Almost a year ago (and for probably the first time in my life), I became an “early adopter” with some new whiz-bang technology. I threw caution to the wind and signed up with a new internet service provider that promised blazingly fast upload and download speeds.
By some odd stroke of luck, my street in Grandin Court was one of the first in Roanoke wired with fiber-optic cable by Glo Fiber. It’s a subsidiary of Shentel, the Shenandoah Valley-based rural telecommunications provider.
I learned about Glo from a door hanger the company left at my house last July. It offered 1-gigabit service for $80 per month. That was more than six times faster than the internet connection I had through Cox Communications — for roughly the same price. Glo also offers lower internet speeds for even less.
I called and ordered Glo that same day.
Early in August, Glo service technicians hooked me up in less than an hour with a modem and two wireless routers. The company charged no installation or equipment fees. The monthly service fee has remained at $80.
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Lately, Glo Fiber has expanded into other neighborhoods in the Roanoke and New River valleys. And as a result, I’ve been getting questions from readers about how my service is doing. They’re curious because they’re considering making a switch.
The most recent example came May 11, and it was from Frank Walters.
“Glo fiber is now installing their network in our neighborhood, in Oak Grove,” he wrote me. “Do you still feel it will be worth it to change service to Glo Fiber? Their prices are certainly much better than our current services, Cox for internet and WiFi, Direct TV for television. Thank you in advance for any input you can share concerning Glo Fiber.”
Here’s the reply I sent:
“Mr. Walters, my service from Glo has been great. Since I signed up, there have been 3 or 4 service interruptions, usually at 2-3 a.m. for some kind of system maintenance.
“Those have lasted under a few hours each, sometimes significantly shorter [periods]. Glo, I would note, is not great at advance warning of those shutdowns. I think I’ve gotten one of those.
“Even so, the service is faster, more reliable and less expensive than the previous internet I had thru Cox,” I wrote Walters. “The chief complaint I’m hearing about Glo is that the company is expanding into various Roanoke-area neighborhoods too slowly.”
This week, if my email in-box is any indication, many more potential customers in the Roanoke Valley are suddenly expressing keen interest in switching to Glo Fiber.
The sudden uptick might be due to a Cox Communications internet outage Tuesday.
That lasted at least eight hours and bedeviled Cox customers in parts of Raleigh Court, Wasena, the Tanglewood Mall area, South Roanoke, the Green Valley neighborhood of Roanoke County and perhaps some other neighborhoods, too.
The outage caused at least one restaurant in the Grandin Business District — FarmBurguesa – to shut down temporarily Tuesday afternoon because their phone service is also through Cox. (They were back in business Wednesday.)
It’s unclear precisely which neighborhoods were affected, because Cox Communications simply won’t say. I’ve put the question to Cox spokeswoman Margaret-Hunter Wade three times now, and she’s sturdily ignored it in each of her responses.
Walters told me that his home in the Oak Grove area was not affected by the outage. Still, he added, he intends to switch services to Glo when its installers begin working on his street.
Cindy Leamon wishes she could switch right now. But she can’t, even though Glo Fiber lines have been installed in her community, she said. Her Cox internet was out for eight hours Tuesday.
She and her husband live in the South Jefferson Place condominiums, on Jefferson Street in the heart of South Roanoke. Leamon said her condo association hasn’t yet approved Glo Fiber service to their building.
“Cox gave us credit on our account for 3 months because it was unable to keep service up. Just this month we dropped Cox TV but had no choice but to keep the internet — no other option,” she wrote.
“So since we dropped the TV, thus the bundle, Cox increased the internet charge from about $55 to $97 — all because we no longer had the bundle.”
For that reason, Leamon wanted to change providers even before the service interruption Tuesday.
“Now Cox can’t even keep the internet up,” Leamon said. That’s why she’s clamoring with her condo association to approve the service.
Friday I spoke with Christopher Kyle, vice president for industry and regulatory affairs at Shentel. He grew up in Roanoke. He told me that Glo Fiber has wired roughly 75% of the city of Roanoke, and almost all of Salem and Blacksburg.
Glo Fiber turned on its first Roanoke County customer in April, Kyle added, and will be expanding into other Roanoke County neighborhoods for the rest of this year and next.
The interest level is so high among county residents that Shentel recently agreed to work with Roanoke County government on a county web page that’ll display the neighborhoods Glo Fiber is available in now, and where it’s coming next, Kyle said.
The interest is keen in Montgomery County, too. It also has residents that want Glo Fiber service but can’t yet get it.
One of them is Bruce Brown, a professor at Radford University who lives in Christiansburg, near the New River Valley Mall. Brown’s a bit flummoxed as to why he can’t get Glo Fiber, because his current internet service provider is Shentel.
Kyle told me it’s just a matter of time. “We’ve just laid out [upcoming service] for some developments in Montgomery County,” Kyle said. “We’ll be starting installations later this year.”
I’m interested in hearing other readers’ experiences with Glo Fiber, good or bad. Drop me an email and give me your 2 cents,
As for the Cox interruption in Roanoke on Tuesday: Much of that remains a big mystery. Cox is declining to divulge details. Wade blamed the interruption on “damage to our fiber lines on Tuesday afternoon.”
My first thought when I read that answer was, “Well, duh.” So I followed up by asking Wade where the damage happened and how it occurred. No response.
I’d wager Cox knows those answers, because Wade also told me (in her nonresponses to my questions), that “our team worked nonstop” to get service fully restored Tuesday night.
That strongly suggest somebody at Cox knows the location where they worked nonstop. And they probably diagnosed the cause of the damage before they fixed it, right?
I also asked Wade (three times) about how frequently service interruptions like Tuesday’s occur. No response to that one, either. Which is kind of sad.
Our exchange left this impression: Roanoke has a legacy service provider that’s held a virtual monopoly on high-speed internet for so long that it feels unaccountable to its customers.
But the internet connection landscape has changed a lot in Western Virginia in the past year. Now there’s competition from Glo Fiber.
This kind of strategy won’t serve Cox well at all in the future, with its customers beating down Glo Fiber’s doors and begging for higher-speed (and less costly) internet connections almost as fast as Glo can wire their streets.
Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter:@dancaseysblog