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Fight back against your ISP: Stop paying bogus modem rental fees

Updated Aug 12th, 2015 11:24AM EDT
Cable Modem Router

We recently wrote about an awful pay TV scam that’s hiding in plain sight. Cable and satellite TV providers charge you as much as a monthly Netflix subscription or even more to rent a cable box that allows you to use their services. You’ll likely end up paying hundreds of dollars for this box over the course of your contract, and then you’ll have to pay hundreds more or return the box when it comes time to move or cancel your service.

Of course, pay TV companies are also Internet service providers, and they double up and pull the same move with your modem. As is often the case with cable boxes, however, you can fight back against these bogus charges by purchasing your own hardware.

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ISPs including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and all the rest charge ridiculous fees to customers who rent modems from them. Personally, I pay TWC $8 each month in addition to the $77.99 I pay for home Internet service. Yes, you read those numbers correctly.

So, in addition to the insane $935.88 I pay each year for home Internet service, I pay another $100 annually for the modem I need in order to use that overpriced service. Some day, after I’ve paid hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in modem rental fees, I’ll have to return the modem when I cancel my service, lest I want to pay several hundred more in penalties.

Indeed, the cable industry’s lobbying dollars have certainly been well spent.

What most people don’t know is that they can buy their own cable modem and ditch these rental fees forever. And even people who do know about this option often don’t take advantage of it because they’re lazy and don’t want to deal with the hassle. For example… me.

Well, it’s time to make a change.

Finding a cable modem that is compatible with your ISP’s service can be a time-consuming task unless you know where to look and what to look for. Of course, you can also simply let the Internet do the work for you.

The ARRIS (Motorola) SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 is the best-selling cable modem on Amazon, and it has a 4.5-star rating from more than 6,400 customer reviews. Suffice it to say, it’s a pretty darn good modem. What’s more, it is compatible with service from just about every notable cable ISP in the country, including Comcast/Xfinity, Cox, Charter, Time Warner, Mediacom and Bright House.

Notably, the modem is also compatible with all of the upgraded high-speed plans offered by these ISPs. But as Forbes noted, you’ll have to call your ISP to inform them that you have your own modem so that they can activate it and give you full-speed service. You’ll want to call them anyway, of course, so that you can arrange for the return of your old cable modem.

Unfortunately, it is not compatible with fiber services Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-verse. You’ll have to dig a bit deeper for good fiber modems — here’s a well-rated FiOS modem on Amazon, for example.

You can read the reviews and get more details about the SB6141 right here — and best of all, it’s only $89.99 with free Prime shipping. In other words, for less than you pay in modem rental fees each year, you can buy your own top-rated cable modem and you’ll see no difference in service or speed.

What are you waiting for?

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.