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Frontier Gouges Customers With New, Mandatory Modem Fee (Even If You Own Your Own)

Phillip Dampier December 4, 2011 Consumer News, Data Caps, Editorial & Site News, Frontier, Rural Broadband 11 Comments

Your modem needs an expensive upgrade, even if you own your own.

Stop the Cap! reader Paul in Illinois e-mailed us (along with several other readers) sharing news that Frontier Communications intends to charge their DSL customers a minimum of $6.99 a month for the rental of a DSL-ready modem-router, even if customers purchased and use their own equipment for Frontier’s High Speed Internet service.  Even worse, some customers are being told the monthly combined rental fee for the company’s wireless-ready DSL equipment is a whopping $14 a month — just for the equipment.

The bad news arrived in the form of a postcard notifying customers that their current modem is “out of warranty” and a new “modem support and warranty fee of $6.99 a month will appear on your bill as of 1/12/12.”

Frontier’s alarming notice tries to scare customers, telling them their existing outdated equipment represents a potential security risk, and explains only with their new mandatory “modem support fee” will customers get “unlimited support” and a replacement modem, if necessary.

Eric, a Stop the Cap! reader and Frontier customer notes Frontier has been piling on price increases in the form of mandatory surcharges and fees this year, including a monthly $1.99 “High Speed Internet Surcharge.”

“Former Verizon customers are now being gouged an additional $9.00 per month or $108 dollars per year,” Eric notes, adding up just the cost of the modem rental and the surcharge.

Paul is especially upset because he purchased his DSL modem direct from Verizon just before the phone company sold its business in Illinois to Frontier.

“In fact, the Verizon modem is more ‘advanced’ than the Westell equipment they want to rent me,” Paul says. “The security is better on Verizon’s unit, and I got it as part of a $29.99 ‘Internet for life’ special offer Frontier now wants to renege on.”

“Frontier is running a scam from top to bottom, offering you l0wball Internet pricing that never includes the outrageous add-on fees that you only find out about on your next bill,” Paul says.

Other Frontier customers on Broadband Reports’ Frontier forum are reporting Frontier has been inconsistent explaining the fees, and some are finding promotions that were supposed to protect them from price increases do nothing of the sort.

Stop the Cap! reader Isabella in Indiana wrote us to say her contact with Frontier customer service was likely going to be her second to last.

“Not only do they intend to collect the $7 a month from customers with their own equipment, those of us with wireless are being told it will cost $14 a month for two of their wireless routers we have on their ‘double DSL line’ promotion,” says Isabella.  “The price for their 3Mbps Internet, on special, was $14.99 a month with a multi-year agreement.  The add-on fees they never tell you about are more than the advertised price of the service.”

Isabella calls her Frontier service “bait and switch Internet” and says when the company applies any additional fees to her account, she will terminate her contract and will refuse to pay a penalty, claiming Frontier unilaterally changed the terms.

“The only ‘price protection’ Frontier offers is for the benefit of their bottom line; Frontier representatives told me there was no way for me to avoid these new fees, even though I am supposed to be guaranteed no price increase for two years,” she says.

Paul also ran into a brick wall with customer service.

“They will not exempt you from the fees — for my ‘convenience’ they will be automatically added to my bill starting next month, with or without the new equipment,” Paul shares. “I am beyond outraged.”

“I am contacting my state Attorney General on Monday to file a formal complaint against Frontier for cheating customers on ‘price protection’ plans,” Paul says.

Modem rental fees offer a lucrative opportunity for broadband providers to raise prices while still advertising a low monthly price for the service alone.  Equipment rental fees often run extra and are typically only disclosed in the fine print.  But must providers will exempt customers who purchase and use their own equipment.  Frontier is apparently ending this policy, forcing some customers to pay the fee for equipment they neither need nor want.  Frontier’s $7 a month fee is particularly steep, especially for equipment that can easily be purchased new or used for prices averaging $50 or less.  Frontier will earn back the cost of the equipment within the first year, with the rest simply padding profits.

One of our readers notified us Frontier customer service agreed to “note their account” to not send the new equipment or charge the fee, despite the fact the representative repeatedly encouraged the customer to “upgrade their router.”  But the customer isn’t so sure he believes the company, telling us an earlier victory getting them to waive the “HSI Surcharge” was hollow: Frontier simply began charging it anyway, and refused to remove it despite the earlier agreement.

“What is next — special fees for reading e-mail and visiting web pages?” asks Paul.


Currently there are 11 comments on this Article:

  1. Andrew Madigan says:

    When I had Frontier a couple of years ago I had to get my own modem. There was noise on the electrical line that prevented Frontier’s fancy router-modem from working (mostly because it built as cheaply as possible and lacked any sort of shielding from electrical line noise). At the time Frontier happily dropped the modem fee, I’ll bet today they would charge me even though their POS modem doesn’t even work.

  2. Alex Perrier says:

    We in Canada are used to those modem fees. There is a $3.95 modem rental fee for a basic, Wireless G all-in-one device with 16 Mbit/s DSL support. The fee is $6.95 for the Wireless N version with 25 Mbit/s DSL support. Apparently the “one-time modem rental fee [is] waived for new customers”, but in the past, Bell would charge it despite me asking to have the fee removed. The fee is much worse and higher with Frontier, so i feel bad for people who live in those regions. i doubt there’s an equivalent to TekSavvy in USA, unfortunately.

  3. Sam Farmer says:

    I have found that having the provider provide the modem prevents most finger pointing and allows the phone or cable company to do a better job when a trouble ticket is issued.

    • I wouldn’t mind this if the company supplied it bundled with the cost of the service.

      When Frontier announces it will charge $7 a month for a modem-router that costs them well under $100 each, that is just plain gouging. The only difference between the $3.50 old rental fee they used to charge and the $7 fee they charge now is the extra $3.50 that goes straight into their pockets.

      By making the charge mandatory, it exposes the real agenda — a hidden price increase.

    • Andrew Madigan says:

      I find the exact opposite. When I got RR extreme Time Warner made me give up my (DOCSIS 3 compliant) cable modem and get one of their merged router/modem things. My old modem never crashed, never had problems. This thing crashes at least once a month. Every time the first thing customer service says is that I must have reset it or unplugged it. It sits in an entertainment center, nothing touches it, I have no pets or children. I never go near the entertainment center. More likely, the cable node goes down every once in a while, and the modem freaks and resets itself to factory defaults. Since I had Time Warner put the router in bridge mode (they have to do it since they won’t give customers the password required to configure the router), I have to call them every time it resets itself. Last time it took over an hour to convince them to send me to the right level of tech support.

      Since I actually need open ports on my router, using theirs wouldn’t work (as I said they don’t let the customer configure it). On top of that, the router/modem is made by the same company (Ubee) that made the modem that I replaced with my store-bought modem when I had Turbo. I had to buy one of my own after I crashed three Time Warner modems in a row. It was easy, I would start a torrent of Ubuntu – perfectly legal, and the modem would overload and freeze, unable to handle the speed of the connection Time Warner was selling me I guess. That also took hours with customer service. I’m sure the router part of this DOCSIS 3 modem is no better.

      Having the service provider provide the equipment just means you get the absolute cheapest gear possible. Nobody thinks it’s possible to make a bad router until they see how a $10 router that simply increments the IP on each DHCP request (like Frontier’s old routers did) works.

      Sorry for the rant, but I felt the need to respond given the number of problems I’ve had with ISP equipment.

  4. Silver Beach says:

    What a load of horse crap. If you have service with Frontier your current DSL modem should still work.

    Remember years ago when Ma Bell said had to use their phones? They lost in court. This is a class action suit waitng to happen.

  5. Scott says:

    I don’t see how this increased reliance by cable and telco providers to force bundling of services or hardware is going to last once there’s enough publicity and complaints about the practice.

    This is exactly the type of thing the FTC and AG’s like to come down hard on.

    It should be illegal to not disclose all these fee’s upfront, the companies should have the choice of either making it all part of the base service cost, or list every single line item fee in their advertising and promotional material along with disclosing it in full over the phone when selling the service.

  6. Smith6612 says:

    When I first signed up for DSL service, I never had a modem rental fee and I still do not have a modem rental fee listed on my bill. I hope it stays that way. My old SpeedStream 6520 died over the summer after a nearby lightning strike apparently caused problems with the telephone wiring and ultimately damaged the modem. I replaced that with an SE567 which a neighbor of mine who recently switched to Roadrunner Turbo still had (Frontier didn’t ask for it back, which probably explains how little they actually cost). I gave her my old, dead modem to give to Frontier, took her SE567 and bridged it, and I’m back up and running. The old 6520 still powers up and acts as a Wireless router/wired router, however the DSL portion of it is as good as shot, and I see no way to repair it cracking the thing open. Only good for making noise on a copper line now excluding the router functions.

    As far as the Westell units go? The 7500s can be bought 3-8 times annually with the $15 a month charge. They’re cheap, but decent units but they are nothing to warrant a rental fee. Verizon just hands them out, no ifs, and’s or but’s. Frontier needs to be called out about it and told that if they’re going to be pulling crap like that, they better be pushing ADSL2+ Annex. M gear out and maxing out every line to the near-breaking point, and if there is a single line found that isn’t set like that, the fee must go away. That means 24/3 per line if the tech is used to it’s fullest on an optimal copper pair. I’m still at 3Mbps/384kbps and have been for years, and it’s really getting old.

    Either way, what they’re doing in other states with getting DSL out to people is nice and all, but they don’t recoup costs by increasing prices. They recoup costs in confidence and investments.

  7. Galen says:

    I successfully challenged the modem fee in this month’s bill.
    We own our own modem.
    Initially the Rep said flatly she could not do anything
    to change the charge, but then I mentioned I would be posting on Stop the Cap
    and on another consumer website and she quickly offered to let me talk to a
    “Resolution Supervisor” who volunteered to remove the 6.99 charge from
    current and future bills. I mentioned to her also that I was posting my
    conversation online to several consumer sites.
    Upshot: This months revised charges come to 30.00 for dsl, 30.00 for the
    phone line.With taxes and etc.

  8. Ric says:

    I called Frontier to check on this new modem charge and the rep could not explain why we had to change – I explained that our modem is hooked up to our Airport Extreme and is working perfect. And our Frontier high-speed web access works great so why again, would I change? I don’t remember ordering anything new!

    She asked if I would like to speak with a supervisor which sounded like a great idea to me so I did. Janeen was the “supervisor” and understood the Frontier program and the situation. We discussed our current system and how I use the wireless from our Airport Extreme and the modem was working perfect. And the fact a rep on a previous call had not clearly articulated the promotion which ended up (perhaps not intentional) misleading.

    End result, a very pleasant call – we worked though some complex billing items on our statement and all was resolved to our satisfaction. Pretty nice customer service and yes, I was pleasantly surprised as that was not the result I expected. I guess we’ve all learned that our customer service calls are usually harsh and not fun experiences. Well I have to admit – it finally happened. This call was pretty darn good.

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