That Was Stupid: Renting a Cable Modem

Cable Modem

“I’m WHAT?!? No, I’m not!”

I was shocked and appalled.

I fumbled through the papers in my hand to try and make sense of it.

Then I ran over and threw myself on the floor by our bed. I dug underneath and pulled out the cable modem from all the connected wires and plugs.

Sure enough. “Property of Time Warner Cable.”

My brain was still processing when my mouth slowly started apologizing to the representative on the phone.

“I’m sorry. Apparently, I’m the idiot.”

The Day I Discovered I Was Renting My Cable Modem

It seems like there are always companies out there that include, as a viable part of their business strategy, the practice of slowly increasing our monthly bills with little unintelligible fees that they hope we never notice.

And many of us don’t.

I hadn’t on my Time Warner Cable bill.

But one day I was glancing at my bill, buried in all the weird federal and state assessments and fees I noticed this one line:

Internet Modem Lease: $8.00

What the heck? I wasn’t renting a modem from them? That’s stupid. Who would do such a thing?

I quickly called a customer service representative, then slowly waited on hold from the next available person claiming to serve in said capacity.

Yep, I’m Renting My Modem

Cable Bill
Yep. Right there all along.

When the customer service rep came on the line, I politely shared this discrepancy on my bill. I mentioned that I was not renting a cable modem from them.

He looked at my account and kindly disagreed with me.

He told me the model number of the modem I was using and let me know that it was, in fact, a Time Warner Cable modem that I was currently leasing from the company.

For $8.00 a month!

After fishing the modem out from under my bed and confirming the model number I sat for a moment taking the whole thing in.

After I apologized for my mistake, the representative informed me that the modem I was currently leasing was very old and I could benefit from an upgraded unit. He was more than happy to schedule a technician to come out and install one, if I desired.

I asked if I was required to use their modem, or if I could go buy my own?

He reluctantly informed me that I could use my own modem, but that I would no longer get the same quality technical support on their end if I chose to use a 3rd party modem.

I chuckled a bit internally as I tried to align “quality technical support” with “Time Warner Cable” in my mind.

Dark humor aside, I was satisfied with the answer.

I hung up and went directly to the store and bought a cable modem.

How Much Does a Modem Cost?

Beyond my own stupidity of not knowing that I was, in fact, renting my internet modem from my atrocious internet provider, the real absurdity was just how much I had paid them for the “privilege” of doing so.

This company was my internet service provider for the past 9 years. I had never received a new internet modem from them, so the representative was right in stating that my modem was very old.

Old or not, it worked just fine. I wasn’t concerned with whether my modem was an infant or a toddler or a middle schooler.

I was concerned with how much money I had paid for this modem.

Some quick math showed me that $8.00 per month times 9 YEARS = $864.00

That’s right! I paid eight hundred and sixty-four dollars for what was likely a $50 modem 9 years previously.

How could I be so foolish!

The brand new modem I had just purchased at the store was $90. That’s $764 less than I had paid for the modem I was renting.


Making it Worse-er

I’m hesitant to do this…but…

….that $8 a month is $96 a year.

If I had taken that $96 and invested it in my Roth IRA each year for 9 years at 7% interest compounded annually, that would give me…


I willingly let Time Warner Cable steal over $1,000 from me over 9 years.

But what about future earnings?

Let’s say that I had that $1,149.89 in my Roth IRA and I didn’t contribute anything else to it for the next 15 years. How much would I have then?

Answer: $3,172.58.

I had a choice between a $50 modem or $3,172.58 invested for my retirement.

I, through lack of diligence, chose the $50 modem.

That was a dumb choice.

Conclusion – Small Numbers Add Up to Big Numbers

This is one reason Val and I rarely – knowingly – give in to the small numbers game. Small numbers add up to big numbers over time.

In today’s society where everything is a subscription and we can so easily spend $3 a month on this and $9 a month on that, we rarely think about how much those services are really costing us.

Too often the price we are paying isn’t a monthly fee on our credit card or bank statement, it’s the ultimate hidden fee…our future.

Also Read: The Hidden Cost of Living Like Everyone Else

After coming home from the store and setting up my new modem, there was one final price I had to pay for renting my old internet modem.

I had to get in the car, drive to the Time Warner Cable store, and stand in line for 30 minutes to give them back the modem I had been borrowing for nearly a decade.

Nothing like a time-wasting adventure to one of the saddest stores on earth to really drive home the lesson.

Have you ever discovered that you made a foolish money decision in the past? How did you fix it? Let me know in the comments.

Also Read: I Bought a $1,400 Office Chair for Only $525

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