Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tricks of the (Cable TV/Internet) Trade

The cable modem supplied by my Internet Service Provider (not Comcast)

I wonder who else has been, for lack of a better word, "victimized" by cable companies or other internet services with extra charges for leasing their equipment without letting the customer know about it ahead of time.
My first month’s bill from Charter Communications for internet service arrived last week and it was higher than what the door to door salesman signed me up for. The basic rate was still $19.99 plus 10.00 for installation. However they charged me an extra 10.00 to lease their cable modem/router combination. I specifically asked the salesman if this was already included in the 19.99 charge and he said yes. In fact there was an item in the work order that indicated the lease and the salesman left this blank. I called him right away to let him know about the extra charge but he didn’t get back to me. When I called him again, he said he already notified the office about it. I went on the company website and had a chat with one of their customer service representatives and he said that the lease was separate from the 19.99 a month contract. The last time I subscribed to cable TV was more than 20 years ago and I was aware of the lease they charged for cable boxes. I asked customer service if I could buy my own cable modem. He said yes and I can find them at Best Buy and Walmart. I checked Walmart’s website and saw a compatible cable modem for 60.00, so I went to the nearest Walmart and bought one. Leasing Charter’s cable modem for two years would have cost me 240.00. I didn’t have to buy a wireless router because I already had one. So I tried to set it up when I got home and plugged in the right connections, then followed the setup instructions on the cd disk, but I couldn’t connect to the internet. After trying a couple of different things, I surrendered and called technical support. It turns out I had to register the MAC address of the router with them. When that was done and I rebooted, I was able to connect to the internet. Next thing I had to do was connect the wireless router. Charter Communications said they may not be able to help me with that because I was now using my own equipment and not theirs. So I looked it up on the internet and got my wireless working. All that was needed was connecting the cables and turning the cable modem and router off and on in the correct order, then rebooting.
                Next, I did a download speedtest. Previously, while using Charter’s Netgear cable modem/router combination, I was getting between 8 to 10 megabits per second. With the new modem, the speed suddenly jumped up to 18 to 20 megabits per second! Hmm, interesting development. I hope they don’t charge me extra on my next bill for the extra speed. The upload speed remained consistent at 1.7 mbps as advertised. Downloads from my previous Internet Service Provider (at 1 mbps) which took about an hour and a half now takes about 15 minutes.
                The next day, I went to the Charter Communications office to return their modem. They’re supposed to prorate the charges based on the number of days I used the equipment, so my bill may be lesser next month. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Who knows what other shenanigans they have up their sleeves.
                I don’t know if not telling new customers about lease fees on cable boxes and cable modems is common practice in the industry and one of the a tricks of the trade to get more money. Like I said earlier, the salesman said it was included in my contract and it wasn’t marked on the work order. Checking their website, it was hard to find that charge and it’s probably buried in small print somewhere in their terms and conditions. At the very least they should make their customers aware that there is an option to buy your own compatible equipment for much lesser than leasing it from the company.

The new Motorola cable modem I bought from Walmart

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