Getting the most out of FairlawnGig, or any other high-speed ISP

Pa Gig2
FairlawnGig is a municipal broadband service featuring 55 miles of fiber-optic cable and offering a whopping gigabyte of speed. But how the service performs is also related to your own home network, your devices, and how and where you use it.

By Mitch Allen

If you’re lucky enough to live in the Fairlawn area and subscribe to FairlawnGig, the popular municipal broadband service, then you know how wonderful it is to have blazing fast, reliable internet service. This has been especially important during the past 18 months when so many of us began working from home and relying on multiple devices running at once to do our jobs and participate in school.

According to a Consumer Reports article published just two weeks ago, a 2013 survey indicated that 92% of Fairlawn residents approved of the idea of a municipal broadband service, and in 2017 the city completed the project, which features 55 miles of fiber-optic cable passing every address in the city at a cost of $10 million. And they did it with no tax increases or assessments to residents. FairlawnGig is one of the best broadband services in the nation, so it’s no surprise that a whopping 62% of residents have already signed up for the 1 gigabyte service.

Including me.

As a magazine publisher forced to work from home, I regularly upload 2 gigabyte files. This used to take a couple of hours with cable and I didn’t dare touch my computer during that time for fear of interrupting the upload and having to start all over.

With FairlawnGig, I can upload 2 gigs in the time it takes to make a pot of coffee.

Now, the caveat is that these high speeds are achievable only when my devices are close to the router. The farther away I get from the WiFi source, the slower the speeds. I just fixed that with a residential network service called Proper Access, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

First, let’s look at some numbers.

Breakneck Speed...Everywhere
With the initial FairlawnGig set-up, the download speed in my home office was a screaming 250-300 mbps, but in my wife’s office in our basement, she was experiencing just 40 mbps. That’s still plenty fast enough to stream a movie, but if you’re paying for a gig you want that needle on the speed test to max out on the dial like a tachometer on a Ferrari.

Our den used to be a garage, so although the TV is pretty close to the router, the WiFi signal had to travel through a concrete block wall. That meant we were experiencing buffering while streaming movies, and that shouldn’t be happening. In addition, there were places in my home where my Zoom meetings would freeze and I’d have to take my laptop and walk closer to the router as the meeting host said, “Look, everyone, Mitch is giving us a tour of his home.”

We tried range extenders (also known as WiFi mesh units), but they don’t actually “boost” a signal. They just extend whatever the signal strength is where you place them, so the range was limited. They’re great for small apartments, but not so much for larger homes. We live in a 1958 colonial, a modest house compared to some of the Fairlawn area’s mansions.

If I’m being honest with myself, I chose Proper Access not because of Zoom meetings, but because I wanted to install an outdoor TV behind my garage to watch Browns games and there was no signal back there.

Proper Access founder Sean O’Brien

Enter Proper Access
I had interviewed Proper Access founder Sean O’Brien back at the end of 2020 for a story in the eastside editions of Mimi and I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy. He’s warm, smart, attentive, and he was a U.S. Army, non-commissioned communications officer where he held a top secret security clearance. He understands data transmission and security like no one I’ve ever seen. So I asked him, “If I go with your service, can I watch Browns games behind my garage?” Sean replied, “With both FairlawnGig and Proper Access, your neighbors will be able to watch Browns games behind their garages—but don’t give them your WiFi password, okay?”

Sean is relentless about security. His company even offers a hack-proof guarantee so you can bank, shop, stream and never worry about having your info or your ID stolen.

Plus, Proper Access is WiFi6-certified, the new foundation of the smart home. “WiFi6 is a game changer,” Sean says. “Rather than maxing out at 1 gig, we can handle 2.5 gigs. That’s important because now anything with a power button can be WiFi capable—computers and cell phones, sure, but also doorbells, thermostats, refrigerators, washers and dryers, coffee makers, ovens, and barbecue grills. Soon, you’ll have a hundred devises running on WiFi and Proper Access can already handle 500 connected devices. We’re hack-proof and future-proof.”

So What Did Proper Access Actually Do?
Sean and his team spent two days installing a wired residential network in my home, similar to what you may enjoy at your office. They installed a couple of high-security routers and hard-wired four additional access points—one under the floor in my office, one in the basement, one outside our bedroom door, and one (drum roll, please) behind my garage! During the install, Sean’s team contacted FairlawnGig support and their staff was extremely helpful and easy to work with.

My wife hates seeing wires, so when I asked Sean how he was going to hide all of them, he said, “Don’t worry. Our guys are nimble. They can climb anywhere and do anything.” Sure enough, we cannot see any wires anywhere and the access points are small, nondescript white discs that disappear into the ceiling.

So What’s the Result?
After the install, I finally feel like I am taking full advantage of FairlawnGig. I can run speed tests anywhere in my home (and large parts of my yard) and get the same blazing fast speed I get standing right next to the router. My streaming never buffers, my Zoom meetings never stall, and I can work from anywhere on my property.

Now, Proper Access isn’t free. The install costs about as much as a high-end, flat-screen TV, but it comes with all of the technology you need and it’s a one-time cost. There is no monthly fee for the service and no rental fees for the high-tech hardware. And once I saw how much labor was involved in professionally wiring my home—and the results I got—I found the investment to be a huge value.

If you have FairlawnGig (or any other high-speed ISP) and you want a strong WiFi signal throughout your home and property, Sean is the guy to call. Actually, no. Sean will probably be up in somebody’s attic, so instead call his marketing guru Matt Stevenhagen to schedule a site visit. You’ll find Matt’s personal cell number below. He’s a cool dude, too.

Sean calls me a “pro-sumer,” a residential consumer who wants professional-grade quality. I don’t know about that; I just want to watch a Browns game while grilling brats behind my garage.

Proper Access is located at 8584 Washington Street in Chagrin Falls. The office phone is 440-462-1303, but feel free to schedule your site visit by calling Matt Stevenhagen on his cell at 330-618-7756. The website is ProperAccess.com.

The company is not affiliated with FairlawnGig.