Pros: Fantastic speed, cheap compared to other broadband services, free dialup with broadband account
Cons: Time Warner and Earthlink not coordinated, webmail is just plain bad
I've been using the Internet as a home user for over 10 years, having accessed various forms of it through my employer for well over 15 years. I remember when I purchased my first PC from IBM in 1992, it came with two CDs, one with AOL and the other Prodigy. My wonderful 2400 bps modem would connect me to my 'lightning fast' Prodigy service, and I was just as happy as can be.
My oh my have times changed. The advent of streaming video, Internet gaming, and whatnot has demanded a faster connection. I've resisted for the longest time changing to a broadband connection, however the time was right to switch. 56k wasn't cutting it anymore. My son who goes to RPI could no longer stand dialup after being at college for the past year, so I decided to switch now.
DSL isn't available to our household as we're too far from Verizon's central office to get reliable service. This meant that I had to deal with my friends from Time Warner. I'm not a cable subscriber; I hate the cable company. I thoroughly enjoy my Directv system. This meant one of two things. I could either pay a $15/mo fee on top of the base $44.95/mo fee to access RoadRunner's services, or I could subscribe to Earthlink's cable internet service which was run over Time Warner's cable internet network. Earthlink was running a special (and still is until 7/31/03) - $29.99 per month for six months, then $41.99 after that. Can't beat that deal. In addition, I would have FREE, UNLIMITED access to Earthlink's dialup service. This I figured would be nice to have as a backup in case of any outage. 8 mailboxes were included with this plan.
Scheduling an Appointment
I called Earthlink to sign up for their promotion. A friendly CSR informed me that Time Warner would call within 72 hours to setup an appointment for installation. As predicted, no such call came my way. I called Time Warner to check up on them, and they told me that they could schedule an appointment, even though they claimed that they didn't receive any of my paperwork. However, the promotion mentioned above was not in effect. They had a weaker promotion with a higher regular rate ($43.99 instead of $41.99). I called Earthlink, got TW on a three-way call, and straightened out the price issues. I was all set for installation.
Unlike setting up the appointment, installation was quick and painless. I have XP on my desktop, so the tech had no trouble setting up the connection as XP can detect these things automatically. He installed an RCA modem. Installation was rather uneventful, it lasted about a half hour. After he left, I installed a Netgear wireless router, which has worked flawlessly.
Speeds are higher than advertised. Earthlink promised a 2000/384 connection, and I am currently getting 2100/360 during peak times. Early in the morning I can get around 2400/390. At least Time Warner hasn't oversold their network around here yet. I have had no problem with dropped connections/cable lines being down as of yet. Being an Earthlink subscriber, you receive a CD with various proprietary Earthlink tools called "TotalAccess 2003". If you decide to go the Earthlink route, do not install this software! It simply takes the software you more than likely already have and plasters Earthlink's logo over Microsoft's.
Here's a tip, though. Their pop-up blocker is extremely effective. They currently bundle it with TotalAccess 2003, however, available on the internet is a stand-alone version which was available before they decided to force their other software on you. Check dslreports.com for it. If you subscribe to Roadrunner without Earthlink, you will not be able to use it. It requires you to enter your Earthlink email and password to enable the features.
While we're talking about email, stay away from Earthlink's webmail interface. First of all I'm honestly shocked that they advertise on it - yep, banner ads. You'd think that your monthly access fee pays to remove those ads. However, it gets better. Earthlink apparently thinks it's acceptable to use a very crude-looking interface which dates back to when webmail was originally developed. It's difficult to do something as easy as an attachment. Just use Outlook and you'll be fine.
Roadrunner with Earthlink service is an excellent choice for cable and non-cable subscribers alike. Not only is the service cheaper than what Time Warner usually charges, but you get free access to Earthlink's dialup network. Although you may encounter a lack of communication between the two companies, the end result is well worth any hassle you have to put up with. I'm very happy with the service and wouldn't trade it for anything.