MVlink Allows Members to Cut the Cord
November 15, 2018--Conversation about television has certainly changed in recent years. It seems we are surrounded by people talking about Netflix, streaming TV, cutting the cord and the price of cable packages. Did you know that MVlink’s high speed fiber internet service can easily allow you to cut the cord? Read on to learn how your MVlink-served home can make the transition.
The television service in many homes today is still provided through cable providers like Mediacom, Century Link or your local rural telephone company or may be offered through a satellite dish mounted on or near your home. This type of service offers package pricing with each package offering up multiple channels that hopefully include those specific channels that all members in your household like to watch. For example, Package A may have ESPN, but not the Disney channel and Package B might have both of those, but not have the History channel.
The ‘new’ way to watch TV is to purchase an internet-based streaming service (think Netflix, Sling TV, Play Station Vue, etc.) that allows you to choose only the channels you want to watch. Why pay for 50 channels when you typically only watch 10 or 20 channels? The best part is that you can generally purchase multiple, different streaming services for considerably less than the monthly cable/dish packages. Do a few Google searches to see which streaming service(s) covers the channels you watch most and decide which you might like to purchase. You can purchase multiple services and change them out at any time as no contracts are required; and many offer free trials. Now, compare the cost of those streaming services against what you pay today for your cable/dish line-up. Streaming services vary in their monthly costs and may factor in how many TV’s will be streaming shows; generally, streaming costs are less than the cable/dish packages.
Once you’ve determined which service(s) you want, the next step is to purchase a media streaming device, like Roku for example. This device is plugged into your TV, then connected to your WiFi service, essentially turning your TV into a smart TV. These devices are generally less than $50; a one-time expense versus monthly lease costs of existing cable boxes. You will need one device for each TV you want to stream shows on. This website is a good resource to learn more about device options: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-media-streamers
Before activating your new services, you want to ensure your internet service can handle the heavy bandwidth required by streaming services. Welcome to MVlink! With fiber as the gold standard for internet services, it is built to handle streaming and our packages offer unlimited data! A good rule of thumb starting out is to realize each device that uses WiFi needs a 10 mbps service to stream one show or video. Your new streaming device counts as one, each cell phone, each tablet, each Amazon Echo, etc. all add up. With MVlink’s minimum of 50 mbps service you can operate multiple devices without experiencing any buffering!
Additional things to be aware of as you consider the switch include:
- Your TV may already have smart capabilities built in. If so, you would not need to purchase a media streaming device as mentioned above.
- Are local channels (KCRG, KGAN or KWWL) important to you? If so, you’ll want to research which service offers those.
- Many services have limited commercials and some even offer no commercial interruptions.
- Some services, like Hulu & Netflix for example, are “on-demand”; meaning you watch what you want, when you want. Pause, stop, resume another day, or on another TV. And this leads into whether or not you need to DVR/record a show.
- Be sure to explore premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Each channel decides whether they will be available through streaming services.
- Streaming services, like Netflix for example, may recommend 25 mbps of service if you want to stream on the new 4K TV’s or devices popular today. And that would mean 25 mbps for each 4K device. Visit https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-stream-netflix-in-4k-1847830 for more information on 4K streaming.
August 14, 2018—Building over 3,000 miles of a fiber network takes time. You could say it took 80 years to build that much electric line and make it as reliable as it is. Through the use of numerous contractors, we are building the fiber network much faster, likely within four years, yet with the same attention to detail and reliability.
Electric cooperative members are used to seeing the electric infrastructure; substations, poles, wires, transformers, meter pedestals and meters. The fiber construction is introducing new infrastructure attached to, or near, the electric equipment.
Similar to a substation, fiber construction starts with a headend building, where the fiber source initiates. We currently have two headend buildings that connect to form a loop and help to ensure reliable service.
Extending from the headend, you will see the fiber line, hanging just below the electric line, termination splice points, splitter cabinets, terminal pedestals and fiber markers.
These pole-mounted splitter cabinets act as a source of fiber and are strategically located to serve the connected members in the area. As an example, one electric circuit may have as many as three splitter cabinets serving 100 homes.
In subdivisions, you may see terminal pedestals on the ground. Typically smaller than an electric transformer box, these pedestals are the connection point for the homes or businesses within that subdivision.
When you see overhead electric line, you may notice the fiber line looks different, almost as if it is tangled. This is planned construction, leaving extra fiber, or slack, to allow for future needs.
Glancing at the top of some poles, you may notice these, cylinder-shaped devices. These are termination splice points and allow Cooperative personnel access to fiber to serve our electric equipment as well as individual homes and businesses.
Because some of the fiber infrastructure is underground, just as electric lines may be, you might see orange fiber markers in area ditches to mark the location of the underground. Please do not use these markers as a personal guide on where underground utilities are. It is always much more safe, and far less expensive, to call Iowa One Call anytime you plan to dig on your property. Call before you dig, it’s the law--800-292-8989, or 811.
Watch for a future blog about the equipment needed at your home or business to bring the fiber directly to you.
The Make-Ready Step
July 6, 2018--We are always pleased when members ask “why”. It tells us you are engaged in our efforts. Recently we were asked, “Why did you install a new, taller pole on our property?”. The answer was to accommodate the new fiber line and still provide sufficient clearance from the ground.
With over 1,000 miles of fiber now installed, we have found that the process we established at the beginning of the project is still working well. The design of our electric system the past 83 years didn’t assume we would need to add a communications cable to every single pole. We hired an engineering consulting firm, Pulse Broadband, to review our system, including every road, driveway and field crossing, to ensure we can still maintain adequate ground clearance once the fiber cable is installed. The firm identifies issues and then our linemen complete “make-ready” work to ensure the pole will allow the fiber cable to be safely attached.
Another question often asked is "Why did you trim/cut my trees?". The cooperative is always working to keep trees from growing into power lines in an effort to reduce tree related power outages. The addition of the fiber line, below the electric line, requires additional trimming for clearance and access to the line. We love trees as much as our members do. They are part of what makes eastern Iowa so beautiful. However, trees and power lines don't mix and if they bring electric and fiber lines down during an ice or wind storm, it takes much longer to free the line and restore services.
Construction and maintenance of our system is at the core of our efforts to remain one of the most reliable utilities in the state.
VoIP Telephone Service Option
June 7, 2018--Along with high speed internet service, members can also enjoy unlimited long distance telephone service. Voice over the Internet (Protocol), or VoIP service may be a foreign term to some, but it simply means your telephone service can be supplied through your broadband internet connection instead of an analog telephone line. Most members will be able to retain their currenet telephone number and their current telephone(s). The service includes a free, 8-hour battery back-up to ensure continued accessibility during a power outage.
Residential VoIP service is only $34.95 per month when bundled with your MVlink internet service (cost is $49.95 if not bundled). You will receive all of the following features:
- Unlimited local calls
- Unlimited long distance calls within the contiguous United States
- Voicemail to Email
- Call Waiting
- Caller ID
- Call Forwarding
For those members needing dedicated fax lines, and additional line can be added for $14.95 per month. Businessed needing multiple extensions or services can contact the office for a customized VoIP solution.
Go digitial and give VoIP a try!
March 20, 2018---Now that several members have experienced a few months of MVlink service, we thought it would be interesting to reach out to them for comments on their experiences. Here is what we learned:
Matthew, Anamosa says “It’s superfast, we’re so happy. We have now moved on to having more of a smart home with WiFi enabled light switches, smoke alarms and other electronics. We’re also looking at an internet-based TV. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this with our prior service.”
Affordable Heating & Cooling, Anamosa
Abby says, “It’s made my life here 20 million times better! One of my jobs used to take 5 minutes to load and now I can do it in 3 seconds.
Allie said she remembers the first day she was able to use MVlink. She turned to her coworkers and said, “Wow, is this (speed) how it’s always going to be?”
Patricia Bauer, Holy Cross, commented that waiting for MVlink to reach their home was “the longest year of their life”. They utilized a satellite service prior to MVlink and are “over-the-moon” thrilled with the quality of MVlink. Patricia also stated, “We had the nicest group of contractors, very polite, respected our property, and even came back just to visit on their free time. And our son is now better able to work from home. We are very pleased!”
Chad Rubner, Anamosa, told us he uploaded 120 pictures to WalMart and it took about 2 minutes. It would have taken an hour with his previous provider because their speeds were worthless. “I give praise to MVlink whenever I can because we have not had a better provider since we’ve lived in this area”, says Chad.
The Year in Review
January 8, 2018---Progress continues with our Smart Grid build out and we are pleased with, and appreciative of, the interest from our membership for a high-speed fiber internet option.
The design of the network is following our electric grid as we work along electric lines (feeders) extending from individual substations. As explained in previous blogs, our four-step process includes design of the system, make ready labor, mainline construction, fiber drops and ultimately the home or business installation. We are currently working in 14 different substation areas covering a large portion of our service area from Stone City to Hopkinton to Sherrill. Individual feeders are in different phases of the process as we utilize over 70 contractors, with an additional firm joining us on March 1. We have also hired several new employees, working strictly in the fiber side of our business.
A 2017 highlight was the construction of two head-end facilities, one in Dubuque County and one in Jones County. A head-end is a master facility with hardware and software that receives, processes and distributes data signals. The Jones County head-end facilitates a fiber loop, significantly enhancing service reliability.
Another milestone was the launch of VoIP telephone service. VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, allows use of the broadband internet connection to make and receive telephone calls. With the ability to also have a fax line, this has proven a valuable resource for the members who work from home.
Statistics as of December 31st:
- 3,468 members expressed interest at mvlink.coop
- 1,464 members signed up to take service (within the areas ready for service)
- 689 members are connected and receiving service
- 542 miles of mainline fiber is constructed
- 498 miles are ready for drops and home installs
Connected members are now experiencing up to 1 gigabyte of speed, and enjoying newfound freedom for fast file uploads and downloads and uninterrupted streaming.
Overall, we are happy to see this level of progress, while at the same time recognizing many members are anxiously awaiting their connection. We have no intentions of slowing down and simply ask for your patience as we build a robust and reliable system to meet your internet needs well into the future.