Astound Broadband / RCN Home Internet Review: geweldige startprijs, maar pas op voor een sterke stijging – CNET (2023)

Astound Broadband / RCN Home Internet Review: geweldige startprijs, maar pas op voor een sterke stijging – CNET (1)


Astound/RCN home internet service


  • Low first-year pricing

  • No data caps

  • No contracts

Don’t like

  • Availability limited to metro areas

  • Sharp price increase after the promotional period

  • Confusing equipment fees

In late 2022, Astound Broadband announced a nationwide launch of a new internet speed tier with download speeds up to 1,200 megabits per second. Among US internet providers, that puts it in a dead heat with Xfinity for the fastest cable broadband plan available nationally. Not too shabby.

But I have to be honest. I nearly titled this review “Confusion in Cable Land.” Why? Because my eyes glazed as I pored over the differences in offerings for the six metro markets covered by Astound Broadband Powered by RCN. (Whoa, that’s a mouthful!) But that hardly matters for most people, unless you plan to relocate from one Astound Broadband market to another. What matters most is what Astound/RCN offers in your area.

Astound Broadband / RCN Home Internet Review: geweldige startprijs, maar pas op voor een sterke stijging – CNET (2)
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What Astound brings to the table is some of the most aggressively priced promo offers for cable internet. Add in the fact that Astound/RCN doesn’t enforce contracts, termination fees or data caps, and you’re looking at a winning combination — or an appealing one, at least.

Astound Broadband / RCN Home Internet Review: geweldige startprijs, maar pas op voor een sterke stijging – CNET (3)

What’s the catch? Astound’s monthly fees jump a considerable amount after your promo period. I would typically ding it quite a bit for that escalation — and don’t get me wrong, it’s a sizable leap and you need to be aware of that extreme increase — but it’s not quite what we would term “trap pricing.” The main reason is that Astound/RCN doesn’t tie you into a term agreement, so when you run into that price hike, you are free to either bail or try to negotiate with your provider before paying those larger bills.

Let’s dig in and learn more about Astound Broadband powered by RCN.

Astound Broadband/RCN internet availability

Residential Communications Network, better known as RCN, has been in business since 1993 and is currently owned by Astound Broadband, which provides services under the Grande Communications and Wave Broadband regional brands. Astound/RCN offers home internet service to six different metro areas in the US. That’s Boston, Chicago, the Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania), New York City, Philadelphia (primarily Delaware County) and Washington, DC.

Astound Broadband/RCN internet plans and pricing

This is where I felt like I was wrangling cats. Astound/RCN does not offer the same plans and pricing across its six markets. We’ve listed below the plans available in its Philadelphia market, which sits almost squarely in the middle of the variety of options that Astound provides its customers throughout its service areas. The prices available to you will depend on where you live, but we’ll discuss that further in a second.

Astound/RCN internet plans (Philadelphia market)

PlanMax speedsStarting monthly price (first two years)Regular monthly rateMonthly modem costsData capContract
300Mbps Internet300Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$20$150Free modem; $5 for Whole-home Wi-Fi (skippable)NoneNone
600Mbps Internet600Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$35$154Free modem; $5 for Whole-home Wi-Fi (skippable)NoneNone
Gig Internet940Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$50$162Free modem; $5 for Whole-home Wi-Fi (skippable)NoneNone
1200Mbps Internet1200Mbps download, 20Mbps upload$60$172Free modem; $5 for Whole-home Wi-Fi (skippable)NoneNone

How Astound/RCN compares with other ISPs on pricing

The monthly prices you see above are representative of what you’ll find across all the Astound/RCN markets, but I do want to point out some of the differences as well. Overall, across all RCN markets and plans, you will see an average cost of 8 cents per Mbps for your promo pricing. That is right at the top among all cable ISPs we’ve reviewed, including WideOpenWest(15 cents),Spectrum (17 cents), Optimum (21 cents), Xfinity (25 cents), Sparklight (28 cents) and Cox (53 cents).

For example, Astound customers in New York City will see some extremely competitive pricing for that area. New Yorkers can sign up for a promo rate of $60 a month for 1200Mbps. That’s an impressively affordable 5 cents per Mbps on introductory pricing for our friends in the Northeast that’s more affordable than the gig offers from Optimum and Verizon Fios. To top it off, those customers will also get two months of service for free and complimentary HBO Max for one year.

That’s the good news. The not-so-great side of the story is the price jump after the introductory rate. Whereas the average cost per Mbps was 8 cents for the introductory pricing, Astound/RCN’s regular rate, which kicks in after 24 months, holds an average price of 57 cents per Mbps. While that’s not the highest we’ve seen among cable ISPs — here’s looking at you, Cox (80 cents per Mbps) — it’s undoubtedly one of the starkest differences we’ve seen between the promo rate and the regular rate.

What does that look like in real terms? Check out the table above and look again at the sticker shock awaiting Philly customers of the 300Mbps-to-940Mbps plans. All of those offerings have a monthly price that leaps by more than $100 after the first year, which is staggering compared with the average price jumps of cable competitors like Xfinity (average increase of $15 to $50 after 12 months), Cox (average increase of $15 to $26 after 12 months) and Spectrum (a flat increase of $30 for all plans after 12 months). Compared with those, an increase of $100 in the monthly cost of your home internet service is an extremely tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re trying to keep your budget buttoned down.

When we asked Astound/RCN about that massive jump, its spokesperson said, “It’s important to note that promotions do not increase to the standard retail rates published on the rate card … [which are] generally the maximum price that one may pay, and what is published for consumers to reference.

“Additionally, RCN customers are provided advanced notice that the promotion is coming to an end, along with their new monthly rate,” they said. “This information is included in their billing statement the month before the promotion ends.”

Either way, you’re not tied down to Astound with a term agreement, so as you approach the end of your promo period, you can see what terms Astound/RCN offers or try researching other ISPs in your area. For example, Verizon Fios may be an option for customers in the Washington, DC, area, and Chicagoans may choose to switch to Xfinity. In each case, though, make sure to do your homework. If Verizon’s DSL service is the only other option for you, Astound/RCN will still be cheaper, and those considering a jump to Xfinity will need to be aware that to receive the best rates, you’ll need to sign up for a term contract, which is not required of Astound customers.

Additional Astound Broadband/RCN internet fees

All Astound Broadband markets charge a one-time activation fee of $10, which isn’t unusual among ISPs. However, what isn’t quite so common is an add-on monthly fee that Astound calls a Network Access and Maintenance Fee. This is an additional charge of $10 per month.

As far as equipment goes, a free modem is standard across the markets, but the Wi-Fi rental fee differs from city to city. For instance, the Whole Home Wi-Fi cost for Philly customers is $5 a month, while New York customers will pay $10 monthly to start and then $13 per month after two years.

You can avoid the monthly equipment charge

Astound does give you the option to skip the additional equipment fee altogether by using your own device. You can use your own modem and router if they’re compatible with Astound/RCN’s network. As you’re about to see, this may be the easiest way to navigate a web of potential add-ons.

Astound Broadband/RCN has more options, but also potentially more fees

Although Astound/RCN gives you the chance to skip the equipment fee, it also makes several supplemental items available that could help boost your home networking hardware — while bumping up your bill, too.

For example, while a standard Wi-Fi router is typically going to run you $10 a month (it is included in some plans), Astound/RCN gives you the option to add enhanced Wi-Fi to your home. For the Boston, New York and Philly markets, this is supplied via the Eero Pro 6 mesh router, which my CNET colleague Ry Crist gave high marks when he put it through its paces. But it should also be noted that customers in the Chicago, Lehigh Valley and Washington, DC, areas will get the lesser-rated Eero 6 for the same rental price.

Astound/RCN also taps on the shoulders of gamers by offering a chance to upgrade to a gaming router. Customers on a 250Mbps plan or higher can opt to rent the Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 for $13 a month on top of their monthly modem charge. Like the Eero Pro 6 deal, the first month’s rental is free.

There are other opportunities to upgrade your broadband experience, including the option to add a Sonos smart home speaker ($6 a month) or Sonos Beam soundbar ($13 a month).

Yes, all of these options will ultimately increase your bill — and if you plan on using them for longer than a year or two, it probably makes more sense to buy them outright rather than rent them. Still, these might provide significant value to your service, especially if you can foresee using them for those initial 24 months when your broadband bill is at its lowest. You might also find it helpful to try a mesh network out in your home to see if it makes a meaningful difference. If it does, you could consider purchasing one for yourself outright. If not, you’re only out a single month’s rental fee.

Astound/RCN deals and promotions to catch your eye

Astound offers a few intriguing deals to try to sway your attention. It has a handful of limited-time offers available, including free installation (in all markets) if you order online, an $80 value. In addition to the free installation, online orders will also receive a $100 gift card in some markets, others will get one free month of service, and some markets might see both.

Astound Broadband/RCN’s customer satisfaction numbers are solid

Astound doesn’t appear on either the J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study or the latest ISP report from the American Customer Satisfaction index. We’ve used these two industry benchmarks to track how broadband providers measure up with American consumers. This has become especially important as more and more of us lean on our home internet for work and school, not just bingeing Netflix.

Over atPCMag’s 2022 Readers’ Choice awards, Astound did very well. It scored a 7.9 in overall customer satisfaction, which put it in the top five listed internet providers. It also scored well above the average industry score, which was 6.9.

The bottom line on Astound Broadband/RCN internet service

Astound Broadband/RCN is at the top of the class for cable internet providers. It gives you many different options to customize your service and its promo pricing is second to none. Yes, that significant change in monthly price after your introductory period is substantial — but to an extent, that is mitigated by the lack of contracts binding you to those hefty charges. With no early termination fees looming, the power is in your hands to try to negotiate with Astound or seek services elsewhere after your first year.

Astound Broadband powered by RCN home internet FAQs

RCN began as Residential Communications Network back in 1993. Although it is now owned by theparent company Astound Broadband, RCN still has its headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.

How do I contact Astound/RCN customer service?

Much of what you need can be found online at the Astound Support Center and using the MyRCN Mobile App. Astound/RCN also has a US-based customer support staff available by phone every day, all hours at 800-746-4726. Lastly, you can also connect to Astound/RCN on Twitter — @RCNConnects — and Facebook.

What is Astound/RCN’s Internet First program?

Astound/RCN began the Internet First program in April 2020 in response to the pandemic. It’s an affordable internet service offered to low-income families participating in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. Qualifying households will have access to max download speeds up to 50Mbps for $10 a month. There are no activation or installation fees, no contract is required and participants receive free service for the first 60 days.


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