I have RCN's "Resilink Platinum" service, which includes cable modem, two phone lines, two cable boxes, and every possible feature on the phones and TV. (It's apparently no longer available, but not all that different from Power CPI Plus.)
The performance is fantastic. Before, with my 384k DSL line, I was lucky to get 35 kB/s. When I first got RCN, I routinely got around 150 kilobytes/second (well over a megabit/second) downloads and 80 kilobytes/second (over a half megabit/second) uploads. There have been many speed boosts since then and now with Megamodem Mach 10 my downloads are capped at 11 Mb/s, and I often see measured speeds over half that.
When I had it installed, I made no attempt to hide the Ethernet hub in my basement, right next to where they put the cable modem, which didn't seem to concern the installer.
I have seen a number of short dropouts, and occasional hourly short DNS outages but those are almost totally a thing of the past and reliability is now almost perfect. I rarely have to reboot my cable modem. By the way, the suggested Voodoo for power cycling is to unplug the power, unplug the CATV cable, wait a few minutes, plug in the CATV cable, and then plug in the power.
The voicemail works, if a bit clunky. We found the "family voicemail" to be a lose, so we switched to "value voicemail". We also have an answering machine with which we like to screen calls, so we asked RCN to set the voicemail to answer on 6 rings, so the answering machine beats it. (Even with an answering machine it's good to have voice mail for those times when you don't pick up your call-waiting call, or if there's a problem with your line, or if your power goes out.) Stuff like that should be user-settable, but apparently it's not.
Three-way calling has been useful a few times.
For the first week, I had many phone dropouts, some fairly quick, but one lasting almost all day. After a few service calls they replaced the RSU (Residential Service Unit, aka the box they attach to the side of the house) and it's been working fine since. Even during the dropouts, voicemail worked.
I now have their $20 unlimited long distance.
Zillions of channels. Most of them junk. Just like the web in that respect. But the reception is fantastic and the analog cable boxes work fine. The music channels are an unexpected perk. It's like listening to the radio but absolutely no talk, no ads, and excellent sound quality. (I have it plugged in to my stereo.) The jazz channel is surprisingly good.
I've been very pleased with the service I've gotten so far and recommend RCN. Comcast is also available in town, but for many reasons I view them as Goliath to RCN's David. Though I must admit I'm tempted by Verizon's FTTP service.
Before I had RCN service I had InternetConnect DSL. Here's that story. Please realize that things have changed since I wrote this. In particular, I've heard that the distance limits have gone up.
I'm beyond the (12,000 ft from the CO) pale for ADSL, so I have not been able to get cheap ADSL from anyone. I was not interested in paying $100/month for 192k SDSL, which was the best offer I got from most providers at that CO distance. I finally found a strange 416k/208k DSL offer, with static IP address, for $60/month from InternetConnect (later subsumed by Covad) which supposedly used an SDSL modem but provided obviously asymmetric speeds. I ordered this, not having heard (as I have since, third-hand) that the way they throttle the upstream makes for bad performance. This offer used Northpoint as the CLEC. But Northpoint had me in their database at over 16,000 feet so they shot me down. This later turned out to be a lucky accident since Northpoint expired in April 2001.
Luckily, just as this happened, InternetConnect started offering a straight 384k SDSL connection via Covad for the same $60 price, so they offered me that and I took it. I made a one-year commitment which means I had to pay about $300 for the "modem" (a two-year commitment would have gotten me a free "modem"). If you do get DSL, before you plunk down the dough for a new DSL modem, find out what kind your provider would sell you and check ebay or some other auction site. There are a bunch of disgruntled DSL users who are parting with DSL modems for a song. Of course, you have to make sure the provider would still give you support.
About a month after my order, a Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) guy showed up to install the line for Covad. He tested the line at over 18,000 feet, so he wouldn't install the line. I challenged him on that number, pointing out that the Covad database had me at 13,300 feet and that on the map it's less than that. I even suggested that he was trying to inhibit a competitor. He answered that Bell Atlantic wanted competition; once it's above a magic threshold they'd be able to sell long distance. That convinced me he was probably not pulling my chain. Seemingly within minutes I got a call from InternetConnect saying they were cancelling my order because of the line length. I resigned myself to wait for cable.
Two days later, however, another guy from Bell Atlantic showed up. He retested the line and got the same distance. But he said he had "management approval" to install the line anyway. Hours after that, a Covad guy showed up to wire the DSL router to my phone line. I told him the Bell Atlantic guys were not done with the line, and that it wasn't even obvious that the line would work, but he installed it anyway. (I don't know if the Covad guy and the Bell Atlantic guy ever spoke to each other, though they spent a fair amount of time in the same basement.) Hours later, the Bell Atlantic guys had done some magic to my line, bringing it down to 16,000 feet. Amazingly, once they connected the line, the router brought the line up. This was 2000-01-04.
I called InternetConnect, because I needed to find out my IP address and DNS servers before I could use the line. They had no idea that I had a line; they had already canceled the order! So it must have been Covad which took the initiative and intimidated Bell Atlantic into installing the line. Luckily they were able to write up another order and shortly got me an address. The three players (Bell Atlantic, Covad and InternetConnect) did not communicate too well! I felt I had to take on a kind of contractor role to get them all to do their stuff.
I spent far too many hours mis-wiring my internal router (a linux box on the second floor). You don't want to know. Anyway eventually I had a cat 5 wire running from the DSL router to my router. I spent another hour or so mis-configuring Linux for the new connection. But now any machine in my house can get up to 40 kB/sec (usually about 35 kB/sec), about an order of magnitude better than my modem.
For a while I was very satisfied. I started out with relatively few outages, but starting in early 2001, outages got more and more frequent. Most of them were short, from a few seconds to a few minutes, but there were enough of these that the net effect was not good.
The final straw was one time when I went through the trouble ticket process. I finally got to a competent guy from InternetConnect. He kept telling me how lucky I was that DSL worked for me at all at my distance from the CO. But he was able to talk to someone at Covad who in turn talked to someone at Verizon, and they sent a guy up the pole who fixed some line noise, but that did not solve the problem.
So I called RCN.High Speed Internet Access in Lexington
Last modified: 2005-03-02