Time Warner in its Prime
Before merging with Charter Communications and Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable led the pack of internet service providers in our primary service area (Racine, Mount Pleasant, Oak Creek, Milwaukee). For many years, it offered significantly more bandwidth, or high speed internet capacity, than its direct competitors.
In its heyday, it provided service, and these speeds, through coax cable – this is the same cable used to deliver cable TV and internet services to many homes today. You probably remember the high speed internet service as Road Runner.
Mind you, through prioritization and technical measures, Time Warner guaranteed its business internet customers high speeds and reliability (while also using the same coax cable).
Spectrum cable internet risks
After Time Warner Cable was acquired, it became Spectrum and Spectrum Business, respectively, through Charter Communications®. Among the obvious naming, trademark and logo changes, there were some other major changes from the merger:
- Pricing: Pricing for their coax internet services dropped exponentially.
- Speeds: Along with the pricing changes, their internet speeds offered also increased exponentially.
- SLA: This went away completely.
What is an SLA?
SLA stands for Service Level Agreement. It may seem like a fluffy, generic business contract, but it carries weight when applied to your internet connection.
Why an SLA Matters?
An internet connection SLA typically guarantees:
- Speeds: Meaning you’ll get the speeds that you pay for and promised to your business.
- Uptime: Often a figure of 99.99% was used, translating into reliability.
- Latency: Latency is the delay or how long it takes from data to get from one point to another. Not to be confused with speeds or bandwidth.
- Packet Loss: Internet traffic is broken up into packets and transmitted/received. An internet connection with packet loss requires packets to be resent, causing delays. Minor packet loss typically goes unnoticed during web browsing and downloads, but it can cause extreme issues with real-time uses, such as audio calls and video streaming.
- Support: In the event of an issue, customers can expect a guaranteed technical response time (much like our Managed Services Programs).
You know how much your business relies on its internet connection. With the rapid adoption of cloud services (Office 365 for example), and VoIP phone systems, such as 3CX, businesses continue to increase their dependencies on their internet connections. These heavy dependencies dictate the need for an extremely reliable internet connection.
Spectrum Turns SLA into ‘Best Effort’
Recently, Spectrum quietly eliminated the SLAs for their coax based internet services and changed over to its Best Effort offering. When you hear ‘best effort’, you know best isn’t part of the deal. This means the conglomerate will no longer guarantee the speeds for which you pay. We’ve recently run into clients who are often only able to receive 30-50% of their internet plans’ advertised speeds. Reliability and latency also took a hit, causing major issues for our clients with VoIP phone systems.
VoIP Echoes this Half Effort
Even minor issues with an internet connection will cause major issues with VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) phone systems, such as 3CX. Packet loss and latency may not get noticed when using other internet functions, such as browsing and email. However, real-time applications, such as video calls and phone/audio calls, are significantly and adversely impacted. Common symptoms with VoIP/Audio include:
- Poor audio quality
- Missed words
- Audio delays between callers
- Dropped calls
- Missed calls
Fiber is Better
Though Spectrum dropped SLAs on their coax internet connections, it began aggressively promoting their fiber optic based internet services. Fiber optic based connections use light transmitted over tiny glass strands, rather
than using electrical signals sent over copper wires. Because these transmissions are done via light, connections are much less vulnerable to interference and distance limitations. In additional to being much more resilient and reliable, fiber based connections have a tremendous amount of additional capacity.
Fiber Internet – Where do I Sign Up!?!?
New technology typically comes with its limitations. Right now, fiber based internet limitations are availability and cost. These limitations are heavily contingent on how close you are to Spectrum’s existing fiber network infrastructure. Unlike the coax network, which has been around for many years and eventually made its way into almost all homes and businesses, fiber is still relatively new and being built out. These fiber build-out costs can be hefty – we’ve seen estimates up to $100,000. Fortunately, most build-out costs are much more inexpensive, and Spectrum is willing to subsidize costs for exchange of a multi-year service agreement. In some cases, construction/build-out costs may exceed what they are willing to subsidize and will require upfront payment from the customer.
To Sum It All Up
Coax based internet services from Spectrum are very economical and great for companies who only need to send and receive emails or browse the internet. However, you remove SLA and business just got a little riskier. We especially urge any businesses who use a coax internet connection for VoIP to consider moving over to a fiber based internet connection ASAP. We are concerned that the quality of service delivered by Spectrum coax is declining and will cause significant and unavoidable call quality issues.
We Can Help
We coordinate, manage, and monitor the internet connections for many businesses. Typically, we consult with our clients and make recommendations based on real-time and historical usage data. From there we involve our technical team and leverage relationships we have with great account executives at Spectrum to ensure a smooth installation or transition.