One would think that using your own equipment that you bought yourself would mean avoiding having to rent something similar and pay for that rental. That common-sense line of thinking, however, didn’t seem to apply to Internet broadband providers who still charge subscribers for the ISP-provided routers they don’t use anyway. Starting next week, however, that will finally become illegal thanks to a new law that was actually written to protect consumers from hidden cable-TV subscription fees.
Consumers will perhaps thank Frontier Communications for the series of events that makes what lawmakers called an “unconscionable business” illegal. Frontier continued to charge its subscribers for router rental fees even if they were using their own preferred routers, justifying the charge as part of higher support costs when covering customer-owned equipment. Ironically, Frontier also says it can’t support that equipment anyway.
Starting Monday, ISPs will no longer be allowed to make those changes, though they’re also not required to support third-party routers. The rule is actually part of the Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA) that was passed in June but will only take effect on December 21, 2020, giving broadband companies time to prepare. That said, Ars Technica reports that most of them try to avoid such rental fees in the first place.
The meat of the TVPA is actually to protect consumers from hidden charges and cancellation fees. It requires cable companies to be upfront and transparent with the fees that subscribers will be paying, including company and government-imposed fees and taxes, before they sign up. It also requires service providers to allow customers to cancel the subscription within 24 hours with any penalties.
It should be noted that the transparency for fees only applies to those signing a new contract and not old customers. It also doesn’t stop cable companies from raising prices afterward. This particular part of the TVPA also applies only to TV services, leaving broadband service providers free to keep their status quo.