Almost a year ago (and probably for the first time in my life), I became an “early adopter” with a whiz-bang new 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 a weird stroke of luck, my street in Grandin Court was one of the first in Roanoke to be wired with fiber optic cable by Glo Fiber. It is a subsidiary of Shentel, the rural telecommunications provider based in the Shenandoah Valley.
I heard about Glo from a door hanger the company left at my house last July. It offered 1 gigabit service for $80 per month. It was over six times faster than the internet connection I had through Cox Communications – for about the same price. Glo also offers lower internet speeds for even less.
I called and ordered Glo the same day.
In early August, Glo service technicians hooked me up in less than an hour with a modem and two wireless routers. The company did not charge any installation or equipment costs. The monthly service fee remained at $80.
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Lately, Glo Fiber has expanded to other neighborhoods in the Roanoke and New River valleys. And as a result, I received questions from readers about how my service works. They are curious because they are considering making a change.
The most recent example came on May 11, and it was from Frank Walters.
“Glo fiber is now setting up its network in our neighborhood in Oak Grove,” he wrote to me. “Do you still think it will be worth switching 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 may share regarding Glo Fiber.
Here is the response I sent:
“Mr. Walters, my service from Glo has been great. Since I signed up, there have been 3 or 4 service outages, usually at 2 or 3 am for some kind of system maintenance.
“These lasted less than a few hours each, sometimes much shorter [periods]. Glo, I would point out, is not very good at giving advance warning of these closures. I think I have one.
“Even so, the service is faster, more reliable and cheaper than the previous internet I had through Cox,” I wrote Walters. “The biggest complaint I hear about Glo is that the business is growing too slowly in various neighborhoods in the Roanoke area.”
This week, if my inbox is any indication, many more potential customers in the Roanoke Valley are suddenly expressing a strong interest in switching to Glo Fiber.
The sudden spike could be due to an internet outage from Cox Communications on Tuesday.
It lasted at least eight hours and plagued Cox customers in parts of Raleigh Court, Wasena, the Tanglewood Mall area, South Roanoke, the Green Valley neighborhood of Roanoke County, and possibly other neighborhoods as well.
The outage caused at least one restaurant in the Grandin business district – FarmBurguesa – to temporarily close on Tuesday afternoon, as their phone service also runs through Cox. (They were back to business on Wednesday.)
It’s unclear exactly which neighborhoods were affected, as Cox Communications simply won’t say. I posed the question three times to Cox spokeswoman Margaret-Hunter Wade, and she firmly ignored it in each of her responses.
Walters told me his home in the Oak Grove area was unaffected by the outage. Still, he added, he intends to switch services to Glo when its installers start working on his street.
Cindy Leamon wishes she could change now. But she can’t, even though Glo Fiber lines have been installed in her community, she said. His Internet Cox was cut for eight hours on Tuesday.
She and her husband live in the South Jefferson Place condominiums on Jefferson Street in the heart of South Roanoke. Leamon said his condo association has yet to approve Glo Fiber service for their building.
“Cox credited our account to us for 3 months because he couldn’t keep the service going. 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, so the bundle, Cox has increased the internet charges from about $55 to $97, all because we no longer had the bundle.”
For this reason, Leamon wanted to change providers even before the service interruption on Tuesday.
“Now Cox can’t even maintain the internet,” Leamon said. That’s why she asks her condo association to approve the service.
On Friday, I spoke with Christopher Kyle, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs at Shentel. He grew up in Roanoke. He told me that Glo Fiber wired about 75% of the city of Roanoke, and almost all of Salem and Blacksburg.
Glo Fiber opened its first Roanoke County customer in April, Kyle added, and will expand to other Roanoke County neighborhoods for the remainder of this year and next.
The level of interest is so high among county residents that Shentel recently agreed to work with the Roanoke County government on a county webpage that will show the neighborhoods where Glo Fiber is available now, and where it will come next. , said Kyle.
Interest is also high in Montgomery County. There are also residents who want Glo Fiber service but cannot get it yet.
One of them is Bruce Brown, a professor at Radford University who lives in Christiansburg, near the New River Valley Mall. Brown is a bit puzzled as to why he can’t get Glo Fiber, as his current internet service provider is Shentel.
Kyle told me it was only a matter of time. “We have just put in place [upcoming service] for certain developments in Montgomery County,” Kyle said. “We will begin installations later this year.”
I’m interested in hearing other readers’ experiences with Glo Fiber, good or bad. Send me an email and give me your 2 cents,
As for Cox’s Roanoke hiatus on Tuesday: Much of it remains a big mystery. Cox refuses to divulge details. Wade blamed the outage on “damage to our fiber lines on Tuesday afternoon.”
My first thought when I read this answer was, “Well, duh.” So I went on to ask Wade where the damage happened and how it happened. No answer.
I’d bet Cox knows those answers, because Wade also told me (in his non-responses to my questions) that “our team has been working non-stop” to get service fully restored Tuesday night.
This strongly suggests that someone at Cox knows where he worked non-stop. And they probably diagnosed the cause of the damage before fixing it, right?
I also asked Wade (three times) about the frequency of service interruptions like the one on Tuesday. No response to that either. Which is a bit sad.
Our exchange left this impression: Roanoke has a former service provider that has held a virtual monopoly on broadband internet for so long that it feels irresponsible to its customers.
But the internet connection landscape has changed a lot in West Virginia over the past year. Now there is competition from Glo Fiber.
This kind of strategy won’t serve Cox well in the future, with his customers pounding on Glo Fiber’s doors and begging for faster (and cheaper) Internet connections almost as fast as Glo can wire their streets.