Buy Your Own (Time Warner) Cable Modem

5:30 pm Internet

A few months ago, my sister complained that her Time Warner Cable Internet Broadband Plan’s monthly charge had increased by $4-5. I asked to see the bill and saw a $3.95 cable modem rental fee, which after checking with her, was a new addition. A quick google revealed that Time Warner Cable had started charging a rental fee for cable modems, which previously were free. (I guess the penny-pinchers finally got control of Time Warner.)

CiscoDPC2100_BackI don’t know why my sister complains about technical stuff like this to me. Oh, wait, it’s because I usually solve the issue for her. Anyhow, I decided to buy a cable modem for my sister so that she could avoid paying that rental fee. I ended up getting a used cable modem compatible with Time Warner for $20 from craigslist. The following contains some information which might be useful if you are also looking to buy a cable modem.

DOCSIS 2.0 vs 3.0

DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) is a term which you will encounter when shopping for cable modems. Simply, DOCSIS is a communication standard for cable modems which allow cable modems from different companies to work with an Internet broadband cable provider’s equipment. There are two versions of DOCSIS, 2.0 and 3.0, which are commonly supported by Internet cable providers. The main difference between DOCSIS 2.0 and 3.0 is the speed which they can handle.

If your Internet service speed is significantly less than 42Mbps downstream and 30Mbps upstream, you should be okay with DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem because those are the maximum throughputs for DOCSIS 2.0. If your Internet service is around that speed or higher, you should invest in a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem.

Because my sister had the Time Warner Basic plan, which is rated for up to 3Mbps and actually tested at 20Mbps (please, don’t let the penny-pinchers at corporate find out), a DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem is more than adequate. (You can easily test your Internet connection speed by browsing to speedtest.net.)

Time Warner’s Compatible Cable Modem Models

Originally, Time Warner recommended five expensive DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems on their Buy Your Personal Internet Modem page. Thankfully, the latest version of that page adds more models, including DOCSIS 2.0 modems, and breaks them into two groups tied to service plans; which are very helpful. Still, my sister’s rented cable modem is a Cisco DPC2100, which isn’t on the official list of recommended modems to buy.

After googling, I found Time Warner’s Lease Your Modem page which lists all the rented modems that Time Warner supported. This list contains three times the number of modems as the previous webpage. In the rented list, I found the Cisco DPC2100 which is a DOCSIS 2.0 modem.

The point is that if I buy a modem in this rented list, it must be acceptable to Time Warner because they rent the same out to their current customers. This is good because more options mean a greater supply which leads to lower prices when purchasing.

Shop for Cable Modems on Craigslist

When looking for cable modems on craigslist, it pays to do your research. I found that in the majority of instances, the cable modems on craigslist were overpriced. In some cases, new modems on craigslist (without the warranty) were sold at the same price or more than brand new modems that I found on Amazon and other reputable sites. Craigslist sellers were not reducing the price to account for the risk (lack of warranty, no returns, etc.) that buyers had. So if you are looking for a new cable modem, it pays to check stores (online and offline) in addition to craigslist.

If a used cable modem is acceptable, you will want to check craigslist for deals. (Also, if you don’t mind, look for online and offline deals concerning manufacturer-refurbished cable modems, which are almost as good as new and come with warranty.) As a general rule, I would target around $20 for a used DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem and around $40 for a used DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. If you don’t have the fastest broadband plan, you don’t need to get an expensive cable modem with extra features that you won’t be able to take advantage of.

I ended up getting my sister a Scientific Atlanta DPC2100 version 2 cable modem for $20. This is basically a newer version of the Cisco DPC2100 (Cisco purchased Scientific Atlanta) that my sister was currently renting from Time Warner. At $20, it will take five months of not paying the $3.99 rental charge before we break even; after which, the saving begins. Because I paid for the cable modem, my sister enjoyed the savings immediately. (Again, this is why she complains to me about this stuff.)

Install Your New Cable Modem

Installing your newly-purchased cable modem is very simple. Here is Time Warner’s FAQ on what you need to do to install a purchased cable modem.

Basically, you will want to know your cable modem’s model (some service agents will ask for the model, others won’t) and the MAC address. Along with the model, the MAC address should be printed on a label on your cable modem. The MAC address will look like 00B0D086BBF7. Once you have these two tidbits of info, you can call Time Warner at 800-892-2253. The Time Warner agent will ask you to hook up the new cable modem (if you haven’t already done so) and update your service with the new MAC address. Within a minute or two of the agent activating your new modem, your Internet access should be re-established.

Don’t forget to return your rented cable modem to the nearest Time Warner store. Anyone can return it. The agent at the store won’t ask for anything (like account number) and will provide a receipt. Depending on where you are in your billing cycle, you may see that rental charge one more time before it goes away.

Save money on your Time Warner monthly bill by buying a used cable modem. It’s a breeze to setup.

7 Responses
  1. Lew :

    Date: February 27, 2013 @ 6:51 am

    Thanks for the information! Comcast rents their modems as well. Your procedure works well for them, too.

  2. fred :

    Date: April 6, 2013 @ 2:33 am

    How difficult or easy is this process? Right now I’m leasing a Cisco 2100 and want to buy my own and save the $4 per month (rip-off) charge.

    When I call Time Warner Cable to have them connect my purchased Cisco 2100. Do I tell them it’s a Cisco modem, or say it’s one of the modems on their approved list, such as Motorola?
    Any help would be appreciated. BTW Great article.

  3. Chanh :

    Date: April 6, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    Hi Fred,

    If they ask, just tell them the specifics, that the manufacturer is Cisco and the model is 2100. That is a supported modem that they themselves rent out, so it shouldn’t be a problem. The Time Warner rep will then update the system and most likely ask you to unplug and replug in your modem.

    Cheers.

  4. Geo :

    Date: November 18, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

    My used modem was a dpc2100 and nothing on it about “DOCSIS 2.0. The rented modem is dpc2100R2 and DOCSIS 2.0 clearly labled. The tech sounded skeptical about whether it would work so I bailed out and I will contact the seller.

    Word to the wise, make sure your used replacement is labled DOCSIS 2.0 if that is what your rented modem label says.

  5. Leo :

    Date: January 30, 2016 @ 1:31 am

    Wow, I don’t know wh at part of the country you are but TWC charges us in California, 10 dollars a month rental fee for the sb1200, cisco router. let me know if you come across another source for good used modems, besides amazon.

  6. Chanh :

    Date: February 9, 2016 @ 11:49 pm

    Hi Leo,

    I found a great price for refurbished Cisco DPC3010 cable modems on rakuten.com for $20 or less. These are DOCSIS 3.0 modems which I think most of the cable companies support. I was a bit worry about buying reconditioned/refurbished units, but I’ve purchased one DPC3010 (sold specificially by State Street Deals) and it has been working fine for almost half a year.

    Regards, Chanh

  7. Paul M :

    Date: April 7, 2016 @ 5:20 am

    Go to ebay. You will find a lot of cheap, used DOCSIS 2.0 Cisco DPC2100 cable modems for sale. Bought one for $8.75 w/ free shipping.

    TWC now charges a modem lease fee of $10 a month starting January 2016.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know TWC started charging a monthly modem fee until just now when a friend complained about the recent hike. I’m like, “what modem lease fee!?” *red faced*

    I started using high-speed earthlink internet service way back in 2004. They use TWC’s hardware and cable lines. Using autopay the whole time, I just chucked whatever mail I got from TWC straight into the trash. I treated it like junk mail… big mistake.

    I wonder how many other long time earthlink autopay customers do the same, and have no clue there’s this perpetually rising TWC modem lease fee.

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