Wireless Gateway vs Cable Modem / Router
August 10, 2015 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Is there a good reason to use my own cable modem / router setup instead of the free, Comcast provided wireless gateway?

I recently got Internet via Xfinity (boo) and planned on using my own cable modem / router setup to avoid the $10 / month fee. They sent a free "wireless gateway" along with the self-install kit and I figured it was a device I could plug into a cable modem so I could wirelessly share the connection. Surprisingly, it came with a coax input and worked just fine as a modem when I plugged it in.

I'm a tech savvy guy but at this point if something Just Works when I plug it in, which this does, I'm not one to mess around with it.

Is there a compelling reason for me to set up my own cable modem / router combo instead of using the free wireless gateway? I can see two different scenarios:

- Speed. I'm paying for 25 Mbps and a speed test shows I'm getting about 30 down / 5 up, which is fine by me.

- Cost. I don't see any modem rental charge but it's possible that Xfinity will detect I'm using the wireless gateway as a modem and start charging me extra, at which point I'll swap it out. But if they don't...

So am I missing something? Did I just beat the system?
posted by Diskeater to Technology (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
is this related to them providing wifi hotspots via your modem?

see for, example, https://www.fastcompany.com/3039682/comcast-was-sued-for-quietly-making-your-homes-internet-part-of-the-sharing-economy.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:42 PM on August 10, 2015

I purchased my own cable modem and plug that into my own WiFi router. Advantages:
- the cable modem paid for itself in 8 months (my current one is 16 months old);
- I ensure that sure that Comcast cannot sneak around my back and turn my home into a public WiFi hotspot (as noted above)
- I control the passwords and access.

And yes, I would bet that Comcast does start charging you a monthly modem rental fee.
posted by apennington at 7:56 PM on August 10, 2015

how timely! compromised routers are the new vectors for malware and spyware. i have comcast and do not trust them to give me hardware that's secure. so i have my own cable modem and a router flashed with open source firmware. works great, i feel a bit safer, and i get a lot of great router features (e.g. hosting my own VPN server).
posted by bruceo at 7:59 PM on August 10, 2015

Buy just the SB6441 Cable modem and not the all in one box.
Apple Airport Extreme is a great wireless router that is easy to manage and safe.
posted by Mac-Expert at 10:05 PM on August 10, 2015

I'm 99% sure that the wireless gateway is not, in fact, free, and you should check your next bill for an equipment rental line item. It's also possible that they waive the equipment fee during a promotional period, but again, they will start charging for it eventually.
posted by Aleyn at 10:49 PM on August 10, 2015

Cost. I don't see any modem rental charge but it's possible that Xfinity will detect I'm using the wireless gateway as a modem and start charging me extra, at which point I'll swap it out. But if they don't...

They do this by determining that the MAC address of the modem is "checked out", and hasn't been returned to them. Even if you don't use it but still have possession of it you'll be getting billed.

I'm a network engineer, at least mostly, and i totally recommend the separate router and modem set. I use a cheapo arris modem and it's super stable. Every time i've had a combo gateway it had to be rebooted at least a couple times a month.

Buy whatever ASUS router fits your budget. Yea, the apple airports are solid, but they cost more than they should. This is a kickass option for the money. Then wait for another ~$50 DOCSIS 3.0 modem deal on slickdeals.
posted by emptythought at 12:43 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

If they aren't already (since you said the gateway was free) I would expect Comcast to start charging you for the gateway after six months or maybe a year. As others have noted, Comcast is pushing these devices in order to create hotspots all over the place for other Comcast users.

The gateway (I believe) is also the unit required to use their phone service. Check your bill and make sure they didn't also "accidentally" sign you up for phone service.

In any case, I, too, prefer to go with rolling my own modem and router set-up.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:33 AM on August 11, 2015

I believe in controlling my own hardware because I want to know I can update and secure it. If you are able and willing to do the same, you should do the same. As a sysadmin/network guy, I get hives at the thought of J. Random Idiots controlling my network. :-)

But if you don't have the knowledge to do so, the equation changes.

I disagree with emptythought. I don't think the Apple Airports cost more than they should, they're solid, they're easy for people to configure *and keep updated* and they just keep running, which makes them cheap at twice the price, and the number of people who have come to me with home networking problems that have been solved by throwing Airports at them is legion. If you are technically good, willing to flash firmware and deal with complicated configurations, there are great answers out there that are cheaper.

But to me, they're work, I do too much work at work, and my airport pair *just works.* And just works is a Beautiful Thing not to be sneered at, ever.

But don't get me wrong -- emptythought's answer is a very valid one. It's just on a different axis. What do you optimize on? I'm optimizing time over money. He's optimizing money over time.
posted by eriko at 5:39 AM on August 11, 2015

Response by poster: I was unaware of the hotspot shenanigans so I ditched the wireless gateway in favor of my cable modem / router setup. Now to figure out why the Internet speeds are so slow all of a sudden...
posted by Diskeater at 4:37 PM on August 11, 2015

Now to figure out why the Internet speeds are so slow all of a sudden...

Did you call Comcast and have your modem provisioned (and the gateway removed)? You can't just slap a modem on Comcast's service. An up provisioned modem will usually limp along at slow speed.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2015

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