Pretty much as expected, the telephone support at Comcast was useless. After a frustrating call which ended with a promise to have a supervisor call back, nothing happened. The Twitter support team at Comcast though did get in touch, and managed to resolve the issue without me needing to visit a Comcast store.
Turns out that the modem they wanted to charge me $8/month for was not the modem I am currently using, purchased earlier this year, but the one I originally bought for $59.99 from Alameda’s cable TV service (later acquired by Comcast). Despite having to call Comcast support when I connected the new modem to give them its MAC addresss and get it working on their network, they apparently had failed to associate that modem with my account. They also failed to notice that the old one had not been on their network for most of this year.
Instead, they had the old modem still linked to the account, and worse than that, in the transition to Comcast they had somehow marked it as a Comcast modem (but never charged me rental for it). An internal audit they apparently ran recently flagged that inconsistency, hence the letter.
Emailing the bill from Alameda’s cable company showing the purchase of the modem was enough to straighten it all out, and I am reliably informed at this point that my account has only the new modem on it, and it shown as mine, not a rental modem.
Amazingly though, they wanted to charge me $8/month to rent a modem that I bought in 2007. That is a 6 year old bit of consumer electronics. I don’t know what their asset depreciation schedule looks like, but I cannot believe a six year old piece of consumer electronics costing just $60 retail when new has any residual asset value at this point. The phone calls and all the work their support employee carried out to straighten out the records almost certainly cost them much, much more than that modem was worth. But wait, it isn’t about the asset value…
Rip Off Rental
At that rental rate, even my new modem would have been more than paid for in 10 months. Were I still using the old one, I would have paid almost $600 for a $60 modem. Ten times its retail value (and probably closer to twenty times the price they would have paid for it). At those rates, I should have been getting a new modem every 10 months (though there really isn’t much changing in the technology of the modem to make that worthwhile).
If you are currently renting your cable modem, and there is an option to bring your own (which there should be as it is a standards based industry), I would strongly recommend buying one. I also think there is an interesting business opportunity there to lease-purchase modems to people. At $8/month, they could own the modem in a year and there would still be enough profit in the business I think. Perhaps there are existing leasing companies that already do this though…