Time to buy your own. How much Comcast, Time Warner Cable are raising modem fees

Posted at 4:49 PM, Jan 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-02 16:49:47-05

NEW YORK — Comcast and Time Warner Cable have just raised fees for renting a modem so high that it now makes sense to buy your own. Even if it’s a headache installing it.

The cable companies just hiked the monthly rates they charge customers for leasing their modems — a somewhat hidden charge that most people don’t even think about.

The price hikes are significant: Time Warner Cable’s fee is leaping from $5.99 to $8, and Comcast’s fee is jumping from $8 to $10.

That’s a surprise 25% to 33% price surge. In the case of Time Warner Cable, this is the second fee increase in just over a year. Some Comcast Xfinity customers weren’t notified until mid-December that prices would be raised on Jan. 1.

Time Warner Cable noted that the fee pays for “guaranteed full support and maintenance.” Comcast did not return calls for comment.

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Why buying makes sense now

People typically rent a modem for three reasons: Self-installation is a confusing chore. You might buy a modem that’s not compatible. And most importantly, they’re expensive.

But the game has changed. Consider the yearly fees: Time Warner Cable’s rental fee is now $96. Comcast’s rental is now $120.

If you buy a Motorola SB6121 modem, it’ll pay for itself in less than a year. If you buy the faster Motorola SBG6580 (modems don’t have sexy or memorable names), it’ll pay for itself in just over a year.

Be warned: Buying your own modem requires homework. Not all modems are compatible with Time Warner Cable and Comcast homes.

If you’re a Time Warner Cable customer, you can look up whether a modem is compatible with its network on the company’s website. Comcast customers can do the same on that company’s website. You’ll need to know a little about your current plan to figure it out.

And as Gizmodo noticed, be extra careful with Time Warner Cable. The company has a long, extensive list of dozens of approved devices that are older and therefore less expensive — but only if you’re renting. If you’re buying, you can only pick from a handful of modems.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are seeking federal approval for their proposed $45 billion merger.