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UPDATED: Comcast Wants Some Broadband Customers to Rent Comcast-Issued Cable Modems

Phillip Dampier March 25, 2014 Broadband Speed, Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 15 Comments
Comcast's gateway

Comcast’s gateway

Some customers are angry and frustrated to learn Comcast has stopped “officially” allowing the use of customer-owned cable modems for its 105Mbps “Extreme” service, insisting subscribers rent a company-supplied gateway for $8 a month.

“Only Comcast issued equipment ensures that the specifications are always met and are not altered intentionally or unintentionally,” reads a technical bulletin issued by the cable company issued Feb. 26.

The new policy was discovered by a Comcast customer in Virginia having trouble with his broadband service. He was using his customer-owned Zoom 5341J — equipment on Comcast’s approved modem list.

“[A Comcast executive customer service representative] insisted that list is incorrect and I must rent a modem from them to receive the correct speeds on [the] Extreme 105 package,” writes ExoticFish on the Broadband Reports’ Comcast forum.

The bulletin, identified as ID TLK1043 and intended for the use of Comcast employees, explains:

Document ID TLK1043; Published February 26, 2014

Overview

Extreme 105 is the latest Comcast DOCSIS 3.0 XFINITY speed product, which provides extreme and unbelievable Internet speeds for customers. The product provides:

  • 105Mbps download speed
  • 20Mbps upload speed

Affected Areas

National.

Some of the Talking Points are not applicable for the Central Division.

Comcast-LogoImpact to Comcast

The Premium Installation fee for Extreme 105 is $249. Extreme 105 is installed by 105Mbps trained technicians. The Comcast Technician will:

  • Conduct an in-depth analysis of the customer network.
  • Ensure that the customer’s home and equipment are prepared to support the speeds included in the Extreme 105 service.
  • Perform a node health check on the day of installation and also on a daily basis after installation.

Impact to Customer

Extreme 105 targets:

  • Hard-core gamers
  • Users with several computers in their house
  • Users who upload and share multimedia files

Media Inquiries

Any media inquiries should be directed to the local market media team.

Q&A

Some of the Frequently Asked Questions and their responses are as below:

Why do I need to use Comcast issued equipment?
Only certified Comcast equipment delivers the ensured service speed attached to the customer’s account.

Comcast allows customers to use their own equipment for all your other Internet packages, why not Extreme 105?
Generally customers can use their own equipment and configure it as they see fit. But for Extreme 105, the configuration must be done and maintained at certain specifications. Only Comcast issued equipment ensures that the specifications are always met and are not altered intentionally or unintentionally.

But I have a DOCSIS 3.0 Modem and N Router, why do I need your versions?
Comcast installs equipment which have gone through extensive network certification process of Comcast and which have been proven in both laboratory and live network tests. This ensures that the equipment performs consistently and delivers the subscribed speed and services.

Does the $249 installation fee include installation of a wireless router?
Yes, the installation fee includes the installation of Comcast owned wireless router.

Why is there a premium installation fee for Extreme 105?
Extreme 105 is a premier Internet product by Comcast and the premium installation fee guarantees a speed of 105Mbps. A Comcast Certified Installation Technician performs additional tests which are not performed during installation of other premier internet service.

Is the premium installation fee refundable if I disconnect the service in 30, 60, 90 days?
The installation fee is non-refundable.

With Comcast reportedly preparing to boost speeds for its customers in the near future, those signed up for Comcast’s 50Mbps “Blast” tier could soon see speed upgrades to 105Mbps. That might expose those customers to the same mandatory rental charge.

The Virginia customer never realized Comcast changed its policies until he had service problems. It was then that a senior representative insisted the customer switch to Comcast’s rented gateway device if he wanted his service fixed. Other customers still using customer-owned equipment and subscribed to 105Mbps service may continue to fly under the radar for some time and there does not seem to be any national effort to contact customers about their equipment.

Some speculate Comcast’s new policy might also relate to the company’s intention to expand its Wi-Fi network relying on Comcast customers with gateway devices to serve as hotspots. That would likely require the use of Comcast’s own gateway to be successful.

Updated: 3/26/14 — 12:17pm ET — Karl Bode at Broadband Reports got an answer back to his inquiry about this issue and a Comcast rep tells him the service tech handing out the above-referenced memo is not correct:

The painful spelling and grammar errors in the last bit of the supposed company memo seemed a little off, so I reached out to Comcast for comment. The long and short of it is: no, this is not official company policy.

“We’re going to have someone try to reach out to the forum poster to follow up, but the short of it is there is no policy change,” Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas tells me. “Customers can buy or rent modems. Here is our approved devices list.”

Karl adds: “I’m still trying to ferret out why exactly this install technician was trying to push strange and unofficial company policy, and how and why he was using an incorrect and grammatically mangled memo to justify the behavior.”

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Currently there are 15 comments on this Article:

  1. Jim Donahue says:

    This is the same as AT&T saying in the 60′s and 70′s that any equipment other than rented by them would harm the network.

    That states the speeds are ‘guaranteed’ but I doubt there is any practical guarantee involved.

  2. lobofanina says:

    Picked up extreme internet about 5 months ago had to play csr roulette just to get someone to click the bubble and turn it on. No tech was needed, yet they tried to later charge me for the install $249 fee but since no tech was needed and I already had the voip super modem I was already paying the rental fee the install fee was removed. Comcast or Century Link 40/20 not much of choice in Albuquerque.

  3. The Kin says:

    This actually infuriates me and I handle support for CC’s home networking support. People should be able to use their own equipment if they want, not be forced to use the pathetic equipment comcast supplies. Troubleshooting those things are a nightmare and often times they don’t work properly, even with our tools.

    A lot of the reasons you hear the CSR’s called “the don’t care bears” is because it’s as infuriating for us to work on things as it is for you guys to be impacted by it. There are several calls I’ve done to where the problem should be fixed in 5-10 minutes but ends up taking 30-45 minutes + simply because the gateways they provide refuse to work properly. This is just a new level of low here.

    • For now, it will only impact customers with 105Mbps service, presumably because it requires a higher level of channel bonding which may not work with customer owned DOCSIS 3 equipment that doesn’t have support for a sufficient amount of channel bonding. Some modems only support four channel bonding and this needs eight I believe.

      I suspect Comcast doesn’t want to train their support people to deal with customers unlikely to have a clue about how many channels their DOCSIS 3 modem supports, so it’s easier and more lucrative to force everyone back to the Comcast Gateway.

      At around $7 a month… forever… that is a nice sum of revenue for Comcast, on top of the hefty install/activation fees.

      Current 105Mbps customers with their own equipment who keep their heads down will probably not be pestered about it. But new customers will almost certainly be told to use Comcast’s own gateway.

  4. Note: This document is several years old and is outdated! This was from when the service was first launched and had not applied for some time; we have countless customers on 105M that own their own devices. At the current time retail modems can be used. See http://mydeviceinfo.comcast.net/

    Jason
    Comcast Engineering

    • Thanks Jason. As you may know, at least a few of your customers are getting this information from your executive customer relations team, with whom they were in contact with. It is disappointing they did not have current information to provide on this issue, but we are very glad it has been resolved in favor of customers seeking to avoid having to pay a perpetual modem rental fee.

  5. Phillip –

    We’ve looked into this and found this is apparently an old document from 2010 when we first launched Extreme 105. At that time, there weren’t any modems for sale at retail that could handle that speed. Four years later here we are and there are plenty of modems customers can buy. The document is wrong and old and we’re fixing it and sorry for any confusion it may have caused. It’s not acceptable.

    The short of it is Extreme 105 Mbps customers can choose to either buy their own modems or rent one from us. Here is our approved devices list, which is updated regularly:

    http://mydeviceinfo.comcast.net/

  6. Ted E says:

    The document maybe updated but I got almost the same exact response about a month ago when I lost my connection (yes I do have the Extreme 105 package). I owned my Motorola SB6121 modem. I had several (read more than one) Comcast techs telling me it wouldn’t work and that I would have to rent a modem from Comcast OR they claimed the Modem was not approved or end of life.

    I had to knuckle under and rent a modem from Comcast when the techs were telling me that I couldn’t use my own modem.

    Jason, its not just one tech, its many of them.







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