Some Time Warner Cable customers are starting to see a bump in their bills.
The company sent out notices to Triangle customers last month that it would be adding a $3.95 monthly modem fee in November nationwide.
The leasing charge is only for those customers who receive Internet service from Time Warner, not those who are digital phone customers. Cable customers have paid a separate set-top box fee for years. Other Internet providers such as AT&T U-Verse and CenturyLink also charge fees for using their equipment.
In the notice, customers were told they could pay the fee to lease the modem currently in their homes or avoid the fee by buying and installing their own modem. Those who opt to install their own must return Time Warner Cable’s to the company.
Keith Poston, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, said the company has had some complaints but added, “Customers understand there is a cost associated with maintaining and servicing this equipment.”
Tom Lester, a Durham retiree, was one of those irked at the idea of paying extra for a gadget that he thought he had already paid for in his subscription fees.
So Lester wasted no time in buying his own modem. He received his notice from Time Warner on a Friday and the following day mail-ordered a new modem, “just to irritate Time Warner,” he said.
At $79.99, the modem will take almost two years to pay off, but Lester said it’s a good deal.
“I thought it would be here that long and it would pay for itself,” said Lester, a former engineer and business analyst.
Still, as customers like Lester upgrade to more powerful modems, Time Warner may reap financial benefits anyway.
“I’m also thinking of upping the speed on the Internet,” Lester said.
Time Warner Cable has 15.3 million customers nationwide; 10.8 million subscribe to its Internet service. Not all 10.8 million have to pay the modem fee. Exempt are Signature Home customers and those with two-year price-lock guarantees.
Companies such as Best Buy, Walmart and HH Gregg, which sell the required modem brands, have also benefited from the change. Best Buy, for one, has seen them flying off the shelf, according to one sales clerk. The modems, which range from $50 to $150 depending on where you buy them, can also be found on Amazon.
Staff writer Brooke Cain contributed to this report