Time to Stop Renting A Cable Modem

We get our internet and phone service as a bundle from WOW!

But they make you rent a cable modem. And that's something I'd like to change.

At first, the WOW bundle saved us a bit of money. AT&T clearly wanted to get out of the landline business - they were raising our invoice consistently. And WOW gave us an intro rate.

But there's one drawback to going with your ISP for phone services - you have to rent their modem, for $7-10 per month.

I don't like throwing $85 away each year on modem rental, especially given that I own a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem.

After the intro rates ended, our status quo is $92.20/month for internet and phone, all-in after taxes and modem rental, It's still a bit cheaper than when our landline alone was $50-60 with AT&T.

Still, we have 2 problems.

First, that modem rental just kills me. Why can't I buy a telephone modem?

Second, our internet speed is ridiculously bad at 15 Mbps.

Comcast has offered better speeds for less money - but they are Comcast and I'd like to avoid dealing with them.

The last time I tried to hire them they were unable to install service and then billed me for several months anyway.

We'll charge you even if we fail to install service

So, we need faster internet, and no modem rental.

As I see it, we have 2 alternatives.

Unbundle Phone and Internet

We could get a standard VOIP service for our phone (probably Ooma), drop the "Phone" portion of my "Phone and Internet" bundle.

Going this route, I'd use my own cable modem, and upgrade to WOW's 30 Mbps internet plan.

Ooma would cost around $100 upfront, but would then be around $5/mo.
WOW would charge $30/month for 12 months, and then $72/mo.

That $72 charge is looking pretty high. Given the taxes and fees, I expect that we're going to land around $95 - which is where I am now!

And, I will have the initial outlay of $100+ for the Ooma box, and I'd be dealing with porting my phone number.

And if there were any issues with the service itself, I can see it being a problem in the AAAD household. I'll need complete buy-in before making any change here.

So what's the second option?

Find an ISP That Allows Customer-Owned Telephone Routers

Obviously, it would be great if my Chicago suburb could get a gigabit internet provider. I'd love it if Google Fiber - or any other gigabit provider - would come to town.

That's not happening. So realistically, I'm left with WOW or Comcast.

I can buy *exactly* the same modem that WOW rents me, on Amazon, for around $100.

At that point, I could bump our bundle speed to 30 Mbps for an extra $20/month - and drop the $7 modem rental fee.

BUT, WOW has been adamant that they would not support users bringing their own modem for EMTA phone services. Even if it's literally the same model number of modem that they rent you.

So, WOW is going to cost $95 + the usual fees, and $7 modem rental -- around $115/month.

So, WOW is not much of an option here.

If I stay with WOW, I'm stuck with modem fees, and I'm just adding $20/mo for somewhat better internet.

Comcast is offering 25 Mbps internet + phone service for $50/month for 12 months, and $93.90 thereafter.

*However*, it does appear that you can use your own modem - in fact, Amazon has a modem with Comcast branding. 

That would leave the overall cost quite a bit lower than WOW for the first year, and more or less on par with it thereafter. The savings in the first year alone would be more than $500!

Then again - Comcast's fine print references Data Usage Limits, and overage charges. This is troubling, and will require more investigation.

There may be another ISP option. But Verizon FiOS doesn't appear to be available in my area, and AT&T's internet speeds are worse than what I'm currently getting with WOW.

I'm not seeing an easy answer here, but Comcast has me somewhat intrigued. Am I really willing to enter into that world again? Stay tuned.


  1. Why is home phone service so essential to you?

    1. Spotty cell service, kids who use a phone, babysitters who occasionally need to reach us and can't be trusted to have phones charged....