The federal government has put an extra gift in your stocking this holiday season.
As of Dec. 20, your internet service provider no longer can levy “rental” charges when you use your own equipment — such as a modem or router — with internet service.
The change is part of the Television Viewer Protection Act, which President Donald J. Trump signed into law in December 2019 as part of a larger legislative package. The law applies to companies that provide broadband internet access, including companies that also provide TV services.
Originally, the measure was to take effect on June 20. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delayed the implementation of the measure to give providers more time to comply in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new law can make purchasing modems and routers more economical than renting them from your provider. As the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) recommends:
“It now becomes more advisable that consumers buy their own modems and routers. There is obviously an upfront cost when buying them, but after a year or two, the cost will be less than if you had rented. In addition, consumers can buy better equipment than would be rented to them.”
With the new provision in effect, U.S. PIRG urges you to monitor bills and make sure you are not being charged a fee for such equipment.
Ars Technica reports that the new rule is especially good news for customers of Frontier Communications. That provider has charged $10 rental fees to customers who use their own routers. In June, Frontier told Ars Technica that it would “comply with the requirements when the law goes into effect” in December.
Some other providers, such as Comcast, do not charge such fees, and thus will not feel the impact of the new rule.
The Television Viewer Protection Act also requires providers of cable TV services to clearly detail all total monthly charges, including fees imposed by the provider and a good-faith estimate of costs associated with government fees and taxes. This disclosure must be offered before you enter into a contract with the provider.
Details about promotional discounts and when they expire must be clearly explained, Ars Technica reports. Finally, the law provides for a 24-hour period after signing up in which you can cancel any new TV service without paying penalties.
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