My internet service provider (“ISP”) is Spectrum. This is not a choice per se, Spectrum is the only available option. With that being said, I have few complaints about Spectrum. While I have the distinct impression that the overall popularity of ISPs in the United States is comparable to that of dental surgery, I have not had many issues with Spectrum. Outages have been rare. I have the cheapest 300 Mbps plan and get about 370 Mbps on ethernet and can get 330-ish on my wi-fi’s 5 Ghz band.

(My main complaint with Spectrum is its insistence that I need cable TV.)

Spectrum gives out modems for free and customers can pay a monthly fee to use Spectrum wi-fi. I had been renting a modem from Spectrum while supplying my own router. I do not recall when I started using my own router, but I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2014. As of a few weeks ago, my set-up was:

  • Rented modem from Spectrum;
  • MikroTik hAP ac3 router; and
  • TP-Link AC1200 wireless access point.

Spectrum permits customers to use their own modem on home internet plans. I had long considered purchasing my own modem even though Spectrum’s worked fine, because I like owning my equipment. From a practical standpoint, I figured I could purchase a modem that covers Spectrum’s two higher-tier internet speed offerings to cover possible future upgrades (the rental modem almost certainly only covered the lowest tier plan).

I researched the list of Spectrum-approved modems and settled on an ARRIS SURFboard SB8200. It appeared to be the cheapest supported modem that covers all Spectrum plans and I found some positive comments about it online. Moreover, my Spectrum-supplied modem was also an ARRIS model (lower-end) and I had had no notable issues with it. I found an “open box” SB8200 on Ebay from a “top rated plus” seller for about $60, which was somewhere in the neighborhood of half its price on Amazon. I seized the moment and hit order.

Photograph of an ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 moden sitting on a wooden desk.
I added this photograph to the article on June 17, 2024. I forgot that I had taken it before I installed the modem. You can see my Logitech K310 keyboard and parts of my two Creative Pebble Pro desktop speakers in the background.

My SB8200 arrived when it was supposed to and, sure enough, was in open box condition. It looked like it had never been opened, much less used.

One has to call Spectrum to activate a new modem. I did this after setting it up with the coaxial internet cable and my router. This is where the problems started. Spectrum’s online instructions, and the Spectrum representative I spoke to, were expecting me to be able to provide a MAC address for the modem. However, my SURFboard has an HFC MAC address. I read that off and the representative took it down, but it is possible (I came to suspect the next day – stay tuned) that I did not know how to read off the HFC MAC address correctly (or the representative was not sure how to handle it as distinguished from a non-HFC MAC ID). While some internet came through the modem, download speeds of about 2 Mbps were not quite what I was looking for compared to the expected 370.

(Note: I am not an expert on MAC addresses so feel free to correct me if I got something wrong.)

While the set-up was not going well, I must praise the Spectrum representative for being very patient and walking through a number of troubleshooting steps with me. At no time did he try to end the call or speed things along. After exhausting our options, he offered to send a Spectrum technician over to look into the situation and, with hope, get things working. This conversation occurred on the late afternoon of Saturday May 18. I was informed that a technician could come between 8-10 A.M. on the next morning or, in the alternative, at the same time on Tuesday. I had a moment of indecision because I was walking from Brooklyn to Forest Hills (Queens) the next day, and given that walk ended up being more than 22 miles there and back, I had reason to believe that I wanted an early start. However, I ultimately decided that it would be nice to resolve the internet situation as soon as possible, so I took him up on the early Sunday visit. In the interim, we restored the rental modem.

The technician arrived at about 8:30 A.M. the next morning. After performing what appeared to be some perfunctory checks of the internet coming through our cable, he checked the new modem and called what I presume was a Spectrum number. He read off the HFC MAC address (he threw in some things where I saw spaces so perhaps that was the issue) and within minutes said that everything was done. I checked our internet before he left and, sure enough, we were getting the expected internet speeds. The whole visit took somewhere in the neighborhood of half-an-hour.

(Not long before I photographed a World War I memorial that same morning.)

All-in-all, I had a positive experience with Spectrum. While the phone assisted modem activation process did not go as hoped, Spectrum expeditiously sent a technician within the day who resolved the situation. Both the phone representative and the technician asked why I wanted to use my own modem – curious whether the Spectrum-supplied model was not satisfactory – but they had no issue with my explanation that (1) I got it at a good price, (2) it is future-proof, and (3) I like owning my own hardware.

(They also did not at any time try to sell me on cable TV.)

There is one additional reason I like my new modem.

A Mikrotik hAP ac3 router sitting next to an ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 modem on a wooden shelf.
My MikroTik hAP ac3 router, which I have referenced before, is on the left. The SURFboard is on the right. Not pictured is my separate wireless access point, which is not inside a TV cabinet for obvious reasons. For those who are curious, I could use my MikroTik router for wireless internet (you can see its antennas in the background) but I decided to separate routing and wireless for the time being.

It is adorable. The box makes it look imposing but it is possibly my most endearing piece of hardware in person. This is no small feat considering the fact that I have a pink desktop computer and two fun-sized mini PCs.