Cable provider continues march into Dorchester

Neighbors thirsting for an alternative to cable and Internet giant Comcast take heed: RCN says they are slowly, but surely, heading your way. Richard Wadman, the regional manager for RCN, says that the company hopes to pick up the pace in the new year. RCN made its entry into the Dorchester market last year, wiring up 3,275 new homes, according to company stats. That's a healthy chunk of the 15,000-plus new customers that RCN brought in across the region last year, according to Wadman.

"As a company we made significant gains in Boston and Dorchester specificially," Wadman told the Reporter. "It's been a big success story for us."

Wadman says that RCN's chief selling points against Comcast are superior high-definition offerings and lower price points for cable, phone and Internet packages. Since RCN's other main competitor - Verizon - does not yet offer service in the city of Boston, Wadman's team has been able to focus on picking off Comcast customers - something that he says has been good for the consumer even if they don't sign on with RCN.

"From our standpoint, it's been great. We invested $12 million in new converter boxes for every home, and the payback has been the programming," says Wadman.

RCN's "churn rate" - or the number of people who drop their service - is "at record lows." Wadman attributes that to the profileration of HD households, which tend to pick RCN over Comcast when that's the choice. The slow economy has helped, too, as customers looking to pinch every penny have looked to lower their monthly cable bills.

Wadman says that RCN tends to wire pockets of streets at a time and continues to hit new sections of both Mattapan and Dorchester. Lower Mills - parts of which have already been wired for RCN service - will see expanded service there in the coming weeks, Wadman said. The company fields requests for new service at its website - RCN.com.

Phil Santoro, a spokesman for Verizon, says that the company does not have any firm plans yet to expand its fiber-optic network into Boston.

"We're looking at it very seriously," said Santoro. "We expect to expand into 20 or 30 new communities this year.

"Boston and other communities are definitely on our radar," he said.

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