Internet Providers Can't Charge for Unwanted Router

John Lister's picture

Broadband providers can no longer charge customers a rental fee for routers if they use their own equipment. It's banned by the Television Viewer Protection Act which has taken effect after a six month delay.

The law was passed in December 2019 and originally scheduled to take effect in June. However, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a six month delay, stating that cable and broadband providers needed more time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

$10 Monthly Fee Dropped

Many Internet providers charge rental fees for modems or routers, but allow users to provide their own equipment instead. However, at least one company named Frontier had been charging $10 a month for supplying a router whether or not the customer used it. (Source:

Frontier now says it will comply with the law and that customers who return its equipment won't face the fee. It points out it may be unable to offer any technical support for users who use their own equipment. Previously, it had insisted that users reconnect their company-provided router or modem before calling to report a problem.

The way the law is written does mean that if a service provider does send any equipment (even if unrequested), the user must return it before the no-fee rule takes effect. The law doesn't spell out who is responsible for the costs of returning equipment.

No Hidden Fees (For TV)

The new rule, which also covers TV equipment, is part of a wider package of measures in the law that apply only to television provision. These include a mandatory declaration of the total monthly cost including all company fees and taxes, plus a 24-hour cooling off period after signing up for service. During this period customers can cancel without penalty (even after reviewing the contract conditions and fees).

It's not clear why the transparency and cooling off rules don't also apply to broadband provision. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is this change in the law a good idea? Does the lack of competition for broadband in many markets mean tighter regulation is necessary? Should Internet service providers also have to give a clear and open account of the total price?

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Jim's picture

I would gladly buy my own cable box instead of paying Comcast's rental fees, but with the digital scrambling/encryption of all channels now, is this a viable option??

pctyson's picture

I am guessing that they bundle the router and the cable in some places.
My internet provider charges the $10 fee but they credit it back. It has been this way for over 2 years. I can buy a modem for the service but there does not seem to be any point. I wonder how many will just raise the rates and "drop" the modem fee.

ehowland's picture

As a Concast subscriber (ugh, since 2002), I can say I have used my own router for years, and I was paying a rental fee for YEARS on their Modem. I got their modem new (arris brand), then paid a slowly increase amount to rent it every month (I do not even want to think how many times I paid for that device, as it lasted 8 years before I bought my own).

Jim you are thinking Cable TV set top box. This only relates to the internet access router/Modem. When modems were $200 and the rental was only $5 a month it made sense to rent. but modem cost has gone down (Got mine for about $60 three years ago) and as I do not use the telephone service at all I did not need and "eMTA" Docsis 3.0 device (modem that is Phone capable too).

Jim I will give you one more nugget of info... Unless you have premium paid subscription channels, like HBO, Your flat screen TV can tune in the "unlocked" channels (this was as of a few years ago so it MIGHT have changed, but I doubt it). Only the subscription premium Channels are scrambled (like HBO). Also I'm using the PC app to watch cable TV more, and even DVR service now works well on the PC/web streaming app on the PC. So say you have ONE physical DVR in the house. You could play back recorded shows on multiple PCs. (and not rent multiple boxes). Also for over a year I rented a special card that "unscrambled" the HBO shows on my Silicon Dust prime device and I was able to feed my PC the unscrambled HD HBO signal (into my Win7 Media Center PC, and record HD HBO on the MCE version of Win7, Win7 now gone Win10 does not have MCE). Spent ages to get it to work, not for the faint of heart to setup, but it did work...

Jim's picture

@ehowland, The article says that it applies to TV equipment too, which I assumed meant set-top boxes.

ehowland's picture

Article is confusing if you do not know the components well, but no question a router and modem (in Comcast world) is only needed for internet. They call it the television act, but the Router/modem part is the internet portion.

"Broadband providers can no longer charge customers a rental fee for routers if they use their own equipment. It's banned by the Television Viewer Protection Act"

Broadband = internet

Comcast "Bundles" (and pushes) cable TV and voice (phone)

If you had ONLY TV it would be "Cable TV"

For years and years I did all three, but dropped phone several years ago, and dropped Cable this spring (do not miss it).

BTW, even if you have only Broadband internet (like me) I can still "Stream" TV on a PC...