stuttering I encounter with YouTube clips and other streaming video. Streaming video, in the form of podcasts, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video, has almost completely displaced broadcast television for me, and I cancelled my cable television service over five years ago.

I hope the upgrade makes downloading the morning newspaper a bit faster, although I get the Tulsa World on my iPad over WiFi, so it will only double, not quintuple, that speed — if the newspaper’s servers can push the bits fast enough in the first place.

My new 50 Mbps service is still 20 times slower than the 1 Gbps service Google Fiber offers in Kansas City for $70/month. But I once connected online using a 300 baud analog modem, so my new service is over 166,000 times faster than that, which makes me feel much better. 🙂

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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