Should You Purchase A Cable Modem?
I was paying my cable TV company nearly $5 a month to lease a broadband cable modem. Then, I realized I could buy my own, a purchase that would pay for itself in little over a year. So, I bought a Linksys CM100 from B&H, installed it myself, and returned the leased modem to RCN, the cable system operator. While owning your own modem makes sense for some cable customers, ownership isn't for everyone..
Swapping out one cable modem for another is straightforward. You transfer the coaxial cable and Ethernet wire from the leased modem to the new modem, then power up the new modem. Since the coaxial cable was already my active on-ramp to the Internet (the cable company is my Internet Service Provider or ISP) and the Ethernet wire already ran to my router for wired and wireless links to all the networked devices in my home, the physical set-up was complete.
When I launched the browser on my computer, I was automatically redirected to my cable company's site with a screen indicating that RCN had detected an unregistered modem. It prompted me to input account information. It stated that I would not be credited for the leased modem until I returned it.
|Front view with LEDs that indicate status||Rear includes RJ-45 (yellow) and cable connections|
I experienced some initial glitches. Download speed dropped from about 17-Megabits per second before switching modems to 7-Mbps. Also, I was suddenly unable to connect to about half my bookmarked sites. So, I temporarily switched back to the leased modem. In a phone call with Linksys technical support, I was reassured that the modem was compatible. (I was replacing one made by Scientific-Atlanta, a Linksys sister company. Both are owned by Cisco.) So, I tried again, and this time, the data throughput was maintained, and I had no trouble accessing every site. After a few days of Net bliss, I returned the leased modem to RCN's walk-in store in Manhattan, where I was told I'd be credited $4 a month. It was a buck less than I expected, but the accrued savings would still be significant. The next month my bill did indeed decrease, a miracle in Cabletown.
If you're an RCN customer, the savings from investing in your own modem will come sooner than if you're a Time Warner Cable customer. TWC of NYC will shave $1 off your bill if you buy your own modem, which means you're looking at closer to five years to break even at current equipment and cable prices. Subscribers to CableVision's Optium Online service shouldn't expect any savings since the company says the modem is included with the service at no additional cost.
Then, there's the looking-forward question. While I don't expect cable companies to significantly increase download and upload speeds in the near future, there is a new standard coming called DOCSIS 3.0 which supports the type of 50 to 100-Mbps speeds experienced by Net users in places like South Korea. The CM100 as well as the D-Link DCM-202 (left) are DOCSIS 2.0-compatible but not 3.0-compatible.
So, if you think owning a cable modem will save you some money, check your cable company's Web site for a list of compatible models. And if you're not sure about how much you'll save, give your cable operator a call.
For more tips about getting the most from your cable TV subscription, see 3 Ways to Get Your Money's Worth from Cable TV.