After far too many years languishing with a spotty internet connection as provided by AT&T Uverse, we finally made the jump yesterday to MetroNet.
Okay, I'm not being fair to Uverse. For much of that time, they were more than sufficient with their task. But for a vast majority of that time, we really only used them for our iPhones, iPads, and maybe the occasional Netflix stream via a Blu-ray player. And Uverse was great at keeping up with it all. Heck, it's why we stayed with them for so many years (I'm not sure exactly how many, but I'd be willing to bet it was before Nathan was born).
But the times, they are a'changin', with apologies to Bob Dylan.
First, we added more small devices to the network. A video game system. Nathan's iPad Mini.
There was no real effect on the overall network performance, though.
Second, we started relying more on streaming video. We decided to finally start making use of Prime Video. Then we got rid of DirecTV's physical dish system and went streaming with DirecTV Now and then AT&T TV Now as it evolved. We added Hulu and Disney +. All these were streamed using a Roku device of which we have three, one on each TV.
This is where we first started to see the cracks in the facade. There were definite slow moments. Even a few complete breakdowns of the network. You could almost set your clock to some of the slowdowns.
Third, and most important, the pandemic happened and I started working from home exclusively and Nathan was tele-learning instead of going to school. My work laptop is on 8-9 hours per day doing work on the web, chatting with coworkers on Slack, or video conferencing via Zoom or Slack. Since we started implementing Scrum at work (if you're not familiar, I'm not even going to try to explain it to you; just look it up on Wikipedia), I have been a part of two nearly all-day training sessions per week that are held on Zoom, with video turned on. They are getting much shorter now, less than half the day in most cases, but still. Nathan was doing similarly from his iPad during the school year with assignments on an app or website and the occasional video conference with his teacher and classmates via Microsoft Teams. Even now, being out of school, he does a lot on his iPad, streaming YouTube or watching a video on another source.
This level of engagement really taxed the heck out of our internet service.
When I knew I'd be in a video conference that I couldn't have interrupted, I'd make sure Nathan wasn't on his iPad so I could guarantee that my laptop, and Zoom by extension, had the full capability of Uverse at its disposal. And the same went for Nathan during his video conferences. I'd try to be doing little to nothing on my laptop. I could still work so long as Zoom wasn't going, but I still tried not to partially so I could double as his technical assistant.
If I wanted to back up photos or video to a cloud service, I had to make sure nothing else was being used or you would see it interrupted. Often times, I left my iPhone on at night to run the cloud backup while no one was online. It occasionally worked. Photos were fine, videos not so much. I had two videos that I could not get uploaded no matter how many times I tried.
Streaming video was hit or miss. You could do other things, but not too much. I could work while Nathan or Katie streamed something either via an iPad or a Roku. But if things slowed down, we'd have to make decisions based on need.
So after debating it for a while and after the decision was made to sell our office building and work remotely exclusively until "at least the first quarter of 2021" and Nathan is likely to see his school year be deemed a full-remote start, we decided to jump to MetroNet.
MetroNet is new to our area. We've had Comcast available for the whole time we've lived here. AT&T rolled out Uverse about a decade ago. But MetroNet only came around a little more than a year ago. Our nextdoor neighbors were early adopters, opting for the gigabit connection as soon as it was made available and they haven't had one bad thing to say about it. In fact, they often offered to give us one of the mesh repeaters so we could carry their signal here in our house. We didn't, but we appreciated the offer all the same.
My hesitance came because we have so many devices connected to our WiFi and we do not own our router. It's part and parcel with the AT&T modem. So if we jumped ship, we'd have to reconnect all these devices. And it seemed like every time I thought about it, I'd suddenly remember a new device to add to the list. Here it is overall:
- Two iPhones
- One iPad
- One Fire tablet
- Two laptops
- One Nintendo Switch
- One Nintendo Wii
- One Blu-ray player (down from two)
- One printer
- Three Alexas (Echoes?)
- Three Rokus
- One thermostat
- One doorbell
- One garage door opener
But we made the decision and the next step was simply to make the call and schedule an appointment. They came out the next morning after I called. And now we're connected. Now we have lightning fast speed.
It's scary how fast it is. Our Uverse connection was, at peak, 25MB speed, but it was shared so lord only knows how fast it really was. I never ran speed tests on it for fear of depressing myself.
I have run about three or four speed tests on our MetroNet connection just to prove to myself that it's really real. At its slowest, it was 856MB down and 889MB up. The best has been about 930MB down and 956MB up. You do the math compared to the optimal Uverse connection.
After some work, we have all but two devices connected to the new network. The holdouts are Nathan's Alexa and the garage door opener.
Nathan's Alexa hasn't happened because, for some weird reason, it just can't find any new network. We had no problems with the other two Alexas, but this one is being a PitA. It is also our oldest Alexa, so that might have something to do with it.
The garage door opener will have to wait until tomorrow when Katie pulls her car out of the garage. I need to get up on a stool to reach the hub and hit a button. It's currently situated in such a way that I'd have to stand on Katie's hood. That wouldn't end well. But it will get done. We're motivated!
Actually, the one thing that might be the biggest headache of the whole process is yet to come... getting through to AT&T customer service and cancelling our old service. Ugh.