Cable companies can no longer ‘rent’ you the router you already own

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Is your internet service provider charging you every month for the cable modem or router that you purchased with your own money? Or, perhaps, have you never bothered to buy those items because you couldn’t escape the fee? That fee is illegal starting Sunday, December 20th, and you should tell your ISP that you’ll no longer tolerate it.

Last year, Congress passed a law that should have fixed this ridiculous loophole as of June 20th, 2020 — and though the FCC managed to extend the deadline six months by spinning up some bullshit about how cable companies didn’t have the resources to stop charging you money, the law should take full effect tomorrow.

Do note that the actual text of the law still allows some BS to occur. If your ISP sends you a router, you’ll need to return it to avoid charges.

Frontier in particular has been notorious for charging customers $10 a month for their equipment “whether you use it or not” — the company’s words, not mine — but Frontier is clearly aware it won’t be able to do that anymore. Starting this month, the company’s equipment page has changed to remove the part where it talks about the mandatory fee. Here’s an archived copy of the site from last month if you want to compare.

If you can purchase your own cable modem, I suggest you do. Modems will generally pay for themselves in less than a year, and the all-in-one router boxes that ISPs typically provide typically offer worse Wi-Fi coverage than you could easily add to a house yourself, particularly now that mesh Wi-Fi systems are better, cheaper, and easier to use than ever before.

It also doesn’t help that in the US, we pay roughly eight to 17 times more to rent a modem on average that Asia and Europe do, respectively. That’s just one of the ways America’s internet needs to be fixed in 2021.


PSA: If you have Charter/Spectrum, use your own modem, and have a problem that needs a tech to come out, they’ll charge you $50 per service visit (even if your modem wasn’t the problem). Learned this the hard way twice…


The good news is that Spectrum doesn’t charge a monthly rental fee for the modem, and they give you a fairly decent one (at least in my area).

True however its pretty shitty that they’re trying to implement data caps 2 years earlier then theyre allowed to because "Customers love data caps".

I’m OK with data caps because we all know that a very small percentage of users abuse the network with torrents or other ultra high bandwidth uses. I just wish the caps were more reasonable. My parents use around 2Tb a month because they have two TVs streaming pretty much all the time. So what would a more reasonable cap be? 5Tb maybe?

I wasn’t getting the speed I had previously gotten, and Spectrum said it was my modem. So I relented and am using their free branded modem, a DOCSIS 3.1 model E31T2V1 made in Indonesia in Nov. of 2019. Because they charge for the router, I am still using my Netgear N300 WRN2000v. No issues.

They have come out to repair a cable issue and has nothing to do with my modem/router that I own. I didn’t get charged anything. (spectrum)

AT&T told me the fee was $99 if the problem was from something I did caused. It turned out to be a fried hub and everyone around me lost fiber. That said, they are be pedantic and encrypting the ethernet protocol on the fiber using run of the mil 802.11 encryption…

While it’s a little bit more nuanced than that… the biggest cost with providing you internet these days is usually support… It’s clear the reasons for pushing their own hardware is on you are primarily penny pinching. They save a little bit of money by combining the demarcation device with an ISP provided gateway/WiFI AP… then they make money by charging you for their demarcation device… without mentioning it in their $40/m Fiber! ads… with a $15/m scammy racket attached.

These people are the devil’s little helpers.

Not defending them but I’ve literally never had this charge happen. We were getting shitty signal and always dropping internet so we called it in. I had my own modem and router and they still came out to check everything, they replaced our cable box and reran completely new cables all over and we got charged nothing for it.

If the problem has something to do on your end vs theirs, it’s only fair they charge you. It’s not free getting a technician sent your way.

Otherwise, that sucks.

Sadly the issue did end up being on their end. My Internet kept dropping, sometimes for days. And even when it did connect, often times the speeds were ridiculously slow.

Their phone tech support confirmed their diagnostics indicated a line issue between them and my house, but then when they dispatched someone to come out, they blamed it on my router (which makes no since since if the modem can’t even handshake with their end, then clearly the issue is on the WAN side, but I wasn’t home at the time to argue that it wasn’t the problem).

The problems continued so the next time they sent someone out, I connected a computer directly to the modem via Ethernet and showed them the degraded speeds. So I let them swap my modem for theirs, since they blamed that as the problem. The speeds still weren’t what I was expecting, but they insisted it might just be congestion, and that if it still doesn’t go away then they’ll know for sure it’s their lines and they’ll check that next time. Apparently they claimed they needed to rule out everything else for sure before they can touch that.

Even after switching to their modem, the problems still continued. My billing cycle ended between the end of that second visit and before the third visit was scheduled and I saw I had two surprise $50 service fees on that statement (I never knew they even started charging service fees, nor was I ever told at any point that I might be subject to a fee). They refused to waive the fees and couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t be charged $50 for the third visit (despite their phone tech support insisting still that the problem wasn’t on my end each time).

Even their retentions department claimed they don’t have the power to waive service fees unless I was using their modem from the start, so I ended up cancelling. Even escalating via a BBB complaint got nowhere. So I basically paid $100 for nothing, since I still didn’t have usable internet in the end.

I did this with comcast years back. We had our internet instantly downgraded when I switched the name on the account. It dropped like 20 megabytes a sec overnight. It was obviously a clerical issue. I called and tried to refuse the "technician" however they made it clear they wouldn’t budge an inch until a "technician" came to our house. I made it clear I would not be paying that service fee if they went through these motions to require the visit. Which to their credit they did wave the fee.

Fast forward 3 days and some guy is in my living room at the wall of our cable outlet/modem/wifi telling me "ya know it might just be due to the wifi". Holy f ing shit balls. This "technician" did nothing other than propose MY OWN WIFI might be why my internet speed dropped by over 50%. I had to explain to "a technician" that not only was that wall outputting 300 mbps a week prior, the only degradation WIFI would produce is latency.

Seeing this guy’s head implode in my living room was interesting because he made a single phone call and whoever he talked to went very simply "I’m at so and so address, they say they are paying for Blast internet and they aren’t getting those speeds… Oh ok great." like the flip of a switch our speed WE PAID FOR ALL ALONG was fully restored.

What about AT&T Fiber, where they install the little fiber to ethernet box, then make you use their modem/router even if you want to use your own router? Will a regular modem work?

Nope, we’re stuck with their garbage modem/router.

If it’s garbage, why not put your own router behind theirs? Essentially, you’d just be using theirs as a modem. You still have to use theirs, but not as the router for your LAN/WiFi.

You have to be careful with doing this with AT&T. I installed a mesh wifi network, and tried putting their modem/router into a passthrough mode, and it knocked out all my DVR and cable boxes. I had to reconnect them directly to their router/modem and turn the modem’s routing back on to get them to work again. But I did leave the wifi off, and just use the mesh network. It’s really fast, but I’m stuck with a network-behind-a-network, which makes it tough to share things like Plex outside the house.

Verizon fios is the same way. The solution is to just not buy TV from them, then you can use your own router. Streaming is better anyway

If you don’t use their cable box, using Tivo or something else, you don’t need to use their router.
I have ethernet coming from their line to my router.

Came to say the same thing. If you use ATT for TV you are basically stuck with having a network behind a network.

Like Authority2 said… just do the IP passthrough stuff… that gateway will work a lot better with less packet mangling and WiFi encryption/decryption duties. Latency is great, 11 to 13… vs 15 in a business I know, for service they pay an order of magnitude more for.

That’s not true, I have an all UI setup with pass through mode. While it’s true their gateway is still there, it’s not double NAT or anything and has no significant impact on my network. It is annoying however that they add $10 a month to a bill when it’s not optional. It’s just so dishonest, but that’s everything ATT does.

Why ISP charged you rent for adding a router in the LAN port? How could they charged you when you use a better modem paid with your own money? These are weird logic. It’s was weird when they charge you extra for just tethering your data with another device. Dont you still have to pay your data? It is weird logic.

This is interesting news. I use my own modem and router with service through Wowway. The walls in my home are pretty thick… I was using Eero, supplied by ISP… It sucked. Kept dropping wifi. Using the Asus mesh router is more consistent coverage with no drops, but also no where near the 800Mbps I was getting with Eero.

Is it just mine or does anyone know WHY ISPs (at least MINE) won’t let you use two modems in the house? They said I would need to run two service lines.

Two modems? Not sure why anyone would want to do that! I think you need to run an ethernet cable from one of the ports in your modem/router to where you want to site the other wifi box and put a Wifi Access Point onto it. In simple terms, it’s like meshing, but there’s a cable between the two boxes!

Good news. Frontier ad said Internet 500/500 will cost me $39.99, but they charged me $10 router fee even though I had mine. After one year, they charged me $5 more for an internet security suite that they added for free (for the first year).

After a year, your price only went up by $5? At Comcast, your $40 that was actually $50 probably would have jumped to about $90. Maybe it behaves a little better where it has real competition, but there’s none of that where I live.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑