Don't rent equipment from your ISP

Original cable modem order from 2012

Take a look at your monthly invoice from your ISP. If you have a line item for equipment rentals, you’re being ripped off.

Back in late 2012 I prepared to move into an apartment. One of the most important tasks was to get internet service setup. An dwelling without internet is hardly fit for human habitation.

The only option in the building was Comcast, a cable ISP. By default, they assume you need a cable modem and they were all to happy to rent one to you for $8/month which works out to $96/year. At the time, I bought a cable modem for $80. So before the year was over, I was already saving money.

I only stayed in the apartment for a year. Shortly after, my parents were in need of a cable modem so I gave it to them. It’s been in service ever since.

Assuming the rental fee had remained a constant $8/month, since January 2013, that amounts to $728 in rental fees for a device that costs $80 retail.

Today, if you go through the signup process for Xfinity (Comcast) and opt to use your own equipment rather than be taken to the cleaners to the tune of $14/month for a cable modem + Wi-Fi router combo, they try to scare you off with:

You can use your own compatible modem and router, but you won’t get:

  • Device upgrades or tech support for your devices
  • Access to xFi, including xFi Parental Controls and easy WiFi management
  • Advanced Security to block online threats and protect every connected device
Cable modem in service

Cable modem still in service today with the Ubiquiti Security Gateway, US-16-150W, CloudKey Gen 2+

Decent equipment will remain good and usable for at least 5 years. Things don’t change that rapidly with fixed line internet. Modems and routers are a set it and forget it proposition for many people and don’t require tech support.

The rest of the features they list are just branded names of standard features on decent equipment.

You can spend a couple hundred on a nice setup that will last for years and still be yours when you switch ISPs or upgrade the equipment and want to sell the old stuff off.

There’s also a security consideration. Equipment distributed by an ISP makes a more appealing target for attackers due to the sheer number of units out there. An attacker may prefer to focus on these rather than bespoke equipment configurations. Plus these days with the more advanced router combos, the ISP almost certainly has remote management access. Do you want that?

Don’t let ISPs rip you off with rental fees. Treat yourself to nicer equipment and save money at the same time. I’m a big fan of Ubiquiti equipment and there’s something for everyone in their product line. EdgeRouter for the CLI configuration fan, UniFi for a clean managed solution integrated with other equipment, and AmpliFi for the consumer one-touch setup with Wi-Fi meshing.