A few days ago, I received a postcard from Time Warner Cable. I was prepared to ignore the innocuous-looking missive, but out of curiosity, I glanced at its spare single-paragraph message:
Dear Time Warner Cable Customer:
As of October 15, 2012, an Internet Modem Lease Fee will be applied to Time Warner Cable-provided modems, at a rate of $3.95 per month. If you would like to use your own modem, visit twc.com/approveddevices for a list of approved modems.
I stared at this message in a state of disbelief. I’ve been using the same crappy Toshiba cable modem that came with my broadband Internet service several years ago. Now, all of a sudden, TWC wants to charge me $4 a month for the privilege of letting that lump of junk sit on my desk?
To spare the uninterested, the rest of this rant lies behind the cut.
On a whim, I looked up the modem online, to see what it would cost to buy another one just like it. It has an approximate retail value of about $14. Not that it matters, since it’s no longer on TWC’s list of approved devices.
Next, I checked out TWC’s list of “approved devices.” Most were more oomph than I really needed. I have a separate wireless router, so I had no need of a new modem with wireless features built-in. Even more galling, most of the sites I visited had models very similar to (and less expensive than) those on the approved list, but only Amazon offered the model closest to what I wanted. It cost more than I wanted to spend, but I bit the bullet and made the purchase.
My new modem, a Motorola SB6141, arrived today. I followed the manufacturer directions to hook it up, then I called the TWC customer service line to activate it, as per their instructions. I was greeted by the automated system at TWC, followed its prompts, and selected “activate a new Internet modem.” The system said it would send an “activation signal” and that my modem would be operational within the hour.
But this didn’t match up with TWC’s instructions, which specified that I had to call a customer service rep and phone in the new modem’s MAC ID for authorization. After more than an hour of watching the new modem spin its wheels but fail to connect to the Internet, I tried to call Time Warner Cable.
Over the course of an hour, their automated phone system cut me off and hung up on me more than 20 times. It didn’t matter if I called from my landline or my cell phone, TWC’s system hung up on me over and over, almost always at the point where, after having navigated six levels of automated prompts, it should have connected me to a technical support representative.
Finally, I outsmarted the system by calling the sales department and having them transfer me to a tech support person, who confirmed that I needed to phone in the MAC ID for the new modem. Then came my next surprise: He told me it would take approximately THREE DAYS for TWC to authorize the new modem. There had been no mention of that in any of TWC’s literature, or on its website.
So, for now, I continue to use my crappy old modem, and my expensive new modem sits in its box, waiting for Friday afternoon, when I can try again to hook it up. I dread having to make a follow-up call to TWC at that time.
So, if you’re a fellow TWC customer, be warned: either get ready to get rooked, or to get the runaround, as you cope with their latest shakedown.