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Time Warner Makes Modem Change

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - For as long as I've subscribed to the Road Runner Cable Internet service I've plugged my computers (and Wi-fi routers) into a Time Warner (TWX - Get Report)-supplied cable modem. The modem was part of my monthly service charge. That seems to be coming to an abrupt end in less than two weeks.

Yesterday, I received a very matter-of-fact postcard which informed me of an upcoming change:

Dear Time Warner Customer:

As of October 15, 2012, an Internet Modem Lease Fee will be applied to Time Warner Cable provided Internet modems at the rate of $3.95 per month. If you would like to use your own modem, visit for a list of approved modems.

Thank you.

Time Warner is not the first to charge for cable modems. Other companies have been doing so for a while. And, I've been leasing TV boxes from them for as long as I can remember. But I hate paying for what used to be included in their fee. And when you do the math it comes out to nearly 50 bucks more each year.

The company provides a long list of modems that it will lease to you and it chooses which one you'll get. All of the approved devices recommended for purchase are made by Motorola Mobility - the smartphone-making division owned by Google (GOOG - Get Report). There are five recommended models from which to choose - based on your level of Internet service speeds and whether or not you want the modem to also handle your Wi-fi distribution.

In my case, that means I get to choose one of two Motorola SURFboard models. A quick check on the Web shows the Modem/Wi-fi model sells for between $120 and $150 with just the modem device about $10 cheaper. But you can also buy these models in used or refurbished condition on eBay (EBAY - Get Report) at greatly reduced prices.

Time Warner wants the customer to install the new modem (should be very easy to unplug the old and replace with the new) - then call to register the new device. The last step is going to a Time Warner office to return your old modem.

All of this has to be completed before Oct. 15. I'll let you know how it goes.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to:
Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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