Saturday, January 12, 2013

Time to own a Broadband Modem of my own?

Being a cable-broadband user has it’s perks and drawbacks.

We have (what I think is) a pretty standard hi-speed cable-broadband network access package.

Download speeds are decent and I don’t worry too much about upload speeds. We don’t do NetFlix/streaming, but YouTube, hulu, and VimeoHD streams all play very well with stuttering very rare.

What I have been aggravated about is the seemingly small-but-incremental service charge increases for our cable/internet service.

Thursday as I was driving between sites I happened to catch Susan Crawford discussing her book “Captive Audience” on the Diane Rehm show on our local NPR channel. Show link: Susan Crawford: "Captive Audience."  It was both educating and frustrating, particularly as both a consumer and network support guy. I really know better than to listen to “talk radio” programs while dealing with big-city traffic. It creates a vicious feedback cycle.

That later got me thinking -- again -- about the monthly $7.00 cable-modem rental fee we pay each month.  The charge started showing up on our bill again after some broadband service issues we were having. Comcast decided the issue was partially related to a bad/failing Comcast broadband router we had been provided when we signed up for the service. Turns out that when they replaced the router, they also began tacking on the rental fee that hadn’t been there before, apparently since it was the latest model. Nice.  I understand they sometimes remove the fee when a modem model goes out of support and they “give/donate” the modem to the subscriber.

Anyway, I looked into it and depending on the model of broadband router you get, you can probably recoup the cost in just over a year or so.

So here are some links I found that I want to keep for quick reference.

I haven’t made a final decision, but since we don’t have a “triple-play” deal, nor use their VOIP service, it looks like a pretty smart decision.


--Claus Valca


Neal Krawetz said...

I have had a cable modem for over 13 years and I've always owned my own cable modem. Things to keep in mind (based on my own experience):

Motorola cable modems only last about 2 years. (But since it costs less than $7*24=$168, it's still a win.) After 2 years, expect the modem to just die. In contrast, my Zoom Modem has been going fine for 3 years so far...

Occasionally providers upgrade the cable modem system. If you rent, then you'll automatically get a replacement. If your modem only runs DOCSIS 2.0 and they are using DOCSIS 3.0, then you won't get the max throughput unless you replace your modem. Worse: the provider may stop supporting your modem and you'll just start having connectivity issues.

If the tech comes out and decides that your connectivity issues are the modem, they might just swap it out. Be careful because they will happily walk away with your property and the swap automatically puts you on the rental system.

Not all cable modems work with every provider! Most providers have a list of approved devices. Don't go off-list! You cable modem actually loads a small boot file from the provider, and these boot files are modem make/model specific. If they don't say that they support the Zoom Modem, then don't get a Zoom Modem! Also, make sure the list says "full support". Some modems are partially supported and that usually means slower speeds.

Having said all of that... I strongly recommend owning. It's significantly cheaper.

Claus said...

@ Neal - Great comments and feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to post.

Better plan on putting a great big "PROPERTY OF...DO NO REMOVE" sticker on the thing like we have to do at work on some equipment...

I've been lucky so far with my switch/routers. I haven't lost/broke one yet. I work hard to make sure the power is on a surge strip and that ample ventilation exists, especially if the device does not have fan-cooling support. Remove dust accumulation regularly, etc.

Thank you for the experience sharing. You have a very fantastic website as well. I think I'm going to have to spend some time catching up on your posts! There seems to be a great variety of things to learn there!


--Claus V.

FF Extension Guru said...

Why are you still renting? The modems are some inexpensive and they last. I've had mine for may 7-8 years now with no issues.