Time Warner Cable implements $3.95 monthly cable modem fee

Time Warner Cable subscribers might notice that their Internet bills are about $4 more expensive this month, thanks to a new modem rental fee.

Time Warner now charges $3.95 per month to rent cable modems, which the company had included at no extra charge in the past. This charge is for the modem itself, not to be confused with the optional fee for renting a wireless router.

Although Time Warner announced the plan to charge for modems in October, in many markets the new charge took hold in November, which means customers are just starting to notice that their bills are $4 heavier. (I just looked at my bill in Cincinnati, and sure enough, the new charge appears on my latest statement.)

A story in The Daily Tar Heel does a good job of summing up the outrage on the University of North Carolina campus, where students are already strapped for cash: “That’s almost $48 a year, which is essentially two bar tabs,” UNC junior David Wilkinson told the paper.

Time Warner told The New York Timesin October that it needs the fee to pay for maintenance and replacement of the modems over time. It's unclear why the company just now decided to pass that cost onto its customers.

Strangely, though, the company doesn't charge customers who also use the modem for digital phone service. When asked why the company only charges customers who don't have digital phone service, spokesman Justin Venech told the Times that it was a “business decision,” and elaborated no further.

Time Warner isn't the only company that tacks on a modem rental fee. Comcast and Cox also charge extra for the equipment. All three companies allow subscribers to avoid the monthly charge by purchasing their own modem. Check the websites ofTime Warner,Comcast and Cox for lists of supported modems.

Not surprisingly, Time Warner already faces class-action lawsuits in New York and New Jersey by customers who claim they didn't receive the required 30-day notice from the company, and were only notified on a “paltry postcard.” Comcast faced a similar lawsuit, which was dismissed in January.

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