ISPs continue to charge unfair router rental fees, potentially breaking US laws

vannvicente

Posts: 12   +0
Why it matters: Despite a US law preventing internet service providers from charging customers who own modems and routers with equipment rental fees, an FCC filing from Consumer Reports suggests that many ISPs continue to break the rules. The nonprofit recently surveyed over 350 members, many of whom allege that they've been forced to pay unnecessary rental charges.

When the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 was signed into law, it included a clause that prevented internet service providers from forcing customers to pay rental fees. Subscribers who already owned modems and routers, which fall into the "covered equipment" category, could opt out of using rented network devices.

Before the law, most ISPs had contracts that forced hardware rentals on their customers, so this was a welcome change. As Consumer Reports stated, "these measures were necessary to address business practices that were frustrating and harmful to consumers."

However, a recently published Consumer Reports FCC filing suggests that many ISPs continue to violate the law surrounding covered equipment. While some consumers could use their own equipment, others were repeatedly blocked from waiver requests and charged for equipment they didn't need.

For example, multiple AT&T customers have complained about the exorbitant monthly equipment fees. In Austin, Texas, one consumer reported that AT&T blocked them from using their own hardware for "security reasons," even though their network devices used the same security protocols as the provider's equipment.

Another AT&T subscriber in Menasha, Wisconsin, reported being forced to rent out a Wi-Fi router from the internet provider, despite having bought a new high-speed router just a few months before. When they asked about opting out of the router, AT&T representatives allegedly told them that "having the equipment was mandatory."

The rental equipment debacle has been a longstanding point of contention between ISPs and their customers. An Ars Technica report from 2019 details the struggles of a Frontier customer attempting to get their router fee waived.

Consumer Reports made this filing in response to a call from the FCC, where they asked the public for "the extent to which (if at all) subject entities continue to assess charges for equipment that are expressly prohibited by the statute."

Whether or not the FCC will take action against the violating service providers remains to be seen.

Image credit: Router by Stephen Phillips, AT&T by Brendan Stephens

Permalink to story.

 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 6,308   +7,247
I don't necessarily have a problem renting the router from Verizon FIOS so long as
#1 I agree on the monthly fee
#2 they UPGRADE IT each time newer technology comes to market.

Over 10 years I've head 4 routers.

Since I am bundled: internet/TV/phone - and the total price is what I consider to be fair, it's OK to me.

But by all means: if you guys want to do a class action lawsuit that nets me a refund - I'm with you!
 

DukeJukem

Posts: 292   +316
All of these ISPs are trash honestly. Charging outrageous modem rental fees, charging you extra for wifi that already comes from the internet you already pay them for.....lol, data caps that exist for fairy tale reasons and providing users with basically 0 upstream bandwidth compared to their download bandwidth to prevent users from starting their own companies in their own homes. It needs to stop...yesterday.
 

Paul Deemer

Posts: 25   +19
The more Publicity this gets for AT&T the sooner it will stop. Remember the UPROAR and OUTRAGE that happened when people found out AT&T was the primary funder for (One America News)? OAN go tossed to the curb! Soon as the Tech news sites spread this around and AT&T knows they are being investigated the router fees will quickly get tossed as well. But they should be forced to reimburse their customers for every month they were charged after the law passed.
 

Vanderlinde

Posts: 148   +102
All of these ISPs are trash honestly. Charging outrageous modem rental fees, charging you extra for wifi that already comes from the internet you already pay them for.....lol, data caps that exist for fairy tale reasons and providing users with basically 0 upstream bandwidth compared to their download bandwidth to prevent users from starting their own companies in their own homes. It needs to stop...yesterday.

Before you make any rants about ISP's and their upstream (limit), you know that ISP's have to pay if there's quite some upload volume going on right?

Second; ive never seen a ISP that allows you to perform business such as a webserver for commercial reasons on a single household connection. Apart from not being solid or reliable for that purpose at all (I have 15 of my own servers hanging in a DC) They refer to going for a business subscription and not a stand alone for that.

Third; it's just a way of making money. Pricing is under pressure, the former model of people making phonecalls or writing a text message now is replaced to people calling over internet these days. R&D or "investments" have to be made back.

If you dont like it dont choose that ISP. I mean they are straightforward with their pricing are'nt they? I have a 1000/100mbit connection from where I am at, for only 60 euro a month. I can do anything with it I want.
 

Freddie159

Posts: 107   +72
The more Publicity this gets for AT&T the sooner it will stop. Remember the UPROAR and OUTRAGE that happened when people found out AT&T was the primary funder for (One America News)? OAN go tossed to the curb! Soon as the Tech news sites spread this around and AT&T knows they are being investigated the router fees will quickly get tossed as well. But they should be forced to reimburse their customers for every month they were charged after the law passed.

They should be forced to pay back double what they charged the customers to prevent them from doing it again and again and again.
 

Freddie159

Posts: 107   +72
Before you make any rants about ISP's and their upstream (limit), you know that ISP's have to pay if there's quite some upload volume going on right?

Second; ive never seen a ISP that allows you to perform business such as a webserver for commercial reasons on a single household connection. Apart from not being solid or reliable for that purpose at all (I have 15 of my own servers hanging in a DC) They refer to going for a business subscription and not a stand alone for that.

Third; it's just a way of making money. Pricing is under pressure, the former model of people making phonecalls or writing a text message now is replaced to people calling over internet these days. R&D or "investments" have to be made back.

If you dont like it dont choose that ISP. I mean they are straightforward with their pricing are'nt they? I have a 1000/100mbit connection from where I am at, for only 60 euro a month. I can do anything with it I want.

And I have a 400/200mbyte connection with 17+ pc's and numerous handhelds etc at my home all for my personal use, no I am NOT running a business. Yes I pay for the upgrade to the 400MB connection to handle all the data flow. BUT I also bring my own wifi modem so will not be wanting to be charged for any hardware that my ISP wants to give me, I just want the data to flow thru the fibre optic cable into my home then my own router can handle it from there.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,216   +4,268
It's economics. Everyone is subsidising suburbia. ISPs are just fighting against doing so.
Sorry but that's so reductive as to be practically useless.

"Everybody is subsidizing suburbia so we just shouldn't do that and that's great!"

Ok but how do you move hundreds of millions of people back into the cities? You think most people stuck in suburban towns would turn down city centers? Or is it perhaps the fact that moving to a city would cost people 10x more money in rent and you can forget about owning a house or apartment even if you already own a suburbian house it's value is not even enough for a down payment at big cities

And what about your families and extended families? Maybe you and your spouse just happen to be well off professionals each making 6 figures per year so you actually could move, do you just leave the rest of your families behind? You think suburbs have it bad sometimes now? Wait until people move en-mass to cities and see them become just sprawling ghettos devoid of work places, recreation and sometimes even fresh food if you can't drive 30 miles to the nearest walmart for that they call "fresh" food

We know this would happen because well, this already happens and just deciding "We gotta just move all people back into cities" without a comprehensive plan to address, prevent and even reverse gentrification would basically be a speedrun of creating a cyberpunk novel in reality: immense warzones with the billionaires living inside massive skyscrappers and the rest of the 99% of the population having really cool tech and really fast internet but no jobs, no food, no homes, no medicine, etc.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,932   +7,898
I think the real problem here is there is no legal requirement for the supplier to provide the most up to date equipment OR lowering the charge for those using "old / outdated" equipment. There are a measurable amount of clients that simply don't need the latest and greatest and should not be charged the cutting edge price ....
 

trieste1s

Posts: 71   +101
TechSpot Elite
Sorry but that's so reductive as to be practically useless.

"Everybody is subsidizing suburbia so we just shouldn't do that and that's great!"

Ok but how do you move hundreds of millions of people back into the cities? You think most people stuck in suburban towns would turn down city centers? Or is it perhaps the fact that moving to a city would cost people 10x more money in rent and you can forget about owning a house or apartment even if you already own a suburbian house it's value is not even enough for a down payment at big cities

And what about your families and extended families? Maybe you and your spouse just happen to be well off professionals each making 6 figures per year so you actually could move, do you just leave the rest of your families behind? You think suburbs have it bad sometimes now? Wait until people move en-mass to cities and see them become just sprawling ghettos devoid of work places, recreation and sometimes even fresh food if you can't drive 30 miles to the nearest walmart for that they call "fresh" food

We know this would happen because well, this already happens and just deciding "We gotta just move all people back into cities" without a comprehensive plan to address, prevent and even reverse gentrification would basically be a speedrun of creating a cyberpunk novel in reality: immense warzones with the billionaires living inside massive skyscrappers and the rest of the 99% of the population having really cool tech and really fast internet but no jobs, no food, no homes, no medicine, etc.
Then bear with the ISPs' charges.

"Eat cake, still have cake" doesn't work in reality, unfortunately. Someone has to pay for low-density suburban sprawl, and of course it's the people staying in suburban sprawl who should be paying out of their own pockets.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,216   +4,268
Then bear with the ISPs' charges.

"Eat cake, still have cake" doesn't work in reality, unfortunately. Someone has to pay for low-density suburban sprawl.

For what, exactly?

Do you just want ISPs to become rich while they continue to give terrible service? Because they're certainly not improving service on this areas and were already given truckloads to improve their infrastructure and never did.

No the issue here is that we can clearly see that when telecommunication services that depend on infrastructure are NOT run for profit as it is the case for places with municipal run services, literally everyone is better off except for the few billionaires that profit of providing the worst possible service while breaking as many rules for the service they're supposed to provide as they can get away with.
 

George Keech

Posts: 217   +387
Its so weird I'm not saying the in the UK things are loads better but the idea of even having to pay for a router is just odd. Most ISPs give you a free one every 2-4 years.
 
This is similar to the cycle of life with landline telephones. The phone companies originally made you use their phones because they were the only phones that would work on their lines. Eventually, they caved. When the answering machine came out, they did the same thing. They claimed that other equipment either wouldn't work on their lines or would damage their lines. Again, eventually, they caved. Then, caller I.D. came out. It happened again. Use our equipment at ridiculously high prices. Why, nothing else will work on our system. Same as usual, eventually, they caved. This too will pass but it will obviously take a lot longer and much more convincing. Now that so many people have bundled packages and auto-pay, many people don't even realize that they're paying extra. In the past, bills were paid manually so we noticed every cent we were charged and questioned anything over the norm. Now, we pay automatically and many people just don't notice. Those that do, really do believe that they don't have a choice.
 

SixTymes

Posts: 185   +123
Every 5-10 years this same story gets regurgitated and nothing changes. comcast, att etc. rarely give a crap about consumers.
 

dirtyferret

Posts: 771   +1,061
letting municipalities take over the infrastructure these operator built with tax payer dollars

I worked on the content side of the cable industry for years, back when netflix was DVD only and blockbuster was still a thing. The entire cable/isp is a complete monopoly, most people would say "duh", but what most people don't understand is how their money and local governments helped build this monopoly.

Just two of many examples;
So in many municipalities you can't add wire to a telephone pole without everyone else using that pole signing off saying it won't interfere with their service, a local law cable companies helped get. This is the equivalent of saying in order to put up your fast food franchise on the street, you need McDonald to sign off on the property rental because they have a place close by. I'm sure they will say yes/s.

I lived in a state (down south) that had small municipalities that the larger cable companies had no interest in serving. These municipalities would hire a second party to deliver cable (phone, tv, internet) to their community as a service. So if you lived in east bumble land, you would have east bumble land cable. Well the municipality service would often be $10-20 cheaper than the large cable creating angry customers. So what did this large cable company do? They went to the state legislature and had them pass a law raising the cost of those cheaper municipalities stating it was non-competitive pricing practice even though they had zero desire to ever offer service there.
 

Ben Myers

Posts: 199   +80
Before you make any rants about ISP's and their upstream (limit), you know that ISP's have to pay if there's quite some upload volume going on right?

Second; ive never seen a ISP that allows you to perform business such as a webserver for commercial reasons on a single household connection. Apart from not being solid or reliable for that purpose at all (I have 15 of my own servers hanging in a DC) They refer to going for a business subscription and not a stand alone for that.

Third; it's just a way of making money. Pricing is under pressure, the former model of people making phonecalls or writing a text message now is replaced to people calling over internet these days. R&D or "investments" have to be made back.

If you dont like it dont choose that ISP. I mean they are straightforward with their pricing are'nt they? I have a 1000/100mbit connection from where I am at, for only 60 euro a month. I can do anything with it I want.

"If you don't like it, don't choose that ISP." Sounds great to me, but tell me how to choose another ISP when Spectrum has a 100% monopoly in my town. And Comcast in the next town over. And so on. ISP's have local monopolies on a town by town basis, legitimized by the FCC and state toothless regulatory bodies.
 

hk2000

Posts: 177   +102
It's simple! If you have another option, you're all set, if not you're SOL!
Eversince I moved to an area where FIOS is available, Comcast has been very easy to deal with.
 

Ben Myers

Posts: 199   +80
It's simple! If you have another option, you're all set, if not you're SOL!
Eversince I moved to an area where FIOS is available, Comcast has been very easy to deal with.
Consider yourself extremely lucky to have the choice of two ISPs, Comcast and FIOS. You are part of a very small minority. Verizon stopped its FIOS rollout when it encountered actual competition from other ISPs, and, instead, plowed billions into its slug-slow 5G rollout. The rest of us are SOL, and it is not so simple for us, is it? I am not about to move to an area that gives me the choice of ISPs, definitely the horse before the cart.
 

George Keech

Posts: 217   +387
Free? You mean built into the monthly fee charged by an ISP.
Surely that depends on what you call a deal doesn't it? Put it this way there is no rental agreement or anything like that involved. it is paid for by them and is worded as such on the paperwork and unless you change providers mid contract you can keep it - I have bloody loads of old Routers
 
Before you make any rants about ISP's and their upstream (limit), you know that ISP's have to pay if there's quite some upload volume going on right?

Second; ive never seen a ISP that allows you to perform business such as a webserver for commercial reasons on a single household connection. Apart from not being solid or reliable for that purpose at all (I have 15 of my own servers hanging in a DC) They refer to going for a business subscription and not a stand alone for that.

Third; it's just a way of making money. Pricing is under pressure, the former model of people making phonecalls or writing a text message now is replaced to people calling over internet these days. R&D or "investments" have to be made back.

If you dont like it dont choose that ISP. I mean they are straightforward with their pricing are'nt they? I have a 1000/100mbit connection from where I am at, for only 60 euro a month. I can do anything with it I want.

Well lucky you. Short of having a dedicated fiber run to my house ($1000 install, plus any surveying and trenching fees, and city permits, then $200/month), there are literally **ZERO** options, consumer or business, that provide more than 35mbps upload.

You do realize this discussion is about broadband in the US, right? Something you evidently have little experience with?
 

Ben Myers

Posts: 199   +80
Surely that depends on what you call a deal doesn't it? Put it this way there is no rental agreement or anything like that involved. it is paid for by them and is worded as such on the paperwork and unless you change providers mid contract you can keep it - I have bloody loads of old Routers
And well you should have bloody loads of old routers, at least one for each of the ever evolving wifi standards. I have my own 802.11ax router (very nice) installed, and a whole bunch that went to the e-cycler, going back to the days when there was no wifi but there was broadband internet that needed a router.

When an ISP "includes" a cable modem and possibly a router in its basic internet charges, this merely adds to the profit margin of the ISP, because its cable modem and usually trailing edge router are dirt cheap when bought in high volume, and easily turning a profit for the ISP within a year.