Why is Comcast's 'free' Flex streaming box actually $13 per month?

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Last month, Comcast began offering its internet-only customers a streaming TV box for free. The problem is, to get the device, called Flex, customers must rent the provider's xFi Gateway modem/router combo, which runs $13 per month. Those who have their own networking solutions have to give those up and use Comcast’s hardware to get the box.

At the time of the announcement, a Comcast spokesperson said that the modem rental requirement would be eliminated “in the coming weeks,” which is rather vague wording. Now over a month later, nothing has changed. As The Verge notes, the equipment stipulation is heavily emphasized on the Flex checkout page.

What’s worse is that there is no mention of this condition in the company’s FAQ regarding Flex service. The only place that it is actually mentioned prior to attempting to sign up is in tiny print at the bottom of the sales page. Don't bother getting your magnifying glass. Here is what it says:

"Restrictions apply. Requires a post-pay subscription to Xfinity Internet (25 Mbps or above) service and compatible xFi Gateway and Xfinity Flex device. 1 device included at no extra charge [emphasis mine]."

Of course, it really comes as no surprise since Comcast is well known for charging hidden (or quietly disclosed) fees and increasing them regularly.

Comcast is not alone in doing this. Technicians and representatives from virtually every other provider will try to convince customers that company-provided (at a cost) hardware is necessary. Of course, they usually back down when confronted by someone with a modicum of IT knowledge.

However, many subscribers believe what they are told and pay the $156 per year in equipment fees. At that rate, a store-bought modem/router will pay for itself in the first year or two.

When contacted again about the equipment required, a spokesperson would only say that the ability to use a non-Comcast router was “coming imminently.” Yet again, intentionally vague wording that could mean from now until never.

It originally launched with a $5 attached fee and had very limited viewing options. So it is clear that that didn’t fly. The only option left is to offer it for “free,” with conditions, of course.

It is no wonder that Comcast is trying to foist its box on uninformed customers, though. Most Smart TVs now have built-in apps, including Roku, making Flex a virtually worthless option for streaming.

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p51d007

TS Evangelist
Typical...cable companies "know" their customers aren't really up on things and convince them they "need" their hardware. I'm not with comcast, but I've been on a cable tv/internet for years and have NEVER used their equipment.
 

Cowboys2000

TS Rookie
Be careful of streaming on Comcast.

They know people will use their Internet and get content from other sources (netflix, Hulu, firestick, etc.) But here is where they get you:

1. While 1 TB seeems like a lot of data, if you have video doorbells, cameras, smart thermostats, you can use more data than you think.
2. Even if you use the Comcast Streaming App on a compatible smart Tv (Samsung in my case), any on demand, local tv or premium channel viewing counts against your data cap.
3. Even with the My Account or XFi apps, how do you really know your usage is accurate?
It's 10/23/19 and my September Usage still does not show.

In all honesty, you are better off buying your own streaming device
 

Impudicus

TS Addict
Because of things like this I just couldn't wait to get away from Comcast. Today is officially my 3rd day w/ a new internet provider and I couldn't be happier.
 
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Cowboys2000

TS Rookie
Because of things like this I just couldn't wait to get away from Comcast. Today is officially my 3rd day w/ a new internet provider and I couldn't be happier.

Well, in my neighborhood my choices are ATT Uverse (DSL) or Comcast. No ATT Fiber or other options. I am sure when/if there is a faster option, Comcast will attempt to appear competitive!