More new fees, no new value
Until the end of 2015, I was paying $59.95 per month for Internet access for my business. Basic speed. No extra features. That’s $719.40 per year. My business, Family Technology Associates, is a true small business, located in a business district. As such, I am considered a business account for Optimum.
Beginning 2016, if you are an Optimum for Business client like me, in addition to $59.95 monthly Internet access fee, you are being charged an additional fee of $9.95 + tax for the same modem you were using the month prior. Yes, you are now paying an additional $128.28 PER YEAR for no additional value. Same speed, same capability. No extra value.
Find the exact notice provided by Optimum. It was located on page 2 of my December 7, 2015 Optimum invoice.
The words are important here. Optimum isn’t raising the Internet access fee – they are adding a new fee for renting the cable modem. This differentiation allows them to say they keep their fees flat. True, but very misleading.
What can you do?
Avoid the monthly fee – purchase and install your own modem
So, if you want to avoid this perpetual on-going fee, you can purchase your own cable modem. Optimum does not sell modems, so you have to buy a cable modem. Happily, this isn’t too bad. The only technical requirement is that the cable modem follows the DOCSIS 3 standard. Don’t worry, it will be detailed on the front of the modem carton.
To install, disconnect the coaxial cable and power plug in the back of your modem. Re-connect the coaxial cable to the new modem and plug in the power. Open your browser. You will be asked a few installation questions about the modem and your Optimum account. In a few minutes, you should be done. If you have a router, power it off/on. You should be good to go.
Optimum does not charge any fees to install your own modem. Cost: about $75.00 – but you have to install it. After installation, you have to return your modem to Optimum to have the monthly fee removed.
My on-line chat conversation with Optimum
To confirm my findings, I initiated an on-line chat with Optimum. Here is my on-line conversation. It begins with a general support person, Robert, and then finishes with comments from their technician, Randolph, who address modem specific issues.
New party (‘Robert’) has joined the session
Robert: Hi, my name is Robert and I will be assisting you today.
Fred Litt: Good morning Robert
Robert: Good morning.
Fred Litt: My name is Fred Litt
Fred Litt: At the beginning of 2016, an extra fee of about $10.00 was added to my
monthly bill, raising my monthly fee from about $60 to $70.
Fred Litt: Can you please provide details on this fee and what, if any additional value,
justifies this fee.
Robert: The additional fee is $9.99 and is a monthly rental charge for your modem.
Residential accounts already are charged a rental fee (just like cable boxes) for awhile
and management in January decided to add the rental fee to commercial accounts.
Fred Litt: Do you provide any additional services for this fee?
Robert: I do not want to simply say that it has to do with the cost of business but I can
say that Optimum has spent millions of dollars on its internet and Wifi services.
Robert: Please know that there are some modems made by Arris that can be purchased
by our customers so they do not have the rental fee on their monthly bill.
Fred Litt: If there an official statement from Optimum explaining this fee that I received.
Is there an on-line link to it?
Fred Litt: What is the cost of the Arris modem?
Robert: Messages regarding all the changes that occurred in January were found on
bills leading up to that month. If you allow me 1-2 minutes I can find that bill for you.
Fred Litt: Can I purchase my own modem? If so, are there related fees here? Do you
provide a list of approved modems?
Robert: A list of approved modems can be found by visiting
Fred Litt: Can I use a Netgear DOCSIS 3 modem?
Robert: Fred, the announcement regarding the fee was on the bill generated on
Robert: Regarding that Netgear modem I need to transfer you to our technical support
team for more information. They will be able to read the conversation up to this point so
nothing will need to be repeated. Before I transfer you, do you have any other questions
for me, Fred?
Fred Litt: Don’t transfer. Please re-read my questions. If I get my own modem, are there
fees to make this change?
Robert: There are not. Your monthly bill would simply go back to $59.95.
Fred Litt: Are there any plans available to a small business like me that could lower my
Robert: At this time I do not find any promotions that I can offer. Our Retention
department may be able to do something for you, though.
Fred Litt: How do I contact the Retention Department?
Robert: I am able to transfer you to that department or you can call directly at 1-877-
936-4778. That department opens at 9am each day and closes at 8:45pm on weekdays
and 6:45pm on weekends.
Fred Litt: Last question. Can I simply purchase the modem that I already have installed.
If so, at what price?
Robert: Optimum’s equipment is not available for purchase.
Fred Litt: Ok, so to summarize, beginning 2016, Optimum is charging business clients
like me an additional monthly fee of $9.99 plus tax to rent the same modem I was using
through December 2015. No additional services or value has been provided to my
account… Is this correct?
Robert: While no additional services were added to your account, we feel that value has
been added. We are always making improvements to our internet and Wifi services.
Fred Litt: Can you explain the value that you feel has been added?
Robert: Over the years we have increased our online speeds and increased the speed
of our Wifi system. We have now over 1.5 million hotspots for our Wifi, which is the largest
Wifi service in the country.
Fred Litt: Thank you for help. Can you please transfer me to the appropriate people to
help me learn what modems will work for me? Thanks, again.
Robert: You’re welcome. I will transfer you now. As I mentioned, they will be able to
read the conversation up to this point so nothing will need to be repeated. Enjoy the rest of
Fred Litt: P.S. If you collect feedback, please share with Optimum that fees like this
make small businesses like me look for alternative providers. Thanks again for your help.
Robert: I will!
Party (‘Robert’) has left the session.
New party (‘Randolph’) has joined the session
Randolph: Hi, my name is Randolph and I will be assisting you today.
Fred Litt: Good morning Randolph
Fred Litt: I want to avoid paying the monthly modem fee. Am looking for a list of
acceptable modems to replace my Arris TM 1602 modem.
Randolph: I’ll be happy to help, Fred. Let me bring up your services.
Randolph: You can use any Docsis 3 modem for your service.
Fred Litt: So, after I swap in my new modem, do you have any instructions or
requirements to install?
Randolph: After the modem swap, the configuration will download onto your modem
and you should get an Optimum page to help you register the new modem.
Randolph: This page will come up when you try to get to a webpage.
Fred Litt: Any fees to make the swap from Optimum?
Randolph: There are no fees to perform a modem swap.
Fred Litt: Many thanks for your help.
Randolph: You’re welcome. It was a pleasure chatting with you Fred, have a great rest
of the day.