[PLUG-TALK] Cable modems: rent or buy?

Sean Whitney sean.whitney at gmail.com
Wed Mar 2 08:06:09 PST 2011

As someone who works in the Cable industry I will weigh in here.

A normal cable modem costs about 50-60 dollars (emta's, fancy routers
w/cable modesm cost more).  It used to be the case that Motorola CM were
"top of the line" but I think that for the DOCSIS 3.0 modems that has
been passed on to Arris.

So look at the amount they are paying per month, how long they intend to
have the service and if you can get either a Moto or Arris modem at a
reasonable cost and you can crunch the numbers.

The downside of owning a cable modem is if there is a failure.  Cable
modems aren't anything special.  Like all computer hardware, it will
fail when it's going to fail.  If Comcast owns it they will replace it.
 If you own it you are on the hook (aside from any warranty).

Until recently I owned a Motorola DOCSIS 2.0 modem and it worked fine on
Comcast's network for about 5 years.  It was worth every penny.  Other
people owning their own modem may have other experiences.

Some cable companies restrict which modems can be on their network.
Time-Warner has an approved list, and other MSO have a list of
specifically not allowed modems.  That being said I wouldn't purchase a
used modem on eBay.  What works on one network won't necessarily work on

My business partner has a condo on the coast and has Charter as a
provider.  His self-owned Moto modem was resetting every 1-2 minutes and
Charter Customer Care refused to do anything about it (specifically
flash the firmware to something more updated).  He brought it home to
Vancouver and hooked it up to Comcast.  They flashed it within 10
minutes and he took it back to the beach house.  It's worked fine after


On 03/01/2011 02:18 PM, Michael M. Moore wrote:
> A case manager I know called me about a client of hers who is currently 
> getting Internet access (and cable TV, I'm pretty sure) via Comcast. 
> The client is on fixed or limited income (probably disability) and 
> trying to pare down his or her expenses, and the case manager is trying 
> to help.  She noticed that there's a hefty monthly charge on the 
> client's bill for modem rental and wondered if it would make sense to 
> buy a modem outright.  She called me because she thinks of me as 
> "techy."  (Aside:  It's amazing how little one has to do or know to be 
> thought of as technically proficient or knowledgeable amongst friends 
> and acquaintances who don't do much more with computers than browse the 
> Internet or send email.  Just let it slip that you installed a Linux OS, 
> and suddenly you're some kind of guru, even when you aren't.  That, of 
> course, is only after you explain what an "operating system" is.)
> I am not now nor have I ever been a Comcast customer, nor have I ever 
> used cable for Internet access.  I did once have cable TV, but I just 
> paid the monthly bill without thinking much about whether it would make 
> sense for me to buy equipment.  So I don't know much about how it works 
> or what the options are regarding buying modems.  Can anyone offer any 
> insight?  Can you even buy your own modem?  Are there gotchas you have 
> to watch out for?  Does it make financial sense?
> I know here lie real gurus, and I know many here are Comcast customers, 
> so I was hoping someone could give me some tips about upsides and downsides.
> Thanks,
> Michael
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