Well, I was right. Indianapolis now has DOCSIS 3 offered by Bright House (BH), under the tier of Road Runner Lightning. It costs $30 more than the Standard tier, but promises vastly improved speeds. Mine is up and running as of Sunday, so is it worth it?
The good is that Road Runner’s new tier lives up to its promises. I’m a pretty practical person, so when someone offers 40 Mbps, I mentally take off 20% for overhead. Sure, a solid wired network will have a lot less and a wireless environment full of interference may have more, but that’s a solid rule of thumb I live by. Yet, while Bright House claims 40 Mbps down and 4 Mbps up with Road Runner Lightning, my actual tests come in pretty damn close, at over 38 Mbps down and 3.9 Mbps up. That’s more like 5% overhead, which is outstanding for a consumer service, especially at peak times of day.
Now, I should mention that a quick wireless scan notes over 30 active networks in my apartment complex, every single one of them an AT&T customer. I’m the single Bright House customer. Sure, there may be customers with Bright House TV or phone, or maybe they just don’t have a BH wireless router, but the point is your mileage will vary based on your location, the quality of the cabling in your building, and other factors.
The price also isn’t terrible. I was already paying for the upgraded 20/2 tier, so an extra $15 a month to double that is well worth it in my opinion.
Bright House is a small company versus the likes of Comcast. This has both ups and downs. Specifically, Bright House offers ZERO promotional packages at this point. You won’t find a discounted price, free install, or anything. Their customer service also varies from outstanding to atrocious, as do the contractors they hire. My installer was five hours late. Five hours. However, Bright House is waving the $50 installation fee because of this. Yes, take note that even though the install process is a quick modem switch (<10 minutes in my case), no self-install option is available at this time. Bright House claims this is so the tech can check the quality of your line, however this is a bogus excuse given they can draw all those numbers from your current modem remotely. Likewise, this silly policy delayed my installation by two days, given I live near an office and would have gladly picked up the modem Friday evening.
A friend installed the same day experienced similar issues; suggesting Bright House is not staffed for a sudden increase in installations. Sadly this doesn’t even make sense because Bright House isn’t advertising Road Runner Lightning yet. While I’ve been aware for months and pre-registered, they have yet to reach me. Rather, through sheer luck, I was on the page wondering if there was any news when I discovered the new tier was live. I called them and set everything up.
Another bad note is that Road Runner Lightning is new, very new. This means many things, such as poor documentation, confused customer service reps (CSR), and crappy equipment. I had one CSR who was able to give me my modem/router (no dedicated modem is available at this time, only all-in-one routers) password immediately. A call a few hours later asking for the same information (more info why below) resulted in the rep having to ask a supervisor for permission, two transfers, and about 20 minutes of time. The tech I ended up with was nice and generally knowledge of networking, however he admitted I was only the second Lightning customer he’d dealt with, so we were exploring my router together. He said the training and documentation thus far is…lacking.
Even the speed isn’t clear. Some pages on Bright House’s website list Lightning as a 40/4 service, while others put it as 40/5. This disparity also exists in the paperwork I have and the techs I’ve spoken with; no one was able to clarify my actual upload, a difference of 20%, until I had the service and tested it for myself, confirming it’s only 4Mbps up.
The modem/router. Period.
I’m currently running one of Bright House’s newest offerings, the Motorola SBG6580. Now, I want to make it clear the device itself is very good from everything I’ve noticed and read. The hardware is excellent. While my modem is currently locked onto four channels, it supports eight. This means the device has room to grow if Bright House offers a higher speed tier in the future. It also comes packed with all of the new stuff you’d expect: B/G/N WiFi, GB Ethernet, internal antennas, a basic firewall and parental controls, etc. Where it falls flat is how Bright House has artificially retarded it.
First off, the device doesn’t come with the Motorola default password (to manage the device; BH does provide the WiFi key), but rather a random numeric only one set by Bright House. They also don’t give you this password, requiring you to call technical support and specifically ask for it. This is annoying, but soon enough I was in.
My first impression is that the UI is poor and terribly documented. Entire pages of options are summarized in a brief paragraph, meaning you’re stuck wandering Google for answers. Other options just don’t make sense due to proprietary wording and just plain poor English. Despite this, I soon had it configured to play with, as I was ultimately planning on putting it in bridged mode and resuming use of my D-Link DGL-4500 gaming router, mainly due to its extreme level of existing customization including QoS rules, etc.
My first major hassle was that I changed the password and quickly discarded the default one. After all, why would I need it? Well, because Bright House has a timed script which resets certain settings back to default. I confirm this isn’t based off rebooting the device or sudden power loss, but a seemingly random period of time. Sure, I can change certain firewall settings and other items, however you cannot change the Wi-Fi’s network name or encryption password, the routers management password, or other critical features. Well, you can, but 10-15 minutes later they’ll revert back to default. This resulted in a second call to BH seeking the default password.
The Wi-Fi is limited to channels 1-7. The default password is only a combination of eight numbers; easy to brute force. The wireless encryption key is likewise short and relatively simple compared to what I prefer. Simply put, every vital setting I want to change on the device is locked down so I cannot. This sucks.
Thankfully, after disabling the wireless and turning off “NATP” mode, the device bridges fine and acts as a simple modem. In short, BH has taken an outstanding device and ruined it. If you know the difference between a modem and router, then you will be well served using a dedicated router of your choosing.
In the end, Bright House’s new Road Runner Lightning is a great service, only failing in policy. BH needs to train its techs, clarify things like the upload speed, and not dumb down their router. That said, if you’re patient enough to suffer through and have a solid router of your own, 40/4 Mbps is sweet.
Unless you’re living in Japan, in which case you’ve probably had faster Net for five years now.