Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cox ups speeds dramatically—in Northern Virginia

Its always pleasing to see what a little competition can do. Broadband reports notes that Cox has raised its speed cap dramatically in Northern Virginia—to as much as 15 megs download for its most expensive residential tier—in an apparent attempt to slow losses to fiber-optic based competition from Verizon. (A little much-needed competition is one of the chief advantages of LUS' plan to build a fiber-optic network in Lafayette. It suggests yet another reason to vote yes on July 16th even if you are perfectly satisfied with Cox: "Vote yes! For better service....from Cox!")

Northern Virginia near Washington DC is one of the nation's wealthiest "exurban" communities but has long complained of wretched Internet service. So it makes sense that Verizon would move aggressively in this area. And it makes sense that Cox would fight to protect its wealthy customers. And that is the simple and largely true explanation. But saying that doesn't explain why this response is banner news on the Internet sites devoted to broadband. Why is this competitive response surprising and unique? After all, Verizon is rolling out its fiber in places across the country. The answer seems to be, at least in part, because in Northern Virginia Cox can respond—and in most places the cablecos can't come near matching Verizon's fiber. And for that near-parity it appears to owe gratitude to a meddling government. As broadband reports notes:
A skirmish between Cox and Fairfax county started in 1999, when the cable company purchased the network of Media General. Cox was slow to update the newly acquired networks - which - if you take a trip back to our forums in 2001, offered a connection quality easily bested by a 300baud modem hooked to a Wildcat! BBS.

Fairfax County took action against the provider for delays and hit them with a $2 million fine. They then began fining them $2,000 each day they failed to meet upgrade obligations. By 2003, the half-a-billion dollar upgrade of the old Media General network began to take shape.
So in forcing Cox to meet its contractual obligations locally, Fairfax County probably made it possible for Cox to nearly effectively answer a real competitive challenge. Of course, if there had been real competition in the area before Verizon arrived bearing fiber, it would probably have not have been necessary for the county to insist on adequate infrastructure.

Cox raised the cap on its premier tier of service to a nominal 15 megs in response to the challenge from Verizion for these prime customers. It's a great upgrade at first glance—and we got a similar but lesser sort of upgrade (it maxes at 6 megs for the highest-priced tier locally, I believe) not long after it became plain that LUS wasn't going to back down on its plan—but Cox's new Northern Virgina offering remains 10 dollars more than what Verizon is charging for the same speed cap. And not all speed caps are the same. When any company, be it Cox, Verizon, BellSouth, or presumably LUS, sells you a certain download/upload speed (its 15/2 in Northern Virginia) they are really selling you not a speed but a cap. They are telling you that you can use up to but not beyond a particular number, the cap.

Time out for a brief explanation: cable companies cannot sell you a guaranteed speed because you are on a shared line with other users. In one common example, they split 24 megabytes between users in a neighborhood of many potential users. As long as their service is unpopular they can deliver the 5 megs you've paid for. But if 5 users all try to download at the same time they're trying to use 25 megs--1 meg more than is available--and if 10 users try it, nobody can get more than 2.5 megs--half of what you thought you paid for. It's in the cable company's best interest to oversubscribe the lines and it is industry standard procedure to do so. Hence, no guarantees.

The implication is pretty clear: raising the cap is useful only if the bandwidth is available. If Cox Northern Virgina hasn't really increased capacity, then it is little more than a marketing ploy in terms of your day-to-day experience. The cap—the advertised speed—is much less interesting than the raw bandwidth available at your door. All things being equal, if Verizon has much more headroom in its system (and it does), then you are more likely to get the advertised speed. And it's 10 dollars a month cheaper.

Right now all these details and technicalities really don't matter much in Lafayette. But this is just the sort of reasoning we'll have to go through if LUS gets the chance to build our network. And expect such reasoning to tend in favor of the system with real headroom: LUS'.


Anonymous said...

You want us to vote yes at what cost ? cox 0$ bellsouth 0$ LUS 185$ million

John said...

Hey anonymous, reptitious fiber411 cowerer. Wouldn't you like to use your real name in public? I do. Tim does.

It shows some courage. You know, a little willingness to actually stand up for what you (pretend) to believe.

John St. Julien

You might trouble yourself to actually respond to the post instead of the image you carry around in your head about the world. Here is the actual argument presented for voting for fiber which did not, in this post, mention build cost:

(A little much-needed competition is one of the chief advantages of LUS' plan to build a fiber-optic network in Lafayette. It suggests yet another reason to vote yes on July 16th even if you are perfectly satisfied with Cox: "Vote yes! For better service....from Cox!")

Incidently, if no has pointed this out to you they should have: the idea that Cox and BellSouth will not make sure you pay for any upgrade they do is ludicrous. Of course they will. And they'll want revenues from you to pay for it in 3 or 4 years, not 11-25. And they'll want to continue to extract wealth from our city for the rest of forever in the form of duopoly profits.

The comparison, were there any rationality being expressed should be OVER 25 years between Cox (something like, and this probably way conservative) 4-500 million in interest, profits and state and national taxes extracted from Lafayette for the upgrade, BellSouth, Ditto, and LUS 185 million (or some such) in direct costs.

A similar, but less dramatic, analysis could be made of "risk" which you may, imprecisely actually mean. If you don't think there is any risk to customers and locales when businesses invest in a large project that restructures their model you really aren't thinking straight. Can we say Enron? Failing Airlines? Fruit of the Loom?

Sorry for the clearly exasparated language but you caught me in a busy, exasperated moment. As might be said in another place: GEEEZZ LOLOLOLOL

Micheal Jordan said...

John ? are you the John St Julien from Lafayette or Youngsville? Dont get your panties all knotted up Sir Lafayette will be in debt soon enough dont worry thanks to the unlikes of scum like you and Mr Durel

Michea Jordan said...

And you want my real name because? You want to fight me cause of freedom of speach must be a upset bellsouth and cox cust. if so get you a cell phone and rabbit ears or quit crying! do you still buy gas ? do you still buy steaks ? seems those prices has risen but you still gas up and meat up so lightin up guppy

John said...

These guys are stunningly (in)articulate. They never bother to actually respond to the argument at hand, mostly, one has to suspect, because they are incapable of it.

Incidently, Michael isn't his real name, if it was he could spell it. And his link would go somewhere real.

My name is John St. Julien. I live in Lafayette. Look me up in the phone book.

And I still think only people who are afraid that others will find out who the are hide behind the skirts of anonymity. In this case his decision is wise. I wouldn't want anyone to know I thought so poorly either.

Micheal Jordan said...

Look at Mr. Webster Dicktionary didnt answer my question why would i want to look you up you mean nothing to me zero(definition .4)An argument at which the value of a function vanishes. Go me Go me !!! Sorry sir i didnt know i was writing as paper on (thorns)or pricks like dey say aron hur ....See people like you think they have it all figured out jump on a band wagon and ride the coat tails of the mainstream hot idea .In reality you have no real reception of the business or concept of the business that is up for debate what you know about fiber is about as much as t-boy on the levee knows about fiber and i could say the samething for myself (except im in the communications business) ive been working with it for a while now SIR. Whats wrong with the project is how we are going to fund it and secondly why do we need it every service they want to offer is offered out there right now with comp. Why do we need LUS to get into this why why why ...if thats the case i want slemco as my elec. provider .We as a community need to stand up and look at the picture the BIG PICTURE we are heading for more debt than we can handle ....this is for our children "they " say well you know what it sure is for our children to pay higher taxes ...And Mr St Julien good luck in debt for the next 30 years if you see it

John said...

Mr. LackOCourage sez:

"you have no real reception of the business."

And I am supposed to treat these illiterate potshots from hiding with respect? I absolutely refuse to apologize for learning to read, write, and think.

Read Mr. LackOCourage's post slowly and carefully. (The discipline is good building your ability to focus, even on unappetizing things.) And then tell me: Is this a reasoning process that you can respect.

I rest my case about these guys.

Micheal Jordan said...

What are you saying you dont like me cause i cant spell or im black ?

You are just a tired and bitter old fart !!! with one foot on a banana peel and one in a coffin ...i hope you get your fiber maybe you can be a little more happier....and the reason i post so slowly is because i have a life i dont wait for post and try to be mr spell checker ...because basically is all you fiber people do ,and you call yourself smart how can you when you are staring at millions and millions of dollars we are going to be in debt does LUS plan to keep up with two of the biggest communications companies in the WORLD not the parish not the state THE M'FING WORLD YOU STUPID BLUE HAIR .....for someone who lives on the northside like you do should be leaning the other way on the fiber issue but you are probably one of the cust from bellsouth or cox that runs a bill up and skips on it thats the cust. LUS will get ....but anyway like Mr Badeaux said opinions are like body parts some are a little smellier than others im sure yours reeks the smell of asorbene jr spell check that and ask me if i care you can correct me all you want my point hit a nerve and i love making old fots like you blow smoke cause thats all you do is stay home retired and complain all day typical old people .....why dont you go greet at walmart on the northside that is if your not racist which you probably are

Have a good day old fot

John said...

I didn't have a clue as to your race or ethnicity (and still don't since you don't have the courage to back up your spew with your real name).

I'd think that if anyone had exhibited bigotry it'd be you. But, hey, whadda I know? After all I'm just a "STUPID BLUE HAIR."

I bought a house on the Northside because racial stupidity and bigotry has always seemed stupid to me. It still does, no matter the race of its proponents.

A pretty big chunk of why I support this fiber initiative is strongly related. The northside will get good, clean, equal access to fiber. Something that will never come close to happening if we rely on the incumbents. Today's stories should be enough to convince you that BellSouth is planning to leave 20% of us out unless we bribe them.

If your persona isn't a fake youv'e got your sides completely wrong.

doohap said...

Hi, John:

I must say you have more patience and focus than I, for I couldn't make it through LackOCourage's last post! I was too distracted by the spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors! Kudos to you for pressing through it!

Phyllis (in Fort Worth) :)