By Kurtis Ming

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Tired of paying so much money for Internet service? Home Internet access can easily run upwards of $50 a month.

But Call Kurtis has learned many subscribers pay hundreds of dollars in Internet fees they can avoid completely.

Crunching the numbers, Call Kurtis dug into Internet service prices in the Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto region.

Most Internet providers charge $5-$8 every month for a monthly modem rental — but many customers aren’t aware they can purchase their own instead.

“If you do a little bit of math, it’s not cheap,” said Phoebe Chang, who didn’t like the idea of paying for Comcast’s modem every month.

“At least in the long run,” she said.

Chang bought her own modem for about $45 back in January 2011 when she started service — effectively avoiding the monthly charge, now set at $8 monthly.

But in December 2013, Comcast sent Chang a letter saying “a recent review” of her account found she should be paying for “modem rental.”

Despite her calls saying she wasn’t renting any Comcast modem, an $8 charge showed up on her next bill.

“It’s not fair at all,” she said. “I should not be charged for the modem rental.”

Those rental charges add up, CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell said.

“It’s absolutely more profitable for [cable companies] to collect that $8 a month by renting the equipment,” he said.

For example, three years of renting Comcast’s modem at $8 a month would cost you $288.

AT&T’s and Wave Broadband’s $5 a month would cost $180 over three years.

And Frontier’s fee, which varies depending on your speed and usage, could cost more than $250 over three years.

Bell said most companies will let you use your own modem, which you can usually buy for less than $50, although you may be on your own for tech support.

“I think if you have the patience for it, it is absolutely worth saving the money,” he said.

That’s what Chang thought too — so why did Comcast charge her a fee for using her own modem?

“She just had an incorrect billing code on her account,” a Comcast spokesperson told Call Kurtis.

The company fixed the mistake within an hour.

Chang thinks so far, having her own modem has saved her about $200.

“It’s very worth it, it’s very worth it,” she said.

Call Kurtis checked with all the companies and found Consolidated Communciations forces customers to rent their equipment rather than purchasing your own. Frontier does as well, although they waive the fee for those who pay for Internet 10mB/s or faster.

Internet Provider Rental fee* Can I Buy My Own Modem?
AT&T $5/mo. Yes. AT&T sells some compatible models directly.
Comcast $8/mo. Yes. Comcast provides a list of compatible models.
Consolidated Communications $5/mo. No.
Frontier $4.99-6.99/mo. No, but 10mB/s+ customers get free equipment.
Wave Broadband $5/mo. Yes. Supports most DOSIS2.0 or DOSIS3.0 modems.

* Note: Not every modem works with every Internet service provider, so you should call them first to see what’s compatible.


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