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

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,040   +817
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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Posts: 2,768   +2,085
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.

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,049   +6,816
Comcast ..... the embodiment of "rip off" and poor service ..... glad they aren't in my area!
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
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!


Posts: 28   +17
Well here's a fresh 2020 look at it.

Comcast offered a Flex box to me for free, after I checked and believe it or not, they want you to pay $5/mo to use your own roku player with their stream app, once its out of beta. You approve that right after installing the app, if you read the fine print.

Next, it took Comcast 4 days to get it to work on my account. Their chat and twitter support said they couldn't figure it out. I called and a guy on the phone said the work order hadn't been completed, so he did so and it worked. A sign of things to come...note that the stream app worked fine on my phone and computer, just not the roku or flex boxes.

Flex offers an interesting aggregation of SOME streaming sites, like Netflix and Movies Anywhere. However, half my movies are on vudu and don't support movies anywhere. No vudu support. No Hulu, no Disney+. And if you want your HBO and Starz (etc) subs to work on the Flex, you have to buy them from Comcast. I already have a deal on HBO and Starz for far less money.

Remote control seemed slow, like a second or two delay on everything.

I ended up returning it after 3 days, fortunately that is also free. Doesn't work with enough of my services to be of interest, Comcast pelted me with daily, more than once a day pieces of spam on "How to use your new flex box!". And you can't turn that off. Its a "Service Message", so you get those and if you mark them as spam, you won't get any other account related emails.

Basically this is an attempt by Comcast to become the front door and selling you more Comcast stuff. At every turn you're pushed towards getting an X1 cable box. You can't use direct subs with premiums. And competitors seem to not have apps. How do you launch a streaming box without hulu?

Also for some inexplicable reason, the "comcast streaming dvr" can only record two shows at a time. Every day except Saturday, I have up to four things recording to my tivo at the same time.

When you delve into using Comcast for streaming tv, it won't be long until you start running into equipment fees, broadcast fees, dvr fees and so forth. They just aren't going to let the high profit cable model go. Further, again for no good reason, even streaming Comcast hosted content through a Flex box uses data towards your comcast data cap.

So the Flex was a big fat "NO" for me.
I noticed that streaming Netflix via my x1 dvr counts against my data cap.

So does using the Comcast Stream app or Samsung TV app while at home.