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Time Warner Cable’s New Modem Fee Triggers Foul-Ups, eBay Bottom Feeding & Price Gouging

Phillip Dampier October 5, 2012 Consumer News, Data Caps, Editorial & Site News 31 Comments

Let the gouging begin. Here was the price being charged by an eBay vendor this past Tuesday for the SB6141 cable modem.

A few days ago, Stop the Cap! notified readers Time Warner Cable was planning to charge a $3.95/mo modem rental fee for current High Speed Internet customers planning to keep using company-supplied equipment.

With over $300 million in potential new revenue, this new surcharge from the folks living high on 1% Mountain is guaranteed to make the cable company a tidy sum for doing… absolutely nothing. Time Warner is not improving your broadband service — they are just charging you separately for a piece of equipment needed to use the service you already paid for. It would be like selling you a lamp and then start charging an extra monthly fee to keep the power cord.

We’ve had our own illuminating experience here at Stop the Cap! headquarters finding our way around this newest surcharge — by purchasing our own DOCSIS 3 cable modem and sending the soon-to-be $47.40 a year (until the end of time) Ubee modem packing back to Time Warner. Only we can’t.

I am unsure what bothers me more: Time Warner’s scanty “approved modems for purchase list” — mostly Cadillac-priced models that would fit in at Barney’s New York or Nordstrom, the bottom feeder eBay and Amazon Marketplace sellers who are capitalizing on the modem fee by increasing their prices for customer-owned equipment to gouging levels, or Time Warner’s failure to activate customer-purchased modems because it “changed its billing system this week” in preparation for the new modem fees “and can’t activate customer owned modems at the moment.”

As Time Warner Cable customers began ordering the SB6141 online, the price doubled. This is the same vendor that charged $99.95 two days earlier.

Out of the five “approved” models, the obvious best choice for those who do not require a modem-router combination is the Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem. It features support for 8×4 DOCSIS 3 channels, which in non-technical terms means it will handle the best speeds Time Warner is likely to offer in the foreseeable future. We do not recommend customers invest in DOCSIS 2 modems, because that technology is closer to the end of its useful life and simply will not support broadband speeds customers will crave in the next few years.

Once Time Warner Cable made the announcement, the race was on… for the handful of online retailers carrying the SB6141 to jack up the price as quickly as possible. I predicted this was likely in the comment section of our earlier piece. When the nation’s second largest cable operator plans to subject millions of broadband customers to unnecessary modem rental fees and smart customers are clever enough to avoid them, demand is going to rise. Prices would rise much faster.

In the last 48 hours, the cost of the SB6141 has literally doubled from $99 to $200 thanks to some eBay sellers looking for quick profits. This unit is now barely available from Amazon.com Marketplace vendors, typically with a waiting list, for around $130. It was selling for as little as $89 just a few weeks earlier. We even found some refurbished units on eBay that formerly sold for less than $100 now selling for $199, just after Time Warner’s new fee hit the media.

Buying a refurbished unit won’t save you much. Two days ago, this eBay vendor was charging $100 for the same used cable modem.

Finding retailers for this particular model has proven difficult and because of the relentless price gouging, we are now recommending customers hold off on buying their cable modems, at least until Time Warner expands their list of approved models or a broader number of retailers start selling the model to help force prices back down to earth. Don’t pay an eBay gouger twice the usual price!

For customers who mistakenly ended up buying our earlier recommended model we quickly crossed off the list (the SB6121), we’ve found Amazon.com especially accommodating, even supplying a prepaid return shipping label, after explaining the modem model mess to Amazon’s customer service and requesting a free return. So yes, we got stuck with the wrong model too. Sending the 6121 back is our best recommendation as Time Warner Cable customer service explained as late as this evening they cannot activate customer-owned equipment not on their approved-for-purchase list (or anything else at the moment).

Our second order, for the SB6141 at the pre-gouge price of $99 arrived this afternoon, and that led to more frustration with Time Warner Cable, who ultimately failed to activate the modem.

After a very lengthy hold time, a Time Warner representative took my modem’s MAC address to activate the device, and it failed to register. A supervisor eventually explained Time Warner Cable updated their billing system to accommodate the forthcoming modem rental charge and in the process brought down the customer-owned equipment activation system (the one that will let Time Warner know who will not have to pay the fee) earlier this week. In other words, while adjusting their billing system to charge you more, a “glitch” made it impossible for customers across the eastern United States to prevent that from happening.

The problem, it was explained, was temporary and they expected to fix it by the end of the week. After explaining today is Thursday (the end of the week is already near), I was told to “call back this weekend or Monday” and “hopefully” the problem would be fixed. Hopefully before October 15th, when the fee kicks in for the Big Apple anyway. That was 40 minutes of my life I will never get back.

One would think if Time Warner was planning to throw a Money Party for themselves, they would at least take some of the forthcoming $300 million to invest in a better way to keep customers from long hold times and inconvenience to avoid the latest unnecessary fee, only to be told everything was broken and to call back some other time. This is why cable companies regularly earn the disdain of their customers.

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bobotisco
bobotisco
8 years ago

I have TWC digital phone service. If I purchase a Moorland 6141, how will I connect the phone line?

Bob

bobotisco
bobotisco
8 years ago

Motorola

Milan
Milan
8 years ago

Philips, Thank you for clarifying that TWC users with phone service will not be subjected to a modem rental fee.

You just saved me some grief and $$$.

TWC are still slime…

🙂

Milan

Joe
Joe
8 years ago
Reply to  Milan

I believe you will be still charged for the modem even if you have phone service. (unless you have the signature package) So if you want to use a phone and avoid the fee you will still need to buy your own modem and use that. You’ll then have two boxes. One for internet (that you pay for) and your current one used just for the phone.

me
me
8 years ago

Where there is competition (very few places), what an opportunity! For the other competitor. ‘free modem with 2 year activation…’ Guess I have to suck up the fee for a few months and wait for the gouging to go away. At this point it is just pure cost optimization on my part. However, look at it this way they wanted to raise the fee 5 bucks or so. It is one of the few times we get the chance to opt out of a price increase… I for one will be opting out… I know you are recommending the 6141.… Read more »

Anonymous Tech
Anonymous Tech
8 years ago
Reply to  me

The Motorola 6141’s specs say it uses 9 watts of power. So it’s less than a CFL lightbulb.
https://www.motorola.com/us/error

No Obama
No Obama
8 years ago

I am going to decrease my cable tv package and tell them I am switching to direct tv service and they can shove the cable service up you know where. I will then buy my own modem and just have the internet service w/o tv package. Please bombard twc with calls.

squijee
squijee
8 years ago

I ordered the Motorola SB6141 but I’m not able to hook up my phone line. I have phone service through TWC so am I stuck now with having to pay the rental fee?

squijee
squijee
8 years ago

Okay thanks. I hate how they make it so confusing

ReekoS
ReekoS
8 years ago
Reply to  squijee

Yes, I just dug around and found out you need a cable splitter if you have digital phone service through T/W.

https://www.timewarnercable.com/en/support/all-faqs.html

Markfm
Markfm
8 years ago

Offering few choices, making information a pain to obtain, slow response (chewing up people’s time), little advance notice. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think that TWC really, really, doesn’t want anyone to buy, would rather everyone lease 🙂

Stephen Ugolini
Stephen Ugolini
8 years ago

I have been mis directed multiple times as to an approved private modem that will replace the TWC modem.
I received multiple mis-direction as to the hook up and operation of approved modems. Nothing works with TWC. I asked for help onsite. TWC sent out a repair man to look at my problem the next day. He was unable to hook up and make work my identical modem. Phone customers cannot purchase new approved modems and have them activated.

EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio
8 years ago

I just had TWC activate a SB6121. The initial technical support person had to bump me up to “Level 3 technical support” who then answered the phone “Level 1 technical support”, and they got my modem provisioned without too much hold time. All in all, it took about 15 minutes. I’m getting exactly the advertised speeds (15*1), whereas the modem they gave me last year (a refurbished piece of junk Scientific-Atlanta DOCSIS 2 modem) was able to peak near 30mb/s down.

So I’m out $80 which will pay for itself in less than 2 years.

Milan
Milan
8 years ago

I’m seriously considering investing in a SB6141 modem.
However, I also have TWC home phone service.
I’m concerned that my signal will be significantly degraded if a re-introduce a splitter to my cable TV set up. I had a splitter in the past and it seriously degraded my broadband speeds.

At the same time, I loathe having to spend $4 per month to lease the POS TWC modem.

What should I do?

Thank You.

Oscar@SA
8 years ago
Reply to  Milan

According to TWC website: https://www.timewarnercable.com/en/support/internet/topics/modems.html

” You will need an additional cable connection for your new, purchased modem. If you do not already have an additional cable connection, buy a two-way, 5-1000MHz coaxial cable splitter and two pieces of coaxial cable with connectors.”

Don’t know if this is too much: https://www.amazon.com/RCA-DH24SPR-Two-Bi-Di-Splitter/dp/B0018BQR84/ref=pd_bxgy_pc_img_y

Sean Connors
Sean Connors
7 years ago

Thanks for this info – TWC surely doesn’t supply it on their site. I just got off the phone with them, saying I bought one of their “recommended” modems, and how I couldn’t figure out their information about connecting the “TWC-provided eMTA” I was supposed to already have, and it turns out they meant the modem I got now, and I’d have to connect the two modems. Sounded like more trouble than it’s worth, with possible glitches, but I may just try it. Does it make any difference what kind of splitter or cables one buys? The link above has… Read more »

Sean Connors
Sean Connors
7 years ago

Thanks. I did see on another forum how someone was told by TWC to go to a local branch and request an Internet self install kit for free, so that’s a good tip.

I’m still a bit wary of using two modems, since it might mean twice the problems. One of the few mention I could find of such a set-up was this review.

https://www.amazon.com/review/R29F6AFG17TR0I/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_alt_1

But you use both the SB6141 and one with eMTA with no problems?

JJ
JJ
8 years ago

Called TW to activate my modem. I was on hold for an hour and finally got to talk to someone. She took my model # and MAC address and tried to put it in the system. An error came up each time she tried saying that it wasn’t in the inventory. Well, no %&*# it wasn’t in there, they don’t own it. She wouldn’t transfer me to Level 3 because the wait was outrageous. I bet it is. Now I have to wait for her to call me back tomorrow and see if it works. I didn’t even know about… Read more »

EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio
8 years ago

I’m wondering if different times of the day would be better than others. I had a half-day off and called in at 4:30pm Eastern. My phone log shows that it took a total of 30.5 minutes on the phone to get the new modem provisioned. It didn’t seem that long, but that’s what it was.

The initial gentleman couldn’t activate it, but the next technician did. I had the old modem disconnected and the new one all connected properly and powered up before I called. That saves a little bit of time as well.

IrisJo
IrisJo
7 years ago

Well, they’re at it again!!!! Time Warner Cable has just announced a new fee hike for those who lease their internet modem. The current monthly lease rate is $3.95. I just received an email from them announcing that this price increase will be effective beginning with my next bill. I currently pay $3.95 per month to lease their modem. The monthly leasing fee will increase to $5.99 for those of us who lease the internet/wifi modem. What is this world … rather, this industry coming to?!?!?!? Aren’t we already in a recession. How in the hell do they think customers… Read more »

EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio
7 years ago
Reply to  IrisJo

“I wish there was some way we could form a MASS PROTEST” – there is. It’s called dropping their service.

At this point, I’m not sure why you’re getting so worked up. You didn’t seem to do anything when they started charging $3.95, but now that they want to add an additional $1.04, now you’re ready to do something? Sorry, but this just makes no sense to me.

And technically, the recession officially ended in June 2009 although many are still feeling the pain.

Aaron
Aaron
7 years ago
Reply to  EdFromOhio

Drop service to protest company practices, you say? As if it were that easy for those that depend on the service for business or access to essential information, and have no reasonable alternative. Why not suggest dropping electricity because the power company keeps gouging you over the service that only they provide? Oh, that’s right, government stepped in to protect the consumer from predatory practices using an essential service for leverage over your wallet! I think what IrisJo is more upset about is the fact that Time Warner Cable can get away with this crap, multiple times a year, ONLY… Read more »

EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio
7 years ago

@Aaron – “Your negativity towards this very valid complaint is suspect, and just makes no sense to me. Do you work for Time Warner or something?” Ahh, yeah. That’s it, you caught me. Actually, I’m tired of people getting on here just to complain and yet do nothing about it. If you don’t want the fee, get your own modem. She obviously didn’t do anything when TWC instituted their $3.95 fee, but complains when they hike it a buck. And as for “time I don’t have researching modems to purchase”, there have been a few already mentioned on this thread… Read more »

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