Buying a Cable Modem


(David Weintraub) #1

I just found out that for the past year, my cable company started charging me a cable modem rental fee. It’s a long story why I didn’t know about this until recently.

Anyway, for $120 per year, I figure I could get my own modem — maybe one slightly newer than the decade old cable modem I currently have. However, I know nothing about these things.

  • Most are DOCSIS 3.0 compatible and some are DOCSIS 3.1 compatible. Is that all I need to know for it to work with my Internet provider (Optimum)? Or, is there something else I should look for?
  • They list speeds such as 343Mbps download and 131Mbps upload. I have 100 Mbps, so is that good enough? Or, is there special rule like Modems need to be 4x faster than the Internet service that I need to watch out for?
  • There are multiple channels listing like 4x4, 8x4, and 16x4. How do those channels affect my speed? I’ve seen all three listed as 343Mbps speed, but I’m also told that the number of channels affect the speed too.
  • Is there something I need to know about installation? Do I need to work with my ISP about it? Or, is it plugin and go? Is there configuration settings I need to know about and set?

I really haven’t seen a good online guide on this particular topic. It might be something that TibBITs could cover.


(Alan Forkosh) #2

Do you only need modem service or do you also use WiFi router and Voice services on your Optimum modem? I managed to find a list of modems and modem-routers organized by level of service at https://pickmymodem.com/approved-modems-for-optimum-cablevision-internet-service/. The Wirecutter has a more general list and discussion at https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-cable-modem/. You can usually buy the modem from Amazon or any other major electronics provider.

I am on Comcast with 250 Mbs download service and use an Arris SB6190 modem connected to an Amplifi mesh network (actually two Amplifi routers with an ethernet backbone) and use the Ooma service with an an Ooma box for my VOIP (pseudo landline) service. The 6190 is probably more robust than I need but I got it at about the same price as the SB6183 model.


(Richard Rettke) #3

I’m on Spectrum (fka Time-Warner, now owned by Comcast). I was surprised to find that since I have my own separate Wi-Fi Router, and only needed a modem, that Spectrum supplies those for free.


#4

This ripoff fee has been driving me nuts for years, and our cable company’s policy is that if you have any problems, they won’t fix or support anything TV related. And we’re on the third cable box this year because the cable company keeps sending us what we’re sure is refurbished garbage. But it looks like Apple has plans that might have a solution to this problem…at the latest Web Developers’ Conference, they announced that starting with Spectrum Cable (our provider), in the next few months you’ll be able to use Apple TV as your cable box, with other cable companies to follow shortly.

https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2018/06/05/apple-tv-to-replace-traditional-cable-set-top-boxes/

Cable TV providers in the US are very spooked by the AT&T/Disney/Fox shebang, as well as with skinny bundles, Google siphoning off valuable demographic and psychographic information via Chromecast and Home, Amazon Fire and Alexa, Roku, etc. Though $120 or more per year per household is a lot for a cable company to loose every year, loosing valuable advertising information as well as customers is a whole bigger universe of hurt. So I expect Apple will have other announcements to make about partnerships, and that Apple’s focus on privacy could be a selling point.


(Al Varnell) #5

david19
David Weintraub

    July 1

I just found out that for the past year, my cable company started charging me a cable modem rental fee. It’s a long story why I didn’t know about this until recently.

Anyway, for $120 per year, I figure I could get my own modem — maybe one slightly newer than the decade old cable modem I currently have. However, I know nothing about these things.

  • Most are DOCSIS 3.0 compatible and some are DOCSIS 3.1 compatible. Is that all I need to know for it to work with my Internet provider (Optimum)? Or, is there something else I should look for?

The only other thing you need to know is if that DOCSIS 3.x modem is acceptable to your ISP. Since they need to be able to connect to it and perhaps provide firmware updates to it, they probably won’t accept all such modems. If your ISP happens to be Comcast/Xfinity, you should start here

https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/list-of-approved-cable-modems

  • They list speeds such as 343Mbps download and 131Mbps upload. I have 100 Mbps, so is that good enough? Or, is there special rule like Modems need to be 4x faster than the Internet service that I need to watch out for?

As long as you and your ISP don’t ever intend to increase your speed, then the modem only needs to support 100 Mbps.

  • There are multiple channels listing like 4x4, 8x4, and 16x4. How do those channels affect my speed? I’ve seen all three listed as 343Mbps speed, but I’m also told that the number of channels affect the speed too.

They are able to increase speed, but are worthless if your ISP doesn’t support such connectivity.

  • Is there something I need to know about installation? Do I need to work with my ISP about it? Or, is it plugin and go? Is there configuration settings I need to know about and set?

After installation you will need to notify your ISP of the make, model and MAC address of your modem before you will be able to re-connect to the internet.

-Al-


(David Weintraub) #6

Thanks for your lengthy reply. Believe it or not, Optimum doesn’t publish an official list of supported modems. However, I’ve found a model that other people who have Optimum use. Optimum does list modems they use, but it’s an old list that talks about their 60Mbs service that was their premium service. Now 100Mbs is their lowest standard service. The modems listed were old models using 4x4 channels.

I don’t need a router or WiFi modem – I have my Airport modem for that (plus two other Airports I use as extenders). I just need a modem.

I’m not a fan of the modem fee, but in theory you don’t have to pay it. Just get your own modem. The cellphone service fees are much worse. They’re just part of the standard price, but separated out. Service is only $50 per month, plus the $3.00 911 universal service fee. And the $2.50 cell tower fee. Oh, and we’re also charging you $4.50 for the office donuts. This way, they can advertise you’re only paying $50 per month and don’t mention it’s really $65 after all the fees. That shouldn’t be allowed. Especially, when they try to make them sound like taxes.


(John R) #7

AT&T charges me only $30 auto-pay per month, unlimited text, calling. Data is capped at 6gb but rarely use much of it. I used to pay them $60-70 for the same service till I realized the benefits of auto-pay.


(Betty Fellows) #8

I use a Motorola modem which is DOCSIS 3.1 with my Wave broadband account. They can see if fine and it supports gigabyte speeds so I can upgrade from 250mbs in the future if I want. Wave was able to activate the modem with no problem. I’ve always used my own modem. The only modem I have to pay for is the one for the phone service.


(David Weintraub) #9

AT&T is a perfect example of pretending to charge one rate and increasing it with fees. Here’s the fees my neighbor pays:

  • Federal Universal Service Fund: $12.28
  • Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge $1.25
  • Administrative Fee: $1.99
  • Other AT&T Surcharges: $0.31
  • State Tax: $5.72

His $70 per month AT&T plan is actually $91.55 while my $70 per month T-Mobile bill is $70.

You can find these fees charged by the various companies by going to a not-so-obvious support page:

Note that T-Mobile doesn’t have extra fees.


(Jim Carr) #10

Richard:

Clarification–

Nationally Time Warner did the splits in 2009. Time Warner Cable became a separate company from Time Warner the film and TV production company.

Charter Spectrum bought Time Warner Cable in 2016 while the TV/Movie company was bought this year by AT&T. Comcast owns neither after bid to buy the cable company was rejected by U.S. government in 2015.

However, there was a Time Warner Cable deal with Comcast in 2007 at the time when the two companies split-up Adelphia Cable. As part of that deal, local service areas were in some regions exchanged between the two surviving companies for more efficient marketing–meaning they didn’t compete in same city.

In California, Los Angeles and Southern California which was a mix of Adelphia and Comcast became Time Warner territory while the franchises in Northern California are Comcast. Houston went from Time Warner to Comcast while Dallas became Time Warner.

I am on a system in Orange County, California that was at one time AT&T which became Comcast which became Time Warner and is now Spectrum. This territory is still the @ca.rr.com domain while areas that were previously Charter territory have remained @charter.net. (Cable system I am on became MediaOne before AT&T bought it in 2000 and sold it to Comcast in 2002 but that is ancient history.) Great fun for folks like me who used cable ISP email addresses and thus got new addresses with each deal.

RR was for RoadRunner, beep beep, high speed internet which ceased using the cartoon bird after the 2009 spinoff which left the bird intellectual property with the studio company which offered to charge royalties to the cable folks.

–Jim


(marc) #11

Beware of some known flaws in modems as documented here

https://routersecurity.org/modems.php

As for what brand to buy, see this

https://www.michaelhorowitz.com/Tale.of.two.cable.modems.Oct.2017.php


(David Weintraub) #12

What irks me is that Optimum doesn’t really “recommend” any modems. They have a list of modems they use, but not one on that list is currently available. I believe that list is old and out of date.

Optimium sends you to surfboard.com to buy your own modem. However only three are listed. Two are 4x4 and “out of stock”. The third is pre-order only. If you look at modems on Amazon, they’ll say they’re compatible with a half dozen or so cable systems, but usually don’t mention Optimum. It’s as if Optimum doesn’t want you to buy your own modem.

I did find one recommended by Wirecutter – a TP-Link tc-7620. It’s a modem only with 16x4 channels which should be good up to 300Mbs. I found a comment on Amazon from someone else who has Optimum and said it works.

Most cable companies have a configuration page that allows you to configure your own modem. You go to any website, and it redirects you to the configuration page. Not Optimum. I had to call up customer support, go through a few rounds of “Find the Correct Prompt on the Automated Phone Menu System” and waited 2 1/2 hours for a call back.

The TP-Link works, so I’m happy. I’ve changed the admin account on my cable modem which I hope protects me from hacking. It should pay for itself within five months.


#13

Modem rentals are very profitable for cable and FIOS companies, which is why they have historically made it so difficult for customers to use one.

Spectrum, formally known as Time Warner Cable, always made it just about impossible for members to buy one. I was totally floored when it was Announced at the WWDC that Spectrum cut a deal to let Apple TV be used as a cable modem within the next few months. I suspect this is because they only have cable phones and are lagging behind AT&T, Verizon, etc. in the 5G race.


(David Weintraub) #14

I didn’t think that Apple TV was being used as a cable modem. There’s not even coaxial cable connection. I believe that Apple TV is being used as the cable setup box – the box that connects to your TV and provides the channels.

That wouldn’t surprise me since Apple TV already has most of the content that is already on your cable tv. With the new “zero sign on”, you should be able to watch things like HBO through your Apple TV via your cable tv subscription. My understanding is that there maybe an Apple TV app for the cable company too. Something for live streaming content as it is broadcast from the cable company.

Still, that cable box, like the cable modem, is big money, and it’s even harder to replace. However, cord cutting has made the second leg of the triple play package less profitable. It’s better that customers pay for content through the cable company rather than through something like Swing or a la carte.


#15

It has been in some countries in Europe, and at the WWDC it was announced it will be coming to the US in the next few months. You’ll get all live TV and streaming services via an Apple TV app and use the new TV OS zero sign in feature. Spectrum is the first service to sign up:

Apple TV to replace traditional cable set-top boxes

Apple TV is set to replace legacy cable decoders with Charter Communications to offer Apple TV 4K to its Spectrum cable customers.

The US operator follows the lead of Canal+ in France, AT&T’s DirecTV Now in the US, and Salt in Switzerland, that all have begun offering their customers Apple TV 4K with their services. In addition, a number of OTT services have begun – or will soon be – offering their on-demand and live streaming services on Apple TV. This includes NLZiet and T-Mobile in The Netherlands.

“As more and more cable companies fundamentally shift how video gets to your TV, your typical cable box is becoming a thing of the past,” Apple TV’s lead designer said at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The move by platform operators makes Apple TV much more than the ‘hobby’ it was when originally launched.

https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2018/06/05/apple-tv-to-replace-traditional-cable-set-top-boxes/


(Michael Noonan) #16

You want DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1. Period. When I purchased mine yrs ago, the install was automatic. Just screw the cable connector to the powered modem and it will do the handshaking with the ISP (mine was Cox) to set it up. Basically the technology bonds together two RF frequencies to double the traffic over cable or fiber (not for the phone line or satellite). My 125Mbps modem jumped to 250 - bam. I had to run speedtest.net to believe it. Think of this as the people moving belt at an airport that moves people to the airline gate. If a queue builds up the conveyor cannot move faster. But if you open another conveyor side by side you can handle double the load or add three conveyors. If DOCSIS will not handshake, you’re at parity with old tech, but you’re future proofed your new ISP.

Regarding paying for ISP devices. to be continued.

MIke


(Doug Hogg) #17

When we bought a faster modem, we had to call Spectrum to activate it.

:slight_smile:

Doug Hogg


(Simon) #18

That was my experience as well with Comcast here in the Bay Area. They’re an awful company so the less I have to deal with them and less I pay them, the better.

I bought an inexpensive Netgear modem rated for 680 Mbps from Amazon since I had a 100 Mbps connection. It worked out of the box just fine, nothing to configure, no calls to make. I use AirPort Extremes to actually set up my network so a simple cable modem with just Ethernet was exactly what I wanted.

In the meantime Comcast increased to 160 Mbps and I actually see that using speedtest.net or fast.com so I’m happy. Comcast charges $10/month for a modem, I bought mine for $80. :smiley:

And nowadays that modem is $50 shipped on Amazon.


(David Weintraub) #19

Charging $120 for a $60 piece of hardware is ridiculous. Fortunately, you can replace it with your own.

DOCSYS 3…0 should be good up to 380Mbs, so it’s probabl not necessary to get a 3.1 certified modem.

Unfortunately, cable modems are much trickier than a router or other pieces of computer equipment. They might not necessarily work with the provider. It looks like most cable providers don’t make it too difficult. They give you a wide range and you can easily see which modems are certified for your provider on Amazon.

Optimum is an exception. They only officially support three modems which you can see on Shop.aurfborad.com. Two are out of stock and slower than 100Mps because they only have four download channels. The third is preorder only. None of the modems on Amazon are marked as compatible with Optimum.

They also require you to call customer support to configure the modem. No automated configuration.


(Alan Forkosh) #20

That would seem to contradict the information that 3rd party sites have listed. See https://pickmymodem.com/approved-modems-for-optimum-cablevision-internet-service/ (posted earlier in this discussion). Since Optimum has a financial interest in making it hard to get this information, I would risk using a modem listed from this site if I also had got a no-cost return guarantee that was longer than the period needed to verify that I could connect the 3rd party solution worked.