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Buy Your Cable Modem Instead of Renting It to Save $4-15 Per Month

Posted by Chris Hoffman on

When you sign up for cable Internet service, you need a modem. You’re often asked to choose between renting the modem from your Internet service provider for a monthly fee or buying it outright.

If you’re already signed up for cable Internet service, you may see a “modem rental” fee on your monthly bill. You can eliminate this fee by buying a modem outright.

The DOCSIS Standard

Cable Internet service providers don’t create their own proprietary standards to communicate over the cable line. Instead they use the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard. Because DOCSIS is standardized, you’re not limited tothe modem your ISP offers to you. You can buy and use any modem that supports the version of the DOCSIS standard your cable Internet provider offers.

You can generally find information about supported modems on your ISP’s website. For example, Comcast offers a DOCSIS Device Information Center that lists modems that will work on their network.

The Break-Even Point

How much money you can save depends on how much your ISP charges you for modem rental versus how much you’d pay for the modem up-front. For example, you can get a modem that will work with Comcast for $100 — we’ll use that number, although you may be able to get a modem for as low as $50. Many Comcast users have reported than Comcast is now charging them $8 a month per modem rental fee.

$100 divided by $8 per month equals 12.5 months, so the break-even point here is just over a year. If you buy your own cable modem instead of renting on Comcast, you’d start saving money after about a year. If you can get a $50 modem, you’d start saving money after just six months! Check your own ISP’s fees and the cost of buying a compatible modem so you can do your own math and find your own break-even point.

If you plan on sticking with your current Internet service provider for longer than the break-even time, it makes sense to buy your own cable modem up-front and save on your bill in the long-run. 


Overall, most people will be better off paying a bit more up-front to buy their own cable modem and avoiding the ever-increasing monthly modem rental fees. 

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