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Monday, November 15, 2010

RCN Chicago's Idea Of Service

Excuse the local PSA for a moment, Cathode readers - though I suppose RCN internet users of other markets may want to pay attention anyway...

For awhile now, The Girl and I have had some troubles getting high quality video running on the old Roku. For the longest time I figured this was just a technical issue with the old wifi, and so I strung 300 feet of ethernet to plug it all in directly from the source so that we (and in particular she) could appreciate some quality entertainment.

I pay for 10mb service from RCN here in Chicago, which is far and above the connection speed Amazon recommends. This is a service that RCN widely advertises here in Chicagoland.

Problem? They can't actually deliver on that service. When we tried to rent an HD movie from Amazon, we simply couldn't watch it in anything less than a couple of dots after some time ... in other words, we rented an HD movie only to watch in blocks.


Heres why:

Now, while this is off my iPhone and off WiFi - it's not like I was taking this reading from the street or anything. Sure, I would expect some degradation from WiFi and whatnot - but ... this reading is showing a 0.66 download speed and the lesson here is simple:

RCN was selling a 10mb service. From WiFi I was getting less than 1. When I looked at the wired connection? I was getting about 2-3. Sometimes less. The speed is utterly unreliably and usually under 5.

RCN admits this is a problem on their end - but their technical support says that the "capacity upgrade" has no estimated time of delivery. Which is interesting, since I had an estimated time of delivery expected from me when I signed up for the service, although it has been over two weeks now and RCN has shown absolutely nothing from their part for the same. The best I can get, in fact, is "no estimated time of delivery".

So RCN in Chicago advertises a service to which they can apparently not technically deliver - and just tonight I got an email from The Girl that not only was nothing new being done about it, but that our service was actually completely down for the entire night.

Utility companies need to be made accountable, because they will for sure not it for themselves. I would encourage anyone to check their Internet connection compared to what they pay with a simple run of - but especially if you have RCN in the Chicagoland area. If I'm getting this level of service, there's a good chance you are too - I'm pretty certain few people in the Wrigleyville area are getting what they actually pay for...

And for the record - RCN customer service has been abysmal. I've been hung up by the automated service twice and left on hold for nearly a half hour at least once. I've never gotten a straight answer as to the problem or when RCN will solve it - leaving me to wonder if they're even capable of fixing the issue at all.

Anyway: here's the PSA ... we live in a world where we may pay for exacting Internet service which we only use at certain times, but that fact does not change the fact that we have a contract with a company to deliver that service. I don't care if you pay for speeds to deliver pictures of cute kids or to achieve a better frag count online ... you pay for it, but sadly only you will police it. Nobody on this planet will check to see if you're actually getting the net service you pay for ... there is no regulatory body for it in existence. It's just a contract between you and a business.

Which is why the Better Business Bureau is probably my next step. RCN's response at this point is completely atrocious - and I worry not just for the fight I've got with them, but the fight many of their customers may not even realize they are entitled to have.


Steve said...

Thus the huge problem with Internet access in this country. By and large you have three options for Internet access:

1) Cable
2) DSL
3) Wireless

For cable you typically only have on provider. For DSL you can get service through multiple providers but you're always beholden to the local phone company. Besides, DSL being do dominated by the local carriers has been rife with consolidation and low profits, so those options have begun to dwindle.

Wireless gives you a few options for carriers but the service is much higher latency, lower bandwidth, and is largely provided by the same companies offering phone service. I looked into Clear as an option, but though the bandwidth it provided was decent, the latency was horrible. No way you can game on that stuff.

If you want to see what a true free market looks like for Internet access, hop in your way back machine to the mid 90's. Then all internet was dialup and while it was slow, it had abundant competition. The result was falling prices and even services that offered up access for free paid for by ad revenue.

What we have now is the worst of all worlds. It's privately delivered Internet with nearly zero competition. This means that you get higher prices and, of course, lousy service. At least with a public utility there's some blow back that government gets if it's not well run. With these private utilities, you don't even get that. Your options are essentially cope or bail.

GregT said...

"Nobody on this planet" is an exaggeration. Australia has a telecommunications ombudsman whose job is specifically to police issues exactly like this; they're a bit toothless sometimes but at least they're there and it's their job.

Josh said...

Huh - duly noted and I'll give myself and Americentric demerit for it :)

Update: supposedly the capacity upgrade is now in, though the engineer actually said it was in yesterday.

Yesterday being when we apparently had no Internet.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

Got home. Tested. First test was 2 and some change. Subsequent tests would get up to five, usually around 4.

Know what 4 is? Not 10.

Anonymous said...

RCN sucks, at least here in Chicago. I've been having different kind of problems in one month. For two days in a row the speed is 0.45 down and 0.7 up which is abysmal! I'm paying for 10Mbs and this is what I'm getting. Technicians will only be able to come in 5 days which is ridiculously long! Don't get rcn as your isp. I will probably turn back to comcast.