When I compared real-world speed using Wideband to my typical results using a standard Road Runner connection, I found Wideband about five to six times faster. That's a lot, and it's much more important than raw numbers in advertising claims.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
Is super-fast Road Runner really super fast?
June 6, 2010
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The
Note: The cost of Verizon FiOS for Central New York was misstated in
this article. The final paragraph has been revised to reflect the change. Verizon's pricing varies by region.
How fast is fast enough?
I wrestled with that riddle after testing Time Warner's new Wideband Internet service for many weeks.
Road Runner Wideband was clearly faster than regular Road Runner service, but my tests were disappointing.
Repeated test results showed nothing approaching the speed advertised for Wideband. I was careful to
test using direct (non-wireless) connections to three different computers, one at a time -- a dual-processor Apple Mac, a
dual-core Apple Mac laptop and a dual-core Windows 7 PC laptop -- and I repeated my tests at various times of day and
I followed up with research on the factors that affect Internet connection speed, learning a lot
about such things as latency and line quality. And I asked my brother Bob a lot of questions to tap his expertise on
Internet connectivity. (He's a PC hardware expert and has built or rebuilt some of my own PCs.)
I came away chastened. Let me tell you what I learned, and what I think of Road Runner Wideband now
that my expectations are rooted in reality.
First, let's establish what Road Runner Wideband is and how it is advertised. Time Warner says
Wideband "is a giant leap from broadband, with super-fast download speeds of up to 50 Mbps."
Wideband is the fastest available Internet connection service offered by Time Warner.
Road Runner's standard service can vary in price because of special offers, but is listed at $39.95 a
month on the company's Web site. Time Warner says standard Road Runner runs at 10 megabits per second (Mbs). Turbo Road
Runner, rated at 15 Mbs, costs $49.90 a month. (Road Runner Lite, rated at less than 1 Mbs, is available as a bundle with
digital home phone service for $59.90 a month.)
Wideband service costs $99.95 a month. It's not available in all areas, so you'll need to check with
Time Warner first. It's rated at 50 Mbps for downloads and streaming data, such as TV shows and YouTube videos, and 5 Mbps
Let's cut to the results. Did my computers reach an Internet speed of 50 Mbs? No. I didn't get close.
The best throughput I got for downloads was about half that speed. In most tests, my top download speed was much less.
(Uploads are intentionally limited, and my upload speed was about 4 Mbs.)
Does this mean Time Warner is making false claims? Hardly. Because of bottlenecks in all the networks
that make up the Internet, I learned that you will never achieve the maximum rated speed of an Internet connection.
But be realistic. Just as a bigger pipe can make more water flow, a faster Internet connection can
get data to you more quickly. And a 50 Mbs connection slowed down by congestion and other bottlenecks will still be a lot
faster than a 10 Mbs connection with the same limitations.
When I compared real-world speed using Wideband to my typical results using a standard Road Runner
connection, I found Wideband about five to six times faster. That's a lot, and it's much more important than raw numbers in
Is it worth the extra $60 a month? Only you can tell. At $99, Wideband is $10 more expensive than Verizon
FiOS, also rated at 50 Mbs. FiOS has an added benefit besides lower cost: The upload speed is rated at 20 Mbs, four times the speed of Road Runner Wideband's upload rate. We'll take a look at FiOS speed this summer.