Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Comcast vs RCN
November 19, 2020
Xfinity and RCN are both popular internet service and pay TV providers. Xfinity is a great choice for TV-only customers, mobile viewers, and sports fans. However, RCN is better for cord cutters who want low-priced, high-speed internet.
Xfinity has been trying to live up to the “infinity” play in their name by adding thousands upon thousands of titles to their X1 Streaming library. RCN, meanwhile, may as well stand for “Really Cheap Netflix,” as they offer unlimited streaming (no data caps).
These providers definitely have their differences, and the information below should help make choosing a provider a little bit easier.
When deciding on an internet provider, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of network infrastructure. The system with which these providers deliver internet to your home can have a large impact on how fast and reliable your speeds will be.
Xfinity has an extensive network that utilizes cable and fiber connections. Households across 40 states have access to Xfinity’s cable internet. A major plus in being a cable internet provider is the widespread reach of cable networks. Xfinity is able to provide high speeds normally reserved for urban areas to sparse suburbs and mountainside getaways.
Xfinity’s fiber plan offers the fastest speed available to residential customers, but less than 19,000 have access to it. RCN also offers fiber internet in most of the areas they’re available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give them an edge over Xfinity’s overall coverage, because RCN is only available in seven states.
Xfinity internet service is delivered through the coaxial cables that hook up to your TV, and is capable of speeds that are many times faster than those of dial-up or DSL. Cable was the gold standard in internet service before fiber came along. That’s no longer true, but cable internet still provides a speedy connection that will be sufficient for all but the heaviest use.
Keep in mind, however, that a cable connection sometimes lacks consistent speeds. The speed of your internet connection is partially reliant on how heavy your neighbor's usage is. More traffic means slower speeds. In other words, when everyone gets home and turns on Netflix for the evening, you may see your speeds suffer.
RCN, on the other hand, offers fiber internet to most of its coverage area alongside its cable internet option. Fiber optics is currently the best technology available when it comes to internet speeds. Data is transmitted as light bounces between glass or plastic rods, and the transfer is incredibly fast and more reliable. Your neighbors’ internet usage won’t affect your speeds as much since fiber lines run directly to your home.
One of the downsides to fiber networks is how expensive they are to implement. RCN doesn’t have nearly the same amount of coverage that Xfinity offers. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area their fiber network covers, they’re the clear best choice.
Pricing is where RCN really shines in this comparison. Xfinity’s pricing is no match for RCN’s. Budget-conscious people who are located in an area that RCN services would probably be happy with one of their plans due to the low costs and the lack of data caps. If you live in Chicago, for example, RCN’s starting prices are about $10 less than Xfinity’s.
However, I have to admit that Xfinity offers better features with their internet plans than RCN does. All Xfinity internet customers get free access to Peacock originals and a free, Xfinity-exclusive streaming device called the Xfinity Flex. You also get advanced security features included in the xFi Gateway, which is Xfinity’s modem/router combo.
As much as I love freebies, I’d rather have a plan without data caps. Xfinity has a 1.2 TB data cap on all their plans. Most families working from home with full-time students would have a hard time exceeding that data cap. Still, you could avoid all caps with an RCN internet plan — and you’d pay less, even if you added a paid Peacock subscription to match Xfinity’s included one.
Keep in mind that RCN’s internet plans are missing standard features like free internet security and public hotspots. If you want internet security or to extend your Wi-Fi range, you’d have to pay an extra monthly fee per add-on.
Both Xfinity and RCN offer double and triple play options that incentivize bundling TV, Internet, and phone together.
You’ll find discounts with both providers, but RCN outclasses Xfinity in this section with outstanding deals for new customers. RCN is generally the cheaper option already, but they also have more channels than Xfinity.
Xfinity offers an internet and phone bundle which is very affordable starting at $40. However, RCN’s triple-play bundle is far more budget-friendly than the similar packages featured by Xfinity. I’d only recommend an Xfinity TV plan if you’re a big sports fan. If you’re an avid watcher of sports channels like ESPN, Fox Sports, NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network, or MLB Network, you may find that you get a better deal from Xfinity. Of course, cord cutters can watch sports, too: If you’d rather go with an internet-only plan, you could get your live sports from cable alternatives like fuboTV and Hulu + Live TV, as well as from league streaming services like MLB.TV.
As for your basic internet service and modem, both services offer a self-installation kit that is usually the more economical option. If your situation is unique or you don’t feel confident in your ability to install the equipment on your own, professional installation is available for an additional fee.
Professional installation from RCN costs around $50, while Xfinity’s can cost up to $89.99 depending on where you live. Look out for RCN’s monthly deals and Xfinity’s promotions. Both providers sometimes offer free professional installation.
There are also additional monthly equipment rental fees from both providers. Xfinity’s equipment fee is straightforward: It’s $14 per month no matter where you are. RCN’s equipment rental fees vary depending on the equipment you’re renting and the region you’re in.
Although both providers offer a quality service, I feel that RCN is the winner due to its fiber network and low prices.
While Xfinity’s speeds are generally fast enough for the vast majority of users, the prices are unfortunately not as great of a deal. You can get faster internet for cheaper with RCN: it’s a no-brainer.
Heavy TV users or TV-only customers may get more use out of Xfinity, but for bundlers and internet junkies, RCN is the clear winner.
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