Friday, April 17, 2015

Unoffficial FAQ for Longmont NextLight Fiber Service

I just became a "charter" NextLight gigabit internet service customer this week and am very pleased with it so far.  There is an official NextLight FAQ but some things I didn't find covered, so I'll keep this updated for a while.

First, some things you may not know:

  • NextLight billing is done separately from your existing city power bill.  You must supply a credit card when you initially order the service.  You can opt to have your credit card automatically charged every month, or they can  email you a monthly reminder for you to do it manually. 
  • There is no TV service with NextLight.  I commonly hear the misconception from existing subscription TV customers (cable or satellite) around town that they'll be able to dump their pay-TV provider and get their favorite channels over NextLight.   Not true.  Unlike Google Fiber in other cities, no TV option is available with NextLight. 

    I should mention that there are some IPTV-technology providers and devices that can deliver a subset of the usual "cable" channels to you over NextLight.   Check out Google Chromecast, Roku, Sling, Amazon Fire TV to name a few.
  • There is an optional phone service, though.  I don't have it so I don't know many details but I do know that (a) a battery backup is supplied if the power is off (think E-911 service) and that you can transfer your existing phone number. 
  • Today (April 2015), you must supply your own router, which these days almost always includes a firewall and a wireless access point.  There is no option to lease or buy one from NextLight but they're indicating that they may supply a combined ONT (see below)+ router+wireless access point device in the future.  Hidden away on the NextLight web site is a list of routers that are known to work on gigabit fiber services like NextLight.   You can take this list to Best Buy and shop around.  In a case I just heard about, the Longmont Best Buy didn't have one of the lower end models available on the floor but they were happy to order it.  Strictly speaking, you could plug your computer directly into the NextLight ONT box and not use a router but you'd be operating wide open on the internet with no firewall protection from the evil forces out there.  Highly discouraged.
  • NextLight installation responsibility ends at the installation of the ONT box (their equipment) inside your house.  From there, it is your responsibility to interface your own equipment.  NextLight installation does not include wiring/cable inside your house (e.g. running cable to your home office in another room),  configuration of your router and wireless, etc.


 On to the FAQ:

  1. I currently have Comcast for Internet and already have a router.  Will it work with NextLight?

    Probably.   For best performance, you'll want to make sure that your router ethernet ports, including the Internet port (sometimes called the WAN port) are gigabit ethernet (1000 Mbps) speed-capabale.  Older routers (2 years or older) may only have 100 Mbps ports.

    Amazingly, I just moved my existing router from my cable modem to the NextLight ONT device and everything just worked, including wireless.  No re-configuration was required.  Your mileage may vary on this one.
  2. What do I do with my existing cable modem that I use with Comcast?

    Check your bill to see if you are leasing it.  If yes, you need to return it to Comcast to avoid a hefty bill after you terminate your service from them.  If no, you could probably sell it for a few bucks if you think it's worth the trouble. 
  3. I'm on Centurylink DSL.  Will my existing combination DSL access point/router/wireless box work with NextLight?

    Almost certainly not.  These devices are tied to DSL (broadband over copper twisted pair) technology, none of which is used with NextLight.  You actually may need to return your box to CenturyLink if it is their property.
  4. What's this "ONT" box you keep mentioning?

    It stands for "Optical Network Terminal" and is the interface between the fiber optic cable and your router.  It is installed inside your house on a wall and is powered by plugging it in to a wall socket. Yes, that means no internet service if your power is off. Although it has multiple ethernet ports, only one (LAN 1) is activated and this almost always connects to your router. 

    The ONT is typically installed close to where the fiber optic cable is trenched to your house at the outside TAP box (see below).

    The ONT is the property of NextLight.  You don't pay extra for it via leasing charges.  Before installation is complete, you'll sign your name agreeing that you won't remove it, to sell it on eBay for example or pack it accidentally when you get transferred to Minneapolis.

    My ONT.  Two cables come out of it:  one for power, the other is an ethernet cable to my router.  You supply the ethernet cable, not NextLight.  Keep in mind that ONT device technology is always changing and that it may look different by the time NextLight arrives in your neighborhood.
  5. Installed ONT
    The outside view.  This is the Terminal Access Point (TAP) box.  My  ONT is straight through the wall.
  6. On installation day, does the install technician need to use my computer/laptop/tablet?

    Nope, they don't touch your computer at all.  You don't even need to have it around.  They verify proper NextLight service operation with their tablet connected straight to the ONT.
  7.  I run [Windows, Linux, MacOSX, Solaris, FreeBSD] on my computer system(s) at home.  Do I have to install any additional software to work with NextLight?

    If your system is from the last twenty years, you should be good, out-of-the-box with no software/driver installs required at all.
  8. Any way to obtain a static IP address from NextLight?

    No option for this, as I understand.  If this question doesn't make sense, don't worry.
  9. How much power does this ONT box use?I've measured it as a constant 6 watts. If my math is correct, this comes out to (6 watts * 24 hour) / 1000 = 0.144 kilowatt-hour for a day's usage.  Going by published LPC rates @ 7.55 cents/kwH, this comes out to a daily cost of about $0.01/day.
  10. I've been seeing NextLight crews/trucks in my neighborhood.  How will I be notified when service is available to me?

    I received a "doorhanger" with the good news.  There was a one-month scheduling wait once I made the phone call to subscribe vs. when the installation technicans showed up.
 Got more questions?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list.

19 comments:

Jason Stevens said...

For residential service, can you grab multiple IPs via DHCP? Or will they only give you one? Also, are the IPs they give you for residential service public internet IPs? Or private IPs like 10.1.1.121?

Peter said...

Hi Jason, AFAICT, the ONT only hands out one IP address. I was allocated a publicly-routed address in the 192.69.22.0/23 block. Assigned to LPC.

Doug said...

Jason, what did you do for TV?

Asok Asus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asok Asus said...

Static IP addresses are in fact available from NextLight for business class services (for an extra monthly charge, of course).

Neal Palles said...

Curious - I have two routers connected to my comcast modem- one for personal one a secure work router that does not access my home network. Can I run a second ethernet down to the ONT? the work router has a port for "personal equipment" but it's only 10/100 and they won't upgrade. Or would I be able to run the work router to my personal router without to many problems.

Peter said...

@Neil, my understanding is that only one port of the ONT is active. It's interesting that you have two routers connected to your existing cable modem for Comcast because my now-retired cable modem only had one ethernet port. Since both the ONT and the cable modem operate at layer 2 ethernet, I can't see a reason why you wouldn't be able to duplicate your current dual-router environment by connecting a simple 4-port gigabit ethernet switch (not router) to the sole active port on the ONT, and then connecting your two routers to the switch. I read that NextLight is supplying a different ONT these days (desktop vs. the wall-mounted unit) but I haven't heard anything different about only handing off more than one active ethernet port to the residential user. Although it may not sound like a big deal, having only one port greatly simplifies support calls.

Neal Palles said...

The newer Comcast modems are coming with four ports. The newer Nextlight ONT has more ports but only one is active apparently. I have been checking into a switch but was concerned that there may be interference as some network forums suggested.

Jones Morris said...

You can opt to have your credit card automatically charged every month, aminite

RIck B said...

Will Nextlight be my emial server or will I need to use gmail or similar? If it is what kind of server is it, i.e., POP etc.

no one said...

I have the same question as Rick B. Will I have email with Nextlight or am I forced to use gmail or other 'free' email. I'd prefer not to have to use those so-called free email services as they aren't very secure and come with ads.

Peter said...

Since I became a subscriber, Nextlight started offering an email service. You get N free addresses, N maybe just one, then there is an incremental charge for additional. I believe they simply use Microsoft's cloud email service, whatever it is called, so you can evaluate whether that is secure or not.

Mike Henshaw said...

Peter, can you advise which wifi server gives best cost/value for connection to NextLight?

Deranged Sounds said...

I have the service and I opted to use my own Router. Max speeds I'm seeing is 200Mbps down and up. What are the approximate Wi-Fi speeds using their wireless gateway?

john smith said...

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Soft Focus Imagining aka Nigel said...

I'm seriously considering moving to Nextlight, but I have a Linux server and having a ton of trouble discovering how the configuration would work.

Current Configuration. DSL Modem running in pass through mode, Centos 7 server - ADSL Client for login - Shorewall - inside network (server runs web and email servers, I think that if I swap to dDNS I should be OK.)

I then remembered reading this "Strictly speaking, you could plug your computer directly into the NextLight ONT box and not use a router" - Could I just plug the server straight into the ONT box, and it "would just work" ?

Lastly, you might like to edit your original post, as Level 3 TV is now supported on Nextlight.

Peter said...

Hi Nigel, yes, this post is showing it's age but yes, in your case where your CentOS server has its own firewall service, you could just hook it directly to the ONT.

Yes, I imagine there are other available IPTV providers that are available now, including Layer3. I've read reports from neighbors that Layer3 has had reliability issues. And, Layer3 is very expensive in my opinion, considering that the consumer is already separately funding the transport @ $49/month.

Soft Focus Imagining aka Nigel said...

I use Shorewall which really is a robust firewall.

Using Nextlight or CenturyLink DSL comes out at about the same price, with NL being a lot faster.

So if I swap over to Layer3 TV, it looks like I will actually save money. But their web site is a tad confusing when it comes to pricing things out.

One last question. What IP address would I use in my server, or would I set the interface to DHCP.

Nigel.

Peter said...

If the policy hasn't changed, NextLight hands out one IP address to you via DHCP. Mine has not changed in over six months.