Comcast's $1.2b/year modem-rental scam picks your pocket, then exposes you to hackers, stalkers and identity thieves

For most of a century, AT&T ripped off its customers by requiring them to rent their phones, meaning that over the life of your phone subscription, you would buy your phone thousands of times over.

Comcast (and its cable industry co-monopolists) is so much better at this than AT&T ever was.

Not only do they extract $200/year from every subscriber to rent a shitty, insecure, power-inefficient set-top box: they also trick you into renting a modem for your cable internet -- a device they pay an estimated $40 for, and then net $275m-$300m every quarter by renting out to you.

As if that wasn't bad enough: Comcast's cable-modems are horribly insecure. This week, we learned that a bug in the company's website allowed anyone in the world to look up the passwords for any Comcast modem along with the home addresses of Comcast subscribers where the modem could be found.

Comcast has to let you bring your own modem, and if you do, they are supposed to stop charging you the rental fee (you might have to chase them for months or years to get them to stop billing you for this of course, and the company might charge you $90 in "installation fees" even if the "installation" is you plugging in your own modem).

You should do this. I'm embarrassed to admit that even though I don't use the modem Charter supplied with our home internet, I haven't returned it. I'm in Phoenix for Comics Fest this week, but I've made a note to drive over to Charter and give them back their insecure, overpriced piece of shit modem when I get home.

Over time, users wind up paying Comcast significantly more money than the modem or router is worth. One analyst estimated that Comcast makes between $275 million and $300 million each and every quarter just from these rental fees. And given that Comcast buys hardware in bulk, it’s estimated the company pays as little as $40 for each modem.

Those turned off by Comcast’s reputation as one of the least liked companies in America should do themselves (or a loved one) a favor and stop unnecessarily padding the company’s bottom line.

While the company doesn’t like to advertise the option, users have the ability to buy their own modem or router, provided it’s on the company’s list of acceptable devices known to play nice with the Comcast network (the same is true for Charter Spectrum.) Many of these devices can be bought for a pittance via online retailers, and even less if acquired second hand.

For the Love of God, Stop Renting Routers From Comcast [Karl Bode/Motherboard]

(Image: Ryan Schmitz, CC-BY)

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