cable modemTime Warner isn’t my favorite cable company….but it is my only cable company.   Time Warner isn’t my favorite Internet provider….but it is one of only two Internet providers in my area.   The other is AT&T U-Verse with whom I struggled for three torturous years to get reliable service only to fail repeatedly.  I dumped my cable TV in favor of web-based programming  (Netflix, Amazon and a digital antenna for local channels).  Then  I resigned myself to returning to Time Warner’s overpriced Internet offering.   For the first year, it offered a discounted monthly $34 promotion for Internet-only service.   After a year, they tried to hike it to $54 per month, but I complained and they “negotiated” a $38 monthly fee.
Fast-forward to this month, when I got my Time Warner bill and noticde that they’d slipped in a price increase on the cable modem that I was leasing from the company.   The $3.95 lease fee was hiked to $5.99 per month.   This is for a $46 device!    “Enough!”  I exclaimed.  A 50% increase on a fully depreciated piece of electronics that I’d fully paid for over the past 2 years was nothing short of offensive.    Rather than call and complain,  I decided to use a little consumer karate;   attack me with a fee increase and I’ll counter with a fee decrease using your own greed against you.   How to do that?  I  contacted my friends at Amazon and had them ship me the same modem that I’d been using for $46.    Some surfing on my overpriced web revealed that I was not alone;  others were similarly outraged.  I particularly enjoyed Gizmodo’s diatribe.
A few important points that Time Warner doesn’t really want you to know.  First, it does allow its customers to buy their own modems.   Second, Time Warner had been giving away the modems for free until last year when it started the $3.95 charge.    So the company is testing the resolve of its customers.     Third, less than 10% of Time Warner customers own their own modem, according to USA Today.   Finally, if you buy your own modem, the investment pays for itself within less than seven months!    This is close to a no-brainer if you plan on remaining with Time Warner for at least seven months.   After seven months,  I no longer have to deal with a modem fee — that’s a $5.99 monthly savings.
Once you have your purchased modem, start by unscrewing the coaxial cable from the rented Time Warner modem and attaching it to the cable port on the back of the new modem.  Next, unplug the Ethernet cable from the back of the Time Warner modem and attach it to the back of the new modem. That Ethernet cable likely is already connected to a computer or a wireless router. You don’t need to change any of those connections.  Then you’ll have to call Time Warner Cable to activate it. To do that, you’ll need the cable modem’s ID number, or MAC address. You typically can find that number on the bottom of the modem, next to the serial number. The modem ID usually appears after the letters MAC or EA and usually has 12 characters.
Once you have that MAC number, you’ll need to call Time Warner at (800) 892-2253 and provide it to the customer service representative, who then will activate the new modem. The whole process typically takes less than a half hour.  It takes some effort to get to a technical support person — you have to indicate that you have a technical support question but that you’ve attempted rebooting the modem before the AVR system will let you talk to a live person.   Just explain that you want to activate a new cable modem that you purchased and the process is relatively painless after that.    The  CSR that assisted me was cordial and prompt, so it was relatively painless.   But not only will you start “making money” after seven months but you will have sent an important message to Time Warner and other cable companies:  be prepared for your customers to fight back.    Oh, and for those cynics amongst you who assume that Time Warner and the other cablies will find some new way of raising their service fees…….well, you are probably right.    That’s why I’m keeping a close eye on FreedomPop and some other emerging wireless Internet service providers.    Within the year,  I’ll be looking seriously at going wireless and/or with a competing DSL provider like Megapath (previously Covad and Speakeasy).