Consumer Reports: FCC Should Investigate ISP Equipment Charges

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Consumer Reports is telling the Federal Communications Commission that, according to many of its members, some cable and telecom broadband operators are continuing to charge for modems or routers even when consumers are using their own equipment and the agency should investigate.

The FCC has been seeking comment on compliance with the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019, which included prohibiting charging subs a modem or router rental fee if they are using their own equipment, a prohibition the consumer advocacy group has pushed for.

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CR said it polled its members about that issue and received more than 350 responses. Some members said their provider was complying, but “many more” stories suggested ISPs were violating the law either by charging for equipment consumers weren‘t using, or by trying to pressure subs to rent from the provider by refusing to troubleshoot “service disruptions” for those who opted out of renting, CR said. 

“Such practices result in de facto situations where consumers feel pressured or forced to rent equipment that they would prefer to own instead,” CR told the commission.

CR conceded it had not verified the accuracy of the accounts, but said that because of the number of allegations of illegal conduct, they “merit further investigation by the commission.”

The FCC arguably has a financial interest in such an investigation. Billions in broadband subsidies overseen by the agency include reimbursements for ISP modem and router rental fees, so if there are phantom charges, the government could be footing some of that bill. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.