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Updated: Bright House Tells Florida: Forget About Fiber Because We Already Have It, But You Can’t

Shhh... Bright House's fiber network is a secret.

Volusia County’s consideration of a community-owned fiber optic network has been scoffed at by incumbent cable provider Bright House Networks, which claims the network is “redundant” and unnecessary.

The proposed fiber project is being promoted by Jim Cameron, vice president of government relations for the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.  The organization believes a public-private fiber-optic network could do wonders for economic development across the Fun Coast.

But the idea of stringing miles of fiber to connect area businesses to a gigabit-speed network brought rolled eyes from the folks at the cable company.

“We have miles and miles of fiber-optic lines in Volusia County,” Donald Forbes, senior director of corporate communications for Bright House told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “Where anyone is willing to do business with us, we can make it happen . . . You want it, we’ve got it.”

But area businesses supportive of Cameron’s initiative are mystified by Bright House’s secretive-fiber-network, because few ever heard of it before.

Jason Frederick, business development director for WorkSmart MD, a Daytona Beach medical billing company, was just one example.  The News-Journal reports Frederick was surprised when he was told that Bright House claims to have fiber lines in the county that can deliver Internet at one gigabit per second, about 200 times faster than average broadband service in the U.S., or faster.

“I haven’t heard anything about Bright House offering one gig, and my tech guy is laughing (incredulously) right now,” said Frederick.

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine."

In Search Of… Bright House’s Mystery Fiber

Bright House declined to quote pricing for access to their fiber network to the folks at the News-Journal, so Stop the Cap! called Bright House Networks’ Business Solutions department this morning posing as a new business customer looking for fiber optic access.

STC: We were calling to gather information about getting broadband service for our new Internet business.  Can you tell me what kind of broadband services you have available?

At this point, Bright House asked us a ton of questions about where the business was located, what we intended to do with the connection, how many employees we had, etc.  After feeding them answers, we got them to narrow down some basics, even as they tried to have a sales representative come out and meet with us (we explained they would have to fly to New York to manage that, and they should bring a shovel if they come.)

Bright House pointed us to their website for basic details, but stressed individual plans could be customized to meet our needs.  That was the invitation we were looking for.

None of these plans seemed at all fast enough for our needs, we explained.  The maximum plan on their website, 50/5Mbps, didn’t even come close.  Where was the 50/50 or 100/100Mbps plans?  What if we needed a gigabit?  Didn’t we read they ran a fiber network?

Bright House: We do run a fiber network, but it’s a special kind known as a hybrid fiber/coax network.  That is the most proven technology out there, installed to millions of homes and businesses across the country for more than a decade.

STC: Then all-fiber networks are unproven?

Bright House: In a way, yes.  But more important, they are enormously expensive.

STC: How expensive?

It would cost you this much.

Bright House: We spent millions on ours.

STC: So you are saying if we wanted Bright House to deliver fiber to our business, it would cost millions?

Bright House: Probably not that much, but it would probably be a waste of money because it was so expensive.  We service business customers all over central Florida, and I’ll be honest none of them really need fiber — it would be a waste of money.  We couldn’t even give you a price for fiber because nobody ever asked us before.

STC: Wow, I am surprised nobody has even asked.  Our business would want symmetrical broadband so our upload and download speeds would be the same.  We also don’t want to pay an outrageous amount of money for it.  What would Bright House charge for a symmetrical connection?

Bright House: One of our account specialists would have to talk with you about that.  Our network was designed to deliver faster download speeds because that is what our customers want.

STC: Well, not every customer.

Bright House: I understand that, and it sounds like you are a special case.  I think you’ll find we deliver the best service in town for business customers, and we sure do a lot better than AT&T.  Have you spoken with them about their service?

STC: We don’t want DSL.

Bright House (laughing): I can certainly agree with you there.  AT&T is a good company for what they do, but I am proud to say we do better.  And we can give you cable television and business phone service in one package.

STC: Yes, but we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves.  How much would it cost for just the broadband service?

Bright House: Before we quote you a price, we’d really like to sit down with you or a representative of your company so we can explain our whole product line and the benefits we offer.  Is there someone down here we could meet with?

STC: Not yet, but I appreciate the information and we can always call you back.

(We did learn from another source 50/5Mbps business class service costs around $190 a month from Bright House.)

So Bright House fiber remains elusive, even after our call.  Connected Nation, which has direct ties to Big Telecom, couldn’t find any fiber across the area either.  That was surprising, considering the large telecom companies help manage their operations:

The Florida Department of Management Services is running Connected Nation’s efforts in the Sunshine State.

If the goal is widespread fiber-optic coverage, then Connected Nation’s map shows Florida sorely needs a fiber dietary supplement (Metamucil-optic?). Only a small portion of the state — around Orlando and to the south, and around Tampa and along the surrounding Gulf Coast — has fiber coverage, according to Connected Nation’s survey results.

Jessica Ditto, Connected Nation communications director, said the map only reflects spots where fiber-optic lines run to homes, and that Bright House might not have responded accurately to the survey. Bright House’s Forbes said he hadn’t heard of Connected Nation.

You didn't want this anyway, did you?

Another indictment for the useless work Connected Nation does for large sums.  If a major provider doesn’t answer the questionnaire, broadband from that provider apparently does not exist as far as Connected Nation is concerned.

Finding fiber is Daytona is turning into that commercial for Honey Nut Clusters cereal.  It’s got to be around somewhere.

The county director of economic development, Phil Ehlinger, suggests it is all around us even if we can’t see it at first glance.

“I am not aware of anyone (in the business community) who is unable to get the service that they want,” Ehlinger told the newspaper. “Bright House and some of the other folks, AT&T, they have been putting in fiber optic all over the county.”

But the important question left unanswered is whether or not you can access it.  For individuals, the answer is clearly no.  Bright House believes its network is plenty fast enough, and AT&T didn’t want to talk to us in time for today’s story.  But phone companies, already vulnerable in the broadband speed race, prefers to deflect the question, arguing you don’t need that speed anyway.

Fiber optics delivers the fastest broadband experience, period.  But when providers don’t sell or promote the service, it’s easy to suggest nobody wants it.

But not too far away, in communities like Chattanooga, and several areas in North Carolina, they -do- want it.  Even Verizon FiOS, a growing presence in the northeastern United States, has won over business and residential customers to fiber-fast broadband.  In many cases, the network sells itself.

But in central Florida, Bright House won’t sell the service to you even if you ask.  It’s apparently the best kept secret in Daytona Beach.

[Updated 2/4/2011 — Don Forbes attached a reply to a piece on Broadband Reports that quotes from our piece:

Bright House Networks does in fact provide Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) – or what is known in the business services market as “dedicated access” – to its business customers who want this type of bandwidth. We work directly with our business customers to provide solutions tailored to meet their specific needs. We currently serve more than 3,000 Florida business locations directly with fiber. We currently offer speeds up to 1 Gbps, although it should be understood most business customers do not require 1Gbps speeds. Residential customers, at this time, do not need the bandwidth offered with dedicated fiber – however, Bright House has led the industry in comprehensively deploying next-generation bandwidth services (DOCSIS 3.0) to its’ entire footprint in Florida – current speeds offered are 50 Mbps with the ability to offer much higher. We provision our network according to our customers’ needs.

As a private company, we do reserve the right to share specific proprietary details of our network and our business for competitive reasons. However, it is no secret that we offer the above services.

It apparently is a secret to the people taking calls at Bright House’s business services hotline at 1-877-424-9246.  That’s the number we called yesterday to inquire.  The results are noted above.  I’d make two observations:

  1. The point of our piece was partly to confirm whether fiber is a big secret in the Daytona area, as was the implication.  In our experience, it was.
  2. Once again, another provider — this time Bright House — has made the declaration that residential customers don’t need fiber to the home access, something Verizon and many municipal/community-owned networks would strongly disagree with.  We do as well.  As long as phone companies compete using DSL, cable companies can safely make this claim and it won’t harm their business.  But if a far faster fiber to the home network arrives in town delivering far faster speeds (at equal or lower prices), Bright House, and other companies like it, could be in trouble — especially if their new competitors market themselves well.

We stand by our piece, which documents our direct experiences with Bright House Networks business class customer service.]

Currently there are 7 comments on this Article:

  1. Brent says:

    Bright House does sell fiber internet services at least to businesses, our business has it Indianapolis and possibily in Orlando at a new location. Most cable MSO’s sell fiber based services to businesses since they already have fiber in the market due to the coax/fiber nature of their business, but there isnt really a set rate. Each pricing is based on construction charges, speed, and length of contract. We have fiber services from the following cable compaines;

    Charter
    Time Warner Cable
    Brigthouse Networks
    Comcast
    Mediacom
    Cox

    Pricing certianly doesnt compare to a community type fiber offering such as LUS, but it is normally better than pricing from AT&T for similar speed T1/Fiber offerings. Ive seen pricing anywhere from $600 for 10mbps, $800 for 15mbps/15mbps to $850 for 5mbps/5mbps.

    When you called into bright house you probably got to a normal business account rep. You would nee to talk to a “Dedicated Access Account Executive” in the “Enterprise Services” level. They would have to do a site survey of your “location” before giving for a firm price. Obviously the account person you spoke to didnt really know what they where talking about.

    I support community fiber offerings 100% and we even have it from a local power company in paducah ky and i would love to get it more places if i could, but most of the time we have to settle for something else.

    • Thanks for the insight. One would think the rep would forward us to the appropriate person, but instead steered us to the services he could sell. That could be due to inadequate training, or perhaps the company relies on commission-based sales and wanted to keep the business for himself.

      Theoretically, as a customer, it shouldn’t be our job to find out which. 🙂

      Clearly the companies you mentioned aren’t providing good or affordable access if municipal networks are being built to serve needs these companies won’t. I suspect if one pays enough, they can probably get anything. But if you are a home-based or small business, one gets pushed towards “good enough for you” plans.

      • Brent Neader says:

        I dont disagree with your expierence at all. If you really where looking for fiber Bright House would have possibily lost some business. Its a shame their sales reps arent more informed, but i cant say i find it that suprising. My only point was despite your findings from talking to them, they DO offer the service which CAN be a “good” deal for a business looking for that type of service and only other option is AT&T or a similar LEC (besides verizon fios). Offerings from similar cable MSO’s has saved our company lots of money.

  2. Bob G says:

    I know in other parts of Florida, Verizon and AT&T have built 100% fiber to the home networks. Verizon’s FiOS, for instance, does offer parallel speeds, which is great for people who work from home or online gamers because you can upload files in the same amount of time it takes to download. Fiber optic networks are also less susceptible to electromagnetic interference because the signal is delivered using light rather than electricity, and a fiber-to-the-site network offers more consistent Internet speeds that are not as impacted by the volume of people on the network. I would ask the folks at bright house how their aging hybrid fiber/coax network is prepared to handle the projected volume of broadband video and data consumption over the next few years. I think companies and communities that invest in fiber optic technology are going to offer consumers and businesses networks that are more reliable and better prepared for the ever-growing demand for bandwidth. It’s smart business.

  3. Scott says:

    @Bob G,

    I’m sure after Bright House implements capped data plans restricting customers use their hybrid coax/fiber network will handle the increased demand just fine! 🙂

    Seriously though, local private Cable Co’s and Telco’s attempting to stave off Municipal Fiber projects by claiming they already provide that service, abiet often exaggerated such as this case in what they do or don’t offer isn’t apples to apples comparison.

    Their private fiber network only benefits themselves, the actual infrastructure and investment isn’t there to benefit the community, state, consumers, or businesses by improving economic development and competition.

    A well planned Municipal Fiber project would bring about an open playing field for multiple ISP’s and providers to compete on a level playing field based on quality of service and price giving consumers, businesses, government, and schools a real choice in the market. A no time would anybody be held hostage due to a monopoly or duopoly in the market as anyone with moderate backing would be able to enter the market to provide service vs. the situation now where someone would have to build-out their entire infrastructure just for themselves or attempt to lease lines from competitors who have no interest in letting them into the market.

    Even if there are no other entrants and the Muni operates its own network offering services to local homes and businesses, the provides the needed competition and fair pricing that the current market lacks.

    For a service that’s become such a commody that the Cable Co’s keep wanting to liken to electric rates to justify their metered pricing, It’s funny how they sure do seem to have such a problem with communities wanting to stabilize their utility internet pricing and provide better service not beholden to short-term Wall St. interests and multi-million dollar executive bonus packages.

  4. S says:

    Should check out the City of Palm Coast’s FiberNET. Fiber delivery business class (symmetrical) services to the premise.

    This regional network is located in Palm Coast, FL (Flagler County) and is owned/operated by the City of Palm Coast as an open-access network. Several service providers are on the network delivering IP/Voice services that the local incumbents wouldn’t.

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