Can my ISP force me to buy their branded router?
April 28, 2010 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I currently use AT&T as our broadband ISP at home. Our five-year-old modem/router just died, and since it's so old, AT&T tells me that it's no longer under warranty, and I have to buy a new one myself. Then they directed me to an AT&T Wireless retail store to go buy the equipment. But can they force me to buy one of their routers? What if I can find a comparable one cheaper somewhere else? Can they refuse me customer service or deny me installation help (which I will need - I'm hopelessly n00bulous in this department) if I don't by an "official" AT&T router?

Finally, I'd gladly accept any recommendations for decent routers for home use. I believe that the equipment they're pushing me toward is this 2Wire that costs $100; if there's something you can recommend for a lower price, I'd love to check it out.
posted by AngerBoy to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The problem is that it's the modem as well.

While, in theory, DSL modems are standardized, in practice there are a number of parameters that need go be set appropriately to match what the network is using. I've found that even when the modem itself is compatible, you'll never be able to get their customer service people to deviate from their script long enough to give you the proper parameters. They'll just keep repeating, "That modem is not supported, sir. I cannot help you." Even if the "help" is to read a string of four numbers. Even if you're a systems programmer and know what you're doing.

If it were just a router, you could buy any random Netgear or Linksys router and be done with it. But the modem needs some actual setup. And they will absolutely refuse to help you if you don't buy what they tell you to.
posted by Netzapper at 7:52 PM on April 28, 2010

On the "hopelessly n00bulous" front, I submit to you my 86 year old father-in-law, who had never even seen a laptop less than a year ago, and who lives on the other side of the planet from me, his support. He got the company's modem, I sent him an old router I had lying around, and I walked him through plugging it all in and setting it up. If he had ever seen a computer, I could have pointed him to the manual, which tho never crystal clear, is generally ok. The setup is very, very easy.

I respectfully say, fuck AT&T, do it yourself.
posted by nevercalm at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2010

Best answer: i imagine if you threatened to leave they would give you one for free, I assume you are not under contact.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:21 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can't you just cancel the service and subscribe again? New subscribers get a new modem/router, I bet.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:00 PM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's no need to fuck AT&T, because they will tell you how to do it yourself.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

And for what it's worth, I've always had good results from TP-Link equipment. Their stuff is dirt cheap and pretty much Just Works.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

New subscribers have to pay for the modem/router.

I've got that exact 2Wire modem/router sitting in my spare bedroom wasting space (I switched back to cable cos DSL sucks). I got it from AT&T in January of '09. And I'd be happy to find it a new home.

Memail me if you want to work something out.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:24 PM on April 28, 2010

buy yourself a used Speed Stream 4100 or higher off ebay. I've been using one for several years since my crappy 2Wire supplied by ATT died. They didn't bat an eyelash, but I did have to do some setup myself. Most of the setup parameters for ATT are pretty standard.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:46 PM on April 28, 2010

Best answer: you don't even have to be mean about's what you say:
"i'm sorry, but i've found an identical package with another carrier that includes a free modem/router/whatever and free installation...even though i've been with your company for five years, i just can't justify spending money right now on something i can get for free."
and then just be quiet and wait.
since modems cost about a dollar to produce, i guarantee they will send someone over with a new one. they're just trying to see what kind of sucker you are.

of course, if it were me, or anyone else who gives a rat's ass about hanging on to their civil rights, i'd say:
"Fuck you, at&t, fuck you in the ass sideways with a chainsaw. see you in hell. goodbye." But that's just me, and i tend to be pretty colorful...
posted by sexyrobot at 1:22 AM on April 29, 2010

and then just be quiet and wait.

Exactly. The CSRs have a fair bit of leeway and secret discounts they can only give to keep you from quitting. It depends, though. If you can't get one, wait a day and call back.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2010

Best answer: The 2Wire stuff sucks, but they will refuse to support equipment you bought yourself. Amazon has plenty of modem/router combos for less than $100, but what you should really do is ditch them and get your internet through your cable company. It's so much better you won't believe it, and the cable company won't give you crap about having just internet like ATT does.

I had cable for several years, when I moved, I switched to ATT, thinking I'd save a little. It was a few dollars a month cheaper, but it was hell when they screwed up the billing like they always do, it took 30+ minutes and at least 3 different IVR systems to reach anyone, and it was really crappy service when it was finally connected.

For about $5 more, I get 10x the bandwidth, rock-solid service, and no dealing with ATT. That's worth it to me.

I still have a cell phone through ATT, and that works great, but they don't know what they're doing with internet service. They really don't.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:14 PM on April 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. Your answers helped me figure out my long-term strategy (say goodbye to AT&T) and my short-term one (avoid paying for their crummy modem) as well.

sexyrobot's script worked perfectly. Should have the new (free) modem by tomorrow. In the meantime I'm pricing packages and expect to be using the cable company's TV/internet service very soon instead.
posted by AngerBoy at 8:34 AM on May 3, 2010

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