RSF Connect Review

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I recently got connected to RSF Connect and I can now give a proper review of the service from a customer perspective. I ordered their regular Internet offering at $135/month, two phones lines at $10/month each, and the expanded Race TV service at $98 (plus $15 for the DVR)/month.

Internet Quality

Before RSF Connect, I had a 30 Mbps Internet connection and believe it or not, that wasn’t fast enough. If any of our computers started downloading a software update or one of my kids decided to download a game, it would swamp the connection, severely impacting streaming video quality while also significantly slowing ordinary web browser viewing. Kinda like living in a house with inadequate plumbing having your shower flow cut in half whenever anyone flushes a toilet.

With the new gigabit connection, the kids can now download that 60 GB game (yes they are that big), while others watch several video streams and everything works well. And that big download is now 15x – 20x faster (limited by the Internet itself, not our connection).

In addition to bandwidth, latency is just as important a measure of Internet quality. Latency is the time it takes for data to reach and return from a destination and is normally measured in milliseconds (ms). You might wonder if it really matters if your connection has an average 30 ms latency versus a 4 ms latency since humans can’t perceive that time difference. However, a typical web page from a large publisher, like the NY Times, or Wall Street Journal, requests about 500 individual pieces of data from the web server. Although many requests are sent in parallel, many are not, so even small differences in latency visibly affects how quickly your page is rendered on your screen. A gigabit connection with low latency will seem much faster than a gigabit connection with high latency.

Average latency (ms) of old ISP (left) vs RSF Connect (right)

So how does RSF Connect measure up? First, here’s a graph my firewall generated showing average latency the morning after I got RSF Connect. You can easily see the difference before and after, with RSF Connect having almost 1/4 the latency of my old Internet connection, and my old connection was no slouch, it was pretty good.

I also did some tests to see how “close” RSF Connect was to common high traffic web sites. Internet data is shuttled through many pieces of network equipment when it makes its way from the remote web site to your computer. In particular, routers are places where your data can be queued, generating latency. So it is instructive to look at both latency (measured in ping times) as well as the number of routers when comparing two different Internet service providers. Here’s a table which shows these measurements for my previous ISP and for RSF Connect.

  Old ISP Latency RSF Connect Latency  Old ISP Hops RSF Connect Hops
Google.com 17 ms 4 ms 13 7
YouTube Video 12 ms 4 ms 17 7
Netflix Video 10 ms 4 ms 11 5
Amazon Images 15 ms 4 ms 22 16

This is very impressive indeed. As I said my old ISP was no slouch, but RSF Connect is probably as good as you can get living in San Diego since the major providers typically house their west coast data centers in Los Angeles. The traceroute raw data shows that RSF Connect is only two Race routers away from the major west coast data center in Los Angeles where they directly peer with Google, YouTube, Amazon and Netflix (among many others). 

Finally, my Internet gaming obsessed teens say that online gaming is markedly better. There are no more random lags and out of the blue high ping times. It is much more consistent and reliable.

Bottom line, RSF Internet quality is stellar.

Race TV

Race TV is a competitor to DirecTV or cable TV service from Cox and Spectrum. Co-incident with the publishing of this article, I’ve written a separate discussion on the changing TV landscape which talks about streaming non-linear TV.

Cut and pasted screen shots showing Race TV local channels.

Race TV provides over 250 channels (click for list, click “Expanded”) including all HD local channels, most sports channels (like ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, and NBC Sports – needed for this summer’s Olympics), a lot of movie channels and many specialty channels.

There are some things you can’t get from Race TV. They don’t carry HBO (which is always an extra cost option in a high cost tier for other providers). However, it is easy to access HBO via a $14.99 monthly streaming subscription.

NFL Sunday Ticket is a DirecTV exclusive, so if you need that then DirecTV is your only choice.

DirecTV will occasionally broadcast big events in 4K resolution on their special events channel. For instance, the upcoming Superbowl will be shown in 4K on DirecTV. Race TV has no equivalent option.

Finally, Race TV maxes out at five TVs per household, so if you want more than five TVs on your DVR, you’ll need a different service.

Having played with it for a few days, I like Race TV’s DVR better than DirecTV and much better than any cable TV’s DVR. You can tell it has a fast processor since guide scrolling and other functions are very quick and snappy. Fast forwarding is also smoother with more video information shown than with DirecTV.

Picture quality. I am going back and forth with Race technicians about this one since in my set up, Race TV picture quality is just slightly worse than DirecTV, the gold standard for live TV service. But I have DirecTV’s latest 4K set top box and a 4K TV. I suspect that if I had DirecTV’s normal HD set top box, picture quality would be similar. I’ll let you know if Race can figure this out since they were surprised to hear (and see) the difference at my home.

Comparing costs is difficult since the channel lineups aren’t the same, and DirecTV/Cable companies obscure pricing behind 12 month promotions with various multi year lock up periods. Nonetheless, my guesstimate is that Race TV is about 10-20% cheaper than comparable other services. You can purchase Race TV with no contract period. 

Telephone

I’ve been paying AT&T $125/month for two crappy copper phones lines that get bad static every time it rains. On a service call last year, they blamed the static on my inside wiring, which somehow mystically gets affected by outside rain. Anyways, I couldn’t switch fast enough to Race’s $10/month per phone line service. 

It’s been awesome. Crystal clear voice, no static.

When you order phone service, Race asks for your current phone provider and phone number(s). As Race should tell you, DO NOT cancel your old phone service. Race will actually do that on your behalf after they’ve asked your old service provider to move the phone line number(s) over. Expect to continue using your old phone service for about a week until the number is moved at which time Race will contact you and let you know you can now disconnect your old lines and connect to Race. 

Installation Glitches

Credit XKCD. Original strip here.

This comic strip, while funny, is amazingly accurate. There are many moving parts that can go wrong when making even the simplest of network changes. Connecting to RSF Connect should be as simple as unplugging your old ISP router/modem, and installing the Race one in its place. Since I wanted to keep my own independent router/firewall and not use Race’s, I had a slightly different but no less simple process of unplugging a cable from my old ISP modem and plugging that into Race’s Optical Network Terminal. And it worked. At least until my kids got home and I realized that about half my computers couldn’t connect to the Internet.

This wasn’t a Race issue, it turns out that my firewall’s DHCP server stopped working for some inexplicable reason, and started working again after I did a bunch of random configuration changes and resets. 

My point is that unless you have a very simple vanilla home network, I highly recommend that you have a home IT consultant help you with your home network. Or, use Race’s turnkey WiFi service to set up your home WiFi, at which point they will get involved in all aspects of your home network. Unfortunately these are not cheap services. Labor, and technical computer labor in particular, is expensive. But such is the world we live in. 

Check out this companion article which discusses various local technology integrators which can help you with your home network and a lot else besides.

Conclusion

I highly recommend you get RSF Connect’s Internet regardless of what you are currently using. It will be more reliable, maybe cheaper, and deliver a better Internet experience than any other provider.

If you use wired phone lines, Race telephone should both be an upgrade and cost less.

Race TV is a more complex decision. Changing TV service can be complicated if you use universal remotes. Often AV consultants need to be involved. And the offerings are different among different TV providers, so each household will have different reasons to switch or not.

In the final analysis, RSF Connect is a world class Internet service.