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Comcast Calls Cable Modem Owners to Scare Them Into a $10/mo Alternative

Phillip Dampier August 20, 2015 Broadband Speed, Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Data Caps, Editorial & Site News 8 Comments
The Don't Care Bears

The “New and Improved” Don’t Care Bears

Rob Frieden has two words for Comcast customers getting scary letters and phone calls threatening to turn their legacy cable modems into paperweights: caveat emptor.

Frieden, author of Winning the Silicon Sweepstakes: Can the United States Compete in Global Telecommunications? knows enough to fend off the misinformation used to upsell customers away from the modems they own free and clear into Comcast’s rented $10/month alternative.

“Despite its commitment to improving its customer service, Comcast keeps writing and robocalling me with an offer I can refuse,” Frieden writes on his blog. “In a rather alarmist tone, Comcast wants subscribers to infer that their modem soon will no longer work.”

At issue are customers still using legacy DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems — one generation behind the current DOCSIS 3.0 modems Comcast wants customers to use. Frieden knows one day Comcast may decide to stop supporting DOCSIS 2.0, an older, less-capable cable broadband standard. Although that day is nowhere in view yet, it hasn’t stopped aggressive Comcast telemarketers from warning customers they “need upgraded equipment” that comes with a never-ending $10 a month rental fee.

“My Motorola DOCSIS 2.0 compliant modem works just fine and it cost me a princely $5 at a garage sale,” Frieden writes.

Frieden

Frieden

As soon as Comcast finds out you are using an older modem you own, Frieden writes they may try to dissuade you from using it and push you towards their alternative.

“Comcast does not want you to know that the new rented modem will not provide any faster service unless you subscriber to a triple digit, high-end service tier,” Frieden adds.

Comcast’s official position is that DOCSIS 2.0 modems will work just fine with all Comcast Internet plans at speeds below 50Mbps. But they infer if you are not using a DOCSIS 3.0 modem (preferably theirs), “you won’t experience the blistering fast speeds now available.” That implies all Comcast customers with DOCSIS 2.0 modems will get less robust performance across the board, but in fact Comcast’s statement refers to the limitation DOCSIS 2.0 customers have upgrading to speeds they may never need.

After Comcast’s telemarketing machine has you convinced you need to upgrade to their perpetually profitable rented modem, they will also ask why not upgrade your router as well? Comcast suggests customers upgrade to at least a 802.11n model because older 802.11g routers only support up to 20Mbps.

“If you lease your modem, router, or gateway device from us, we’ll upgrade it at no extra charge,” Comcast claims, inferring the upgrade will come free. Except it isn’t. It just won’t cost you more than the $10 a month you are probably already paying.

Stop the Cap! readers regularly tell us Comcast often cuts corners and simply bills customers modem rental fees even for customer-owned equipment. Our reader Amanda is the latest victim and she is about fed up:

I took a look at my bill and for no reason Comcast suddenly started charging me $10 a month for a voice/data modem rental that I don’t have. Beware and check your bill thoroughly. Comcast sneaks charges on for services you don’t have. Absolutely hate this company. On top of the bogus $10 they raised all the rates so my bill went from $186 a month to $219 a month. I would never recommend Comcast to anyone. Horribly deceptive company. Oh and then there is the junk equipment that Comcast uses. I have had three X1 boxes replaced in a year. I’m thinking about going with U-Verse for TV and staying with Comcast for Internet.

Comcast’s “new and improved” customer service becomes especially hostile when customers like Amanda catch the company cheating, forcing her and others into lengthy investigations and appeals to get the bogus fees removed and earlier charges refunded:

So I talked with Comcast today and got nowhere. They basically don’t want my business after 18 years and are giving me a hard time about refunding me the charge for the modem. They said it will take at least 14 days for them to look into the issue with the modem being mine and not being leased from Comcast. I told them I want to cancel and they transferred me to a recording telling me how to send in my equipment via UPS. 18 years and they will not budge on changing my pricing without signing a two year contract! So after 40 minutes on the phone with them I am extremely mad and frustrated. Now I have to waste my time filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general. And even more time switching my services to another provider. It seems that Comcast has changed its tactics and now instead of trying to retain their customers they are saying go ahead and leave. And can only imagine the nightmare of returning all the equipment.

return fee

If you can’t prove your cable modem doesn’t belong to Comcast, they may conveniently bill you an unreturned equipment charge of $70, like one customer experienced in 2014.

Currently there are 8 comments on this Article:

  1. Greg Glockner says:

    Moral of the story: buy your modem, don’t lease it.

  2. Avory says:

    Two things. First, D2 modems peak at about 25Mbps. If you’re on a tier faster than that from your cable company with a D2 modem you’re not getting what you’re paying for.

    Second, from what I understand (http://www.lightreading.com/cable-video/docsis/cable-preps-for-docsis-31-debut/d/d-id/711156), D3.1 is going to require getting rid of all the D2 modems. Most cable cos seem to have schedules of early to mid next year to start rolling that out. I’m sorry people think their old D2 modem is ‘working just fine thank you’, but articles and forums on the internet are screaming for faster speeds, so that’s the way it has to go. Given the sheer quantity of D2 modems out there, it would be insanely stupid to try and pull the bandaid off all at once. Quite frankly, I think you’d write an equally blistering article if a cable company dropped this a month in advance with little warning. If you assume Comcast, Cox, Cablevision and the rest are going to go D3.1 in late Q1, we’ve got 6-8 months before your D2 modem stops working.

    How early is too early to start this process? If you believe the press releases coming out of CMTS manufacturers, D3.1 CMTS gear is coming in Q4. How short of a notification window would you like to see for D2 EOL?

    So while it would be awesome to keep using that $5 D2 modem for perpetuity, unfortunately

    • tacitus says:

      How early is too early to start this process?

      Dunno, how early is too early for Comcast to add $10 to your monthly bill in exchange for exactly the same service they are already receiving?

      Are you seriously suggesting that those unlucky customers who happen to be first to be contacted about this be expected to pay an additional $10/month for some unspecified number of months (it could be 6, it could be 12)?

      In many cases, these customers will have already spent more on rental of their new modem than it would have cost them to buy a replacement by the time the switch to 3.1 comes.

      They are already profiting handsomely from these exorbitant modem fees, so why should customers be expected to shoulder the burden when the network switch is made?

      There is a correct way to do this. First you establish the date when DOCSIS 2.0 support will be switched off, and then you notify your customers, when that date is, notifying them that if they haven’t (a) replaced their modem with a DOCSIS 3.0/3.1 modem or (b) rented a replacement from them (perhaps offering them a month or two free rental to encourage them to rent in a timely fashion) by that date, they risk an interruption in service.

      They know exactly how many people are on the old modems at all times, and a large number of them are already renting DOCSIS 3.0 modems since they stopped shipping out the old ones years ago, so it’s not that difficult to identify those who are approaching the deadline on old modems and give them more reminders of the need to upgrade.

      • Avory says:

        Nowhere did I say I approve of said tactics. Neither in this blog post nor the linked one did I see an audio recording, letter scan, or email with the language used, so I am not going to comment on what they may be saying. My entire point is that at some point soon you will need to swap out the D2 modem. My dad got an EOL letter two years ago for his old D1 modem and while it did say he could rent there was also a line about purchasing and a URL pointing to the approved modem list. I’d be surprised if the same sort of language wasn’t used here. If it wasn’t I will happily jump on the outrage bandwagon. I’d just like some proof before I go down that path.

  3. SmilingBob says:

    My old LInksys CM100 D2 modem would reliably speed test up to about 33Mbps on Comcast, so pretty much anything above this would require a D3 unit.

  4. Ian L says:

    Comcast’s standard tier is now 50-75 Mbps in many markets. That requires a D3 modem. Which you can get for $50 or so t this point if you watch for deals.

    $10 per month is a ripoff. But at this point you really want a D3 modem if you’re on Comcast.

  5. This is again some misinformation from Comcast. We recommend our customers to buy/keep their own modem, preferably a D3, which can be easily found between $50 and $90. This is a one-time investment that will be recouped in less than a year given the $10 rental fee Comcast charges.
    Another great article. Thanks for sharing StopTheCap.

    The BillXperts.com team
    https://www.billxperts.com/

  6. Tim says:

    I noticed poor performance from Comcast’s rented transciever, so I had them ‘upgrade’ the equipment to a big EMTA. Same story. Bought a new transciever for 80 bucks and my speedtest is now literally twice as fast.

    You think if they were gonna charge you out the ass, they’d at least make their own equipment compatible with their service.

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