The only thing worse than paying out the tuchus for unreliable internet from Time Warner Cable and Comcast is being forced pay a monthly rental fee for a modem you need to access that crappy internet. Happy New Year! The fees on both TWC and Comcast are going up yet again. Here's how to buy your own modem so you can save some money.
Yup, right in the middle of the holidays, both TWC and Comcast announced that the monthly fee for renting their modems would be going up. Time Warner Cable will jump from $6 to $8 per month and Comcast is going from $8 to $10 per month. As Ars Technica notes in that second link, the rates aren't all going into effect at the same time, so just because you haven't seen the new fee on your bill yet doesn't mean it's not coming.
But the bottom line is the you shouldn't be paying a monthly fee at all for a modem because you can get a higher quality modem than what your cable company is renting you, and it'll pay for itself in under a year.
Time Warner Cable Modems
You can buy your own TWC modem as long as it's on the company's pre-approved list of which modems work in your region.
You'll notice that the list of "approved for retail" modems list is much shorter than the "approved for rental list," which means that, as per usual corporate fuckery, Time Warner will rent you an older, outmoded POS, but they won't approve it for use if you bring your own hardware to the party.
Here are the highest rated future-proof modems supported by TWC. The Wirecutter note, you want to avoid any router-modem 2-in-1 combinations, if possible, so we've culled those out as well.
When I originally published this post two years ago, I said that you could go ahead and buy either a DOCSIS 2.0 or DOCSIS 3.0 modem, mostly because though the future standards of the internet standards will require DOCSIS 3.0, the reality is that a DOCSIS 2.0 modem is more than enough.
These days, though, the Motorola SB6141 modem has gotten cheap enough that you might as well buy the modem that's going to last you into the future. At $90, it'll pay for itself in a year at the $8 rental fee rate.
One final note: If you're on one of TWC's new Ultimate 200 and Ultimate 300 plans, you'll need to use the new Motorola SB6183 modem to really max out those download speeds. It's worth checking to make sure you're actually getting those speeds, since you know, TWC's infrastructure is garbage.
Comcast's list of approved modems is much longer than Time Warner Cable's, though, you're looking at many of the same options, as i'll explain below. For its part, the company strongly recommends at a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. If you pay for the Performance, Blast!, or Extreme speed tiers, you need a DOCSIS 3.0 modem.
After culling away the less-well reviewed modems as well as those that are combination routers, or just aren't widely available, you're left with just three.
All of the above modems are extremely well reviewed on Amazon and are relatively inexpensive. Thought the SB141 costs slightly more than the rest, it's SO well regarded that you really can't go wrong. At the $10 per month modem rental fee, this guy pays for itself in just nine months.
Note: This post is updated from time to time as new information becomes available. It originally ran in 2013.