[Compare this with the current standings.]
2004-05-27: RCN Rescued By Deutsche Bank, Creditors
RCN announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, that it has come to an agreement with its creditors for a debt-for-equity swap, and has a commitment from Deutsche Bank for a new $460 million investment when the company exits bankruptcy. Its debt will go down from the current $1.66 billion to $480 million.
The company, its customers and its employees should be ok (at least according to the report). The fact that current bondholders and Deutsche Bank are betting on the company gives that claim some credibility. Current shareholders, however, are either totally or almost totally screwed.
I don't know whether this agreement makes it more or less likely that RCN will be acquired any time soon.
2004-05-17: RCN Update: Lenders still patient; Is Adelphia the wild card?
Since I signed up for email notifications on the RCN Tomorrow web site I occasionally get status emails on the bankruptcy. Pretty much all of them read like the one I just got today. The headline on this one reads:
RCN Continues Financial Restructuring Negotiations; Extends Forbearance Agreements with Senior Lenders and Members of Noteholders' Committee Through June 1, 2004
I get those about every two or three weeks; each time the date gets pushed out.
A few days ago this article flew by on Yahoo news.
The gist of this story is that Adelphia, a much bigger company than RCN, is also bankrupt, in part due to a fraud scandal, and that "wheeling and dealing among U.S. cable companies" has basically halted until the industry sees what happens with Adelphia. A number of vultures, including Time Warner, Comcast and Cox, are circling overhead.
I wonder if the lenders are hoping one or more of the vultures will be interested in picking the bones of RCN after they have finished swallowing Adelphia. Otherwise, why would the negotiations be taking so long?
2004-05-05: Verizon to up uploads free and downloads for a price
A key to all this is who will be offered these upgrades. I read a rumor on
BroadbandReports.com that the maximum loop length to qualify for 1.5 Mb/s downloads will be raised from 15,000 ft to 18,000 ft. In practice there are all sorts of technical hurdles to fast DSL that generally increase with the length of the local loop (length of wire between your house and the central office). My advice is, if you are an existing customer, don't get your hopes up too high, and if you are a potential customer, make sure you know what speed your house will be getting, not what you could get in theory.
- In the next two months, some Verizon DSL customers will be able to get their upload caps raised at no charge from 128 kb/s to 384 kb/s. But this upgrade will not be automatic; you'll have to request it.
- This summer, some Verizon DSL customers will be offered a 3 Mb/s download cap for an undisclosed price.
- This year, Verizon will upgrade 7 million more phone lines beyond the current three mile limit to allow DSL.
- This year, they will offer VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and "naked" DSL (i.e. DSL without conventional local phone service.
Verizon also put out a press release.
2004-02-11: RCN to file Chapter 11
In a widely anticipated move, RCN has announced that it
plans to file Chapter 11
"in order to consummate a deal."
No news yet on when they will file or with whom they are negotiating.
Supposedly service will not be affected while this goes on.
RCN "hopes to finalize an equity-for-debt deal before March 1."
RCN has a web site describing their spin on the situation at
2003-10-03: Comcast and RCN continue to race
In an effort to compete with DSL price cuts, both Comcast and RCN
have decided to compete on speed and have recently announced no-cost
According to today's Globe, Comcast will increase their
download cap to 3 Mb/s (leaving uploads capped at 256 kb/s)
"by the end of the year." No word on what will happen to
which apparently already offers 3.5 Mb/s download and 384 kb/s uploads.
You may have to power cycle your cable modem to get the increase.
On October 15,
RCN will boost downloads
to 3 Mb/s (now called MegaModem Mach 3)
for customers who currently have 1.5 Mb/s downloads,
and will boost downloads to 5 Mb/s for MegaModem customers
(now called MegaModem Mach 5).
RCN uploads will remain capped at 800 Mb/s
(about 3x Comcast's standard upload speed and
about twice Comcast Pro's upload speed).
RCN also now seems to offer, without much publicity, a much slower,
and presumably cheaper,
option: 256 kb/s download, 128 kb/s upload. This is still
significantly faster than dialup and shares many of the advantages of
broadband: it's always on and doesn't tie up the phone. This may be a
good option for Internet users who mostly do Web browsing and
email without much downloading, uploading or multimedia.
As of 2003-10-07, the Mach 5 boost has already appeared on my
RCN cable modem, which is now capped at 5.2 Mb/s!
I didn't have to do anything to make this happen.
Some cable modems can tell you what speeds they
are capped at. If you have one like mine (an RCN-provided "shark fin")
you can do the following:
- From your home computer, point your browser at the cable
modem's internal web server (check the cable modem's documentation;
most answer to
some older ones (like mine) answer to
(What's happening here is that instead of using the cable modem as
as a conduit to the Internet as usual, you are
talking directly the cable modem.)
- At this point, you can look around just like any other web site
and look for something like maximum upstream and downstream data rates.
On my older 3Com "shark fin" cable modem, you get that info
by clicking on "operation configuration".
- If you have MegaModem Mach 5, it should say something like
Maximum Downstream Data Rate: 5.20 Mb/s
Maximum Upstream Data Rate: 0.80 Mb/s
If you have MegaModem Mach 3, the maximum downstream rate
should be something over 3 Mb/s.
- If you think you should have a higher cap than your cable modem shows,
before contacting RCN try the "voodoo"
to make sure your cable modem has gotten
all the latest tweaks RCN wants to give it:
Unplug the power and CATV cable (the fat one) from the cable modem,
wait two minutes, plug the CATV cable back in, and finally plug the
power cable back in. Then start again at step 1.
2003-06-02: RCN to block SMTP
Bob Green forwarded
this rather sudden letter from RCN.
Most users (except those who pay an extra $20/month for a static
IP address) will get outgoing SMTP mail blocked unless it's
sent via an RCN mail server.
The warning appears to have come true today, as users overcame
this email problem to send out emails about this problem!
The only good news is that they
have opened port 80 (HTTP) as well as SMTP for users
with static IP addresses.
This change should not affect users who configure their
email clients as they are told. But it will affect those who
use other SMTP servers, e.g. at an employer or hosting provider.
A workaround is to
tunnel SMTP over a protocol like ssh.
2003-05-13: Verizon To Lower DSL Rates
In a news release today,
Verizon announced that they will lower a la carte DSL pricing to $34.95.
They will also lower DSL price to $29.95 when bundled with
At the same time they are raising the speed limit
to 1.5Mbps/128Kbps, but because it's DSL, only users who are
very close to the central office (CO) in Lexington Center will get those
The new price is reflected on their
This probably makes Verizon the cheapest high speed Internet in town
(unless you count the bizarrely-named
though it's slower than RCN MegaModem (3Mbps/800kbps),
regular RCN (1.5Mbps/800kbps) or Comcast (about 1.9Mbps/260kbps),
especially if you're far from the CO.
2003-02-19: RCN To Raise Rates
RCN will raise rates
on April Fools' Day, according to
It also looks like analog TV will go up more than digital TV,
effectively shrinking the price difference. It looks like prices will
go up about 5%-15%, depending on what services you get. This move
follows Comcast's Jan 1 price increase.
2003-02-05: Comcast Relents:
attbi.com Email Addresses To Survive Through 2004
Though people with
@attbi.com addresses will have to
@comcast.net addresses sometime later this year,
Comcast to will continue to forward email addressed to their old
@attbi.com addresses through at least December
2004. Somebody at Comcast who actually thought the previous policy of
@attbi.com addresses after 60 days was a good idea
must have been handed a clue by some kind soul, or perhaps by millions
of irate customers.
Globe article by Peter Howe
2003-01-16: AT&T Broadband Customers To Change Email Addresses Again
Starting in March, AT&T Broadband customers' email addresses
will change again to
@comcast.net addresses. Email to the
@attbi.com addresses may only be forwarded for sixty
days. Most users will be able to keep their usernames, but of course
those attbi users whose names conflict with Comcast users will have to
change those too. Since all this can easily be avoided with very
little money, this is appears to be nothing more than annoying paying
customers for the sake of the Comcast brand.
2002-12-05: It's Official: RCN Announces 3Mbps Downloads and Static IP Addresses
While many of us have known about it for a few weeks, RCN
has finally announced that they are now offering
their name for 3 megabit per second download speeds,
and static IP addresses to their Massachusetts customers.
RCN, like all (?) cable Internet providers, "caps" download
and upload speeds to limit the amount of traffic that they need
to carry. Normally, RCN caps downloads at 1.5 megabits per second
(Mbps) and uploads at 0.8 Mbps. With MegaModem, they leave the
upload cap as it is but increase the download cap to 3.8 Mbps.
Of course this does not mean you'll always see downloads at that
speed, because the rest of the Internet usually cannot keep up
that pace. But I have seen speeds above the announced
3 Mbps on my connection. Customers with Resilink Gold or Platinum
get this upgrade free and automatically (though you may want
to check; I needed to contact support to get mine done) and others
can get it for, I think, $25/month. Unless you do a lot of
downloading, I wouldn't pay for it, but it's a nice perk.
You certainly will not notice the difference with just
web browsing and email.
The static IP address, a separate option
which I think they sell for $19.95/month,
allows your computer to have a fixed
address on the Internet, which is helpful if you run a server
of some kind. But RCN told me that they still block port 80,
the port normally used by the Web, which makes it hard to
run a web server over an RCN connection.
I've asked RCN to remove this restriction for
customers with static IP addresses.
It wouldn't hurt for more people to make this request!
RCN customers can also now
buy a cable modem instead of renting one
for $5/month. However, for existing customers,
RCN will charge a $49.95 service fee to "install" the new modem
and pick up the old one, so it will take a while for the
transaction to pay for itself.
2002-11-13: No Surprise: Comcast/AT&T Broadband Merger Slithers Through FCC
The FCC voted 3-1 to allow the merger of the #3 cable company,
Comcast, and the #1 US cable operator, AT&T Broadband, despite
opposition from consumer groups and the only Democrat on the panel,
Michael Copps, who said, "Any public interest benefits that may
potentially issue from this huge consolidation of commercial power are
vastly outweighed by the potential for significant harm to consumers,
the industry, and the country."
AT&T Broadband of course is one of the two cable operators in
Lexington, along with RCN. The combined AT&T Comcast will have 29% of
the U.S. market, 22.3 million subscribers. Microsoft, which has used
its monopoly in operating systems and office software to increase its
control of the Internet and the news and entertainment media, will own
a minority stake if this new potential monopoly.
2002-11-12: Empire.net in Open Access Deal With AT&T Broadband
The Globe said today
that AT&T Broadband has signed an open access deal with
word on time frame or pricing.
This follows recent open access agreements with
2002-09-23: AT&T Broadband To Be "Nearly Complete" This Week
"...upgrades for cable broadband in Framingham and Lexington - where
network technology issues required AT&T to switch over homes 200 at a
time and install new cable boxes - are expected to be nearly complete
by the end of this week..."
Boston Globe, "AT&T Broadband clears milestones", 2002-09-23
2002-06-26: AT&T Broadband Is Finally Trickling In
I have heard from some folks who have AT&T Broadband
cable modems up and running. This is particularly good news
for those with underground utilities, who often have no other
Here's some news from
David G. Kanter, Member, Lexington Communications Advisory Committee:
The AT&T representative to our Committee says that 866-346-2882 is
the best number to check with. (Select the menu option for
"sales"--which was "2" when I tried it.)
When any municipality is in the middle of an upgrade--as is the case
with Lexington--until the entire municipality has been completed,
it's (unfortunately) not uncommon that a company's national databases
might still report that none of the municipality has access to any of
the upgraded services. And its even more likely that they might not
have real-time status on any particular address within a municipality
as the new services are rolled out, node by node.
Here's the latest information I have based on our Committee's meeting
last Thursday [2002-06-20] with representatives of AT&T Broadband:
- AT&T Broadband began the upgrade earlier this month and they hope
to complete it by this October (but see the last item below). While
that upgrade does include improved, digital cable-TV service and
high-speed data (HSD) service (also known as cable-modem service), at
present AT&T Broadband is not including telephone service--but that
could change at a later date.
- All of the new aerial (i.e., on the utility poles) fiber backbone
in the Town has been upgraded. (Much of that aerial backbone had been
installed, but not activated, by Cablevision before AT&T Broadband
took over the license.)
- They have crews who are activating the nodes along the
backbone--with each node serving about 250 homes. Once a node is
activated, they are switching the associated existing coaxial-cable
feeds to the homes (the "drops") from the old backbone to the new
one--hoping to do about 100 drops/day. So far, they have found they
can still use the in-place coaxial-cable drops--although they do
install new connectors. (As they now only need one of the two coaxial
lines in what is a pair of lines in the existing drop, the other,
unused, line is cut back at both ends.)
- In anticipation of the switching of a drop, they are alerting the
subscriber about that event and the need to switch to a new digital
converter box in order to either get the same range of cable-TV
services they currently get or for enhanced, digital, cable-TV
services. (If a subscriber has a cable-ready TV set, they should be
able to still get the basic, unscrambled, channels with a direct
connection until they get the new converter box.) With the upgraded
cable-TV system, if a subscriber chooses not to move up to the
digital-TV tier, once they have the new converter, they will still
get all their prior services along with a few new channels.
- Making HSD service available on a newly activated node takes an
additional step--which is usually completed within two weeks after
the node has been activated. That step entails the testing and
certifying of that additional part of their system as suitable for
the HSD service.
- If any of the existing buried coaxial cable should prove
unsuitable for the upgraded service, its replacement might well delay
upgraded service to the homes that specific cable supports beyond the
currently projected by-this-October completion date.
2002-06-13: AT&T Broadband May Finally Be Trickling In
I just got an email from someone with underground utilities saying that he
just got a digital TV box from AT&T Broadband and that he was told
he'll be getting cable modem and phone service next week. Their
still says my address doesn't qualify, but maybe some others do.
If you are interested and get turned down by the web site,
you might try calling 888-880-6066, the local sales office.
2002-04-02: AT&T Broadband To Launch in Lexington on October 11; Plans Open Access
The Globe said
today that AT&T Broadband plans to launch in Lexington on October
11 (that info was in a table that's unfortunately not in the online
version). AT&T Broadband also claims that it plans to offer alternate
ISPs over its cable, which was part of a deal it made to crush an open
access ballot question. I have ranted in the past about the
disincentive to providers of open-access laws, but I've also ranted
that the FCC and DoJ should take a tougher stance against megamergers
(such as AT&T/Comcast) that make open access more necessary. Anyway,
whatever happens with AT&T/Comcast, it'll be nice for users if they do
get an ISP choice, though for example MSN isn't much of a choice,
escpecially since Microsoft has a significant interest in Comcast, and
since coincidentally the
Globe also reported today that MSN may be raising rates soon.
2002-02-11: AT&T Broadband To Finish Lexington Upgrade This Year
said today that AT&T Broadband will announce today that
Lexington is one of the communities that it
will upgrade this year. The upgrade will include high speed Internet
but not telephone. The article hints that RCN's presence may have
motivated AT&T Broadband to put Lexington ahead of some other communities.
I urge anyone who wants a cable modem to use the little guy,
instead of the media conglomerate which is still slated
to become AT&T Comcast and which has not delivered on its promises
to Lexington for years. (This may turn out to be another such promise!)
But some folks, notably those with underground
utilities already served by old Cablevision wiring, may find AT&T Broadband
to be their only choice for wired broadband.
This assumes that AT&T is able
and willing to bring fiber close enough to these homes
and that they don't have to upgrade the underground cable.
It sure would be nice, however, if this work included
with RCN and other broadband suppliers.
2002-02-06: RCN To Raise Rates
RCN plans to raise its rates on April Fools' Day.
In Lexington, basic cable should go up 6% and most bundled
packages will go up between 6% and 10%.
[April 1 prices are now on my
RCN Pricing page.]
In an ominous little note, the article says that RCN
"now appears to be following the lead of AT&T in raising its rates
every year. The lockstep increases are a strong signal that cable TV
competition is not likely to lead to lower prices."
Of course, who knows how high AT&T would be raising them if
RCN were not around?
2002-01-07: Update on AT&T/Comcast schedule
David Kanter of the
Communications Advisory Committee
sent me some information regarding AT&T/Comcast's progress
in town, which will be of particular interest to those with
old Cablevision wiring but no current high speed options because
of underground utilities.
Unfortunately the CAC has no definitive information,
but they have gotten a few clues that make me think there's
a chance it'll happen sometime in 2002 (my guess, not David's).
Here's what David said:
No definitive schedule yet to our Committee, but:
- We were told they had funds in the CY2002 budget to do it.
- They have already made some substantial progress is changing out
their pedestals around town--presumably to handle the upgraded system.
- They haven't yet told us whether their new system will also
include telephony; just that it'll have upgraded cable-TV and will
provide cable-modem Internet services.
- Their early (preliminary and limited) tests indicated that they
expect to be able to use most of the existing, mostly direct-burial,
coax--which might simplify some of what otherwise would have been new
underground work. (That, of course, won't help if they have
fiber-optic, trunk, cabling to install underground.)
- They haven't said when the feed from their Maynard hub to the
Lexington aerial plant would be completed--and there hasn't, yet,
even been a confirmation that they'll still be using that Maynard hub
to feed Lexington's system.
2001-12-19: Comcast to buy AT&T Broadband after all
Looks like Comcast and AT&T will do the deed. Barring regulatory
problems, which I sincerely hope they have, Comcast will merge with
AT&T Broadband. The transaction values the new company at $72B. It
will have about 22M subscribers, about 10% of whom currently have high
speed Internet. The transaction values each AT&T subscriber at around
$4,500. The new company will have interests in
Time Warner Entertainment, QVC, E!
Entertainment, the Golf Channel, and more.
Microsoft will own a piece of this new company,
my guess is about 7%.
I believe (as do a number of analysts)
that Microsoft, already a monopolist
in operating systems, office software and web browsers,
strongly encouraged the merger to parlay that monopoly into
control of interactive media.
AT&T Broadband bought
Cablevision's MA properties in January 2001 and still has not offered
high speed Internet to Lexington, even though Cablevision
said we'd have it by Feb 2000 and had hinted that we'd have it even
earlier. When AT&T Comcast (or AT&T Broadband)
will upgrade Lexington is still a mystery to me.
If these guys ever offer high speed Internet to Lexington, that's good
news, but overall it looks like a lumbering behemoth to stay away from
if you have a choice.
AT&T Broadband was already the number one cable provider
in the U.S. before the merger, and Comcast was number three.
In addition, who wants to help Microsoft in its quest for
The Bush justice department is likely to look the other way.
As long as little RCN (market cap: $0.26B) is
remotely competitive, they'll have my vote and my money.
2001-07-12: AT&T To MA Customers: Don't Hold Your Breath
AT&T's latest statement is that, if all goes well,
we'll have to wait until July 2002 for
80% of their eastern Massachusetts
systems to be upgraded to be able to handle high-speed Internet.
And even that is just the infrastructure upgrade;
it doesn't mean the actual service would be available yet!
No word on where Lexington fits in the schedule or
on the status of underground work.
(reported in the Globe)
They also claim to be seriously considering selling out
Message to politicians: if there are a lot of providers,
the free market can do the right thing. The fewer providers
there are, the more we have to depend on regulation, like
silly "open access" laws, to do
the right thing. The free market works better. Don't allow
2001-06-11: Update On Underground Connections
There's not much happening for people with underground services.
Tom Fortmann's summary of the situation.
2001-04-10: AT&T May Delay Upgrade
AT&T now does not plan to finish the upgrade (that Cablevision was
supposed to have finished years ago) this calendar year.
Unfortunately for most people in historic districts without telephone
poles, this probably means another delay even for potential
RCN customers since AT&T and RCN were negotiating
ways of sharing the digging expense.
Communications Advisory Committee
is trying to rectify this situation.
Meanwhile, RCN is gobbling up former Cablevision customers,
at least those with telephone poles.
Maybe AT&T just wants to lose.
2001-01-08: AT&T and Cablevision Finally Swap Systems
Eight days after the closing date they predicted in April,
AT&T and Cablevision finally closed the deal by which AT&T
gets 358,000 subscribers in Boston and Eastern Massachusetts,
and Cablevision gets 130,000 New York subscribers and over
$1.2 billion in AT&T stock and cash. Assuming Boston and
New York subscribers are of equal value, that works out to
over $5000 for each of us (well, each of us who is
still a Cablevision customer)!
So when is AT&T actually going to offer us cable modems?
AT&T press release
2000-11-29: Verizon to NorthPoint: "Never Mind!"
Verizon backed out of their deal to buy a
controlling stake in NorthPoint, supposedly because NorthPoint's third
quarter was worse than it originally reported. It also may have
something to do with the fact that Verizon's offer for half of
NorthPoint was over three times NorthPoint's current dwindling market cap!
NorthPoint is not happy and will probably sue. The good news is that
we won't lose a provider, at least while NorthPoint stays alive. More from
2000-11-06: AT&T RoadRunner to Debut This Year?
I saw this in the Globe, but couldn't find it on the Globe's
pathetic web site. Meanwhile a worker in the Cablevision office
at "Kite's End" (corner of Waltham St and Concord Ave)
said she expected the merger to complete by the end of
the year but Internet would come in January. I have seen
Cablevision bucket trucks in my area. I guess this is the
upgrade that was supposed to have happened
a year ago. :^}
2000-08-09: Verizon To Outsource DSL Operations to NorthPoint
In a classic "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" move,
Verizon is handing over $800 million
and their entire DSL business to
NorthPoint, at which point "Verizon
Online" will be the new name for the combined NorthPoint/Infospeed DSL
morass and "Infospeed DSL" will be history.
Presumably the government will approve this. I love the way
governments tend to allow more and more mergers (though I guess this
isn't technically a merger) and then feel like they have to regulate
them! Why not raise the bar for mergers and have less need to
2000-04-27: RCN Update
Jon Craven of RCN told
me that they will be starting phase two on Monday, May 1. This means
that as of May 1, all but a few hundred houses in Lexington will be
able to get RCN service. Phase 3, which will add most of those pesky
remaining homes (except of course Tom's house :^( ) will start May
2000-04-19: AT&T finally ponies up for Mass. Cablevision
Six months after its inevitability became widely predicted, AT&T
has agreed to buy Cablevision's Massachusetts properties for $1.1B
plus 125,500 New York subscribers. The deal is "expected" to close by
the end of the year; AT&T's acquisition of MediaOne "is not scheduled
to be finalized until the end of June." The FCC still could stand in
the way of the purchase, which would result in AT&T having more than
80% of Massachusetts cable customers. More from
In the short term, it's not clear to me what this means for
potential customers. On the one hand, Cablevision might be able to
move more quickly now because of the big pile of money standing behind
it. On the other hand, the red tape and confusion engendered by the
purchase may slow things down considerably.
In the medium term, I'd rather have MediaOne as my cable provider
than Cablevision. They have been doing high speed Internet for years
and have a bunch of happy customers. So assuming Cablevision and AT&T
integrate well with MediaOne's infrastructure, we should be better
Long term, I fear anybody who has over 80% of Massachusetts' cable
subscribers. I think having the FCC and/or DOJ clamp down on such
egregious monopolies might be a better way to protect consumers than
misguided "open access" laws! It's much
easier to shore up a dike while it's still holding than to fix it once
2000-03-29: RCN really says "April 1 or May 1"
News is starting to come to me! I got a call from Jon Craven, the
Lexington supervisor at RCN (firstname.lastname@example.org,
617-590-0487). He told me that the Lexington rollout will occur in two
phases, on April 1 and May 1. Which phase you are in depends on your
address. He welcomes calls or emails.
If you sign up, make sure that your 10baseT Ethernet card is
installed before the RCN installer comes.
I tried to get a firm answer about whether it's ok to hook up more
than one computer using Network Address Translation (NAT), a.k.a. IP
Masquerading. I did not get a firm answer, but my impression is that
unless you get incredibly high traffic they won't bust you.
2000-03-10: RCN says "April"
On a tip from Jim Calvin, I called RCN at 781-316-8800, and they
told me they are going to roll out Lexington in April.
2000-03-08: Globe suggests AT&T may buy Cablevision's Boston business
On p. D12 of the 2000-03-08 Globe (I could not find it on line),
Cablevision ... likely will sell its Boston-area business
to AT&T Corp. for as much as $2 billion ... Last month, the company
said it would announce the results of a strategic review for Boston by
the end of March [yeah right, they originally said it would be sold by November] ... could get between $4,500
and $5,500 for each customer...
The Globe and I predicted this on
2000-01-28: RCN: not until summer?
I was getting my car inspected at the Shell station next door to
RCN in Arlington, so I figured I'd stop by RCN. I found a group of
techs and sales folks standing around, so naturally I started asking
about dates. Nobody had a firm idea, but most of them agreed on summer
as a good estimate. Apparently they still have plenty of testing to do
and a sales force and installation team to mobilize, which is an
endgame the cable hangers must have been unaware of. (How much of a
sales force do you need when almost everyone in town already has his
or her checkbook open? Wake up, RCN! Take orders over the web and
start collecting money!) That'll teach me to be an optimist!
These are loyal employees! I spoke to one at length who lives in
Brockton, a MediaOne town. He doesn't expect RCN to arrive in Brockton
for about two years, and even though he wants a cable modem badly, he
refuses to patronize MediaOne!
1999-12-14: Cablevision: not until summer?
"The next several weeks" are up. I
spoke with a salesperson at 800-320-0953, and he said that the fiber
upgrade should be starting around now and should last for about six
weeks, but they don't expect to offer cable modems until mid-2000. In
the meantime, we'll be offered more channels. Hold me back! Before you
sign with Cablevision (or anyone else for that matter) be sure you
know what they are offering you!
1999-11-23: Cablevision estimates January/February for upgrade
I got a mailing today in which Cablevision says they'll start
installing fiber "starting in the next several weeks" and that "crews
will be at work on the upgrade project for about six weeks". That puts
them in play in January or February, tied with my latest RCN
estimate. The race is on!
The sales person at 800-320-0953, the number on the mailing, had no
information, nor did their construction update
page. In fine print, on the left edge, my notice was identified as
"non-cust-rebuild". I wonder if existing customers got a different
1999-11-17: RCN is hanging fiber
RCN is now hanging fiber in my neighborhood, just a week after they
hung the coax. They are obviously moving quickly now. One of the
workers told me the "construction phase" is supposed to be done on
December 1st. Two workers estimated that the service would be
available in January. That's good enough for me; I'm revising my estimate.
1999-11-11: RCN is hanging Coax
RCN seems to be all over town hanging coax. This seems to be going
much faster than hanging steel, presumably because the trees have been
hacked and because, by using pulleys on the steel cable, they can pull
the cable a long way without moving the cable spools.
One of the workers told me he expected them to be ready by January
1. This actually may not be too unreasonable. It took about a month
between when they claimed to have started working to when they started
prepping the poles, another month until they started hanging steel,
and another until they started hanging coax. If it takes another month
before they start to hang fiber, and another month for them to finish,
that only takes them into early January. I think they also have to
splice the cable as a separate operation, and I don't know how long
that might take. Presumably they will have all their ISP and CATV
infrastructure done by the time the cable is all ready, so January 1
does seem to be a possibility. A cop doing the detail around the
BecoCom truck estimated February. As a pessimist, though, I'll keep my
estimate at Spring for now.
The cop also said they started working six days a week, up from
four, about a month ago. I'm wondering whether they know more than I
do (no doubt!) about Cablevision's plans and whether they are
concerned about getting in significantly ahead of virtual
hinted today, and a person in Cablevision's office at 800-252-5008
confirmed, that Cablevision will start upgrading Lexington soon but
provided no dates. I would really like to see them start before the
buyer is announced, because while the red tape involved with the sale
may make it harder for them to start work, it might also make
it harder for them to stop it. If you know any details
regarding this please contact me. Keep
an eye on their Construction Update
1999-10-09: Globe says FCC ruling eases AT&T acquisition of MediaOne and AT&T/MediaOne purchase of Cablevision franchises
According to the Globe, the FCC ruling changing the way the
coverage number is calculated eases the way for AT&T to complete its
acquisition of MediaOne and also eases the way for a combined
AT&T/MediaOne to acquire Cablevision's Massachusetts franchises. This
appears to make it more likely that our other cable provider will turn
out to be AT&T/MediaOne. More from an
AT&T press release.
1999-10-06: RCN is hanging steel
I've seen cable contractor trucks running up and down poles in the
area recently, and verified with one of them that they are hanging
steel cable that RCN will use to support fiber and coax.
1999-09-27: Cablevision to disappear from Massachusetts
It looks like Cablevision is selling Massachusetts and retrenching
to New York. They will supposedly announce the buyer by mid-November,
but I'll believe that when I see it. Almost any buyer would be an
improvement, but my guess is that red tape involved with the sale will
further slow any upgrade they might have been planning. Even if the
buyer is MediaOne, which has
offered cable modems for years, they'd still have to lay the fiber. I
hope the buyer is not RCN, for that would leave us with only one cable
Here's the press
release, a Reuters story,
which notes that this announcement follows Cablevision's failed
attempt to sue RCN, and a Globe
story that suggests MediaOne as the probable buyer and says that
the buyer would be bound by Cablevision's upgrade agreements.
1999-09-09: RCN is "prepping" poles in my neighborhood
I spoke to one of the guys on the truck; he said after prepping
they have to hang "steel" (structural cable, not wire) and then
fiber. He guessed six months before I'd be able to sign up. That'd be
early March, slightly better than the Spring estimate.
1999-08-30: Bell Atlantic: no plans for 12,000+ feet?
I just spoke to a rep at Bell Atlantic (877-438-3750) who said they
have no plans for lines greater than 12,000 feet from the CO. This
after leading us on since January. I am not impressed.
1999-08-27: Cablevision loses anti-RCN appeal
I guess Cablevision thought litigation would be cheaper than the
massive upgrade they've put off for so long, but perhaps it won't be
as effective. Their attempt to stop RCN from wiring formerly captive
Cablevision customers in Boston has lost on appeal. I don't have an
opinion on the merits of the case, but I'm sure glad they lost! More
from Yahoo and
1999-08-19: RCN starts work; estimate slips to "spring"
The Board of Selectmen Monday granted RCN-BECO COM L.L.C. permission
to add new lines to existing utility poles throughout the town...
RCN representative Barry Maffini ... said it would probably be spring
before RCN's 'marketing' effort gets under way, and then, the company
would have to decide whether service would begin in a phased manner,
or if service would be delayed until the whole town is wired.
... David Kanter ... [said] his committee would like to see service
start as each sector is wired. Assistant Engineer David Carbonneau
said Tuesday the town would make every effort to 'encourage' RCN to
adopt an aggressive approach, whereby some sectors would be on line
I'm with you, Davids! Here's the
1999-08-12: Is Bell Atlantic on line?
I have heard many residents claim that Bell Atlantic's web site
told him that DSL is available on their lines. At least one
resident has submitted an order. I have yet to hear from any residents
who have gotten it installed. On the other hand, the site claims DSL
is available in my "general area" but not for my line. It no longer
even attempts to estimate when it might be ready for my line. This
follows a string of estimates from Bell Atlantic: first February, then
May/June, then May/July. They even had the audacity to send me paper
bulk mail offering me DSL without having checked with their computer
as to whether my address qualifies.
I had an interesting conversation with a Bell Atlantic rep on July 16
after I finally got through to a real person at 1-877-525-2DSL. First
of all, he was in Virginia, handing the overflow from the New York/New
England area, so I guess those folks are busy. Their current
restriction, left unstated on the web site, is that you have to be
within 12,000 feet of the central office. The guy said that they are
going to upgrade to modems that support a distance of 15,000 feet. He
estimated "a few months" for those to be ready. He also said that it's
worth checking back every few weeks because occasionally the database
gets "fixed". I later discovered that they were so busy because of a
huge DSL outage! Maybe we're not missing much...
If anybody has any more experience with Bell Atlantic, particularly
if you manage to get it installed, please let me know!
So does the person at 1-800-RING-RCN.
But they also say (via the Minuteman)
"next year". Was that a typo, or is someone (besides me) confused?
1999-04-15: It's Official: RCN Signs With Lexington
The deal between Lexington and RCN has been signed. Once construction
starts (no word on when that will be, but it won't be until
construction permits are signed) some residents may be wired within
weeks, and all should be wired within 18 months. More in Eva
Heney's Minuteman article and RCN's
1999-02-13: Cablevision to upgrade Lexington this year
I heard second-hand that at the last Cable Committee meeting, a
representative from Cablevision said that they would be upgrading
Lexington this year. I am surprised that they showed their hand before
negotiations on the follow-on contract have been completed, but I'll
take the news anyway, if with a grain or two of salt! I would love to
see this confirmed in writing, or find out any more details.
1999-01-28: Selectmen Approve RCN!
"The Board of Selectmen Monday approved RCN-BecoCom's application
to provide cable television services to the town"! A few more items of
red tape are still pending, and then it'll take 18 months to build,
but "some residences may be wired within weeks once construction gets
under way." Read all about it in Eva
Heney's article in the January 28, 1999 Minuteman. Thanks to the
Selectmen and the Cable Committee for making this happen!
Also in the same issue is the Cable TV Survey, which is also available
Whether you subscribe to cable or not, please fill it out and
send it in. There are three questions on it that you might be able to use to
express your opinion about Internet access:
You should also go to RCN's web site,
hit the "cable" button at the bottom, and fill in the form asking for
more information. Last I checked, the "Internet" button only refers to
- 4. Why did you cancel your subscription?
- e) other Hmm, could it be...?
- 12. Were your calls about
- i) to request Internet services Yes____ No____
- 15. Are there other cable channels or services [emphasis mine] you would like to have available in Lexington? If so, what? Duh!
1999-01-22: Bell Atlantic DSL: May/June?
Well, the February 1999 estimate is gone. Now Bell Atlantic says May-June 1999. If
this is true, we'll have an alternative to Cablevision.
and has a slow
upstream (only 90 kbps for all but the particularly expensive "7.1
Mbps" lines) but it's a start and will provide some competition.
About 15 or 20 of us showed up at the cable compliance
hearing on August 12, 1998. A few interesting things happened
at that meeting, and I learned a few things too.
- Our current contract with Cablevision is a five year
contract that still has three years to go.
- David Green of Cablevision held out what he thought was a
carrot to the cable committee: Extend the contract sooner and
Lexington will get a better position in the queue. Of course,
the committee, the selectmen, and the rabble (us) viewed it
more like a stick: hold out on the contract and get pushed
back. So it looks like in addition to perception of demand
and state of competition as factors in when a town gets
upgraded, acquiescence of the towns seems to be another
Cablevision criterion. Cablevision claims to be close to
getting contracts with about 3 of the 39 townsIon the list,
and another 10 or so are not far behind. On the other hand, I
also heard some suspicion that Cablevision may have finalized
more of this list than they are letting on.
- The cable committee and the selectmen seem very keen on
getting us Internet access. It's not clear what we want to
encourage them to do, though. Maybe we should encourage them
to hurry up and renegotiate the contract so we get pushed up
in the queue, or maybe we should encourage them to hold out
and get us a better deal.
- Thanks to some Markey amendment of the Telecommunications
Act of 1996, our cable committee is powerless to throw out
Cablevision at the end of the contract period unless they
significantly violate the contract, which has nothing about
Internet access in it. While it may be possible to
throw them out, the only guarantee, if Lexington were to try
it, would be that we'd end up in court. I found what appears
to be a
copy of this act, but haven't found where it says this,
though sec. 303 looks interesting. If anyone can explain
these details please contact me.
- A town may not require Internet or other
telecommunications service as a condition of renewal of the
contract. We may, however, require a system upgrade that will
have a side effect of allowing Internet service.
- A number of us took the opportunity to speak up. The main
points we made were:
- We're a town of techies and Internet pioneers who don't
need to be marketed to
- Many of us don't even have cable so we'd be brand new
- We'd be at least as happy to do business with RCN, Bell
Atlantic, or anybody else with a fat pipe
- Cablevision may be shooting themselves in the foot if
they promote low-demand towns to the head of the queue
(because of a new contract) at the expense of high-demand
- We may even start building our own neighborhood ISPs
with a T1 line and some radio equipment or even some
wire between our houses
The Minuteman of
1998-08-20 had an
article on the hearing by Eva Heney. I also attempted an article on the same subject, not knowing
she was going to write one.
announced that they will construct an enhanced
system including Internet access in a number of communities,
including Lexington, over the course of three years. Exactly
when this happens for each town depends on where it is in
Cablevision's queue, and that depends largely on
Cablevision's perception of demand. Therefore now is
a crucial time for us to act, because our actions can
determine whether we get cable modems from Cablevision in three
months or three years.
Other providers are also considering offering fast Internet
access in Lexington, for example Bell
Atlantic and RCN.
Competition, assuming it doesn't scare anybody
away, can only increase our options and lower our costs.
It is especially important for us to mount a grassroots effort
before Cablevision decides when we get upgraded.
Details are below, but basically we must demonstrate
demand and get out the vote!
[At this point, all the big players have plans in place; there's not
much we can do to speed them up.]
High Speed Internet in Lexington