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, and with the goal of lowering my Comcast bill.
While Comcast is the largest ISP in the US market, they are hardly the only one. In fact, there are 2,800+ ISPs in the US, and Comcast accounts for over 32 million out of ~120 million broadband connected households. Sadly, even though there are a lot of ISPs in this country, there is little in-market direct competition between them – and the top 10 ISPs account for 95% of all subscribers. With little real competition, ISPs often can charge outrageous fees (the average broadband subscription price is over $60/month), often with underwhelming speeds. The addition of frustratingly 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 ISPs 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 $12/month ($144/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 $15/month in 2023 (and $25/month for “xFi Complete” previously).
In fact, the Television Viewer Protection Act, implemented in 2020, now forbids television and broadband providers for charging customers to use their own devices. Frontier, for example, was charging its customers $10/month to use their own modem, without providing any repair/support for those modems.
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 to cut those fees, and more:
|ISP:||Gateway/Router/Modem Fee:||Customer Owned |
|Customer Owned Compatible Models:||Notes:|
|Comcast XFinity:||$15/month ($25/month for "xFi Complete")||Yes||Comcast Xfinity supported modems||Most modems supported (recommended below), but verify it's compatible with the speeds you're paying for. Use a router of your choice (recommended below).|
|Spectrum (Charter):||$5/month (+$9.99 activation)||Yes||Spectrum supported modems||Charter Spectrum charges a "wifi fee" to use wifi on their modem + router combo. You can use your own router to avoid the fee (see recommendations below).|
|AT&T:||$10/month (automatically added to internet cost)||No||N/A||AT&T includes the $10/month leased equipment fee within their overall cost structure with all new plans. There does not appear to be a way to replace with your own equipment to cut this fee.|
|Verizon FIOS:||$18/month to lease or $399.99 to buy||Yes||Any router (see notes)||Fiber optic gateway provided, but you can use any router (recommendations below) to avoid the router rental fee. Just make sure your router is capable of handling the speed you are paying for.|
|CenturyLink:||$15/month to lease or $150-$200 to purchase||Yes||CenturyLink supported modems||Most modems will work, including 3rd party, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice. Recommendations below.|
|Cox:||$13/month||Yes||Cox supported modems||Cox only "supports" their modems, but "certifies" customer-owned modems that are DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1, meaning, they should work if they are on the list. Recommendations below.|
|Optimum (Altice):||$10/month||Yes||N/A||Call for compatibility. Most modems will work, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice. Recommendations below.|
|Frontier:||$10/month||Yes||N/A||Call for compatibility. Most modems will work, but make sure it's compatible with your speeds. Router of your choice. Recommendations below.|
|Mediacom Xtream:||$13/month for modem + additional charges for some routers||Yes||Mediacom supported modems||See list. Router of your choice.|
|Windstream Kinetic:||$9.99 or $11.99/month (depending on speed)||Yes||Windstream supported modems||Most will be supported. Call for compatibility. Recommendations below.|
How to Replace your ISPs Modem with Your Own:
Replacing your ISPs 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 recommendations below).
- Call your ISPs tech support to activate your new modem (if it does not activate automatically when you plug it in).
- Connect all of your devices to your new Wi-Fi connection.
- Return your leased ISP modem – and get a receipt in case they try to charge you!
- If charged, contact customer service to make sure they remove the modem rental fee. And double-check future billing statements.
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 via a cable or fiber connection, the router sends the Wi-Fi signal to/from your devices or allows you to connect via ethernet), instead of a combined gateway that combines a modem/router into 1 device. This way, if the capabilities of either the modem or router becomes obsolete or dies on you, you can replace that individual device (vs. an entire gateway). Gateways are also known to be less reliable comparatively.
Check with your ISP to make sure that the below models are compatible before buying. If they do allow customer-owned modems and don’t give you a straight answer or the answer you want to hear on compatibility, you can always purchase one of the below modem/router combos to test it out. Just make sure you can return for a full refund if the modem doesn’t work.
Recommended Modems (to pair with routers below):
- Motorola MB8611: up to 2330Mbps (DOCSIS 3.1)
- Netgear CM2000: up to 2330Mbps (DOCSIS 3.1)
- Arris S33: up to 2330Mbps (DOCSIS 3.1)
If you want landline broadband voice (VOIP) service, go with either the Netgear CM2050v (up to 2330Mbps) or Arris T25 (up to 949Mbps). Note: you can just as easily (and at a big cost savings) add VOIP functionality by connecting an Ooma device to your router.
If you want a gateway (modem and router combined in 1 device), I don’t recommend that because they aren’t as reliable and you can’t upgrade one half, but the Arris G36 (up to 2330Mbps and Wi-Fi 6) and Netgear CAX30 (up to 949Mbps and Wi-Fi 6) are good value options.
Recommended Routers (to pair with modem above):
All offer great value and blazing fast speeds – and will work with any ISP-compatible modem.
- TP-Link AX3000 – Wi-Fi 6: up to 3000Mbps (2402Mbps on the 5GHz band + 575Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band)
- TP-Link AX1800 – Wi-Fi 6: up to 1800Mbps (1200Mbps on the 5 GHz band + 574Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band)
- Netgear Nighthawk AX1800 Wi-Fi 6: up to 1800Mbps (1200Mbps on the 5 GHz band + 574Mbps on 2.4 GHz band)
I also recently took a look at the new Wi-Fi 6E versus Wi-Fi 6 versus Wi-Fi 5 technology to determine if Wi-Fi 6E is worth the cost. Comcast has recently been advertising its Xfinity “Supersonic Wi-Fi” offering. Broken down, “Supersonic Wi-Fi” is really just Xfinity’s fastest (and highest cost) internet tiers (Gigabit or Ultrafast plans) paired with a new Wi-Fi 6E router (which they are marketing as the “Supersonic Gateway” as part of their package Xfinity “Supersonic Bundle” deal). Here are 3 of the most popular Wi-Fi 6E routers on the market at the moment:
- TP-Link AXE5400: up to 5400Mbps (2402 Mbps on the 6GHz, 2402Mbps on the 5GHz band, 574 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band)
- Asus RT-AXE7800: up to 5400Mbps (2402 Mbps on the 6GHz, 4804Mbps on the 5GHz band, 574 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band)
- Amazon eero Pro: up to 1300Mbps
Additionally, for Xfinity customers, you can now use a streaming device to get rid of Xfinity DVR & TV box fees – and other ISPs might have similar policies, so look into this for additional savings.