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RCN Internet review

RCN: The only thing more inconsistent than the connection is the monthly fee.

RCN Internet review
(Image: © RCN)

Our Verdict

RCN’s deals for new customers can’t make up for its unreliable service. If you're one of the lucky ones, you'll get amazing service, but everyone else is in for a bad time.

For

  • Good deals for new customers
  • No contract
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Against

  • Unreliable internet service
  • Several technician visits to resolve a problem
  • Confusing pricing

Before diving into RCN, it's worth considering that home internet access was once thought of as nice to have, but not an absolute necessity. That began to change as more consumers cut the cord, abandoning high-priced cable TV packages in favor of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Now, as more people are working from home than ever before, having stable, reliable internet service isn’t just nice, it’s crucial. 

If RCN’s service works well in your area, you’ll enjoy strong, reliable internet speeds, but if it doesn’t, you’re in for a non-stop headache. That’s true of just about any of the best internet providers, of course, but there seems to be very little middle ground with RCN. Customers either have a phenomenal experience or a terrible one when it comes to service, and confusion about pricing doesn’t help matters any. 

RCN Internet: Plans & Pricing

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Lehigh Valley
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Washington, DC

Much of RCN’s appeal lies in the deals it provides to new customers. The specifics of the bundle or bargain vary depending on which metro area you’re closest to. Chicago, for example, offers a 2-year price lock (more later on why you might want to jump at that), while the Lehigh Valley gets TiVO Stream (a Roku-like device) free for a full year. As of this writing, Boston is the only metro area not offering a free month of internet as part of its welcome package. 

Each location offers a range of pricing based on maximum internet speed. Washington, DC’s basic plan has the lowest speed at 100Mbps, but also the lowest corresponding cost. All metro area offers a Gig option for up to 940Mbps, but the monthly cost can differ by as much as $17 a month depending on where you live. 

RCN

(Image credit: RCN)

RCN doesn’t require contracts and doesn’t have any data caps, which is highly beneficial to anyone who needs higher speeds while they’re working from home, but may not once they return to the office. RCN also offers contactless installation.

RCN Internet: Features

  • Phone service
  • TV channels
  • Whole-Home WiFi

Like most internet providers, RCN offers bundled service with TV and phone options, and the pricing varies wildly depending on location and options. As an example, in Chicago, 400Mbps internet and basic TV, with a bonus of free whole home wifi for a month ($9.95 thereafter) is $60.26 per month. Adding phone only costs $1 more, but removes the free wifi bonus. 

New York’s TV package includes premium channels Showtime and The Movie Channel for free, but Boston seems to only make them free for a year. For the most part, RCN offers the same features wherever it provides service, but the specifics vary enough to make it crucial for new customers to explore their options very carefully.  

RCN Internet: Performance

  • Average customer speed is decent
  • Some customers clearly not getting the speed they’re paying for

RCN doesn’t make any guarantees about internet speed, which is typical for any internet service. According to Broadband Now, RCN’s national average download speed as of July 2021 was 187.29Mbps. That’s an average, so it may be that most of RCN’s customers opt for lower-priced tiers which offer speeds up to 300Mbps. 

That said, Broadband Now also deems Center Valley, PA’s 561Mbps as the fastest city for RCN internet, which raises questions about anyone paying for Chicago’s 800Mbps and up tiers.

RCN Internet: Customer Reviews

  • Bad customer service
  • Shady pricing

The many, many negative customer reviews RCN fall into one of two categories: spotty internet or pricing concerns. That’s not a huge surprise, as there isn’t much else that can go wrong with internet service, but complaints are consistent enough to start seeing patterns. 

One frequent complaint is that equipment wasn’t set up properly during installation, and that it took too many follow-up visits from technicians to get things operational. Another regularly-voiced gripe is that internet service will drop for extended lengths of time or is out regularly enough for it to be considered commonplace.

The customer reviews addressing pricing are also very much of a piece, citing inconsistent fees month to month, exorbitant taxes, and unannounced price hikes. Given the sheer number of permutations of RCN’s pricing plans, it’s fair to assume that much of this is down to customers not fully understanding what they agreed to, despite RCN’s claims that its bills are easy to read

The one thing virtually all negative customer reviews had in common was to agree that customer service was terrible. Some call it "rude", others "scammy", but all seem to concur that speaking to a representative of RCN did little to ease frustration or make one feel good about doing business with them.  

Should you choose RCN Internet?

  • You may not have another option
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

If RCN is your only option for internet service, there’s not much you can do but hope you’re one of the customers who receives rock-steady speeds and service.  If you do have options, it may be worth trying RCN for 30 days to vet the experience, especially if you skew on the more tech-savvy side of things. 

The ability to troubleshoot any post-installation issues yourself makes a trial period more feasible than if you have to rely on RCN to fix it quickly. 

If you live in New York or Chicago, which have much less RCN coverage, you might end up overpaying for so-so speeds. Residents of the Lehigh Valley, on the other hand, are more likely to enjoy consistent speed and performance.  Depending on where you live and what your other options are, you're probably better off checking out Comcast Xfinity or Verizon Fios.

Susan Arendt

Susan Arendt is a writer, editor, and consultant with more than two decades of experience from companies including AOL, Conde Nast, and The New York Times. You can find her most recent written work on Wired, or look for her on Twitter.  Be prepared to see too many pictures of her dogs.