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Northeastern Time Warner Cable Internet Customers Will Pay $3.95/Month Modem Fee Nov. 1

Phillip Dampier October 16, 2012 Consumer News, Internet Overcharging, Time Warner Cable/Spectrum 31 Comments

All Time Warner Cable broadband customers in upstate New York, New England, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas will begin paying $3.95 a month to rent the cable modem required to make your $54.99/month Time Warner Cable Internet service work.

The cable company confirmed the charge will apply to all customers in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Binghamton, and beyond effective Nov. 1, joining New York City already paying the modem rental fee as of this week. The fee is gradually being introduced in all Time Warner Cable service areas nationwide.

Signature Home customers and those participating in the company’s trial of discounted Internet for the disadvantaged are exempted.

The new fee represents a 7% rate increase for Internet service, unless customers pay for their own modem.

Time Warner Cable mailed notification postcards to all affected areas this week, so they should begin arriving in mailboxes as soon as today. Southern states including Texas may see the new modem fee in their area as early as December.

“It is strictly a fee for customers who choose to lease their Internet modem from us,” Joli Plucknette-Farmen, the communications manager for Time Warner Cable’s western New York division told the Buffalo News. “As we continue to deploy more and more cable modems, many of these modems need servicing or replacing, get damaged and some are not returned. The monthly lease charge will allow us to service or replace the equipment, provide a better user experience and further enhance our Internet services.”

Stop the Cap! notes Time Warner Cable already assesses a fee ranging from $24-150 for unreturned or damaged cable modem equipment, however.

Phone subscribers who do not have Internet service will escape the fee as long as they avoid signing up for broadband.

Many of the models on the company’s approved modem list are now out of stock at the handful of retailers selling them. Other sellers, particularly on eBay and Amazon Marketplace, have doubled prices to as much as $200 on some popular DOCSIS 3 modems to capitalize on the cable operator’s new fees.


Turbo, Extreme and Ultimate Service Plans

Vendor Model
Motorola SBG6580
Motorola SB6141

Lite, Basic and Standard Service Plans

Vendor Model
Motorola SB5101
Motorola SB5101U
Motorola SBG901

Currently there are 31 comments on this Article:

  1. Eric Young says:

    I had a surprisingly decent enough experience last night activating my new modem (SB6141). Gotta give credit where credit is due, I suppose ..

    Step one: called NYC tier-3-tech support. Lady picks up, says she can’t find me in the system, I tell her i’m from upstate / rochester, she says “oh, that’s why!” and transfers me to rochester support (presumably tier 3). I didn’t have rochester’s tier-3 phone number which is why I called the one for NYC, instead.

    Dude from upstate, NY tech support had me up and running in 20 minutes. Basically just gave him MAC address of the new modem. He put it into the system and activated the new modem, checking signals … I believe everything looks good. I will continue to keep an eye on it, but looks like i’m all set with the new modem I just purchased.

    Anything to avoid paying TWC a monthly fee just to ‘rent’ their equipment. this whole thing is, as Biden would put it, malarkey!

    I believe all that is left is to drop off my old modem (motorola, SBG6580) and power cord to a local TWC shop and i’m officially using my own modem unit. Unfortunately, I paid $130.00 on Amazon for this modem – so – a little bit of quick math shows it will take ~2.7 years of use to make this worth-while if TWC charges $48.00 / year. Might be smarter financially to wait a month or two, until amazon price gouging on these modems cools down a bit, and THEN buy your own modem and make the switch. However, I refuse to pay TWC even one month’s worth of equipment rental fees so I went this route and definitely overpaid for the modem. Anyone find the SB6141 for cheaper than $129.95 ??


    • Eric Young says:

      just returned my old modem yesterday to a local time warner cable office in Rochester, NY (sbg6580, motorola device).

      already disappeared online (from the internet devices / equipment section) … only showing my current ‘customer-owned’ modem, sb6141.

      overall the transition went pretty smoothly for me so far; must say i’m surprised by this, lol! won’t have to pay twc a cent for the ‘rental fee’ ! woot

  2. David Stumme says:

    If I’m on Standard now, does it make sense to invest in the DOCSIS 3 modem, on the assumption that TW might upgrade the speeds eventually on the lower tiers?

    • Yes, but not at some of the outrageously marked up prices I am seeing for the two models currently on the approved list. I have the Motorola 6141, which works just fine and is future-proof. But I bought it for $99 shipped from an eBay seller that is now charging $200 to cash in on current demand.

      The DOCSIS 2 modems will work fine for the next year or two for speeds slightly above Turbo, but results from others seem to suggest that using a DOCSIS 3 modem even at Standard Service speeds offers more stable results in speed.

      I don’t anyone being gouged buying a modem and I have heard rumors TWC may expand the approved list to curtail the enormous pressure for supply of the two D3 modems on the list, which frankly have not been big sellers before.

  3. jr says:

    Glenn Britt made $16.4 million last year. He feels your pain

  4. Shane says:

    I still can’t believe they can get away with not allowing you to use the same make/model of modem they are now ‘renting’.

  5. Dave says:

    So, if I have standard TWC Roadrunner service I can’t use the SB6141? That sucks, I grabbed one up from Amazon thinking it would help future proof my investment but now it seems its only usable for higher tier packages.

    • No, you *can* use the Motorola 6141 for any tier of service. DOCSIS 3 benefits standard and higher speed users because it can balance out usage, especially during peak periods.

      I would highly recommend you keep the 6141. It’s my top recommendation for everyone, except for the price gouging. The 6580 is okay as well, but it comes with built-in wireless, which I think is unnecessary unless you want to switch out your current Wireless G router for faster Wireless N service, which is built-in.

  6. Markfm says:

    You should be fine. The DOCSIS 2 modems for standard or lite service are the minimum threshold, but the higher-capability DOCSIS 3 SB6141 should be no issue to get TWC to provision, just that you may not see a big speed increase (if any); TWC can throttle them to only provide the BW you are paying for, though it may well be more consistent BW. SB6141 has excellent reviews, is a latest-generation product.

  7. Martin says:

    The modem rental fee has arrived in Los Angeles, California!

    On my bill it says…

    “Beginning with your next bill, an internet modem lease fee will be applied to Time Warner Cable provided internet modems at the rate of $3.95 per month. If you would like to use your own modem, visit twc.com/approveddevices for a list of approved modems.”

    • In teeny tiny print few customers will ever see. The postcard is almost as easy to miss, and should be forthcoming as well. It looks like someone printed it on an inkjet printer as an afterthought.

      • Navil says:

        My bill for Rochester (10/20-11/19) has no such language on it.

        If it starts on my next bill, they sure as hell should be telling me on this one.

        • Markfm says:

          Supposedly it is coming out on postcards.

          Anyone have thoughts on the other new twc bit, assigning new account numbers so those of us doing auto pay have to Go through the joys of setting up the new numbers for payment?

          • Charles Dennett says:

            Yes, I got caught in the changed account number trap. The bill I received in September had a note that said the account number was changing. It did not supply the new account number but said to call a specific number to get the account number if I paid the bill after Sept 21. I never saw the note. The bill amount was the same as always so I did not read every page. I paid my bill on line as usual. It went into a black hole. First call to TWC and they said call your bank. It must be their problem. Called my bank and started an investigation. Looked closer at the bill and saw the note. Call TWC again and got a very helpful CSR. My bank’s investigator called me back and started a conference call with TWC. We all exchanged info and so hopefully this is on the way to being fixed.

            What really ticked me off is that they could not supply the new account number at the time the bill was printed. The bill still had the old account number on it. What if I had paid by check and included the payment coupon from the bill that still had the old account number printed on it?

            I chatted a bit with the bank’s investigator and she said she had been doing nothing but working on the TWC account number snafu all day. I expect to have to fight to get late fees removed after this is over.

        • Martin says:

          I never received a postcard.

          My bill (Los Angeles,CA) with the internet modem lease fee notice covers the period of 10/15 to 11/14.

          Since I have now been notified, the next bill 11/15 to 12/14 will include the $3.95 modem fee.

  8. JR says:

    I’ve been reading all the articles and comments about the new monthly charge for cable modems, and I have been thinking if I should just go ahead and get my own or not.

    What I have decided is that even though I don’t like the new charge, I won’t get my own modem. The reason for this is because I don’t want TWC to have one more excuse when troubleshooting problems with my Internet connection, or with my TV cable connection for that matter. I can see it already, I call to report a problem, and I get an answer like: “everything looks good from our end Sir, but because you have your own modem, we cannot help you with that”.

    Something to think about, specially if you don’t have enough technical expertise to support yourself.

  9. Markfm says:

    I ended up going with a $24 refurb 5101U, ordered today. DOCSIS 2 is fine for my capabilities now, and reasonable near term.
    On TWC troubleshooting, the modem is on a TWC supplied splitter relative to the TV cable connection, so I don’t sweat finger-pointing in that area. On an honest modem fail such is life, I get a new one, but modems are really quite reliable beasts. Always check online reviews of modems before picking one, see if it has multiple negative reviews.

    Buying isn’t for everyone, leasing is a valid option, just that both paying for a lease and being stuck with old gear is unsat to me.

  10. Dave says:

    Oh, okay. Thank you for the feedback, guys. I appreciate it. I just got confused by the above chart, my bad. I’m glad I grabbed a SB6141 before the price gouging gets even worse.

  11. Jason says:

    The Time Warner chart says 2 of the modems don’t support IPv6, which is a little confusing as if you follow the links to the Motorola site 1 of these is said to support it. It hardly seems appropriate to recommend any modem that only supports IPv4, as the transition away from it has begun. Perhaps they will just tell people to buy another modem next year. I also wouldn’t be surpised if next year they change their minds and decide to charge a fee for the home phone modem – and tell customers that they have to buy a new model modem if they wan to avoid that fee too.

    • I agree, although their phone service is not valued as “necessary” by customers as much as their broadband service.

      If you notice, Time Warner is shifting price increases to the services customers value the most and are least likely to cancel. That is why TV package rate hikes are starting to moderate, even as TWC now jacks the price of Internet service up.

      For at least a decade, Road Runner prices barely changed at all, except for certain broadband-only customers. In the last three years, rate increases have come fast and furious — all for a service that is costing them less and less to provide. Why? Because that is where the money is these days, and you should expect to see more of this kind of thing.

      If they jack up phone rates, customers will just pull the plug. But they won’t cancel Internet, especially if the alternative is telco DSL.

  12. Dave says:

    Just got my SB6141 working this morning. I spent an hour on the phone with Tier 3 tech support yesterday and they couldn’t get it working. It just wouldn’t connect to the internet, despite having a solid upstream and downstream link. They had a tech come out to my house this morning and he had to call into his best tech on the phone. Turns out the guy I spoke with didn’t take my last modem off the computer and so it was still showing that one. Setting up this new modem stumped even this tech for a little while, I guess they have changed the way they add modems to the account. The local TWC cable branch here used to be Adelphia cable and they have always been very helpful. I’ve known this tech guy for years and am glad he’s still around. After about twenty minutes it’s all working nicely. I even have slightly better download speeds, of about another 5mpbs. Despite the hassle this was well worth it.

    • My account still shows two modems because I have not yet turned in the old one. Had no effect. My guess is the tech took the wrong MAC address or never actually activated it. The 6141 appears to go dead for about 30 seconds when first provisioned as the modem config details are sent and activated.

  13. Pita says:

    I just activated my new purchased modem last night. the hold time was pretty miserable but once I supplied the MAC and TW updated it I was up and running in about 20 seconds. I did NOT purchase a modem on TWC’s “approved” list. I bought a Cisco DOCSIS 3.0 and verified with Cisco & TW that as long as I meet required specs it would not be an issue. Everyone has their preferred brands and I’ve had miserable experiences with Motorola modems in past and nobody tells me what equipment I need to buy. Do your homework and if you choose to buy a modem, you may want to also consider a cheap plan to extend the warranty. I spent roughly $9 on a 2yr plan that covers everything including spills, modem will pay for itself in 2 years and with any luck I’ll get 4-5 years from it. My D/L speeds are roughly double but U/L is roughly the same.
    I’ll be turning in my old modem tomorrow!
    best of luck to everyone with this modem fiasco!

  14. Markfm says:

    You’re lucky Pita, I wasn’t amused when I was told by local tech that they refused to even issue a provisioning ticket request internally if it wasn’t on the approved list. Nothing like (in)consistency in approach by TW staff…

  15. Markfm says:

    Crud, I had an error in MACID, a “B” was an “8”. Called TWC early Monday to start the provisioning on my new 5101U. Late yesterday (Tuesday) our Internet went away, the old 42xx modem had gone offline and I saw the 5101U online. Tried connecting and got a “Welcome to TWC RoadRunner” Web page, instructed to call them to complete the setup.

    After 1-1/2 hours on the phone, a tech finally did a check of my modem’s IP address (since it was indeed talking to TWC infrastructure, just not connected to the ‘Net), found the error in MACID. Promised it would be taken care of pronto deluxe today, that he noted the needed change in the log but didn’t have rights to update their database.

    Today I tried 6 different phone calls to 4 different TWC phone numbers. Five of the 6 calls went nowhere, either solid busy then disconnect or on 3 of the calls it did original connections but then when transferred to the Internet support group I got the dreaded “Call back later” automated message.

    I also spent over an hour on online chat with TWC, supposedly escalated (different person after a while), net result was zero help (other than providing more phone numbers that weren’t answered). The second person was polite but totally useless, her best push was to tell me to get the modem and bring it to the local TWC shop (a long haul, the local store has short hours plus an extended lunch period, and they still wouldn’t have done anything other than record the correct MAC address).

    When I finally got through, it took two different people. The second one was a level 3, sounded on the ball, but the net answer was “you’re toast, change of one character is an entirely new provisioning request that has to go to the warehouse, back of the line buddy”. Supposedly the old modem is reactivated, back to using it until it goes offline again, then retry the new.

    So, rep last night gave bad info (he hadn’t set up the internal request needed to get the change made, it wasn’t showing on my account), Chat once again proved useless, local TWC staff still overall don’t answer most calls, second level 3 at least hopefully finally logged the MAC address correction, but I’m back to a waiting game.

    Oh jeez, I want FIOS available in my area…

  16. [email protected] says:

    Fee is showing up in San Antonio… I have a 7 year old modem

  17. jordan says:

    They are charging me for a Modem which is about 4 years old now.
    A-Holes ! Tomorrow I should talk to some of the Legal Activists and am going to just buy my own Modem.
    I am not going to allow these guys to suck a drop out of me !
    F#ck You Slime Warner !!!
    I live in Portland, Maine.

  18. Amanda says:

    I also have this on my bill. Funny, really, considering the modem I have with TW is the one I’ve had for six years–an SBV4200–a very old modem. I never knew what that meant until just now I found out it’s so old it’s a DOCSIS 1.0 unit, which is probably why my recent upgrade to Turbo has resulted in no download speed increase (and I was not once told by TW that upgrading would not actually make my DL faster due to an ancient unit). Only my upload sped up. I guess in a way it’s a silver lining that they’re forcing me now to buy my own gear because at least it will be technologically relevant.

    • I am surprised that modem is still in the field. You probably never had a service call where a TWC person saw the modem. TWC used to mail postcards telling customers to turn in these ancient things for newer equipment, but some customers probably figured if it still works, why bother.

      The 4200 is DOCSIS 1.1, and probably distributed in the early 2000s. A DOCSIS 3 modem is the most future-proof.

  19. Peter says:

    Hi Phil,

    I have standard (not Turbo) internet service w/TWC, and a Motorola SB4200 modem that was given to me many years ago, and worked perfectly for me at the time.

    If I ask TWC to provision it for me, do you think they will do it for me, & will it work, since it is DOCSIS 1.1?

    I would rather not “lease”, nor buy a newer one just yet, since I was given this unit for free.



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