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Save on Your Monthly Internet Bill by Using Your Own Modem and Router

You might be paying your ISP an equipment fee each month. Here's an easy way to get around that cost.

a standalone cable modem sits on top of the much larger SURFboard eXtreme combo device
Dong Ngo/CNET

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Check your last internet bill. If you've been paying your internet service provider a monthly fee to rent a modem or router, you might be able to prevent future charges and save some money. All you have to do is buy your own equipment and use that instead.

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Equipment fees and the policies that come with them vary from provider to provider. Some charge $10 or more per month for the use of the company equipment. Others let you use it for free. A few providers require you to use their equipment -- meaning that you can't skip the fee by using your own -- but most are happy to let you use your own gear and save a few bucks each month.

Doing so is usually a smart move. For instance, plenty of decent modems cost less than $100. With the average cost of renting a modem from your provider sitting at around $10 per month, a device like that would pay for itself in less than a year and then continue saving you money each month after that. In other cases, where providers will rent you a high-end gaming router or a decent mesh router for a modest monthly fee, doing so might be a pretty decent deal.

Does your provider let you use your own equipment to save some cash? Is that what's best for your home network? It depends on from which provider you get your internet. Let's run through all of the top options to see how their equipment policies compare and whether or not you're in a position to save some money.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($3 to $15 per month for modem and router rental, depending on region)
Can you skip it? Yes

Astound Broadband offers home internet service in several large metros across the country -- including Austin, Chicago, Houston, New York and Seattle -- and the modem and router rental terms vary from region to region and plan to plan. In some cases, the rental fee can be included for as low as $3 per month, but in others, you'll need to pay as much as $15 monthly.

Regardless of the price, the rental fee includes both a modem and a router, and you can skip it by using your own hardware (here's Astound's list of approved modems). That said, it's worth noting that Astound also offers "Enhanced Wi-Fi" in some regions, which gets you a fancier router for an additional $10 per month. In some regions, Enhanced Wi-Fi means that you get the Eero Pro 6 mesh router, which is excellent, but in others, it's just the standard Eero 6 router, which wasn't nearly as strong a performer in my tests. 

Customers can also rent the Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 Wi-Fi 6 gaming router for $13 per month, which isn't a bad deal at all, given that it usually costs around $300.

Read our Astound Broadband review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: No

This is significant because up until early 2022, AT&T charged $10 per month for its equipment. The company required the use of its combination modem-and-router gateway device and didn't allow customers to use their own modem. That meant that you couldn't skip the $10 monthly additional fee. However (cue the Hallelujah chorus), AT&T scrapped its equipment fee this year, so customers need not worry about that additional amount getting tacked onto their monthly bill.

Read our AT&T home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($15 per month for modem/router gateway device rental)
Can you skip it? Yes

CenturyLink charges $15 monthly to rent a gateway that combines a modem and a router into one device. Depending on the type of plan you sign up for, that gateway will be one of four models: the Actiontec C3000A, the Greenwave C4000, the Zyxel C4000LZ or the Zyxel C3000Z. You can skip that $15 fee by using a gateway or modem of your own, but CenturyLink cautions customers not to use anything that isn't on its list of approved devices.

"CenturyLink highly recommends using one of our certified or recommended Wi-Fi modems (gateways), which have been tested and approved to work optimally with our high-speed internet technology," the company's website reads. "Retired and third-party devices are more likely to cause performance issues and may not connect to your internet service correctly."

And remember, if you're replacing CenturyLink's gateway with a standard modem, then you'll also need to find a good router to go with it.

Read our CenturyLink home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($5 per month for router rental, modem provided free of charge)
Can you skip it? Yes 

Spectrum includes a free modem with all of its home internet plans, but if you don't have a router of your own, you'll need to pay $5 per month to rent one. The exceptions here are gigabit subscribers of Spectrum's fastest plan tier -- they get the router included at no additional fee.

To skip that $5 monthly fee, you'll need to use your own router, with the usual caveat that your equipment won't be eligible for Spectrum technical support if it malfunctions. You can also use your own modem if you'd like, but make sure to use a Spectrum-supported model.

Read our Spectrum home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($14 per month for modem/router gateway device rental)
Can you skip it? Yes

Xfinity offers customers the option of renting the xFi Gateway, which combines a modem and a router into a single device at the cost of $14 per month. You can skip that monthly charge by using your own modem and router.

Pretty much any router will work, but you'll need to ensure that the modem is a DOCSIS 3.1 model. You can find a full list of supported modems on the Xfinity website.

Read our Xfinity home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($13 per month for modem/router gateway device rental)
Can you skip it? Yes

Cox charges customers $13 per month to rent its Panoramic Wifi gateway, which combines a modem and router into a single device. Subscribers to the two fastest (and most expensive) Cox plans will receive a DOCSIS 3.1 device that supports Wi-Fi 6. The rest get an earlier-gen DOCSIS 3.0 version with support for Wi-Fi 5.

Either way, you can skip that additional monthly fee by using a modem and router, or gateway, of your own -- just be sure to pick from the lengthy list of Cox-approved modems and gateways.

Read our Cox home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($10 per month for router rental, included in the advertised monthly rate)
Can you skip it? No

Frontier provides customers with a free modem and charges $10 per month to rent them a router, but that cost is baked into the advertised monthly rate, so it's not an additional fee that you'll need to pay on top of your monthly rate, like with most other providers. That's all well and good, but the rub is that there's no way to skip that fee, even if you already have a router of your own.

Read our Frontier home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: No

Google Fiber customers receive a modem and a mesh router with up to two additional extenders at no additional cost. If you subscribe to Google Fiber's fastest plan, with download speeds of up to 2Gbps, then you'll get a faster, multi-gig router to go with it, complete with support for Wi-Fi 6.

Read our Google Fiber home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($15 per month for modem/router gateway device rental)
Can you skip it? No

HughesNet provides satellite internet service to all 50 states. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that satellite internet features pretty pricey equipment costs. Customers must rent HughesNet's equipment to the tune of $15 per month, with no option to skip that fee. The only alternative provided is to buy the equipment upfront for $450.

That's a tough pill to swallow. Paying that much right out of the gate is not appealing. But once you consider that HughesNet requires a two-year contract (and canceling early will activate an early termination fee), you may find that upfront cost will save you money if you foresee staying with HughesNet beyond your initial term.

Read our HughesNet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fees: Yes ($13 per month for modem rental, $10 per month for mesh router rental)
Can you skip them? Yes

Mediacom is a midsize cable internet provider, and customers need to pay $13 per month to rent a cable modem from the company. You can skip that fee by using your own modem, but it'll need to be at least a DOCSIS 3.0 model (and Mediacom recommends going with a newer DOCSIS 3.1 model). Here's the full list of approved hardware (PDF).

But wait, there's more! If you need a router, Mediacom will rent you one of those, too. The fee is another $10 per month, and you'll get a two-piece Eero Pro 6 mesh router. Like with the modem, you can skip that fee by using a router of your own, but this rental is actually a pretty decent deal -- the Eero Pro 6 is one of our top-rated mesh routers, and a two-piece setup typically costs well over $200

That means you could rent the Eero Pro 6 from Mediacom for a year and a half and still pay less than you would if you bought it outright. It's a pretty great way to try out a fancy, tri-band mesh router with support for Wi-Fi 6 to see what sort of impact it'll make on your home networking speeds.

Read our Mediacom home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fees: No

Metronet is a 100% fiber-optic internet provider in the Midwest that covers Indiana and 15 other states across the country. Like fellow fiber providers like AT&T and Google Fiber, Metronet doesn't charge customers to use its router. It does charge $10 per month if you want to add WholeHome WiFi (which is its fancy term for a wireless extender), but that is an optional, not required, cost.

Read our Metronet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: No

Optimum offers both hybrid fiber and cable connections and 100% fiber hookups. The company provides customers with its Altice Gateway, which serves as your home's modem and router. Your exact model depends on your specific plan and whether your home's connection uses cable or fiber. 

"Optimum internet customers using service delivered via our HFC network are able to use their own equipment," an Altice spokesperson tells CNET, pointing to a list of approved third-party modems. "Optimum Fiber service is currently only delivered via the Optimum-provided Gateway, which is designed specifically to work with our fiber network."

Read our Optimum home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($10 per month for modem rental, $5 to $15 per month for router rental)
Can you skip it? Modem: no, Router: yes

Rise Broadband is a provider of fixed wireless home internet connections throughout much of the middle of the country, and subscribers will need to pay $10 per month to rent their modem along with the antenna that receives the over-the-air signal. That fee is unavoidable.

Rise also offers to rent customers a router -- specifically, the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh router. The cost is $5 per device, so a single Deco router will add an extra $5 to your monthly bill, a two-piece mesh setup would raise it by $10, and a three-piece setup will cost you $15 per month. 

All of that is skippable if you use your own router. That's what I would recommend -- $10 or $15 per month is a bit much to rent the Deco M4, which is pretty entry-level as far as mesh routers go.

Read our Rise Broadband home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($11 per month for modem)
Can you skip it? Yes

Sparklight charges customers $11 per month for its cable modem. Included in that cost is Sparklight's WiFi One service, which includes up to two wireless extenders. 

If you want to skip the monthly charge, Sparklight requires you to use a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem device. If you choose to go that route to save on the added monthly fee, here's a list of Sparklight recommended modems.

Read our Sparklight home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($599 one-time purchase)
Can you skip it? No

Starlink, Elon Musk's internet service, aims to disrupt the satellite internet category by providing faster speeds and lower latency than offered by rivals HughesNet and Viasat. What Starlink shares with those companies, however, is a stark equipment fee. Instead of an additional monthly charge for your equipment, Starlink requires that you pay for the equipment upfront. That means a payout of $599 for the regular service and a jaw-dropping $2,500 if you choose Starlink Premium. There's no getting around those rates if you want to sign up for Starlink.

Read more about Starlink.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: No

Starry Internet is a fixed wireless internet provider mostly focused on larger cities, including Boston, Denver, Los Angeles and New York City. Starry optimizes its technology for urban areas, and that customized equipment is included in the price. There's no additional charge beyond your monthly rate.

Read our Starry Internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: No

T-Mobile offers 5G home internet service, and you'll need a 5G modem capable of receiving that wireless signal to connect. Fortunately, T-Mobile takes care of that for you with a 5G modem/router gateway provided free of charge. It's a gray cylinder, and it's all you need after subscribing to get online.

That said, if you have a router of your own that you like, you can plug it into T-Mobile's gateway and use it to put out your home's Wi-Fi signal instead. That might be worth doing if you'd like to set up a mesh network in your home, but with fast top speeds and support for Wi-Fi 6, T-Mobile's gateway is probably enough for anyone outside of that.

Read our T-Mobile 5G home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes with DSL plans; no with Fios, 5G Home and LTE
Can you skip it? Yes with DSL; no with LTE

Summing up Verizon's equipment fees is a bit tricky, because the provider offers four different types of plans, each with its own prices and terms. Let's do a quick run-through:

  • Verizon Fios (fiber): There was once an equipment fee of $15 per month for the Fios router, but it is now included in your monthly price.
  • Verizon High-Speed Internet (DSL): Verizon's DSL customers will need to pay a one-time, upfront fee of $50 to use Verizon's router. You can skip that fee by using your own compatible router.
  • Verizon LTE (4G): LTE home internet customers do not have to pay an additional fee for equipment.
  • Verizon 5G Home: If you're eligible for Verizon 5G home internet service at your address, you're in luck -- the equipment comes free of charge.

Read our Verizon home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($13 per month for modem/router)
Can you skip it? No

Viasat is slightly less expensive than rival HughesNet, but its monthly equipment charge is still inescapable. Whereas HughesNet's monthly equipment cost is $15, Viasat charges $13 per month for its modem. You could get a slight discount on that price by choosing to pay for the equipment with a one-time purchase of $299, but there are no significant savings to be had there unless you hold on to your Viasat service beyond the initial two-year contract.

Read our Viasat internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($7 to $10 for modem/router gateway device rental)
Can you skip it? Yes

Kinetic is Windstream's home internet service, and the equipment rental fees vary slightly by region, ranging from $7 to $10 per month. Paying that fee gets you a combination modem-and-router gateway device, but you can skip the fee outright if you use your own modem and router hardware. 

The company has different hardware requirements for different customers based on the specific nature of the connection (some DSL subscribers use ADSL technology, while others use VDSL, for instance). Be sure to ask Windstream for some guidance specific to your home's connection before you make a purchase -- the customer service number is 800-347-1991.

Read our Kinetic by Windstream home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($14 per month for modem rental, $10 per month for mesh router rental)
Can you skip it? Yes

WideOpenWest -- or WOW, as the company enjoys branding itself -- charges customers $14 per month to rent a cable modem, but you can skip that fee by using a WOW-approved modem (PDF) of your own. Separately, customers can pay $10 per month to rent a two-piece Eero mesh router (the regular, non-Wi-Fi 6 version from 2019, to be specific). And yep, you can skip that fee if you already have a router that you're happy with.

Ten dollars per month isn't a bad price to try out a mesh system in your home, but that older version of Eero sells in a two-pack for $199, and you can often find it on sale. If you plan on using that router for longer than a year and a half or so, it's probably better to buy one of your own.

Read our WOW home internet review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Equipment fee: Yes ($10 per month promo price for the router; $20 monthly regular price)
Can you skip it? Yes

Ziply Fiber features an optimized Wi-Fi 6 router for all fiber plans. Its Whole Home Wi-Fi service includes customized Wi-Fi installation and up to three Wi-Fi extenders. 

However, you can also skip that additional monthly fee by using your own router. But, to paraphrase an FAQ on Ziply's website, it recommends you use the Ziply Fiber router "for the best fiber internet experience."

Read our Ziply Fiber review.

 

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