Few Actually Need a Gigabit: RCN

As it launches gigabit service in New York, RCN has provided one of the easiest, consumer-friendly ways an ISP can easily explain which speed tier should be purchased.

“Gigabit” mostly is a marketing platform, not a reflection of actual end user demand, in virtually all cases. Indeed, how much bandwidth any account requires is a function primarily of the number of users sharing an account, and secondarily of the types of applications used (especially streaming video).

Though RCN suggests accounts using streaming video choose a 50-Mbps plan, that assumption is based on four devices being used. In fact, for single-user accounts, even 10 Mbps will be enough to stream Netflix and other services.

The gigabit plan is said to be best for accounts supporting 10 devices or more. The 330 Mbps plan is best for eight devices; the 155 Mbps plan best for six devices. The 10-Mbps plan is said to be sufficient for one to two devices, perhaps typically a smartphone or two, perhaps sometimes a PC and a smartphone.

Faster speeds are a good thing. But few accounts actually “need” a gigabit service. The value of higher-speed services is mostly a function of the amount of bandwidth sharing on the account.


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