Law bars ISPs from charging rental fees for a modem you own

Frontier had been accused of double-dipping.

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The plug of a wireless local area network (WLAN) cable pictured in front of a DSL modem in Kaufbeuren, Germany, 16 October 2015. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa | usage worldwide   (Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

Has your internet provider ever charged rental fees for a modem even after you bought one? You won’t have that pushback any longer. As Ars Technica notes, the Television Viewer Protection Act taking effect December 20th will ban ISPs and TV providers from charging rental fees for equipment customers own themselves, whether they’re modems or cable boxes. The law was originally slated to take effect on June 20th, but Congress let the FCC delay the measure under claims the pandemic made the original timing impractical.

Many companies had already implemented policies, but this will force some vendors to change their behavior. Frontier Communications in particular had insisted on charging rental fees for modems under claims it was covering higher support costs for bring-your-own hardware customers — despite acknowledging that it couldn’t support that equipment.

The firm told Ars it was now “in compliance” with the TVPA, albeit with a warning that it couldn’t guarantee compatibility or offer support for customer-owned hardware.

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The Act also requires more transparency about the true costs of TV service, including the sometimes hidden fees companies use to raise prices.This doesn’t cover ISPs and won’t prevent the seemingly inevitable rate hikes, but you shouldn’t sign up for a cable package at one price only to get another price on your bill.

The law could be a boon for enthusiasts. If you’re knowledgeable about ISP and TV boxes and intend to stay with a provider for a long time, you could easily save significant money in the long run. This also makes it easier to switch hardware if you find a more advanced or reliable box than the standard-issue rental models.

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Law bars ISPs from charging rental fees for a modem you own