Comcast Gigabit Pro: The Journey (Part 1)

September, 2017 – I’m sitting down to watch some DirectTV NOW (yeah, I cut the cord) and bam, nothing worked. Noticing on my phone that I had failed over to LTE, I looked behind my entertainment center to see the cable modem blinking like crazy, trying to lock in the downstream channels. My cable was out. Again.

Immediately I reached out to my pals at Comcast to ultimately learn that our node was out AND the backup node had failed as well. Boo.

I ended up firing up my hotspot on my iPhone and I was back in business after connecting my Roku, but I started to wonder why I dealt with this. There needs to be something better. And obviously the first thing to mind is ‘well yeah, I can go shopping for a new ISP’. However, the only other semi-viable option is Frontier.

Sidebar: Frontier bought AT&T’s wire lines in Connecticut a few years ago, and if you happened to reside in Connecticut at that time; it was the worst transition (I work for an MSP and we dealt with so many cringe-worthy disasters) I have ever seen (Fun examples include: reassigned static IPs with no warning, service disconnects lasting >2 weeks due to bad/zero circuit documentation on Frontier’s end and service installed/activated at the wrong address).

Frontier wasn’t worth the pain. Plus it was slower and (with my luck) probably even less reliable.

I kept casually looking every now and then – but I was always jealous of seeing people with Google Fiber. I knew I couldn’t get it where I lived, but I knew I wanted that. The need for speed was on, however, there’s always a caveat.

Here’s the issue: unsubsidized fiber-optic internet is so expensive. We have ‘business-grade’ 100M fiber at work (in the same town I live, too) and we pay just north of $1000/mo. Whereas with ‘residential’ Google Fiber you can get 1G for about $75/mo.

Not being ready to sell my car in exchange for a good business grade Metro Ethernet connection, I started digging into other Comcast options. My parents lived in an area which had the old Extreme 505 advertised whenever you went shopping for more Xfinity services. It was FTTH, so it had the improved reliability I was looking for, but it was expensive and I already had 220mbps/10mbps with my coax line – going to 505mbps/100mbps didn’t justify the $400/mo cost to me. Gigabit Pro was Comcast’s evolution of Extreme 505 – 2 gigabit symmetrical speeds (!!), and also Comcast’s best foot forward against Google Fiber in markets where they competed.

Where Comcast competed with Google Fiber, Gigabit Pro was a decent deal. About $160/mo, $140 less than the advertised $299.95 in other ‘non-Google’ markets – this nearly-half pricing wasn’t advertised by Comcast, but anyone on DSL reports could tell you that the pricing was real.

For fun I logged into my Xfinity account and clicked the ‘Shop for new services’ tab – only to see:

$225 wasn’t $160, but it was close enough to at least make the call. But let me tell you: making that call wasn’t easy.

Comcast reps struggled with what Gigabit Pro was. The first day I tried I probably went through three reps before I gave up. Some flat out didn’t know what I was talking about, others thought I was talking about Gigabit Cable (Comcast’s then-upcoming DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit over coax) which I didn’t want.

I would casually call in whenever I felt lucky, and that day finally came a week or so after my initial call.

I had gotten a girl who knew immediately what I was inquiring about, and she actually gave me the run around with “you know what this is, right? this isn’t cable, and it’s going to be a while before you can get it activated”

Oh and I knew it – I’ve been through three Comcast Metro Ethernet (business fiber) installs to know the build out is a slow process and that they never hit their scheduled targets. I’ve likened this terrible scheduling to Comcast time

I knew fiber was in my building (the bottom floor is commercial and they had a fiber-based PRI through Comcast – our company helped them put it in). So I was confident it could potentially happen. After taking down my address and information, the rep wrapped up the call saying that someone from the initial survey team would see if it was possible and give me a call with next steps.

And so the waiting began.