If Comcast is your Internet Service Provider, you are likely renting your cable modem from them. In the Seattle area, the rental fee is currently about $10 per month. If you’re renting, you should consider buying your own cable modem. Here are the pros and cons of renting a cable modem, as I see them.
The primary advantage of renting your cable modem is that if it acts up or fails altogether, then it’s Comcast’s responsibility and they will, for free, send a replacement modem and a technician to install it for you.
The replacement and installation are free because you have or will cove these costs through your rental fees. Let me illustrate this. If we were to assume that a cable modem costs $100 and you pay $10 per month to rent yours then after about 10 months you’ve paid for it. The technician’s labor also has a value, which I can’t estimate, but maybe it’s covered a handful of months’ rental fee.Thus, approximately every 14 months or so, you’ve paid for the modem plus its installation costs. Since most cable modems last for at least a handful of years you end up paying a lot more through renting then you do if you bought and installed your own cable modem. So, why would anybody do this? Well, in my mind, the additional money that you’ve giving Comcast is for the peace of mind that you get by knowing that you won’t have to deal with setting up your own cable modem. For some people this is invaluable. For others, it’s not.
If you want to buy and setup your own cable modem, here are some details to consider:
- This previous Tech Tip talks about how to connect and activate your own cable modem.
- Comcast maintains a list of currently approved cable modems and EMTA devices.
EMTA stands for embedded multimedia terminal adapter. In plain English, if you get your telephone service from Comcast then you need a cable modem that has EMTA capabilities built-in.
When you scan the list of approved cable modems to find one that would be appropriate for you, I suggest you check both the box labeled Latest (DOCSIS 3.0) Devices and the box labeled Only Retail Devices. This will narrow the list to device that are available for retail purchase and which support DOCSIS 3.0.
If you need a device that provides telephone service then look for devices that have the word Telephony in their name.
For what it’s worth, DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. DOCSIS version 3.1 is the current standard which has been in place for a number of years so it doesn’t make sense, in most cases, to buy a DOCSIS 2.0 modem.
If you rely on the wireless network created by your current cable modem then you’ll want to select a device that has wireless or wi-fi in their name.
If you’d rather not have to fuss with selecting an appropriate device and setting it up yourself, then renting could be the best option for you. Just don’t be shy in asking Comcast to replace your cable modem if it is failing or isn’t reliable any longer.