I’ve previously written about how to replace your Comcast XFinity modem with your own in order to get rid of your XFinity modem rental fee, as part of my ongoing frustration as a customer of the company over the years.
While Comcast is the largest ISP in the US market, they are hardly the only one. In fact, there are over 7,000 ISP’s in the US, and Comcast accounts for 26.5 million out of ~100 million broadband connected households. Sadly, even though there are a lot of ISP’s in this country, there is little in-market direct competition between them – and the top 10 ISP’s account for 95% of all subscribers. With little real competition, ISP’s often can charge outrageous fees (the average broadband subscription price is at $60/month) for underwhelming speeds. The addition of annoyingly high modem rental fees on top of that makes this personal finance writer angry.
So it got me thinking – “what about the other three-quarters of US households that subscribe to broadband, but are not Comcast customers? Are they getting gouged with modem and router rental fees as well? And how can they save money too?”.
Some ISP’s say that you must use their equipment, while others try to scare you into believing they won’t support yours. But with an average price of around $10/month ($120/year), it’s definitely worth exploring further, no matter who your ISP is, as you can typically recoup the cost of buying your own devices within the first year, and then – pure savings!
Update: the XFinity modem rental fee was raised again to $13/month recently!
Modem Rental Fees & Options by ISP
As of this article’s publish date, here are the top 10 broadband provider’s standard modem/router/gateway rental lease fees, information on compatible modems, and more:
|ISP:||Gateway/Router/Modem Fee:||Customer Owned |
|Customer Owned Compatible Models:||Notes:|
|Comcast XFinity:||$13/month||Yes||Comcast XFinity supported modems||Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Charter Spectrum:||$5/month (+$9.99 activation)||Maybe||Charter Spectrum supported modems||Charter Spectrum says you must rent their modem, but they have a list of supported modems, so I am curious.|
|AT&T:||N/A||No||N/A||As of late, it looks like the cost of AT&T gateways are included in the total price & you must use theirs.|
|Verizon FIOS:||$12/month||Yes||Any router (see notes)||Fiber optic gateway provided, but you can use any router to avoid the router rental fee. Just make sure your router is capable of handling the speed you are paying for.|
|CenturyLink:||$10/month||Yes||CenturyLink supported modems||Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Cox:||$10/month||Yes||Cox supported modems||Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Altice Optimum:||$10/month||Yes||N/A||Call for compatibility. Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Frontier:||$10/month||Yes||N/A||Call for compatibility. Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Mediacom:||$10/month||Yes||Mediacom supported modems||Most modems supported, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice (same).|
|Windstream:||$10-12/month||Yes||Windstream supported modems||Call for compatibility.|
How to Replace your ISP’s Modem with Your Own:
Replacing your ISP’s modem/gateway with your own is often easier than you think – but specifics may vary by ISP. Give your ISP a call to confirm the below steps prior to purchase and setup:
- Buy a compatible modem and router (see links above and recommendations below)
- Call your ISP’s tech support to activate your new modem (if it does not activate automatically when you plug it in).
- Connect all of your devices.
- Return your leased ISP modem – and get a receipt in case they try to charge you!
- Contact customer service to make sure they remove the modem rental fee. And double-check your next billing statement.
Recommended Modems & Routers:
If your ISP allows customer owned devices, I would recommend getting a separate modem and router (the modem is hard-wired to your ISP, the router sends the signal to/from your devices), instead of a combined gateway. This way, if the capabilities of either of the two becomes obsolete or dies on you, you can replace that individual device (vs. the entire gateway). Gateways are also known to be a little wonky/unreliable in comparison. Check with your ISP to make sure that the below models are compatible before buying.
All of the following modems are DOCSIS 3.0 and can handle speeds up to 686 Mbps – which means they will be compatible with most ISP’s – and probably for many years. All are very reasonably priced at around $60 and under. And all are top sellers on Amazon.
- NETGEAR CM500-1AZNAS (16×4)
- ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 (16×4)
- Motorola MB7420 (16×4)
- TP-Link TC-7620 (16×4)
All of the following models can handle speeds of at least 300 Mbps + 900 Mbps with dual band (2.4 & 5 GHz), and have strong wifi range – which will make them current and forward compatible for many years. All are highly rated Amazon best sellers and under $60 as well.