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Fiber Optic Internet Comes to Bethel: A Resident's Comprehensive Experience

Updated: Jun 28

by Bethel resident Todd D. Woodward – June 27, 2024


Introduction


In February, I wrote about the exciting developments happening in our beloved Bethel neighborhood. Construction crews from a slew of companies and sub-contractors were busy installing fiber optic lines on utility poles, bringing the promise of true super-fast internet to our community. As I reported then, these Oregon-based companies were hard at work installing the infrastructure to offer speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) - a significant upgrade from the older cable internet or 5G wireless many of us were using. The project started in the area around Fairfield Elementary, and quickly expanded to the Echo Hollow area, as well as throughout Bethel. Now, several months later, I'm thrilled to share my personal experience with getting fiber optic internet installed in my own home.


Choosing a Provider


While I would have preferred to have signed up with Emerald Broadband (a Eugene-based and public-benefit corporation), Emerald's construction has progressed slower compared to Hunter Communications (a.k.a. "Hunter Fiber"). Hunter Fiber is Oregon-based (headquartered in Central Point) and was the first to offer service in my area. After researching their packages and comparing them with my current internet service (T-Mobile), I decided to go with Hunter's 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) symmetrical plan. This plan offers the same blazing-fast speed for both downloads and uploads, which is particularly beneficial for video conferencing, cloud backups, and other upload-intensive tasks.


Since my wife and I both work from home, having best-in-class services was critical. T-Mobile was a good and economical choice at the time, but reliability and speed were paramount for our needs.


The decision wasn't just about speed, though. Hunter's pricing was competitive, and they offered a no-contract option, which I appreciated, as it allows me to switch to Emerald Broadband or another company when they become available. Additionally, their customer service during my initial inquiries was prompt and informative, which gave me confidence in my choice.


Scheduling the Installation


The process began when Hunter Fiber reached out to me via email, informing me that they were ready to schedule my installation. Responding promptly, I called them back to set up the appointment. The representative I spoke with was friendly and knowledgeable, patiently answering all my questions about the installation process. We were able to schedule the installation for the following week, which aligned well with my home office schedule.


On the morning of the installation, I received a call from the installation subcontractor, confirming their imminent arrival. True to their word, they arrived promptly on time, demonstrating professionalism from the start.


Preparation for Installation Day


Preparing for the fiber installation was surprisingly straightforward. Hunter Fiber provided clear instructions, advising customers to set aside at least two hours for the installation process. They also recommended securing any pets during this time. In our case, our two cats were blissfully unaware of the technological revolution happening in our home, sleeping through the entire process.


Contrary to what some might expect, I didn't have to make any significant preparations to our home. There was no need to clear specific areas or make any adjustments to our existing setup. This lack of preparation required on my part was a pleasant surprise and made the whole process feel less disruptive.


One strategic decision we made was to temporarily maintain our existing T-Mobile Internet service alongside the new fiber installation. This approach allowed us to transition our personal internet use to the new fiber connection immediately, while giving us the flexibility to migrate our business operations during a convenient weekend. This dual-service period provides a safety net, ensuring no disruption to our work-from-home setup during the transition.


For neighbors considering fiber installation, my experience suggests that the process is designed to be minimally intrusive. However, it's always a good idea to communicate any specific concerns or requirements you might have when scheduling your installation.


Installation Process


The installation day arrived, and our assigned technician proved to be a true professional - competent, knowledgeable, and personable. The process began with a brief consultation where we indicated our preferred entry point for the fiber line into our house. This collaborative approach ensured that the installation would meet our specific needs and preferences.


Once the entry point was established, the technician conducted a thorough assessment of our property. This included evaluating access to the telephone poles in our backyard and carefully navigating around our trees to determine the optimal path for stringing the fiber line from the pole to our house. This attention to detail demonstrated the installer's commitment to both functionality and aesthetics.


The installation process itself was a marvel of precision and efficiency:


  • The technician skillfully climbed the utility poles in our backyard.

  • He then carefully strung the fiber optic wire from the pole to our house, ensuring it was properly tensioned and securely fastened.

  • A small junction box was installed on the exterior of our home to house the connection point.

  • Finally, the thin fiber optic line was routed to the area where we needed it inside the house. This required drilling a small hole to feed the line through, minimizing any impact on our home's structure.

  • Throughout the process, the technician worked diligently and cleanly, respecting our property and answering any questions we had. The care taken in each step of the installation process was evident, from the secure mounting of the exterior components to the neat routing of the interior cable.


Technical Details/Equipment


The fiber installation process culminated in the setup of several key pieces of equipment inside our home, each playing a crucial role in delivering the high-speed internet service:


  • Entry Point Box: A small, 3-inch square flush-mounted box was installed on the interior wall, directly opposite the point where the optical cable enters the house. This discreet box serves as the transition point for the fiber optic cable from outside to inside.

  • Optical Network Terminal (ONT): From the entry point box, a pluggable optical cable runs to a white, flat box measuring 5 1/4 inches square. This device, labeled NOKIA, is the Optical Network Terminal (ONT). It converts the optical signal from the fiber line into an electrical signal that can be used by standard networking equipment. The ONT requires a power source to operate.

  • Router: Connected to the ONT via a thicker Ethernet cable is a charcoal gray obelisk-shaped device manufactured by Calix. This is the router that provides both wired and wireless (WiFi) internet services throughout our home. Like the ONT, the router also needs to be plugged into a power outlet.

  • The entire setup is surprisingly compact and unobtrusive, especially considering the powerful internet capabilities it provides. The flush-mounted entry point box, in particular, is a thoughtful touch that helps maintain the aesthetics of our home's interior.


It's worth noting that both the Nokia ONT and the Calix router require separate power sources. When planning your installation, it's a good idea to ensure you have available power outlets near where these devices will be placed. In our case, we were able to use existing outlets without any issues.


This equipment setup forms the backbone of our new fiber internet service, enabling us to tap into the high speeds and reliability that fiber optic technology offers. The transition from our old internet setup to this new fiber equipment was seamless, and we were impressed by how quickly we were up and running with our new, faster internet connection.


Hunter Fiber utilizes an app that you install on your Android or iOS device called "HunterIQ" that walks you through, step-by-step, the configuration and setup of your router. It also serves some additional functions which are beyond the scope of this article.


We chose the 1Gb/1Gb service, which runs $90 a month with a $10 discount when you setup autopay, and a .41 cent Eugene licensing fee. Hunter Fiber offers both faster and slower services at more expensive and less expensive costs respectively.


Post-Installation Experience and Performance


After the installation was complete and the equipment was set up, it was time to put our new fiber internet connection to the test. The results were impressive:


Speed Tests:


  • The HunterIQ app from the Hunter Fiber router showed a remarkable bandwidth test of 2.3 Gbps for both download and upload speeds, with a 1 ms ping time. This demonstrates the full potential of fiber optic internet services with Hunter Fiber.

  • In real-world speed tests, our subscribed 1 Gbps symmetrical service consistently delivered just shy of 1 Gbps for both download and upload speeds, with a 1 ms ping time.

  • For comparison, our previous T-Mobile 5G wireless service provided (at best) 161 Mbps download and 16 Mbps upload speeds with an 83 ms ping.


Percentage Improvement:


  • Download speed increased by approximately 521% (from 161 Mbps to 1000 Mbps)

  • Upload speed increased by approximately 6,150% (from 16 Mbps to 1000 Mbps)

  • Ping time decreased by 98.8% (from 83 ms to 1 ms)

These improvements represent a significant upgrade in our internet capabilities, particularly in terms of upload speeds and responsiveness (ping time).


While we haven't yet transitioned our work-from-home operations to Hunter Fiber, the dramatic increase in speed and reduction in latency suggest that we can expect substantial improvements in activities like video conferencing, large file transfers, and other bandwidth-intensive tasks.


It's worth noting that while the Hunter Fiber router demonstrated capabilities beyond 2 Gbps, our subscription and home technology are optimized for the 1 Gbps symmetrical service. This leaves room for future upgrades if needed.


We'll be conducting further tests and observations over the next month as we transition all our online activities to Hunter Fiber and discontinue our T-Mobile service. This will give us a more comprehensive understanding of the real-world benefits in various scenarios, including our work-from-home setup.


The Impact on Our Neighborhood


The arrival of fiber optic internet in Bethel is more than just a technological upgrade; it's a significant step forward for our community. Here's why this matters:


  • Economic Development: High-speed internet can attract businesses to our area, potentially creating new job opportunities.

  • Education: Students in our neighborhood now have access to faster, more reliable internet for online learning and research. (Note: Hunter Fiber offers a K-12 teacher discount too.)

  • Work from Home: With the rise of remote work, having a robust internet connection can make Bethel an attractive place for professionals who work from home.

  • Property Values: Fiber internet availability can potentially increase property values in our neighborhood.

  • Digital Inclusion: As more services move online, having access to high-speed internet becomes increasingly important for full participation in society

  • Future-Proofing: Fiber optic infrastructure is scalable and can meet increasing bandwidth demands for years to come.


Comparing Fiber to Other Internet Technologies


To fully appreciate the impact of fiber optic internet, it's helpful to understand how it compares to other internet technologies:


  • Cable Internet (CATV): While cable can offer high download speeds, it typically has much slower upload speeds. Fiber offers symmetrical speeds and is less affected by network congestion.

  • 5G Wireless: While 5G can offer high speeds, it's more susceptible to interference and can have higher latency. Fiber provides more consistent speeds and lower latency.

  • Satellite Internet: Fiber offers much faster speeds and dramatically lower latency compared to satellite internet, which can have delays of 500ms or more.


Looking Ahead


As fiber optic availability continues to expand in our neighborhood, we'll keep monitoring the roll-out of Hunter and other fiber optic providers in the Bethel area. This ongoing technological advancement promises to bring significant benefits to our community, enhancing our ability to work, learn, and connect from home.


We're particularly interested in seeing how this new infrastructure will impact our local businesses, schools, and community organizations. Will we see new tech startups emerging in Bethel? How will our schools leverage this improved connectivity? These are exciting questions to ponder as we move forward.


Community Feedback Wanted


We'd love to hear about your experiences with fiber internet in Bethel. Whether you've already made the switch or are considering it, your insights are valuable. Here are some questions to consider:


  • How has fiber internet changed your online experience?

  • If you work from home, how has it impacted your productivity?

  • For students or parents, how has it affected online learning?

  • Have you noticed any improvements in streaming quality or online gaming?

  • If you haven't switched yet, what questions or concerns do you have?


Your feedback will help inform and guide our neighbors as we collectively embrace this new technology. Please share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments section below or email us at bethelneighbors@gmail.com.


Conclusion


The introduction of fiber optic internet to Bethel marks a significant milestone in our neighborhood's technological journey. As we continue to test and transition to this new service, we're excited about the possibilities it brings for work, education, and entertainment.


This advancement is not just about faster internet speeds; it's about opening up new opportunities for our community. It's about ensuring that Bethel remains a great place to live, work, and grow in the digital age.


As we move forward, let's continue to share our experiences and support one another in making the most of this new technology. Together, we can ensure that Bethel makes the most of this digital transformation, enhancing our quality of life and positioning our community for a bright, connected future.

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