Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 29 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
Lights on a router.

Photo by Sh4rp_i

43 comments

Stop Renting Your Cable Modem: Buy One Instead

Many people continue to pay Comcast and other cable-based ISPs monthly fees to rent cable modems. But with a little research, you can buy your own modem outright and save money in the long run.

The advantages to renting a cable modem are that you can turn to your ISP for hardware support, including Wi-Fi help if the modem includes a wireless gateway, and the company will replace the modem at no cost if the unit fails or can’t support higher network speeds as it upgrades its service or you move to a faster tier. However, given the typical monthly rental fees, the premium you’d pay for those benefits is usually high compared to the cost of buying your own modem.

For instance, if you pay your cable company $13 per month to rent a modem, you’d pay $468 over 3 years of service, plus any of the various percentage-based fees cable companies tack on. However, you could instead pay $350 for the Netgear C7800, a cable modem that includes an advanced Wi-Fi gateway. For the equivalent of 27 months of rental fees, you’d save over $150 per year.

But you should read your bill carefully before proceeding. Some cable companies have stopped charging a rental fee altogether, effectively bundling it into the monthly service bill. TidBITS Publisher Adam Engst checked his bill and found that his provider, Spectrum, was one of them. (In 2016, Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable, his previous ISP, and has now rebranded all services under the Spectrum name.) That means there are no savings for him if he buys his own modem.

Pick the Fastest Model

Cable-based Internet service relies on the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard, which was first developed over two decades ago. Version 3.0, released way back in 2006, provided massive increases in maximum downstream and upstream rates, which led cable to outpace improvements in telephone copper-wire DSL service.

DOCSIS 3.0 was in many ways so far ahead of its time that it remains in active and heavy use. Its maximum downstream rate is 1.2 Gbps, and upstream tops out at 200 Mbps. Version 3.1 appeared in 2013 with 10 Gbps downstream and 1 or 2 Gbps upstream maximums. A further improvement in 2017, 3.1 Full Duplex, provides up to 10 Gbps for both upstream and downstream data.

Few DOCSIS 3.0 and later modems offer the maximum possible data rates for their respective supported versions. Performance is based entirely on the kind of modem chips installed, which configure network communications over the coaxial cable wiring into “channels.” Each channel is effectively its own separate data stream, and the modem binds all those channels together invisibly to you. More specifically, each channel has a maximum amount of data it can carry, and overall throughput is based on either how many channels are built into the modem or how many the cable carrier supports for your account. (DOCSIS 3.0 and later have a surprising amount in common with Wi-Fi.) You might have a modem that can outstrip your connection, which is fine, or a connection that offers more channels than your modem can handle, which is bad.

With DOCSIS 3.0, devices could be configured with as few as four downstream channels and one upstream channel, labeled as 4×1, or 171 Mbps downstream and 43 Mbps upstream. In practice, most 3.0 modems started at 4×4, and 8×4 (343 Mbps/171 Mbps) models are more common. By spec, a DOCSIS 3.1 modem can’t offer fewer than 24×2 or 1 Gbps/123 Mbps. (DOCSIS 3.1 has more capacity per channel for upstream signals, which is why 3.0 and 3.1 upstream bandwidth-per-channel numbers differ.)

As with Wi-Fi, you won’t see maximum throughput rates in the real world, as they describe a state of perfection that never exists. Cable wiring can suffer from transient interference, degradation due to wiring quality, and speed drops due to long distances from the data termination point for your connection to the cable plant. Plus, channels can experience congestion if too many customers around you are connected to the same cable data segment relative to the throughput they require. The modems automatically adjust which channels they use and the throughput within each channel based on continuously changing line and usage conditions.

That means the ISP has to overdeliver on the number of channels it uses to provide you reliable service that’s up to the promised service level. If you have a 100 Mbps Internet subscription, the cable ISP doesn’t let your modem use only four channels, as “171 Mbps” would likely net out to far less on average. As a result, you need a cable modem that overperforms your current tier of service by a factor of two or three to ensure you have enough capacity to outpace any of the problems mentioned just above on average. So a DOCSIS 3.0 modem with 8×4 (343 Mbps/171 Mbps) should work fine with a 100 Mbps/20 Mbps broadband plan. But if you’re paying for 200 or 300 Mbps, you’ll want a much faster model. (ISPs will throttle service in the modem—it’s a feature of the DOCSIS spec—or at their network side of things to make sure they don’t give you more throughput than you’re paying for.)

With gigabit broadband service over cable, you need a DOCSIS 3.1 model, even though some 3.0 versions support 32 downstream channels (about 1.4 Gbps). That’s because cable ISPs with gigabit service, like Comcast, have opted to deliver gigabit speeds only using 3.1 technology for greater efficiency and flexibility due to improvements that make a difference in delivering service but are invisible to customers.

Even though DOCSIS 3.1 modems cost a little more than 3.0 models—$160 to $180 for well-reviewed 3.1 models versus less than $100 for 3.0 models—you should, in most cases, purchase a 3.1 model even if your current broadband speed doesn’t warrant it. Modems with 3.1 built-in are backward compatible with 3.0 service and thus offer future-proofing against service upgrades without having to swap out your hardware.

While the DOCSIS 3.1 Full Duplex specification has been released, there aren’t any consumer-level modems that support it yet, and DOCSIS 3.1 offers more than enough throughput for consumers and most businesses. Ignore it for now.

Buy and Install Your Own Cable Modem

Every cable company has a different list of approved “retail” modems that work on its network, making it impossible to offer a blanket recommendation. Plus, you may want to find a cable modem that includes other features, such as a Wi-Fi router, even if it costs more than a “dumb” unit that only knows how to connect to the cable system.

Pay close attention if you subscribe for both broadband and voice service from your cable ISP. Cable operators typically limit which modems they support for both broadband and voice, and you may have to purchase a modem through a partner or manufacturer’s site instead of via an online or brick-and-mortar retailer.

What will you wind up paying?

  • DOCIS 3.0 up to 300 Mbps broadband: around $60. The NetGear CM500-1AZNAS (16×4 or 686 Mbps/171 Mbps) is a good example, scoring solid reviews and working across nearly all cable operators’ networks.
  • DOCIS 3.0 up to 600 Mbps broadband: around $100. Many people pick the Arris SB6190 (32×8) for the highest data rates below 1 Gbps on DOCSIS 3.0 networks.
  • DOCSIS 3.1 up to 1 Gbps broadband: $160–$180: With a lot of choices for 3.1 models, consider the Arris SB8200 ($180) and the Motorola SB8200 ($160), which are solid performers in reviews.

Here’s where to check on available modems for the main cable ISPs in the United States:

  • Cox: A somewhat technical page that starts with compatibility issues faces you at Cox, but it settles down into a long list of compatible modems. A self-install page guides you through activating a modem, which requires the serial number and cable MAC address.
  • Optimum and Suddenlink (Altice): Altice’s two cable brands don’t provide any public-facing information about purchasing your own modem. Some third-party sites recommend modems for these providers, but I suggest contacting customer service before making a purchase.
  • Spectrum (Charter): Spectrum’s Authorized Devices on the Spectrum Network page lists modems appropriate to a visitor’s ZIP code. It also offers a simple page on activation, which relies on the device’s cable MAC address.
  • Xfinity (Comcast): Xfinity takes the most encouraging approach with terrific advice about how and what to buy, and a dedicated My Device Info site that checks on what service is available for subscribers who log in and non-subscribers who provide their address. It even comes with a promise: “All listed equipment is certified and compatible with Xfinity Internet service.” Xfinity also publishes a clear set of steps for activating your own modem, although it’s a bit more complex than other providers.

You can also turn to a reliable third-party for reviews. Wirecutter assembled a set of recommendations for modems that deliver the performance most people currently need: 24×8 with DOCSIS 3.0 for up to broadband service up to 600 Mbps and a 3.1 option for gigabit subscribers. The reviews dig into compatibility across carriers and other more detailed feature comparisons.

Don’t Forget To Get a Receipt!

One of the worst parts of dealing with a cable company is making sure it stops billing you for services and hardware you aren’t using and don’t possess. I went to a local Comcast office to return my rental modem a few years ago and made sure to obtain a receipt proving that I had handed it over.

And, sure as the sun comes up in the morning, my next bill still showed a rental fee. It took months to convince Comcast to stop charging me, even though in the end, the company refunded all the fees and “believed” me. I had a receipt!

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

Even when you think the cable operators can’t get you, they’ll try. But in the end, you won’t be paying a monthly fee anymore.

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For 28 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

Comments About Stop Renting Your Cable Modem: Buy One Instead

Notable Replies

  1. 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.

    Jack

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

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

  4. Glenn,

    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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.
    Cheers,

    Mac

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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]

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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:

  20. I’ve always wondered what it was like to run a criminal operation, and this certainly meets the definition!

    My story is that we signed up for business service in a shared office for a 3-year term with a pretty good $$$ deal. There was a 75 percent cancellation penalty. Which seems illegal, but we had plans to be in the office for three years. In the end, we were only there two. However, I was able to convince Comcast to shift “business” service to my home (which was good, because it was UNCAPPED at the time).

    The guy I spoke to said the $1,000 (!!) setup fee would be waived. Sure enough, I was charged for it. It took a little effort, but I got it reversed.

  21. I always keep a POTS landline because when you lose power at your house, you will still have phone service (as long as you have a corded telephone). If you rely on a VOIP phone and your power goes out, you’re SOL.

  22. Just one experience here. Comcast has always updated the firmware on my owned Motorola/Arris Surfboard modem to the latest version in a timely manner.

  23. I only have a cel phone, when the power goes out in my neighborhood, I can still use my cel phone. Any phone service through a cable company or ISP (except maybe DSL over copper) is VoIP and replies on powered equipment in your home. When fiber to the home is installed, the copper wiring is removed so keeping POTS isn’t even possible.

  24. My modem for VOIP (Spectrum) is separate from my data modem and has battery backup. Only if the cable itself is out does my phone stop working. Even when the internet is down, my phone still works, but that has nothing to do with the battery, just a different data stream on the same cable.

  25. Not here it wasn’t. Copper wasn’t touched when fiber came in. Two different companies, two different “aerial drops” as the tech called it. In fact, there are now three separate lines to our house, since there’s also cable besides copper and fiber. Only one gets used, but there would be no issue running all three simultaneously.

  26. Which is why I keep my phone service separate from my ISP; I don’t have cable as they wanted $10,000 to run their line the approximate .2 miles down my street. Needless to say, the local company is Comcast! So: phone is POTS from AT&T, TV is via DirecTV, and Internet is via a local wireless ISP.

  27. Verizon has a policy of removing copper, I believe. CenturyLink, to my knowledge, didn’t? But I wasn’t paying attention. We have our phone line of fiber, and the POTS-like phone part of it has a separate UPS that’s built into the adapter. I’m not sure how long it lasts, but at least several hours.

  28. I had an AT&T POTS line but when I did a trial of U-Verse the POTS line was removed and they won’t reinstall it. So now I’m with Spectrum and forced to use VOIP.

    If anyone know the magic words to say to AT&T to get them to reinstall a POTS line, I’m all ears.

  29. I replaced my Comcast modem with a separate modem and wireless hub. I used ones on theirs list. No problem switching over, but I was shocked when the 15 per month rental took more than 20$ off my bill after taxes. Good performance so far. Don’t have models as I’m not home.

  30. Comcast Business has not changed its policy regarding static IPs.

    https://business.comcast.com/help-and-support/internet/use-your-own-comcast-business-modem-device/

    If you require a static IP for your account, you will need a Comcast-supplied IP Gateway device.

    Comcast Xfinity, the consumer level service, does not offer static IPs.

    I looked into microwave high-speed Internet service because some neighbors reported that it exceeded Comcast’s level of service. Unfortunately I lack a line of sight to the tower, being blocked just enough by a ridge line. If I only lived two blocks further away, the ridge would be below the sight line.

  31. It can get a bit ridiculous. My built in 1961 house has aerial runs for power (Duke), 2 coax (TWC/Spectrum), 2 POTS (Bellsouth/AT&T), and 1 Fiber (Google). I’ve had dual accounts from TWC and AT&T at times. No one has every removed old stuff.

    When/if I build new there will be multiple runs of underground conduit from the street to the service locations on the house.

  32. Same magic words as to get Apple to sell you a PowerPC computer.

    Copper is dead to the curb. It is just taking a long time to die. To the premises a bit longer.

    Fiber is just so much cheaper over the long term. Plus even though you didn’t have VIOP into your house, the signal was VIOP to your neighborhood. So switching you to fiber eliminated a conversion box someone in your neighborhood.

  33. The days when the CO (phone company Central Office) had a huge room full of marine batteries to run the POTS for when the CO lost power have mostly vanished. And since your local neighborhood pod that delivers that POTS to you is on the same power grid you are, well…. And that pod is almost certainly fed from the central office via fiber VOIP. (The cost of supporting a pair of copper lines from the CO to each end point makes the decision a no brainer for your phone company.)[1]

    So go to Costco and buy their $100 UPS, put your modem and such on it and use a cell phone when that runs out of battery power.

    The world has changed. Out attitudes sometimes take a while to catch up.[2]

    Plus, the fewer people on your neighborhood pod holding on to POTS the longer the batteries in the pod will last. So dropping POTS is a “common good”.

    David

    [1] Just switched out an office of 25 people from 3 10 year old 24 and 48 port gig switches to a collection of 16 port + 2 fiber switches. New distributed switches home run back to a central point all on fiber. We must have removed 300 pounds of copper or more in this one office alone as we could put the new switches near the clumps of people and equipment and remove all of that copper making home runs back to the big old switches.

    [2] Dropped my home office business POTS line 10+ years ago. Dropped my home POTS line 5+ years ago. I still keep tripping on people who are trying to use one or the other. Latest was Staples when I tried to check out without my rewards number.

  34. Oh, that’s interesting. Enough time has passed that I must have forgotten switching from a static to dynamic IP as well—we needed a static IP for some server stuff when we had a shared office. But the cost is accurate: the monthly rental jumped for that business service. I was able to jump from Comcast business to CenturyLink fiber, because CenturyLink also offered uncapped service, even at the consumer level.

  35. Well, when I lose power in my area my old style corded POTS landline continues to work. It even continues to work when the cell goes down (the cell tower is only two miles away). However, your idea of a UPS for routers is good. I’m also considering getting a Tesla PowerWall for my next house, I’ll have to see how they work.

  36. Just a hint–Comcast kept billing me the rental fee after I returned my modem. Second call to an agent, I used the magic words, “escalate, please,” and reached that person’s supervisor. Problem was quickly resolved.

  37. Back last July, my cable company started charging a $6.00 per month cable fee (which the bill mentioned was $5 less than $11 per month! I’m not paying more! I’m saving money!) After that, a lot of people bought their own cable modem.

    After a few months, they raised it to $11 per month (which as the bill pointed out is $2.50 cheaper than $13.50 per month. More savings!) Even more people bought cable modems. Now, my cable company is charging a $2.50 per month Network Improvement Fee. Can’t get out of that one.

    You need to make sure your modem is compatible with your cable network. I did this by checking my cable company’s website which lead me to a page that showed four compatible models. Three of those were no longer made, and the other was a DOCSIS 2.0 model that could give me a maximum throughput of 60mbs.

    I then went to Amazon looked at various models, and read the comments and the answer to customer questions whether a particular model worked with my provider. I ended up with a TP-LINK DOCSIS 3.0 (16x4) mode for $50 that should get me a maximum of 680mbs.

    The final step is connecting your modem to your cable. Many cable comanies can do this automatically. You just plug the modem in. Not with my cable provider. Two hours trying to get to a customer service person on the phone, then listening to that person tell me the advantages of renting, and finally waiting four more hours waiting for my cable company to configure whatever they needed to configure for my modem to work.

  38. I’ve had less trouble with Comcast (northern California) than others have. In fact, for the most part, their service has been excellent. The only problem is the cost of service, which is high. But I live in an apartment with no line of sight for a satellite dish, so my alternatives are limited. So I’m not really in the market for a third-party cable modem. That seems to me to be buying trouble. I find it odd that cable modems are even called modems, since the signals are all digital and don’t need to be modulated from an analog source. I think of my Comcast (Arris) device as a router, which has excellent set-up software, by the way, when I need to check on it via my browser with an IP login. No one seems to be talking about setup issues with third party cable modems/routers, which seems to me to be problematic for non-technically inclined users. Indeed, I like the fact that Comcast customer service can tunnel into the router for troubleshooting purposes, though I’ve learned basic support myself since I got my first router some years ago. Talk about difficult setup, has anyone ever tried to set up an AT&T router? Comcast seems to be getting most of heat here, but compared to them AT&T is a real nightmare. I have several neighbors with AT&T service and I have to help them reset their modems every few months when they drop their signal. Unreliable plastic crap boxes to my way of thinking. We could use some advice about how to replace those—if they can be replaced.

  39. Then allow me, as a fellow Northern California Comcast user, to fill in some blanks.

    I earlier mentioned that I found a Motorola (aka Arris) SurfBoard modem that was on the list of Comcast acceptable modems (not a router as I already use an Airport Extreme) at a good price which allowed me to break even after less than ten months of use.

    I switched out the the modem and called Comcast Customer Support to tell them what I had done and gave them the MAC address (I suspect they could have determined that for themselves). About ten minutes later they had configured the modem and service was immediately restored. As I mentioned before, they have kept the firmware up-to-date and there have not been any issues attributable to the modem.

    There have been a couple of extended outages, but when I contacted Customer Support, they never told me that they would not help due to my modem ownership. They troubleshot the issue from there end, including a modem restart and then ask me to manually restart everything. Eventually they determined that there was a blanket issue with wide spread outages that included my neighborhood (in fact multiple cities) so determined they would not need to dispatch a technician to my location.

    Regarding the term “Cable Modem” being a misnomer, I would have to agree that it does not match it’s original meaning as an analog to digital converter of legacy cable TV systems, so it’s a carryover from those prior years for the name of the current box that is used as an interface to convert the incoming cable connection to your local network providing compatible Internet (and VOIP if necessary) capability. The term is apparently included in current DOCSIS architecture standardization documentation.

    -Al-

  40. I think Spectrum now requires a business service for a static IP. Or AT&T. Or both. I haven’t checked in a year or so. But Spectrum does for sure.

  41. You may be one of the few (relatively) people in the US with a pair of copper wires running all the way back to the CO. Or the battery in your local pod may not have run down. Or the power wasn’t out to the pod. Or ….

    Copper back to the CO is dead. It just isn’t dying everywhere all at once.

  42. Sorry but there are no “bits” flowing down your wires. There are a bunch of modulated radio signals that have to be decoded into the ones and zeros fed out of the modem. Now it does get a bit odd because in a classical sense of how we think of modems, Ethernet over wire requires a modem at each end of the wire. So your cable modem decodes the singles coming over the cable internally into 1s and 0s in the CPU system inside of the modem then feeds it into the Ethernet chip set that encodes those 1s and 0s into a different set of radio frequencies and modulation methods to ship it over the wire. Then your router or computer decodes again. And so on and the singals flow around the universe.

    Anytime you have more than a voltage or current up and down on a single or bundle of wires you have a modem.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum

Participants