Comcast Business Fiber Fiobles..Temporarily Stymied


November, 2017:

I received an e-mail saying that Comcast has pulled fiber into this area and that their gigabit pro service was available to me as a business class customer.  This is a pure fiber to the premises service that would net me 2 gigabits both up and down.  it comes with an IPV4 /30 and an IPV6 /48(Holy crap!).  While this is some super powerful stuff what was even more ridiculous was the price.  1k install/activation fee, $20/month equipment rental, and a 2 year contract.  Price?  $150/month.  That’s OUTSTANDING in ANY area.  I immediately called in…however I knew better than to try the normal lines as this is a limited trial.  Luckily with me being a Comcast partner over the years I had learned of a few tricks to get to the right folks to get the ball rolling on this.  I knew there would be bumps..as this is not a normal product for an SMB in this area.  Then the real adventure started.

The first thing I found out, through repeated questioning) is this is actually a product from the Comcast Enterprise team.  So this is not even a business class product but one for the enterprise that they are trialing in limited areas i presume to figure out how to better utilize all of the fiber they have already run as part of their HFC setup.  I then find out the way things are going to go:

  1. I get assigned a project manager.  True enough I got a dedicated project manager who was my goto person for this entire project.
  2. The PM would then contact the various teams that would be involved in the project.
  3. First was the survey team.  This was to make sure the costs would not be too much for Comcast to even consider the project.  Once i informed them 100% of the infrastructure was arial the survey went off without a hitch.
  4. Next was the fiber team.  They were notified of the authorization for the fiber run.  I got a fiber ready date of March 30, 2018.
  5. The fiber team would then send out a fiber contractor to run the fiber from the node to my premises.
  6. Once that was done the install team would come in and run the fiber into my location and be ready for the splicing team.
  7. The splicing team would splice in the fiber at the node and also splice in the fibers needed from the trunk that would have been installed in my equipment room.  Once these were done the network team would get called in
  8. The network team would then come in and install the on-premises equipment, light the fiber on both ends, test the entire circuit, verify provisioning, authorize the circuit and then tie it into my exiting network equipment.  I would then switch from my cable connection to the fiber connection.

Well this project never got beyond step 5.  I began making inquiries into the on-premises gear Comcast would be using.  I wanted to make sure about power and thermals and also compatibility with my current network. That’s where things got hung up really fast.

Comcast has, until recently, been quite easy to work with.  My long time of working with several techs in the area and certain field personnel have given me some ability to help with some things not usually easily handled for clients.  It has also allowed me to sometimes get projects approved a bit more easily because i know the terminology and processes of the local Comcast teams.  That is all totally out the window when dealing with Comcast enterprise.  I went into this project knowing I was dealing with a different animal.

I started off asking about the routing.  This is where I knew I was dealing with an enterprise product.  My first hop would not be at the headend in Knoxville, MD but would go straight to their carrier hotel location in Ashburn where i would first go through their peering network.  Holy cow man.  Not only am I getting multi-gigabit speeds but my first hop is Ashburn at their carrier hotel colo location.  That’s absolutely amazing.  This means that more than 80% of my traffic would never hit the public internet….my traffic would go directly from Ashburn to the destination network directly via their peering connections.  I am basing this statement on my own traffic logs and then comparing it to Comcast’s peering setup, which is extensive.

So what is peering? In a nutshell, large networks use this to share connections with each other on a usual basis of you send x traffic to me and i’ll send x traffic to you at a usually equal basis….if these metrics are met then we will eat the costs of spinning up the ultra-high bandwidth connection to you and you will eat the same costs on your end. So this means your data goes instantly to the destination network if there is a peering relationship between your isp and the destination network.

I finally got the information of the on-premises equipment they were going to install into my equipment room:

New Layer 2 device Juniper ACX2100 which has dual AC Power 

o      Ethernet Handoff via MMF Fiber for 2G and the 1G is a copper handoff

o    IP requirements – Comcast assigns a IPv4 /30 and IPv6 /126 P2P and IPv6 /48 Customer Usable Block

How did Comcast want to install the Juniper?  I had two choices:

  1.  1 SFP+ 10 Gb fiber handoff
  2. 1 GE Ethernet handoff and one 1 SFP+ 10 Gb fiber handoff.  Each handoff would be provisioned at 1 Gb.

That’s an issue for me.  Right now my firewall, USG Pro-4 which has two gigabit Ethernet ports and two SFP gigbit ports.  So it can do 2 Ethernet handoffs or two fiber handoffs or one of each…but it does not support SFP+.  The only product Ubiquiti offers that can handle a 10 gig handoff is their UniFi Security Gateway XG.  Right now it only available in their beta store and it goes for 1k.  It is out of stock and there will be no more until they do a final release.  The final MSRP is 1.5k.  This is what i would have to purchase to properly utilize what they want to install.  Right now I simply cannot afford this extra expense.  What ultimately killed the project is Comcast refused to reconfigure the Juniper for 2 gigabit Ethernet connections OR two SFP gigabit connections OR one of each….all of which the Juniper supports.  There was no technical reason for the request to be denied..Comcast just refused to change it.  I was not going to pay for 1 gigabit when the contract calls for 2.  This is where things got stuck and eventually the order was cancelled.

After the cancellation…the fiber team shows up and ran the fiber to my premises and the node.  HUH?  I then notified the project manager that the fiber had arrived and would she try to get the network team to reconsider their stance now that 1500 feet of fiber was run from the node to my premises?  After a few more days the answer was still no..so i asked for the removal of the fiber from my premises(the install team was due out on Feb 27th, 2018).  I get a call later in the afternoon from the contractor who ran the fiber.  I asked him what they were going to do with it.  He told me,”it would be stupid to take all of that down.  We will get it out of your yard and coil it up at the nearest pole.  That way if they decide to work with you later, the fiber is already there.  It will make things go much faster.”  I was floored.  BTW this cable?  It is 24 strand cable.  So there are, in a nutshell, 24 fiber tubes each with 3 pairs of individual fibers in each strand.  I have no idea how much this fiber costs..but this is trunk cable.  This one cable could serve more than 60 customers by itself.  I was talking to the contractor and they were amused by the fact that this cable has been ordered for a small business such as mine.  They kept remarking how this type of fiber cable is  normally run for things like a shopping center or a much larger business.  I told them this one cable could easily do multiple hundreds of gigabits per second considering a single pair of fiber can do 10 gigabits with ease( i didn’t mention about DWDM which can push a single pair to 100 Gbps under the right conditions). So there is a TON of bandwidth hanging up there…now the dreams start on how to use it AFTER i get that 2 gigabit service lit….and i WILL get that fiber lit.