Stop Renting Your Cable Modem: Buy One Instead

Originally published at:

Cable companies make ridiculous sums by renting customers cable modems at inflated prices. In most cases, you can save money by buying your own.

My ISP just started charging $7/month for their cable modem. I told them I don’t need it and would gladly return it to them. They said great, but they’d charge me anyway. Huh? A new twist on fees. We’ll charge you even if you don’t actually have it! At least they don’t itemize the charge. They list it but the fee is rolled into the overall price of the service.


Who is your ISP? This ripoff needs to be exposed!

Sounds like a case for your state’s attorney general’s consumer protection department.


I’ve considered this option several times over the last 15 years. What stops me every time is the fact that we get our TV and Phone service along with Internet through the same Arris modem that we rent from Comcast / Xfinity. I have never found another modem that can handle all 3 services. How would you deal with that?

Back when I signed up with Comcast I bought a cable modem for $60 (no wifi since I wanted my APExtreme for that) and never signed up for their rental at $10/month. That always worked great. No hassle during the setup, never gave me any grief later. Must have saved hundreds of $$$.

But Comcast being the annoying company it is (no, seriously, people from outside the US cannot imagine how bad such a large utility can be if they’ve never had to deal with Comcast — it’s worse than the love child of a used car dealer and a loan shark orphaned and then raised by a drug dealer), I was happily able to ditch them about a year ago. Instead of $40 for 160 Mbps cable I now pay $60 for 1 Gbps fiber (excellent customer service and DIY website by Sonic, a small local company). I didn’t need the added speed, but $20 just to not have to deal with Comcast was absolutely worth it. Every single cent. Chucking away that old cable modem was just part of the joy of finally giving Comcast the finger.

1 Like

During my mercifully-brief nightmare as a Comcast customer, they told me that I absolutely, could not, no way use my own cable modem. The excuse they gave is that they couldn’t support third-party modems for customers who had static IP addresses. The line was often down and never achieved anything near advertised rates except when their technician was testing it. The only way I ever got a response to customer service requests was by posting on Reddit that I was being ignored: then (and only then) someone would actually return my calls and emails.

I often wondered if, had I been using my own modem, they would have simply blamed all the problems on the third-party modem and I would have received even worse service – if such a thing were possible.

That’s the situation I had at one point with a static IP and Comcast. Had to use their modem. However, after a few years when they’d raised the rate from $5/month (for a then $250-$300 modem, so a good deal) to $13 a month, I got in touch and they did support three retail models. Bought one and swapped it in and no problem.

Comcast has shifted into this more encouraging mode, because while it’s a cash cow for them, it’s also a support burden. So they’re happy to let anyone who wants to bear the cost of support and replacement at this point do their own thing, and it also makes them look good. I’d love to know the numbers, but I suspect it’s a very small %age of the user base!

I’m curious if the Arris you have is really doing cable TV? Isn’t it just splitting out the signal to another box you have for tuning? In any case, check Comcast’s third-party modem listing page as noted in the article, as it lets you look at all the features you want in a modem and see what matches.

I can’t say how it deals with the cable signal, but it and our PHONE lines go through that modem. I’ve not seen a modem other than what Comcast supplies that handles all 3 services.


The Xfinity My devices page for my location shows several approved 3rd party devices that provide phone and internet services. So, it is possible to do.

An alternative is to not use your cable provider for phone service and subscribe to an independent VOIP service (Ooma,Vonnage, etc.) for your landline phone service. I’ve been happy with Ooma. Even with the purchase of a dedicated box, it still costs out in the end.

Comcast/Xfinity is taking a new (different) angle on this. I just went to talk to them about their new xFi service. Many of the features, including the mesh pods, are not available with any other cable modem. Plus, they moved the fee so that it doesn’t show as a cable modem rental anymore. They actually pitch this when they pitch the extreme advantage (or whatever in the heck they call it) level of service they now have. I went ahead and upgraded because it was only $12 more a month for 250GB speeds and unlimited data, plus all of the bells and whistles in the new modem.

Now, my old modem was an Xfinity branded one, and also had both the Internet and the VoIP (telephone) connections running through it. But, it was just a Cisco inside. I’d get the model for you, but I already turned the darn thing in when I got the new one.

Finally, the TV service doesn’t go through the cable modem. If you trace your coax feed from the point of entry to your house, you’ll find a splitter (or amp) somewhere. One leg will go to the cable modem and the other will either go to your TV or to a distribution amp to go to multiple devices.

p.s. The only reason I even keep the house hard line is that it literally cost more to get rid of it at the time. Since my previous 24 month contract ran out this past week, I need to re-evaluate that situation.

If you need to return your rental modem via the mail or UPS, made sure and take pictures of the unit as you ship it, including the serial number and the packed box, and only ship via a means that provides a tracking number on the receipt.

More and more ISPs allow you to take equipment to an official UPS Store. They store will scan all the bar codes with serial numbers and such and give you a receipt and you get to just walk away. Not even a need to package things up.

For various reasons over the last 6 years I’ve dealt with Internet (and TV at times) from Charter, TWC, AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, Spectrum, and Comcast across 4 states. Some of these guys in multple states.

In terms of bad service it wasn’t even close. Comcast came way out ahead.

Empty townhouse (family arguments) 5 hour drive away. I was the designated hitter. I’d go by for a few days every month or so. Got there one time and the internet wasn’t working. (I needed it to work while there.) After an hour on the phone with Comcast they said, “Oh, we turned it off as you weren’t using it.” But I was paying for IT!!!. “Ah, yes, you have a point. We’ll turn it back on right away and issue a credit for 2 months.” It didn’t work for at least 4 hours but was working the next morning. And bills kept coming not showing the 2 months credit. I call serveral times. Finally said I’d not pay until the credits were applied. So they cut the service due to non payment. Then sent me a check for $90 something. [eye roll]

1 Like

I bought my cable modem, partly to get away from the rental fee, and partly because I wanted a better modem. The only downside to owning it is that it gives the support staff an automatic excuse not to help you. No Internet? Looks good here–your modem must be bad. Slow service? Must be that modem. If I had their modem, they would have to fix it over the phone or send someone out.

Having said that, I did get my issues addressed, but I had to come prepared to argue.

Here in Blighty (aka the UK), we just get a single modem/router device from the ISP as part of signing-up for a 12 or 18 month contract.

At least with Virgin Media, they don’t itemise the router as some kind of ‘hire’ or ‘purchase’ cost. As these things are bought at virtual commodity prices in the thousands by the ISP, from companies like Netgear just with VM’s branding on the outer casing. VM obviously factor it into the overall costs of service they provide, for your monthly fee.

If you don’t want to use the router function –instead using your own router (or perhaps a mesh network)– you can simply disable the router function (setting it into “Modem only” mode), then plug your own router into the first ethernet socket on it, and deal with your own router from then on.

I used to do this, as I had an Time Capsule, but not in recent years.

Interestingly, recently I think some companies (like BT) are starting to give optional mesh-type equipment to larger homes that need it. All of this makes the ‘buy your own’ router idea, a minority thing here.

Some personal data points. From me and family.

I have a smal pile of modems that got eclipsed as speeds kept going up. Maybe with things topping out a gig that will stop. But if you want a new feature that your current modem doesn’t have and you own it? Toss it into the pile.

Need a firmware upgrade? ISPs just do it. You, on the other hand, get to deal with it.

Lightning strike nearby brick (or just make flakey) you modem? Buy another one or visit the ISP store and swap for a new one.

And yes, tech support is so much fun when THEY own the modem. 2 hours of such fun 2 days ago. And my experience with AT&T U-Verse fiber into the unit in an apartment in Texas where things continually didn’t work, I can’t even imagine if I had owned the unit. When you own it it can be so much more fun.

$5 a month. I’d pay it, no problem. And for sure recommend my friends and family do so. $13/mo? I’d look for another ISP.

It looks like the current generation of at 3.0 (with 24x8) and 3.1 (with 32x8) are probably the winners unless symmetrical service takes off. I have symmetrical gigabit over fiber, so I’m at the top of what I’ll ever want to pay for/need.

David, your Comcast story sounds very familiar. :wink:

My personal favorite was when I started with them a few years ago when I moved. I had signed up with them for a promotional offer for 60 Mbps for $40/month. That worked but they started sending me a crap load of promotional material, to get me to upgrade to TV and phone services ($75/month), none of which I was interested in. After a while I noticed their autopay deducted $75 from my account. So I called them up and asked what the heck was going on. They told me that was because I had signed up for the new TV service. I told them I had never done such a thing and that I wanted my $40 service back. They then stepped back and claimed a “mistake” had happened. They said they would reimburse me for the $35 they took and all I had to do was digitally sign the “contract” they texted me. I told them I didn’t want anything new, I just wanted them to honor the original commitment I had signed up for for the remaining 8-month duration of that 12 month promo. I explained the only reason why I was on the phone with them was that they had unilaterally broken that agreement and that I now expected them to reinstate the original agreement we had. They said that’s exactly what the “contract” was going to do. And the contract did indeed say it was my 60 Mbps for $40 so I said yes to that. Two months later I still hadn’t been credited my $35, but what I did notice was that when I signed that “contract”, sure enough, I had signed up for a full new 12 months. I called them and complained about it all and of course they knew about nothing of any of that and after all “I was getting what I had signed up for”. I at least managed to get them to finally transfer those $35 they still owed me. I ended up sticking with them for those full 12 months I had signed up for (making it a full 16 month ordeal). I vowed to leave them as soon as that was up. Of course they didn’t cease to bombard me with promo material and I was always expecting they would at some point pull the same stunt again and try to charge me for a new service that they were peddling and I had no interest in. Fortunately for me, during that period a local company started pulling in fiber and when those 16 months were finally up I told Comcast to get lost and signed up with that small company doing 1 Gbps fiber for $60 with no lock-in period or mandatory device rental, or some silly constraint on having to have TV or phone services etc. I have just my 1 Gbps fiber going to a small fiber to copper Ethernet box with a single RJ-45 on it. No shenanigans. Done. Of course that company wants to rent me a router and do phone and TV and yada yada, but they were just fine when I told them I wanted nothing but a single Gigabit port with no NAT or any other service routing. They did that. And the service works perfectly. I actually see 1 Gbps in both directions. I didn’t pay for a fixed IP, but I have yet to see my IP change after many months. :slight_smile: :heart:

Comcast was not done with me though. 7 days before my service was scheduled to end (and 3 before my fiber service was going to be up) they capped my connection. I called them and they mentioned it was the scheduled date for termination. I pointed out that it was not and that in fact they were a week early. They said they had made a “mistake” (yeah right, where had I heard that before) and that they would be able to reinstate service if only I signed a digital contract they would text to me… :smiley: I knew where this was headed. Fortnately, my lawyer friend pointed out to me that in the State of California I could go ahead and sign up for that because I could withdraw within 7 days at zero cost. In that time I would get my fiber connection and all would be good. So I called back Comcast and told them I wanted the rest of my service back and of course they gave me the whole contract spiel again. I said I didn’t want new service, just them to honor the contract we already had and I had already paid for. They said that was perfectly clear and that I only had to sign for the last 7 days of service. Sure enough, the “contract” they sent was for 12 months of new service. At least it worked. Three days later I got my fiber service and I called Comcast. I told them I wanted to cancel my contract. At first they were like, “we can fix anything that’s not working” and “we can maybe find a better deal, and oh btw, we can give you TV and phone service for free today”! I told them to cut it, CA law and all. They terminated it indeed. The modem lights went out while I was still on the phone. And sure enough, they to this day spam me with all kinds of offers. Whenever I see Comcast I put the entire envelope through my shredder. I do wonder though, what else I could do to make sure I maximize their cost associated with marketing to me. :wink:

I look forward to the day where they either get disassembled (like Ma Bell back in the day) or they go bankrupt. I’ll be drinking a nice cool IPA to celebrate their demise when it finally happens. The world will be a better place. :+1:

1 Like