Time Warner Cable Accused Of Antitrust Violation For Requiring You To Rent Your Modem

from the illegal-tying? dept

A guy in Kansas is suing Time Warner Cable for its practice of requiring customers to “rent” their cable modem boxes. He claims that this is an illegal “tying” arrangement, since most subscribers would probably prefer to just own their modem boxes outright. Modem Box rentals have always been something of a scam. It’s just a way to charge more for the monthly service, without having to include this extra “cost” in the price that they advertise to consumers. The guy is even noting that this requirement of renting a specific cable modem harkens back to when AT&T required you to rent your telephone from them. The courts struck that down, so hopefully they’ll strike down this practice as well.

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Companies: time warner cable

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Comments on “Time Warner Cable Accused Of Antitrust Violation For Requiring You To Rent Your Modem”

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68 Comments
Puddy_Tat says:

Re: Sure hope he's successful

Hegemon,

You can just call them up tell them you have your own modem and you need to get it provisioned. Tell them further to come pick up their modem and you want the $5.00 a month fee deducted from your monthly bill.

Make sure you get the agents name and I do and put this in an email to yourself and your done!!!

eleete (user link) says:

Toss Aways

I can’t tell you how many times I have changed services for people or canceled because they were moving. Here in FL Comcast, AT&T/Bellsouth, and Advanced cable do charge modem rentals but allow you to own your own.

Whenever I cancel service however, they Never ask for the modem back or the little dongles for the telephones. Seems odd to be charging a monthly rental fee on something they give away in the end anyway.

I started giving their own modem to other customers switching about and they don’t even recognize that it’s been recycled. Odd, but true.

Norm says:

Re: Toss Aways

To add to this, I had a friend that ended up with 2 cable modems when he moved to a new house and had to renew service at the new location. Not only did the old modem work, but it worked in tandem with the new one, with totally separate IP addresses. Saved him a lot of wiring/wireless hassle.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Toss Aways

People need to be careful with that. Since all addressable equipment needs to be authorized in the DOCSIS standard, they know you have 2 modems, and at least with Brighthouse Networks in Orlando, Florida, they will charge you 2 instances of service because you are getting full speed out of both modems, and an IP address for each modem.

Luci (profile) says:

Re: Toss Aways

Ahh, so people like you would be the reason why I had to explain to customers from Florida why they owed $600 for not returning the rented cable modem that their agreement told them they had to return. Thanks a lot.

I have yet to see a cable service that rents equipment that does NOT require the equipment’s return. People, if you have questions about that rental equipment, call your cable provider. >.

Raj says:

Forced rental?

I’ve got a motorola surfboard 5100 that I’ve had for years and am now on my third cable provider. Both Comcast and Time Warner have not given me any problems bringing my own modem. All they need is the mac address of the modem. Helps me avoid that $3 fee.

Maybe Time Warner Kansas is different than Northeast Ohio.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re:

Which is the first reason I am still on plain old analog cable: because I can take a “cable-ready” TV to any room in the house, plug it in, and watch what I want, without having to buy or rent an additional box *per TV*.

Digital’s great and all, except it costs more, has more channels I’ll never watch, requires another box to draw more power and use another remote with more batteries and will just get lost by the kids anyway, and suddenly my “cable-ready TV” is now just a big monitor permanently tuned to channel 3 (or aux video input) — and the dual-tuner PIP function on the TV becomes pretty worthless…

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re:

No. The only reason they are doing so is to save bandwidth in their pipe. With the bandwidth savings of killing off analog, they can send out more video-on-demand stuff, have more HD channels at better quality, and still save money.

Its all about the bottom line, and replacing older analog equipment, making all the nodes and amps on the network digital and addressable saves them tons of money in maintenance costs.

Which they wont pass on to you of course, that goes straight to their profit margins…

Skippy T. Mut says:

Not to mention...

…they are also willing to charge you an additional $10/month for a “wireless cable modem” which is basically a modem with a wireless router built into it (yes the same one verizon gives you FOR FREE with DSL). So basically you’re paying $10/month over the life of your service for a $20 wireless router. What a scam!

On a side note; If you want to find out how to get thousands of people to send you $10 every day just send me $10 and I will rush you my new self help pamphlet: “Stupidity and You…A guide to why you are so stupid”

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Not to mention...

You know what the per month cost of that Home Networking fee really goes for? The telephone support for wireless connections. They support the product they sell, and it costs them alot of time, effort, and money to train, and field the call center reps to handle all of the moron consumers at there.

Besides that, they don’t, and cannot bar you from using your own router. The difference in using yours? Lack of support except by the OEM, who almost always want to point the finger at the ISP.

The same goes for those that want their own modems. Sure you could get one in the store, but its not typically better quality no mater what you think. They are all standardized to work on the DOCSIS protocol. The real difference is you know its not been used before.

But if you rented modem goes out, gets struck by lightning, what have you, the cable company will replace it for free. Its added convenience if you want it, and the ability to have your own if you don’t; Just accept the consequences.

chris says:

Re: Re: Not to mention...

you are totally right and I agree from personal experience no the support side. you hit the nail on the perverbial head with this comment. these are the facts of the matter, you pay for support and you pay for support, not the equipment, also the lawsuit is highly faulty. Premium channels are available to anyone with a cable card so you can use whatever digital equipment you want, you just can’t get the interactive features. Interactive features are technically not part of the cost of the services the customer is receiving, it is added by the provided to enhance the service for the customers who can access that material by using two way boxes(which are owned by the company and can have the company’s software on the box.)

that’s my beef and that’s the facts IN KANSAS CITY and i’m sticking to it.

Nasch says:

Re: Re: Not to mention...

Sure you could get one in the store, but its not typically better quality no mater what you think. They are all standardized to work on the DOCSIS protocol. The real difference is you know its not been used before.

Sorry, this is just not true. I have an Ambit cable modem + wireless router (they call it a gateway) from my ISP, and it doesn’t even touch my Linksys wireless router in features and configuration – that is, how much control I have over it. You could claim that it’s the same hardware inside the box with a different interface on it, but I’ll only believe you if you back it up with evidence.

To be fair, you did say “not typically better quality”, by which you may have meant strictly reliability and longevity. In that case, maybe it’s true. I haven’t found either to be substantially more reliable than the other – both work flawlessly almost all the time. And it’s too early to tell how long they’ll last as they’re both pretty new. But other than that, there are major differences, and they’re all in favor of the Linksys (except of course that the Linksys isn’t a cable modem).

Nasch says:

Re: Re: Not to mention...

Sure you could get one in the store, but its not typically better quality no mater what you think. They are all standardized to work on the DOCSIS protocol. The real difference is you know its not been used before.

OK, so I read your comment again, and you’re talking about cable modems and I was talking about oranges. So, never mind. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you can get better cable modems from other providers, but I don’t know.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re: Re: Not to mention...

To be fair, you did say “not typically better quality”, by which you may have meant strictly reliability and longevity. In that case, maybe it’s true. I haven’t found either to be substantially more reliable than the other – both work flawlessly almost all the time. And it’s too early to tell how long they’ll last as they’re both pretty new. But other than that, there are major differences, and they’re all in favor of the Linksys (except of course that the Linksys isn’t a cable modem).

Actually that was exactly what I was talking about ๐Ÿ™‚

I should have been more clear in my post, but I was attempting to say; “Since the modems are all standardized to function on the same protocol, the only market differentiation they could have is the included feature sets of the firmware interface, or external features such as Wireless, Support for VPN tunneling, and the like.”

I just didn’t explain it very well, and for that the only excuse I can offer is I was only on my second cup of coffee this morning when I wrote that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Alimas says:

Comcast

Yeah, Comcast does the rental thing to, but you can bring your own modem.
I’ve been running the same Surfboard 5100(?) for years now and just gave a spare I had to my girlfriend when she get her internet in her new place.
I’d be all pissed off if they required I used that specific box and had to “rent” it.
That’d be analogous to PSNH (power company) charging me a “rent” for the line that goes to my house from the power network.

Raquel says:

Not quite the same

Actually, cable boxes are quite different from the modems. The boxes require software updates several times a yr, and require the boxes have the same software. This software comes from the box vendor and has to be purchased by the cable company. It would sort of illegal to push software to a box they don’t own…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not quite the same

The boxes require software updates several times a yr, and require the boxes have the same software.

Those updates are at the operator’s discretion. They don’t usually have to update if they don’t want to. Of course, if they decide they want to add more DRM, cripple some more features, etc. then they may have to update the boxes to do that.

It would sort of illegal to push software to a box they don’t own…

How so? That’s exactly what they do to customer owned cable modems. Once you connect it to their system the cable company takes it over and basically has their way with it.

Harlan says:

Re: Not quite the same

Could you please explain what could possibly need upgrading several times a year? Even Microsoft has a automatic upgrade, not requiring your assistance to your computer, if there is something that requires an update, I see no reason why there would be a problem upgrading it. The topic was about people wanting to get away from renting a box from there cable supplier. In my case Suddenlink gave me approval to use a DVR that was for sale on ebay, after giving them the information and addresses. Then when I actually went to activate it, they said it wasn’t in there system and there fore could not be used, so I am out $500, and not very happy about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Modem rental

I wonder if this will affect my DIRECTV as well. I own my box and still have a “Rental” charge. They tell me it is for provisioning, but refuse to change the name to provisioning charge vice rental.

Maybe you just think you own it. I seem to remember reading about DIRECTV claiming to still own the box even after you’ve paid for it and getting eBay auctions for them pulled on those grounds.

ghost says:

All hail Optonline.net

I have optimum online… I hate them for making me rent their stupid cable box or dvr or whatever the heck the flavor of the month is; but thus far I have never been charged for a cable modem. I had by SB5100 die on me, I walked into a customer service center, 5 mins later I waked out with a brand new modem. No rent, no monthly fees for the modem and if I have my own modem they are OK with me using that too.

Shame on their cable service for making me pay rent for the dumb box and the remote (yeah $3 for the remote)
Thanks to their internet section for keeping the modems free.

Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re:

Yes, I said ‘train the reps.’

I am a technical writer who spends much of my time in the creation and rewriting of company training manuals to reflect current technology and trends.

I have seen reference and training documents from Time Warner, Roadrunner, and Earthlink for broadband over cable technical support, including the hoops they make call center agents jump through to support those Home networking products.

They spend quite a bit of time and money; first in the creation of the training materials and programs, and then in lost productivity and manpower training these reps instead of having them answer the phone.

The quality of the call center not withstanding, the training regiment is there.

Anon says:

Wrong

The problem with this is that the customer is NOT required to rent a digital box from Time Warner. The customer has the option to purchase a box from a company such as TiVo and use a cable card that provides the separable security measure, as defined in a FCC mandate towards the end of last year. Due to cable theft, it is necessary to encrypt most channels, and cable companies are well within their rights to restrict access to these channels, provided they offer a means of decryption, via a cable box or a cable card. Most of the cable boxes you will get these days actually have a cable card in them that provides for the ‘separable security’. This guy should have done his homework before he started spending money for a lawsuit.

J says:

I understand but.........

While I understand the concern over “leasing cable boxes out” You’ve got to realize that Time Warner replaces your converter at no cost no matter how many times it goes BAD. If you were to purchase your own converter you would have to deal with warranty issues with the company you got it from and at the same time delaying your digital cable watching experience………..

Willdav713 says:

Re: Time Warner

Update!!!

Time Warner is now charging $3.95 per month for the internet modem. If your modem that you buy is not on their “approved list” they refuse to activate it, even if it is the same brand (Scientific Atlanta)I reported it to the FCC, also You are also supposed to be able to bring your own cable box as long as it has cablecard capability. This has been Federal law since November 2011. To this day, I am not able to watch anything over channel 99 on my Motorola Cable box.

They sell them on Ebay and if it were illegal, Ebay wouldn’t sell them as it is against their community guidelines, just as you cannot sell illegal drugs such as Herion on Ebay.

I will bookmark this site, and give you status updates of the FCC decision.

Minneh says:

Re: time warner cable monopoly

No. It would be a monopoly if Comcast, Cox, Directv, Dish, Verizon and all those other companies didn’t exist.

It’s possible where you live falls short of another company’s service area, but I’m pretty sure dish and directv would still be usable alternatives regardless where you live. I’m not 100% on that, though.

Linda Suton says:

Time Warner Cable Boxes

I have been searching to purchase my own cable boxes to save on the cost of the rental. I am paying about 65 dollars a month just for the rental fees alone!! I do think it is outragous!!! Plus they keep coming up with this faster internet speed crap. I cannot see where they can charge you for the speed of road runner, I think it is a bunch of bull!!! I sure hope that guy in Kansas wins this class action suit so I can purchase my own epuipment. I am being forced to go back to regular tv service!! I do have 5 tvs and everyone of them are used daily. I am paying an ouragous 200 dollars a month to watch tv!!! It is truly nuts!!!

Linda in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Ruth Grunberg (profile) says:

TW bundling lawsuit

Hooray for a consumer willing to tackle Time Warner. What is the current status of the case. There should be a website for TW consumers because they are violating quite a number of laws.

I just battled them because they refused to allow me to just have basic along with pay per view. There is a federal law requiring this. They are an arrogant monopology.

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