Buy a Cable Modem

Motorola SB 6141 Cable modem photoBuy a cable modem. Save money each month. I have never experienced a modem failure in my ten year history of cable broadband Internet service. Buying a cable modem instead of renting seems like a safe way to save on cable fees.

Save On Cable Fees

My current provider charges $5.00 per month for cable modem rental in my area. This equals $60 per or nearly $600 over the last ten years if rental fees were assumed to be level. Many cable companies allow the customer an option to purchase their own cable modem. A cable modem is the device (box) that goes between the wall and your computer if you have broadband cable Internet service. It provides bi-directional data communication capability between your home and the cable company. The device uses an international telecommunications standard known as Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. This long term has an abbreviated acronym, DOCSIS. The latest version of the standard in use in the United States is DOCSIS 3.0.

Check the Approved Modem List

Finding out if the modem you are considering requires a simple web search. The major providers of Internet service ( ISP ) will likely publish a list of approved cable modems on their web sites. A query of ” [the providers name] approved modem list” should do the trick. If in doubt a call to tech support could confirm your modem choice.

Contacting Tech Support

It is probably a better practice to ask a specific question rather than a general question of tech support. General questions are easy to answer with “yes” or “no”. You have a greater chance of getting incorrect information I the tech can shoot you a one word answer and get you off the line quickly. Tech support operators are under heavy scrutiny to answer as many calls as possible during their shifts. Call volume is an easy metric to measure. Accuracy of information is much harder to determine.

This is an example of a poorly phrased question to tech support: “Can I purchase my own modem if I have your phone service?”. The tech and answer yes or no and end the call.

Better question to ask: “What make and model of modem can I purchase when I have your phone service?” Asking in this manner requires the more research from the tech. They will respond with a suitable modem, a web link, or other specific information pertinent to your question.

I have phone service from my cable provider, or What’s an EMTA?

An EMTA is a combination device that provides for broadband Internet and Telephone service from the cable company.

Update October 10, 2012
For readers that have telephone service bundled with their cable service, please contact your cable provider to determine if they will allow you to purchase your own EMTA device. If they confirm this is an available option with your service, they should be able to tell you what devices they will support on their network. This article deals with replacing a cable modem when phone service is NOT included in the bundle.

Buy a Cable Modem

There are some basic steps to completing the transition from a rented cable modem to owning your own cable modem. It is not complicated if you follow these steps.

  • Determine if your ISP allows customer owned equipment. You should check your ISP’s web site or call tech support to confirm you choice of modem.
  • Select a cable modem that is NOT on the end of life list. If possible select a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem if it will work on your network. Here again refer to the ISP or their published data.
  • Purchase a cable modem. I will publish information on where to buy a cable modem at the end of this article.
  • Install the cable modem. This is pretty simple. There should be a CD or documentation with your cable modem if you purchase a new retail version. See the next step to get online.
  • Your cable modem will have to be provisioned by the cable company before you can get online. This requires a call to the cable company high speed Internet tech support department. Tell the tech you have purchased a cable modem and need to have it provisioned. They will need the MAC number that is printed on a tag on the device. It is easiest to write this down ahead of time. Be careful to get it right. It will be a string of numbers and letters. The Motorola SB6120 lists the number as HFC MAC ID.
  • Return the rented modem to the cable company. If you neglect this step, they keep on charging you each month. Get a receipt. Write down the MAC number on the returned modem just to be safe. Make sure the rental charged is removed from your bill.

That is about all there is to replacing the cable company’s modem with one you purchased. It can lower your monthly bill by a few dollars. The downside to this is if the modem fails, it is your equipment and not theirs. A failure would leave you on the hook for the cost of replacement.

Where to Buy a Cable Modem

I recommend buying Cable Modems at Amazon.com. They have good prices and great service.