High Speed Internet in Lexington

Old News

2005-05-09: Verizon announces that FiOS has arrived

About a month after they started signing up Lexington FiOS customers, Verizon has announced that FiOS is available in Lexington. The announcement was (intentionally?) vague about how available it is; it's not available for me yet and I don't even have underground utilities.

This news release is the first time I have seen (in writing) the $5 discount for ordering with "a calling package", whatever that means.

The news release also says that "Verizon plans to launch FiOS TV in 2005 to compete directly with cable TV providers," but then immediately covers itself with, "FiOS TV will be available in markets where Verizon has negotiated cable franchise agreements with local authorities."

2005-04-27: FiOS seems to have arrived

I know of a Lexington resident who has had Verizon FiOS since April 12 (who typically sees between 11.5 and 13.5 Mb/s downloads!) and at least one more who has ordered it. That prompted me to call them at 888-GET-FIOS and ask some questions. What follows is mostly what I learned from that one telephone sales rep, with a bit of editorial comment thrown in. It's possible that either she or I have some details wrong.

Evidently some, but not all, of Lexington is ready for FiOS. If you have phone service from someone other than Verizon, you might not be in their database so you may have to call to see if they are ready for you. If they are ready, currently the backlog is about a week from order to installation.

You can get FiOS with or without Verizon phone service. If you get it bundled with phone service (maybe only Freedom plans?) you get $5 off the phone price and $5 off the Internet price for a $10 total monthly discount. They are hoping to also offer FiOS TV late this year or early 2006.

If you are a Verizon phone customer, or become one with your FiOS order, you are no longer in Kansas. They will take your copper line away and will not give it back. [I have since learned that the previous sentence is false; there is a counterexample. At least one customer has a combination of Verizon copper telephone lines and Verizon FiOS telephone lines.] Because of "regulation," if you currently don't have Verizon phone service and want to get Verizon phone service with FiOS, they have to first put you back in service as a Verizon copper customer and then almost immediately take it away and replace it with fiber! This adds a week or two before you get FiOS installed.

But wait, there's more! Apparently once you have FiOS telephone service, you can no longer port you phone number to another provider. It's becoming clearer that one of Verizon's motivations with FiOS is to get out from under a bunch of regulation. If you get phone service from someone else (like RCN) and keep it that way, none of this silliness applies, even if you get FiOS Internet.

By the way, the new FiOS web site is a horrible all-Flash monstrosity. The old site is still there but I don't know if it's up-to-date.

2005-02-28: Yet another free speed upgrade from RCN

The standard speed cap for RCN customers is now 7 Mb/s down (still 0.8 Mb/s up). The premium speed cap is 10/0.8. This is fun; I'm starting to try to keep score.

2005-01-28: Blue TV Screen Of Death for Verizon FiOS

According to the AP article Verizon to Opt for Microsoft TV Tech by Bruce Meyerson and the Reuters article Microsoft, Verizon, in TV deal, Verizon plans to use Microsoft software in their FiOS set-top boxes. The boxes will initially offer a program guide, high definition TV, digital video recording and video on demand. This means Microsoft has nailed the three biggest local phone companies and Comcast, all of which offer Microsoft a Trojan Horse into your living room. (Ultimately, with Internet Protocol-based TV, there will be little difference between watching TV and watching streaming video from a web site, and there will be little difference between a TV and a computer.)

FiOS already plans to offer Microsoft's MSN with its (very) high speed Internet connection, though as I understand it you will not need to use MSN to use the FiOS Internet connection. Verizon Wireless also uses MSN and Microsoft Passport to personalize the web browser in its phones. It is becoming harder and harder to avoid Microsoft if you are a Verizon customer.

This article also says that FiOS "is due to launch in undisclosed markets around mid-year." Presumably Lexington is one of those "undisclosed" markets.

It also looks like Verizon has finally picked "FiOS" as the official strange way to capitalize that strange name.

2005-01-17: Another free bandwidth upgrade from Comcast

Apparently Comcast will be giving customers a free bandwidth upgrade that is to "begin rolling out this quarter". Customers who currently get the standard 3M/256k rate will be upgraded to 4M/384k; current 4Mb/s customers will get upgraded to 6M/768k. Anybody know when this will happen in Lexington?

2005-01-10: Comcast to move into telephony

Comcast "wants to deliver digital voice service to 15m homes in 20 large metropolitan areas in the US in 2005 and to the rest of Comcast's markets in 2006," according to a Yahoo News article, which should make Comcast the third provider in town to offer all three services: broadband Internet, phone and cable TV. RCN already offers all three, and Verizon will soon with FTTP. Life is good.

[Update 2005-01-11: Apparently this is a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service; your home phone wiring would be connected via VOIP to the cable. It will not be as cheap or as feature-rich as some VOIP services. More from Peter Howe at the Globe and Slashdot.]

2005-01-04: RCN no longer bankrupt

I didn't notice, but RCN is no longer bankrupt. They now owe $330M to Deutsche Bank and another $125M to other investors. Looks like common stockholders (like me) are out in the cold.

It will be interesting to see how they do against big cable (like Comcast) and big telco (like Verizon), especially now that Verizon is coming out with real competition with FTTP.

2004-12-08: RCN to emerge from Chap 11; McCourt gets boot

According to a company press release, RCN has gotten approval for a reorganization plan that gets it out of Chapter 11 by Dec 31, 2004. As part of the plan, founder and CEO David McCourt hands over the CEO spot to "20 year telecom veteran" Peter Aquino.

I wonder whether RCN's recent offer to trade its responsibility to serve the 655 lost souls for $50,000 plus some Internet services was an attempt to clean up its balance sheet prior to this approval, and whether the approval will make them less desperate to negotiate the terms. I also wonder whether we have any assurance that the original commitment has any validity after the bankruptcy protection.

2004-12-02: Cheap forgiveness for RCN?

According to The Minuteman, RCN wants to buy its way out of its responsibility to connect the remaining 655 households for "$50,000 and Internet bandwidth for the town's administrative and school use."

I'm a customer and fan of RCN and I'm rooting for them to remain a viable competitor with Comcast and Verizon. I also recognize that RCN made this commitment in very different times, at the height of the Internet bubble, and it is not realistic for us to expect them to honor this commitment now. Also since (I believe) those households can now get high speed Internet from Comcast and Verizon (especially if Verizon follows through on FTTP next year) this commitment is not as important for the town as it once was.

Nevertheless, this looks like a better deal for RCN than for us, especially for those 655 households. $50,000 is less than $2 per citizen, or roughly $75 per disconnected household. Intuitively I'd rather that we hold on to the lever than sell it for so little. I'm thinking that, if RCN some day finds itself in a stronger financial position, it might be able to wire up those homes or offer us a better deal. The only downside is that if RCN goes under, we'll be out $50,000.

In any case, the Board of Selectmen will be soliciting comments on this from Dec 8 through Dec 29.

2004-11-22: Verizon fiber-to-the-premises vs Comcast vs RCN

The Globe published two articles about Verizon's new fiber-to-the-premises initiative.

In the first, Taking on No. 1, it says that "Verizon is pouring more than $1 billion into a massive fiber-optic network upgrade that will reach 3 million customers' homes by the end of next year, including thousands in Greater Boston."

The second article, Upstart RCN faces second Goliath head-on, suggests that currently RCN is mostly competing with Comcast, and that Verizon fiber-to-the-premises will make it a difficult three-way fight for RCN, though RCN is used to being the underdog and Verizon will have to turn around its reputation for lousy service. The most interesting line for me was, "Verizon has yet to disclose where it will offer television and other services in the Boston market, although five communities that have been hotbeds of Verizon fiber-installation activity are in RCN's service territory: Burlington, Lexington (emphasis mine), Natick, Newton, and Woburn." I like the sound of that. The article also says that Lexington is RCN's "most successful market," whatever that means, and that according to CAC chairperson Jeanne Canale, Verizon has not yet notified the town of its plans.

Verizon has named this service "Fios"; it has been discussed on Slashdot. Verizon has a Fios page, another Fios page, and a Fios press kit. They offer "free" MSN premium with it but apparently you don't need MSN to use Fios (luckily). They have posted prices for speeds up to 30M/2M (though at $200/mo it's kind of steep). A measly 15M/2M goes for a much nicer $50/mo (with a package).

2004-07-27: Another Free RCN Speed Upgrade

According to a press release from RCN, essentially all RCN cable modem subscribers will get a free speed upgrade by the end of August:

RCN will reward its customers by automatically upgrading their modem speeds at no additional cost. Customers with MegaModem Mach 5 SM, RCN's cable modem service with 5 Mbps download speeds, will be automatically upgraded to MegaModem Mach 7. Customers with MegaModem Mach 3, RCN's cable modem service with 3 Mbps download speeds, will be automatically upgraded to MegaModem Mach 5.
I say "essentially all" subscribers because they also offer a much slower "ValueModem" speed but as far as I know that's not available here anyway.

I've had 5 Mb/s for awhile now. I rarely measure speeds over 4 Mb/s, presumably because download speed of my cable modem is so fast that it's usually not the limiting factor! So while the 5-7 Mb/s speedup is good news, the 3-5 Mb/s speedup is probably better news. In fact, current 5 Mb/s subscribers who are actually paying for the speed boost (as opposed to getting it "free" with a bundle) might now want to consider downgrading to save a few bucks.

It's hard to keep score, but this is what the race looks like to me now:
Comcast 3,000 3,000 246
RCN 5,000 7,000 800

[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

According to today's Globe:

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.

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 http://www.rcntomorrow.com.

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 download speedups.

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 Comcast Pro 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, ValueModem 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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".
  3. 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.
  4. 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 "Freedom" packages. 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 speeds. The new price is reflected on their pricing page.

This probably makes Verizon the cheapest high speed Internet in town (unless you count the bizarrely-named "war driving") 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 the Globe. 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 get new @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 nuking @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 old @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 MegaModem, 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 Empire.net. No word on time frame or pricing. This follows recent open access agreements with Galaxy and EarthLink.

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 (wired) choice.

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:

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 web site 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

The Globe 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, RCN, 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 joint trenching with RCN and other broadband suppliers.

2002-02-06: RCN To Raise Rates

According to the Globe, 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:

  1. We were told they had funds in the CY2002 budget to do it.
  2. They have already made some substantial progress is changing out their pedestals around town--presumably to handle the upgraded system.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

Thanks, David!

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 world domination? 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 to Comcast. 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 the merger!

2001-06-11: Update On Underground Connections

There's not much happening for people with underground services. Here's 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.

The town 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 regulate?

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 15.

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 today's Globe.

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 off.

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 it's broken!

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 (jon.craven@rcn.net, 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), it says:

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 1999-10-09.

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 message.

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 Cablevision.

1999-10-14: Cablevision may start work before leaving

The Minuteman 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 page.

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 provider.

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 RCN.

1999-08-19: RCN starts work; estimate slips to "spring"

From the

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 before spring...

I'm with you, Davids! Here's the whole article.

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!

1999-06-03: RCN says Lexington will be done by end of 1999

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 press release.

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 on line. 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:

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!    

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 dialup.

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. It's expensive 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.

1998-09-12: Compliance Hearing

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.

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.

Cablevision has 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
Jon Dreyer
Last modified: 2005-03-02