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Router and modem rental fees still a major annoyance despite new US law

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Network cables plugged into a modem.

Getty Pictures | Jill Ferry Pictures

Client Experiences desires the Federal Communications Fee to take a more in-depth have a look at whether or not Web service suppliers are complying with a US legislation that prohibits them from charging {hardware} rental charges when prospects use their very own tools. In a filing submitted to the FCC this week, Client Experiences stated it requested members about their Web payments and obtained over 350 responses, with some suggesting violations of both the letter or spirit of the legislation.

“Some include allegations that the legislation is being violated, whereas others state the brand new statute is being revered. Many extra tales recommend that ISPs dissuade shoppers from utilizing their very own tools, sometimes by refusing to troubleshoot any service disruptions if shoppers choose to not hire the ISP’s units. Such practices lead to de facto conditions the place shoppers really feel pressured or pressured to hire tools that they would favor to personal as an alternative,” Client Experiences advised the FCC.

Client Experiences’ submitting got here in response to the FCC asking for public comment on the implementation of the Tv Viewer Safety Act (TVPA), which took effect in December 2020. Along with price-transparency guidelines for TV service, the legislation prohibited TV and broadband suppliers from charging rental or lease charges when “the supplier has not offered the tools to the buyer; or the buyer has returned the tools to the supplier.”

All of the feedback collected by Client Experiences are available here. The FCC submitting contains examples of complaints about AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Constitution Spectrum, Frontier, Windstream, and Cox, although the complaints weren’t all about rental charges.

Frontier’s bogus rental charge was outlawed

Client Experiences has been researching cable bills for years. The group’s new FCC submitting famous that its earlier analysis “confirmed a disturbing new enterprise follow first reported by Ars Technica in 2019. Frontier Communications reportedly was charging a month-to-month rental charge for broadband modems offered to shoppers even when shoppers weren’t utilizing that tools as a result of they had been already utilizing their very own bought modem and/or routers. Absurd as it might sound, shoppers had been being made to pay for one thing they neither bought nor wanted to obtain Web service.”

Congress subsequently passed the law banning such bogus costs. Complaints included within the Client Experiences submitting point out that Frontier has complied with the legislation however continues to be annoying prospects with different charges.

“Frontier FiOS used to cost me a router charge, though I’ve my very own router. Now they do not have that specific charge, however they do cost an ‘Web Infrastructure Surcharge’ ($6.99) and a ‘Frontier Safe Private Safety Bundle’ ($5.99 after ‘low cost’),” a buyer in Torrance, California, wrote.

“After the router charge was made unlawful by the act of Congress, I rapidly known as up Frontier to have the charge eliminated, which they did going ahead,” wrote a buyer in Flower Mound, Texas. “Nevertheless, a couple of months later, Frontier elevated their infrastructure cost (one other bogus charge) about $3 or $4 if I recall appropriately. So in my thoughts, Frontier did a bait and swap and is simply attempting to play the bogus charge sport however not calling it a router charge any longer.”

We have written a number of stories about Frontier’s sneaky “Web Infrastructure Surcharge,” which was raised from $4 to $7 monthly final 12 months. Frontier claims the cost is “mandatory to make sure 24×7 assist of Web entry.”

Potential violations

In its name for public enter, the FCC requested for touch upon “the extent to which (if in any respect) topic entities proceed to evaluate costs for tools which can be expressly prohibited by the statute.” The FCC’s particular questions had been as follows:

For instance, are any suppliers of lined providers or mounted broadband Web entry providers persevering with to impose charges on shoppers for using lined tools that has been offered by the buyer? Are such suppliers assessing costs for the rental, lease, or provision of lined tools that they haven’t offered to the buyer? Are any such suppliers imposing charges for the rental, lease, or provision of lined tools that the buyer has returned to the supplier, and which charges in any other case usually are not permissible underneath the statute?”

Client Experiences stated its questions for members had been “designed to measure whether or not or not ISPs had been in compliance… and in addition to solicit shopper opinion on whether or not or not it was tough to make use of consumer-owned tools versus renting these units from the supplier. Notably, neither of the 2 cable business commerce associations talked about this concern in any element of their feedback filed final month on the Fee.”

Client Experiences stated that a few of the responses “recommend the statute will not be being complied with as vigorously as Congress meant… These allegations advantage additional investigation by the Fee.” Client Experiences supplied to share contact data for the purchasers with the FCC so it may possibly examine additional.

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