FTTH can be a gig or a provider can offer lower speeds as Sherburne County is learning

St Cloud Times tells the story of an unhappy fiber customer (Jake Soenneker) in rural Sherburn County. Jake wanted better broadband. He championed an effort to make it happen, talking to his neighbors and getting them to sign petitions. He spoke to providers to get something going …

According to Soenneker, Sherburne County eventually reached out to him, followed by Perham-based telecommunications and broadband provider Arvig. He was involved in many discussions, which Soenneker said he came out of with the understanding that the neighborhoods would have symmetrical-speed fiber internet, meaning the upload and download speed would be the same. He went door to door again and gathered more than 20 letters of support for getting better internet service in the area.

He and the community were successful…

In August 2020, Sherburne County entered an agreement with Arvig to install conduits along a few county roads in Clear Lake Township and Becker Township. The county would allow Arvig to use the conduits at no cost with the understanding that Arvig would provide free internet service and some phone service to several county buildings. The contract specified that the internet service provided to the county would be symmetrical at 100 mbps.

The problem is that Jake thought he’d be getting symmetrical service and he isn’t. In the contract with the County, Arvig specifies that speed for County customers (county building et al) will be a minimum of 100 Mbps symmetrical but the contract doesn’t get into services that Arvig might provider to residents.

This is an example where a label similar to the nutrition labels in food would be helpful – something that spells out in no uncertain terms what the customer is getting and paying. The customer being the county and/or the resident. Also here are comments from the St Cloud article on various views…

  • Arvig Senior Manager of Plant Operations Brett Christiansen confirmed Arvig’s infrastructure is capable of providing symmetrical speed to homes. But Arvig does not offer symmetrical internet to residential customers, Arvig Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lisa Greene said, “primarily because customers don’t use it.” She said the company reserves that bandwidth for its business customers.
  • Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said it’s “pretty typical” to expect symmetrical service from fiber internet. EFF is a nonprofit that works to “to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all people of the world,” according to its website. Asymmetrical internet service — different speeds for upload and download — is a remnant of the cable-dominant era. In newly-installed infrastructure, there is no additional burden on a company to provide symmetrical speeds to customers, he said. … However, Falcon also said that it’s not fair to assume your internet will be symmetrical if you only see one speed listed on the contract. It’s typical for companies to list a download speed and not the upload speed. Greene said it’s typical for upload speed to be about 10% of download speed.
  • Arvig’s residential customers are provisioned up to 1 gigabyte download speed and up to 100 Mpbs download speed….
    After six months of back and forth with Arvig and being initially told he could upgrade his bandwidth, an Arvig employee told him via email that the company does not provide symmetrical fiber under residential plans. Arvig offered him the option to pay for an “enterprise plan” to receive symmetric service, which Soenneker said was quoted to him at more than $1,000 a month.
  • Soenneker has communicated with both the county and the attorney general’s office throughout this process as well. An analysis Arvig prepared in response to Soenneker’s complaint filing with the attorney general’s office said Soenneker’s bandwidth use was 656% more than the second-highest user and 1,233% higher than a hospital system that is their fourth-highest user.
This entry was posted in FTTH, MN, Vendors and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

2 thoughts on “FTTH can be a gig or a provider can offer lower speeds as Sherburne County is learning

  1. I am unable to access the article (paywall), but does it specify what Mr. Soenneker does that requires such high bandwidth usage? I’m inclined to assume that he works remotely or operates a business out of his home, but is that the case (otherwise that is a LOT of 4K Netflix)?

    • He is working from home…
      “He’s worked remotely for about a decade, he said, and DSL internet wasn’t cutting it. When he first spoke with the Times in late 2021, Soenneker was a chief technology officer for a music distribution startup. He said he had needed better internet service for a long time.
      For example, he spent a lot of time in video meetings. At his house, it looked like this: “Everybody stop using the internet, and I’m going to use all of it right now and I’m still going to have a blurry image,” Soenneker said.
      Soenneker still works remotely, but he now spends his time building software for a Florida company.”

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