Iowa City Stories

May 14, 2010

Mediacom and Their Role With Fiber-Optic Internet

Filed under: IC Stories: Zawistowski, Fiber Optics — Tags: , — RichieZ23 @ 8:28 pm

So what if Iowa City is not picked as a test-market city for Google fiber optic internet?  Those who do not live in UI Resident Halls and are connected to the ResNet university network will most likely have Mediacom as their Internet service provider.

Cable-internet is the most popular form of high-speed internet, and there is only one provider in Iowa City – Mediacom.

However there are other forms of high-speed internet that are not cable-based, such as Qwest which provides users with a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modem and service, or users can test out high-speed satellite internet, although it is much more expensive than cable internet or DSL.

I discussed in my previous story on how fiber-optic technology works — light is reflected through fiber-optic filaments and transmit data.

Cable-based internet uses your coaxial copper cable line that runs to from node to your house for your internet access. A cable modem connects to the Internet via a cable line, and to your wireless modem or computer using either an Ethernet or USB 2.0 cord.

Installation of Fiber-Optic Network

However, recently, Mediacom has installed a massive fiber-optic network that carries information from their main servers and routers out to smaller networks and nodes.  The last part of the information highway is still a copper coaxial cable however, but the fiber rich network allows for more efficient data transformation.

Phyllis Peters, Director of Communications at Mediacom discusses what Mediacom has done with regards to fiber-optic internet technology.

Because of the fiber-rich network that has been created, Mediacom was able to boost internet speeds of all their customers by 50% in 2009.  However, this is just the beginning for high-speed internet in Iowa.

“By the end of 2010, 50-meg speeds will be in half of our households,” said Peters.  “It will be available — you still have to have the one that wants it.  You do have to pay more, and we have to swap out your modem.  The key thing with the 50-meg or 105-meg speed is that’s the download speed.  With 105 your upload is 10, and with 50 your upload is 5.  Now If you’re using our 12 or 15-meg service your upload is one megabyte.  And the change from one-meg upload to five or ten is what many are saying is the most awesome feature.”

A New Age of Internet

“Again, we’re not just downloading things from the internet today like we were in the early days of the internet,” continued Peters.  “We’re uploading things too.  We’re uploading videos to YouTube, putting stuff on Facebook, uploading pictures to Flickr, so there’s no one else in the state that offers 5 and 10-meg upload speed.”

While many college-aged students use the internet for research for papers, or for casual purposes such as interacting with friends via Facebook or downloading music for their iPod, high internet speeds really become beneficial to those in the professional world.

“In Harlan, Iowa, a smaller town of maybe about 7,000-8,000 people, our fiber network connects right there at their hospital,” said Peters,  “So that radiologists and technicians can send huge files and huge amounts of data and all the new medical applications that need high speed broadband.  They can spend it to all the referral places that are within the Iowa Healthy System.  They couldn’t do that if we didn’t have fiber.”

“We had a video producer who could get more work done sharing videos with his clients all over the world in Toronto and California, that he could get more work done at home than he could at his business, because he had such a faster upload speed.”

Internet Will Only Get Faster

This all sounds great, but there must be suitable applications and routers for the high-speeds to impact the users.

This may be a slight problem right now, but as more and more people switch to higher internet speeds rather it be by choice and paying more, or still using the entry level internet that Mediacom has automatically increased, more and more applications will be programmed and designed to allow more efficient data transmission.

“There are still applications that we don’t have our hands on yet, as they are still being developed,” said Glen Reynolds, IP director at Mediacom.  “However we have our new routers that are much more robust and can handle the 50 or 100-meg input.  Every quarter we have to report as a company our financials and customer support, and every quarter we increase n high-speed internet, so that’s a real engine, but that tells you that people are leaving dial-up and DSL.”

Kyle Parkin, a senior at the University of Iowa discussed when he switched from dial-up to broadband.

“It was so much faster,” said Parkin.  “I was used to using AOL, and back around 2001 when we switched to broadband and it was incredible.  I could download stuff probably ten times as fast as before.  Now to hear they have increased the speeds even more, and 50-meg internet will be available, that is awesome for someone like me who downloads a lot of media.”

Some users may not care about higher internet speeds, as they only do simple things on the internet like check their email, or read the news.  However, the internet is evolving quickly, and soon the web-pages containing email, news, and other bits are going to be much larger in file size.

These customers saw their internet speed increase by 50% in 2009, but for those who use the internet for much more demanding purposes such as downloading and uploading video, web-design, or those in the medical field that Peters discussed, higher-internet speeds should be an important issue.  (All photos are non-copyrighted, and available for commercial use)

No one likes sitting at their computer waiting to get the desired result.  Whether it may be uploading a video to Facebook to show friends, or downloading medical records for emergency surgery, increased internet-speeds are something to look forward to.

Behind all the talk of megabytes, uploads, and downloads is the simple means of communication.  Faster internet speeds allow us to communicate with each other more effectively, and in different ways than before, such as high-definition webcasts,  which is a benefit for all parties involved.

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