How to replace a Comcast Triple modem, WiFi router and cable box
Looking for a way to ditch the monthly rental fees from a Comcast Triple Play modem, router or cable box?
You don’t need to be a cord cutter to save a heap of money on your monthly home entertainment costs.
In this guide, I’m going to recommend how to shed some of your cable equipment fees. Overall, cable fees can make up to 40 percent of your monthly bill, according to a recent Congressional investigation.
So knocking a few of those fees off your monthly Comcast bill can quickly add up to significant cash.
Whether you’re renting a Comcast Triple Play modem, or just a regular one along with a router, the rental fees are going to add up. Once you replace this rented equipment with hardware that you actually own, you may even find that you get faster Internet speeds. Buying a cable box with DVR capabilities can also give you more control over your content.
Nearly all cable companies like Comcast are notorious for ever-increasing fees they impose upon customers.
In some cases, cable modems and routers that you rent from a local cable company are not the best performing ones out there.
In New York, for example, the state Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in February against Spectrum (Time Warner Cable) for allegedly failing to replace a large number of deficient modems and wireless routers. Subscribers paid up to $10 per month to rent each piece of equipment, but got speeds up to 80 percent slower than what was advertised, according to the lawsuit.
Do I have to pay all cable fees?
The last thing your cable company wants you to do is stop renting equipment. They don’t want you to think about it at all, really. A profitable hunk of their business model relies on it.
My goal here is simple.
I want you to think about how you can save money without losing the cable channels and Internet service you depend on. There’s better equipment out there than what they rent to you. There are better cable modems, routers and even DVR options. That’s true even if you have a more complicated setup that requires a Comcast Triple Play modem.
I have already shared my battle-tested methods on lowering your Internet bill in Cord Cutting 2017: the definitive guide. Even if you plan to keep cable in the long run, there are some good tips to help you negotiate with customer service reps.
I should warn you of one thing before reading any further.
Saving money can be addictive. Once you start, there’s a good chance that you will keep going. It can become a bit of a game where the rewards are simple. You keep more of your money. It’s like getting an automatic raise.
Check out this poor guy who says he is paying $16.95 per month for “HD DVR” from Comcast. He’s also paying $7 per month to rent a modem.
Annually, that’s $203.40 for the pleasure to use a DVR system you have no choice or control over. And with the modem, it’s the same story.
You have no say over the upload or download capabilities of your modem, but you’re paying $84 a year to use it. Over three years, that modem will cost $252.
Companies like Comcast, Charter and RCN annually collect the equivalent of a small mint by renting equipment to customers. It’s time for you to change that.
How to avoid cable fees
In 2017, Comcast raised their controversial “Broadcast TV” and “Sports” fees by $48 per year.
What are these fees exactly?
They are part of the larger profit scheme developed by cable companies to meet their profit goals. Some fees can be removed from your bill just by you calling up and asking.
That little known fact came to light during a 2016 Congressional investigation led by the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The investigation resulted in a 61-page report Inside the Box Customer Service and Billing Practices in the Cable and Satellite Industry that customer service agents received financial incentives to sell you more services and maintaining control over you when you call.
Here’s an excerpt from that report.
Equipment and Equipment Service Fees
Cable and satellite companies levied recurring monthly rental charges for set-top boxes, digital converters, access to HD channels, DVRs, and adapters, among other types of equipment required for service.
To access HD channels and DVR functions, some cable and satellite providers charged service fees in addition to both the HD and/or DVR compatible receiver. All cable and satellite providers reviewed by the subcommittee charged DVR service fees.
Additionally, Dish, Comcast, and DirecTV charged an HD fee, which averaged around $10.79 For some providers the HD fee, which is disconnected from the cost of providing HD programming, was often only charged to customers who did not ask to have the fee removed. Dish agents are trained to immediately waive the HD fee for customers who complain about it.
Your cable bill, and the fees associated with it, will not go down in the foreseeable future. They will only go up. Currently, you will pay about $8 to $10 per month for renting a Comcast cable modem. Overall fees can make up about 40 percent of your cable bill, according to the report.
The NPD Group, a leading market research company, expects the average cable bill to reach $200 per year by 2020.
Comcast modem and router specs
Before you do anything, I need you to get out of your seat.
Go take a quick look at your current modem and do a Google search of the model number. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess you don’t have the newest of equipment unless you just had it installed. If your modem is more than a couple of years old and doesn’t support DOCSIS. 3.0, then it’s time for an upgrade.
You actually pay a monthly service fee on your equipment. But does your cable company ever call or email you to check on the age or performance of your equipment?
No matter what you buy for a cable modem, you should get one that supports DOCSIS 3.0 (Data Over Cable Service). Most cable companies including Comcast, or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now require a DOCSIS 3.0 modem.
DOCSIS 3.0 modems generally support at least 8 channels for downstreams and four channels for upstreams.
Downstreams will be the most important element to you in terms of HD streaming.
There are a few ways to go about replacing your Comcast or Xfinity cable modem. You could buy a combination modem and router unit. You can also buy a modem and router separately. I prefer to have a separate modem and WiFi router. If you’re renting a Comcast Triple Play modem, you’re going to need a specific kind of modem, or modem-router combo that supports a phone line. I will cover that in more detail below.
Best cable modem for Comcast, Spectrum in 2017
The Arris SURFboard SB6190 is capable of up to 1.4 Gbps download speeds and 262 Mbps upload speed. This is a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with 32 download channels. Those are the very channels that are delivering Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime into your home.
With 32 channels, you have enough of a data highway – so to speak – to handle both traffic jams and a faster service if you ever upgrade your service plan.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly choice, then buy the TP-Link TC-7620 cable modem. It has download speeds of up to 686Mbps with 16 download channels and 8 upload channels. It’s important to note that the SB6190 and TP-Link are not intended to use as replacement to a Comcast Triple Play modem.
You can read my review of the best cable modems, including a top pick for streaming on multiple devices.
These two picks also work for Spectrum, Suddenlink, Mediacom and WOW Internet subscriptions.
Best Comcast router for 2017
If you decide to buy a modem and router as separate units, then I recommend Netgear R6400. I’ve been using one for months and it’s easily the best WiFi router on the market for its price point.
It’s a fast, dual-band AC1750 router. It will expand the range of your WiFi signal into once dark areas of your home. Features like Beamforming technology and VPN server are the same as ones seen on more expensive WiFi routers. I mentioned earlier that I prefer to buy a separate modem and router.
If one of my units suddenly breaks, I can easily switch it out for a new one. With a combination modem and router unit, if one side fails then the whole unit is basically trash.
There’s another reason too that’s important to consider.
A variety of feature-rich WiFi routers are on the market. Some emphasize features like Beamforming technology, which can help enhance HD streaming. Others like ASUS RT-AC88U is a far superior router for high-end gaming, 4K streaming and smart homes. That’s because of its NitroQAM technology that ensures low latency online gaming while guarding against lag for others streaming content. I encourage you to read my review on the Best Router for Streaming on Multiple Devices for further breakdown of WiFi routers worth considering.
Best Xfinity, Comcast Triple Play modem in 2017
If you are a Comcast subscriber that bundles your phone service, you will need a cable modem with a phone port.
This modem-router combo is made specifically for Xfinity Comcast Triple Play service. It has two voice lines and operates on 802.11n bandwidth. It’s capable of 320 Mbps download speeds and upload speeds of 120Mbps. (Those speeds can differ depending on your service plan.) This model of Surfboard supports both IPv4 and IPv6.
Some people will get the Triple Play bundle because to land a better overall deal on their cable. They won’t even use the landline. They just want the lower price on cable. There’s a problem with that.
Even if you don’t use Comcast’s phone service, you likely won’t be allowed to use a modem without telephone capabilities. And, your monthly rate will go up once the deal is over. So you may want to reconsider getting Triple Play plan as a way to save, and buy individual modem and router as a way to cut down your bill. Be sure to ask about rental fees when you are being quoted a monthly price. Customer service reps frequently do not include your monthly rental fees while quoting you a monthly subscription rate.
Don’t buy a cable modem if you are using fiber, DSL or if you are also using your cable provider for telephone service. DSL and fiber use different kinds of connectors than what you’ll find on a cable modem.
Best combination router and modem for Comcast, Xfinity
If you prefer to have a combo router and modem, then get the Netgear Nighthawk (C7000).
The C7000 is a dual-band AC1900 modem. With up to 960Mbps download speed, the Netgear C7000 has a maximum WiFi speed of 1.9 Gbps, and a 1.6GHz processor.
This router is ideal for HD streaming and gaming. Armed with Beamingforming+ technology, this router can manipulates the WiFi signal so that it’s optimized and directed to a particular device. The result is a stronger, faster signal that has a longer range. You get WiFi coverage in areas that were once dead spots.
The C7000 also operates with the Netgear Genie. That will allow you to print from an iPhone or iPad.
If you want all the features of the C7000, and use Xfinity Internet and Voice services, then get Netgear Nighthawk (C7100V). You will get all of the same features as the C7000 with voice capability.
Telephone features include 3-way conference calling, caller ID and call forwarding.
How to replace your Comcast cable box, DVR
Even if you’ve already replaced your Comcast Triple Play modem or WiFi router, there’s ways to cut down your bill even lower. First, check to see if your cable provider has an app that can replace your cable box.
Just by switching to an app and turning in your cable box could save you up to $10 a month. If you’re a Comcast customer, you can try a beta version of the Xfinity TV app for Roku. The app works on all Roku models.
XFINITY TV app has some limitations
Not everyone is happy with how Comcast’s XFINITY TV app because of its limitations. You can’t view your entire channel lineup when you are away from home.
When the app was first released, it was billed as an alternative to a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to open up the set-top-box market. Since then, things have changed with the XFINITY TV app… and at the FCC.
But if you’re already a Comcast customer, you should test out the app. See if it gives you enough of what you want before you turn in your cable box.
HDHomeRun Prime, an alternative to a Comcast cable box
If you want to replace your rented cable box and keep DVR capabilities, then HDHomeRun Prime is worth a look.
You can also watch all your recorded shows while you’re outside of your home through Plex DVR. When you rent a cable box from a company like Xfinity/Comcast or Charter, you’re living in a much more limited world. And you’re paying more to do so.
I’ll give you a quick example of what I’m talking about.
Let’s say you’re a big Red Sox fan, but the baseball game you want to catch against the Yankees is happening while you’re away on a business trip. Sure, you can DVR the game, and hope that you don’t spot the score while cruising across the web on your smartphone. Your XFINITY TV app might let you watch the game.
It might not.
The HDHomeRun Prime takes that possibility out of the equation. That’s because you can control what you watch at home or away.
Using Plex as a DVR with HDHomeRun Prime
There’s two caveats here you should be aware of.
One is that you will still need to rent a CableCARD from Comcast, and call them to register your HDHomeRun tuner. Some people have reported that cable techs aren’t as savvy as they should be with getting their cable provider with implementing the CableCard with your new tuner.
Don’t be discouraged by this. Comcast and other cable providers are legally required to play along with your use of a CableCARD because of a federal law. So consider taking advantage of it.
The other caveat is that you will need to decide how you want to store your recorded content.
You can use a computer in your home that has adequate hard drive space. But that will require you to leave the computer on so you can record shows. An external hard drive or NAS will likely be a better option.
SiliconDust, the makers of HDHomeRun, consider four NAS manufacturers as “partners” that work best with their tuners. They are Western Digital, Synology, QNAP and Asustor.
Before you begin shopping for a NAS, you should be aware that some NAS devices are diskless. You have to buy the hard drives separately. That isn’t the case with all of them.
You will also need to subscribe to the Plex DVR service if you want to watch your content anywhere.
This requires some investment. So you’re going to have to decide what you would be willing to spend in order to forever escape cable fees for your equipment.
Take a moment to pull up your cable bill, and look under fees. Take the total you pay each month for your cable box, and for DVR service. Then look to see if there’s some fee for “HD” programming. Total all those numbers of multiply by 12. That’s what you’re paying every year for a limited ability to watch and record your content.
If you recently stopped renting your Comcast Triple Play modem or regular old cable modem or cable box, share what you know with readers below. If you liked this article and found it useful, please share this with friends and family on Facebook or other social media.