When it comes to cable modem services, many operators will have an easy time finding the subject of their "What I did last summer" essays. The most likely answer: Launching speedier tiers in the wake of continued pricing pressure from DSL.

RCN Corp. pushed the envelope with a 7 Mbps down service under the Mach 7 moniker, offering it as a free upgrade to subs taking the overbuilder's 5 Mbps tier. In turn, RCN's 3 Mbps subs were upgraded to a 5 Mbps tier.

Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, followed up on some earlier trials by launching a Road Runner tier that caps speeds at 6 Mbps downstream and 512 kbps in the upstream. The MSO's flagship cable modem service offers 3 Mbps down/384 kbps up. Time Warner launched the faster tier, dubbed Road Runner Premium, across its 31 operating divisions. Premium will run between $64.95 per month to $84.85 per month. The 3 Mbps tier sells for $44.95 before bundle discounts.

Because the flagship product offers enough speed for most customers, "we do not anticipate a significant migration to the premium option," said Gregg DiPaolo, Time Warner's SVP of high-speed data.

Comcast Cable followed up by launching a new tier that caps download speeds at 4 Mbps for $52.95 per month (excluding equipment lease or retail fees). The operator previously had been offering 4 Mbps only to customers who signed up for Comcast's home networking service package.

Comcast expects to offer the new tier across its footprint by the end of this month, initially to customers in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

At press time, Cox Communications announced it had upgraded its "Preferred" flagship tier to 4 Mbps down/512 kbps up, and its "Premium" tier to 5 Mbps down/768 kbps up. Previously, Cox capped its flagship tier at 3 Mbps/256 kbps. Cox matched that with a "Value" package (256 kbps symmetrical) for $24.95 per month. Cable operators have used so-called "lite" tiers traditionally as a save tactic, but Cox is taking it one step further by marketing it to subs "concerned more with price than speed and features," and to use it to convert dial-up Internet users.