RCN is a medium-sized Internet provider popular in Illinois, Massachusets, and a handful of metro areas in between.

RCN competes aggressively on Internet speeds and pricing against larger providers like Comcast and AT&T. That competition has been good for customers, as RCN is currently introducing more fiber to their network to enable “gigabit” service of 1,000 Mbps — mostly available in DC, NYC, and Chicago.

They offer competitive pricing for basic family plans in the 50 Mbps range. As of this review, all of their plans include unlimited streaming, making RCN one of our top recommendations for cord cutters.

Pros

  • Unlimited streaming
  • Affordable pricing
  • High customer satisfaction

Cons

  • Limited service area
  • Not all speeds available in every area
  • Fewer television channels than competitors

RCN Plans Overview

RCN offers several internet speeds at varying price points, ranging from 10 Mbps to 1000 Mbps. The top speed varies from city to city. Each option is priced very competitively when compared to the competition, making RCN an excellent choice for bargain shoppers. Since RCN plans come with no contracts and unlimited data use, they’re a good choice for renters and cord-cutters.

DealsPrice MonthlyInternet SpeedPhone
25 Mbps Internet $2999 25 Mbps Cable(858) 947-7561
Double Play $4999 50 Mbps Cable(858) 947-7561
155 Mbps Internet, Digital Basic TV, Phone $3999 155 Mbps Cable(858) 947-7561

RCN Speeds and Network Performance

Like most major cable providers, RCN uses a mix of fiber and coaxial cables across their network. What does that mean in plain English? Basically, it means that they’re investing in faster speeds so they can compete with “gigabit” providers like Google Fiber and FiOS.

That said, network upgrades are expensive so fiber rollout is a slow process. Most customers will find themselves with “hybrid” cable/fiber service that delivers faster speeds than traditional cable, but isn’t quite as fast as 100% fiber service.

See the graph below of national speed averages across the entire RCN network, based on the last six months of user speed test results.

Download Speeds Over Time

Here’s a snapshot of how average speeds stack up in specific cities. As you can see, there are some variations worth knowing about:

CityRCN Average SpeedRCN Top 10% Speeds
Allentown, Pennsylvania48 Mbps132 Mbps
Arlington, Massachusetts49 Mbps139 Mbps
Astoria, New York68 Mbps150 Mbps
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania46 Mbps120 Mbps
Boston, Massachusetts43 Mbps118 Mbps
Brookline, Massachusetts62 Mbps138 Mbps
Chicago, Illinois72 Mbps176 Mbps
Corona, New York64 Mbps165 Mbps
Easton, Pennsylvania47 Mbps137 Mbps
Elmhurst, New York55 Mbps147 Mbps
Flushing, New York35 Mbps110 Mbps
Framingham, Massachusetts48 Mbps117 Mbps
New York, New York81 Mbps186 Mbps
Silver Spring, Maryland48 Mbps129 Mbps
Skokie, Illinois45 Mbps109 Mbps
Somerville, Massachusetts58 Mbps141 Mbps
Upper Darby, Pennsylvania36 Mbps88 Mbps
Waltham, Massachusetts45 Mbps106 Mbps
Washington, District of Columbia57 Mbps146 Mbps
Woodside, New York60 Mbps136 Mbps

What upload speed can I get with RCN Gig Internet?

Highway with two-way traffic.
RCN provides “asymmetrical” service, which means that you get much more download bandwidth than upload bandwidth. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Most of RCN’s Gigabit plans will have upload speeds in the 20–50 Mbps range. This is slower than the “symmetrical” 1,000 Mbps offered by true fiber, but still a significant upgrade from traditional cable or DSL. Providing hybrid fiber-coaxial service allows RCN to compete on pricing, and they offer some of the best speed-to-price value in most of their service areas.

Since most Internet activities (watching YouTube, browsing Facebook, etc) need much more download bandwidth than upload bandwidth, RCN “Gig” plans still deliver a high-quality experience compared to traditional cable. They don’t yet compare with true fiber such as google Fiber when it comes to upload-intensive activities like streaming on Twitch or video chat on Skype, but the ~20 Mbps uploads still work decently well. You shouldn’t hit problems with buffering or packet loss unless you are sharing the connection with a large household.

Is RCN good for streaming and Netflix?

TV with Netflix icon on screen.
RCN has fast download speeds and unlimited data usage, earning a strong recommendation for cord cutters and streamers. Image Source: Mathew Keys/Flickr

Yes, RCN is a good choice for streamers thanks to their lack of data caps. While many large Internet providers such as Comcast have moved to include data limitations on residential plans, RCN has taken the opposite approach and actively encourages customers to binge watch shows through third-parties like Netflix.

While this doesn’t do much to funnel customers into RCN’s own TV service, it’s had a positive impact on their customer approval ratings and won lots of cord cutters to their service.

RCN Network Technology: Cable vs Fiber vs DSL

The main issue RCN customers report is a common one for cable networks: speeds are much faster than DSL, but the speed delivered tends to vary throughout the day. This is due to “bandwidth sharing” within neighborhoods, where a fiber line terminates at a central node and switches over to older coaxial cables to reach individual subscriber homes.

Since Netflix and similar services became popular, cable providers have struggled to keep up for the demand for video streaming bandwidth. During “peak use” times in the late afternoon and evening, the rush of demand for high-definition streaming can cause speeds to drop. This usually won’t affect your picture quality, but will slow down other uses such as downloading files, gaming, Skype, and etc.

Where is RCN Available?

RCN Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

As mentioned above, RCN is an excellent provider but their availability is not very high. If you’re not living within a city or the major surrounding areas, it’s likely that this provider won’t even be an option. RCN currently provides service to Boston, Chicago, DC Metro, Lehigh Valley, New York, and Philadelphia.

Because of RCN’s focus on rolling out fiber networks, it makes sense that their efforts are concentrated in major city areas where they can get the highest amount of customers hooked up to their new networks.

If you’re unsure if RCN is available at your home, enter an address here to check and compare to other Internet options:

RCN Installation Options and Installation Fees

It’s usually pretty straightforward to install your equipment yourself, as long as your home is already hooked up to the RCN network. This will save you the installation fee, but if you feel like you’d prefer the help of a professional technician, the process through RCN is fairly pain-free compared to larger cable companies.

The company’s technicians give a 2-hour window for service, and according to customers we interviewed they actually stuck to the time table. They even offer a $20 credit if the technician is late for any reason. [1]

RCN Misc Fees
Installation fee$49.95
Activation Fee$9.99
Modem and Router Rental Fee$10/month
DVR Rental Fee$10-$15/month

RCN Equipment Options

The gateway included with RCN service depends on the plan you’ve selected. There are options for standalone routers and modems, a combination router/modem, and a combo designed specifically for Gigabit internet.

Details on the exact specifications of RCN’s equipment are hard to come by since they deliver different leases modems and routers depending on your plan or location. What’s important to know is that, if you’re using your own, you’ll need a DOCSIS 3.0 device with 24 downstream channels for speeds under 1 Gbps, and a DOCSIS 3.1 device with 31 downstream channels for Gigabit internet. Take a look at their guide to using your own modem for more specific details.

RCN perks and features

RCN is excellent for cord cutters

If you’re looking to save on traditional cable TV service, RCN may be a viable option. With speed in many areas of up to 1000 Mbps, the network is more than capable of handling HD streaming across multiple devices. RCN is great for watching netflix, YouTube, or streaming audio all day long. Look into services like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for a way to access your favorite music and shows while saving a ton on your monthly bill.

Affordable month-to-month pricing

RCN plans don’t require a contract and you can pay for service month to month, making it an excellent option for those who can’t commit to a year or longer of regular bills. This is, in general, a very positive thing, but there’s also an upside to services with contracts. If you sign a contract, you’ll sometimes enjoy lower prices and more perks due to the guarantee that you’ll stay with the company long-term.

RCN’s pricing is still very good even without the need for contracts, but you may get offered some good deals from competitors for making that commitment.

Is RCN Digital TV worth the price?

RCN offers a fairly comprehensive Digital Cable TV option with over 285 channels. However, they don’t have a lot of options in terms of plans, and it’s clear that the company’s first priority is their internet service.

With that said, plans are priced reasonably, include options for sports fans, and cheap access to services like HBO, Starz, and Showtime. Subscribers can also enjoy television away from home with RCN2Go.

RCN DVR Options
6 Tuner DVR$15/monthStorage for 150 HD Hours
4 Tuner DVR$15/monthStorage for 75 HD Hours
2 Tuner DVR$10/monthStorage for 45 HD Hours

Conclusion: RCN provides fast Internet and streaming at a respectable price

Overall, RCN is an excellent provider that offers incredible speeds in most of their service areas at very competitive prices.

Their TV service, while not as comprehensive as TV-focused providers like Verizon, still has a large amount of channels and features, and comes at a steep discount with TV and internet bundles. The lack of data caps makes it very streaming-friendly for those of us who prefer to catch TV through Netflix and Hulu.

With no lengthy contracts and a 30 day Money Back Guarantee, RCN can be a refreshing change from the cold, impersonal cable providers you might have tried before.

RCN at a Glance

StatisticRCN
Price Range$29.99 - $49.99/mo+
Connection Type(s) Cable, Fiber & Copper
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com65.0%
ACSI Customer Service Rating 
Netflix Ranking15th
Population Served3,933,153

Experts

James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

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