Settling in with Bell Aliant FibreOp

12 Sep

The Bell Aliant installation crew gets ready to do the deed on my house.

September 12, 2011

By Geoff Meeker

It’s been more than two weeks since Bell Aliant installed the new FibreOp service to my house, and I’ve received a lot of questions from readers. Mainly, people want to know if the Internet is faster, and if the high definition (HD) TV is better.

I’ll come to that. But first, the installation. We got off on the wrong foot at first, Bell Aliant and I. The installation was scheduled for a Saturday. However, they didn’t show. No one called. And there I sat, waiting at home, jilted on one of the nicest days of the summer.

On Monday morning came the apologetic call, explaining that the installers had to postpone due to a technical problem with the fibreoptic on the pole. Except no one had bothered to tell me that. I accepted the apology, and we rescheduled for the next day.

This time, all went well. A crew of four did the installation, gave me a great briefing on how things worked, and I was in business.

Okay, the TV first. The quality of the HD image is superlative. Honestly, I didn’t think my old Sony rear projection DLP could look this good. (As it turns out, the difference between 1080i and 1080p is probably not discernible on a 50-inch screen.) The HD channels have extremely sharp detail, with breathtaking colour reproduction, and no pixilation with a busy image (like running water, or a flock of birds in flight).

The new PVR is a wonderful piece of technology. I have two TVs connected – one in the rec room and another in the kitchen – both with full access to the PVR. The upstairs TV also has full HD. And I can set shows to record and watch recordings from the kitchen, even though the PVR is downstairs. Perhaps most importantly, I can record up to four shows at the same time.

But the question I am asked the most: what’s the Internet like?

It’s fast. Really fast. I opened tsn.ca, a site I never visit (so there was nothing stored in the cache). It’s a content rich site, full of links, text and pictures, but it loaded instantly. I went to a few news pages, which change hourly and are content-heavy, and these, too, loaded in a split-second. Impressive.

However, it’s not always that fast – you are constrained by the speed and traffic at the server on the other end. If it’s slow there, your connection is slow too. But I have conducted several speed tests so far, and the download speed is always 30 megs per second (mbps). Which is blazingly fast. And a pleasure to use.

But this brings me to upload speeds, which were an issue. Bell Aliant promises 30 mbps down and up (this makes a difference if you email large attachments). When installation was complete, the technician could upload at a maximum of just 15 mbps. By then, it was past 6 pm, so I said I would call if the problem persisted. It did. So I scheduled another service check.

The technician just left – moments before my deadline – and it went very well. We could find no reason for the slow upload speed on my computer. In fact, the speed test frequently stalled altogether, for no apparent reason. The tech guy connected his laptop to my network, and recorded consistently perfect speeds of 30 mbps, down and up. After more poking around, and calls to tech support, it was suggested that I download a different web browser.

I was running Safari. They suggested trying Firefox, which I did. We ran another test, and this time I was hitting 20 to 26 mbps. Much, much better. Not quite 30, but way faster than the two mbps upload I was getting with Rogers. (Lesson learned: when you experience Internet connection problems, try other web browsers.)

And for the techies out there, there was zero packet loss and latency of 16 milliseconds (which is excellent). For online gamers, latency is extremely important. This relates to lag, which makes the difference between life and death when playing a shooter game. A faster connection like this will inevitably increase your “kills” and improve your game.

I received excellent service from Bell Aliant throughout the installation and follow-up, despite that initial missed appointment. On the Monday after that event, I received an 8:30 am call from the Vice President of Customer Service, who promised to make it better and even left me her cell number. Later, when I asked for redress for my inconvenience, they gave me a $50 credit. And when I called about the upload speed, they scheduled a tech visit for the next day.

I know that service is always best during the sign-up process, when they work extra hard to win your business. But so far, it bodes well.

And, if ever there is a problem with my service, I know exactly who to call. Heh.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.


 

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