Should You Rent or Own Your Home Internet Equipment?

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If you’re thinking about getting Internet in your home for the first time, changing providers, or wondering if you should ask your provider about an equipment upgrade, you may want to consider the option of owning versus renting the equipment that connects you to the Internet.

The equipment that connects your home to the Internet through your provider can consist of a modem, router or Wi-Fi router, or combination router\modem (sometimes called a gateway). Equipment might also include a range extender to enhance the Wi-Fi signal across your home.

There are advantages and disadvantages to owning your own equipment or renting the equipment through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). When you sign up for an Internet plan through your provider, you have the option to rent their equipment and have them perform the installation or buy your own equipment and do the installation yourself with specific instructions from the provider on the initial setup.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of renting or owning the equipment that connects you to the Internet to help determine which option is best for you.

When renting equipment from your Internet Service Provider some of the advantages are:

  • You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. The equipment is designed to work with your providers’ network and service.
  • You get free upgrades or replacements if the equipment fails or becomes outdated.
  • You get technical support from your provider if you have any problems with the equipment or your internet connection.
  • You can easily return the equipment if you switch ISPs or cancel your service.

Some of the disadvantages to renting equipment from your Internet Service Provider are:

  • You pay a monthly rental fee that can add up over time and cost more than buying your own equipment. This may take several years depending on the equipment used.
  • You may have limited control over some of the features and settings of the equipment, as they are determined by your ISP.
  • You may not get the best performance or security from the equipment, as it may be of low quality or use outdated technology.

When you own your modem, router, and/or Wi-Fi Range Extender to use with your provider, you have some options about where you purchase the equipment and its quality. Your provider may suggest brands they consider compatible with their Internet connection to your home.

The advantages of owning your home networking equipment are:

  • You save money over time, as you don’t have to pay a monthly fee to your provider.
  • You have more control over the features and settings of the equipment, as you can choose the model and brand that suits your needs and preferences.
  • You get better performance and security from the equipment, as you can choose one that uses the latest technology and supports faster speeds and stronger encryption.
  • You can make sure the equipment is updated to the latest operating system or firmware by setting automatic updates.
  • You can keep the equipment if you switch ISPs or cancel your service if it is compatible with other networks.
  • You do not have to wait on a visit by technicians to upgrade or replace failing hardware.

The disadvantages of owning your own home networking equipment are:

  • You must pay upfront for the equipment, which can be expensive depending on the model and brand. You should consider buying the latest equipment which has the latest security features.
  • You must make sure that the equipment is compatible with your ISPs network and service, and that it meets their requirements and specifications.
  • You are responsible for upgrading or replacing the equipment if it fails or becomes outdated. Due to the expense of the equipment, you might want to see if the equipment can be covered through your home or renter’s insurance.
  • You have to troubleshoot any problems with the equipment or your internet connection yourself or seek help from the manufacturer or a third-party service.

After reading about the pros and cons of owning versus renting home network equipment, how do you decide which option is better for you?

Several things to consider in your decision are:

  • Your budget: how much can you afford to spend upfront to buy equipment or spend monthly to rent your home networking equipment?
  • Your needs: what kind of features and performance do you want from your routing equipment?
  • Your preferences: do you value convenience and simplicity, or customization and flexibility?
  • Your plans: how long do you intend to use your current ISP and internet service?

You may want to consider renting the equipment if you:

  • Have a limited budget and don’t want to pay upfront for your routing equipment.
  • Don’t care much about the features and performance of your networking equipment.
  • Prefer to have technical support from your ISP if anything goes wrong.
  • Plan to switch providers or cancel your service in the near future.

Consider owning your home networking equipment if you:

  • Have enough money to buy your own routing equipment.
  • Want to have more control over the features and performance of your routing equipment.
  • Are comfortable with troubleshooting any issues yourself or seeking help elsewhere.
  • Plan to stick with your current ISP and internet service for a long time.

Renting versus owning your home networking equipment is a personal choice that depends on several factors including convenience, support, and flexibility, savings, control, and performance.

Before deciding between renting or owning your home networking equipment, weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully, and consider your budget, needs, preferences, and plans. Ultimately, choose the option that works best for you and your home internet experience.

Exploring Alternatives to the Affordable Connectivity Program

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The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a U.S. government initiative designed to help low-income households afford internet service. However, this program stopped accepting new applications February 7, 2024, and is scheduled to run out of funding in April 2024.  Congress will need to renew the funding for the ACP to continue.

Almost 400,000 households are enrolled in the ACP in Missouri saving over 11 million dollars each month on their internet bills.  As the program winds down, many will be looking to find either lower cost options or another program to help cover Internet costs.  Some may even decide to discontinue their internet service.

However, there are alternative options available. In the remainder of this blog, these options will be discussed along with the differences to the ACP.  Some of these options may not be available to all Missourians due to location or qualifications to participate.

One option is the FCC Lifeline program.  The Lifeline program works similar to the ACP program but has stricter requirement for participation and has a small benefit to the household for covering the cost of internet.  Lifeline provides qualified subscribers a discount on qualifying monthly telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages purchased from participating providers.   If your household income is 135% of the federal poverty guideline you qualify for the Lifeline program.  You may also qualify for the program if you are receiving benefits from one of the following programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Medicaid
  • Tribal Programs for Native American

One alternative is exploring community-based programs. Many local libraries and community centers offer free Wi-Fi access or loan Wi-Fi hotspots to community members. You may also want to contact the local community action agency or other local non-profits to see if there are funds to help assist with the cost of internet access, access to hotspots, or free Wi-Fi access .  You can use the Digital Asset Map at to help with your search.

National non-profit organizations also play a role in bridging the digital divide. Groups like EveryoneOn and PCs for People connect people to low-cost internet service and affordable devices.

Another avenue is negotiating with internet service providers (ISPs). Some ISPs offer discounted plans for low-income families or special programs for students and seniors. It’s worth contacting providers directly to inquire about any available options that may not be widely advertised.  Here are links to several providers that have their own assistance programs.  This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to talk to the ISPs in your community about their programs.

In conclusion, while the ACP provides a valuable service to many, there are several alternatives worth considering. Each option has its own set of benefits and limitations, and what works best will depend on individual circumstances.

Setting Up a Home Network

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A home network connects multiple devices in your home to each other and the Internet. These devices can include computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs, printers, thermostats, security cameras, and other smart home devices.

A home network provides many benefits, such as:

  • Sharing files and folders among devices
  • Streaming media content from one device to another
  • Printing documents from any device
  • Controlling smart home devices remotely
  • Accessing online services and applications

To set up a home network, you will need the following:

  • An internet service provider (ISP) that provides you with an internet connection
  • A modem or other device, such as an optical network terminal (ONT), that connects to the ISP’s network and converts the signal to a format that your devices can understand.
  • A router that connects to the modem or ONT and creates a local network for your devices
  • Ethernet cables for wired connections or Wi-Fi adapters for wireless connections
  • The devices that you want to connect to the network

The following steps will guide you through the process of setting up a home network:

Step 1: Choose an ISP and a modem

The first step is to choose an ISP that offers a package with the internet speed and bandwidth that suits your needs and budget. You can estimate your required internet speed by using the bandwidth calculator  as well as compare different ISPs and plans in your area.

Once you have chosen an ISP, you will need a modem that is compatible with their network. Some ISPs may provide you with a modem as part of their service, or you can buy your own modem from an electronics store or online. Make sure that the modem supports the type of internet connection that you have, such as cable, DSL, fiber, or satellite.

Step 2: Connect the modem to the internet source

The next step is to connect the modem to the internet source using a coaxial cable, a phone line, or a fiber optic cable, depending on the type of connection that you have. You may need to contact your ISP for activation or configuration instructions.

Step 3: Choose a router and connect it to the modem

The router is the device that creates a local network for your devices and allows them to communicate with each other and with the internet. There are many types of routers available, with different features and specifications. Some of the factors that you should consider when choosing a router are:

  • The number of devices that you want to connect
  • The size and layout of your home
  • The Wi-Fi standards and frequencies that your devices support
  • The security and parental control options that you need
  • The advanced features and settings that you want to use

Some modems may have a built-in router function, which means that you don’t need a separate router. However, if you want more control and flexibility over your network, it is recommended to use a standalone router.

To connect the router to the modem, you will need an Ethernet cable. Plug one end of the cable into the WAN port of the router and the other end into the LAN port of the modem.

Step 4: Configure the router settings

After connecting the router to the modem, you will need to configure some basic settings for your network, such as:

  • The network name (SSID) and password (key) for your Wi-Fi network
  • The security mode and encryption type for your Wi-Fi network.  This is known as the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).  The latest version is WPA3.  Check your Wi-Fi connected devices to see which versions they are compatible with
  • The administrator username and password for accessing the router’s web interface
  • The firmware update for your router

To configure these settings, you will need to access the router’s web interface using a web browser on a computer or smartphone that is connected to the router. You can find the default IP address, username, and password for your router in its user manual or on its label. Alternatively, you can use an app provided by your router’s manufacturer to set up and manage your network.

Step 5: Connect your devices to the network

The final step is to connect your devices to the network using either wired or wireless connections. For wired connections, you will need Ethernet cables and Ethernet ports on your devices. Plug one end of each cable into an available LAN port on the router and the other end into an Ethernet port on your device.

For wireless connections, you will need to use Wi-Fi adapters in your devices or purchase external Wi-Fi adapters that plug into the device generally through a USB port. Turn on the Wi-Fi function on your device and scan for available networks. Select your network name (SSID) and enter your password (key) to join the network.

You can also use other methods to connect your devices wirelessly, such as WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), NFC (Near Field Communication), or QR codes. These methods allow you to connect without entering a password by pressing a button on the router or tapping your device on another device.

For smart devices such as TV’s and gaming stations, appliances, and printers, make sure you have the manuals available on how to connect these devices to the network.

Once you have completed connecting all your device to your home network, you can enjoy browsing the web, streaming media, sharing files, printing documents, controlling smart home devices, and more from any device in your home.

Protecting Your Information Online

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As our lives become increasingly entangled in the digital world, we face many challenges and risks when protecting our personal information. Data breaches, identity theft, phishing, malware, and cyberattacks are common threats that can compromise the privacy and security of consumers’ data. We all need to be aware of the best practices and tools that can help us safeguard our information online.

Below are several of the best practices that you can follow to protect your information online:

Use strong and unique passwords for different accounts and devices. A strong password should be at least twelve characters long, include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoid common words or phrases. A password should not be reused with multiple accounts or devices, as this can increase the risk of hacking all the accounts using the same password.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA is a security feature that requires an additional verification step, such as a code sent to a phone, app, or email, a set of security questions only you know the answer to, or a biometric scan to access an account or device. 2FA can prevent unauthorized access even if the password is compromised or stolen.

Be careful about what you share online and who you share it with. Avoid posting or sending sensitive information, such as personal details, financial information, or photos, on social media platforms, messaging apps, or email. You should also check the privacy settings and permissions of the apps and websites they use and limit the amount of data they collect or share with third parties. Set apps to share information only with friends, turn off tracking, and limit apps’ access to location data where possible.

Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN on your tablet, computer, or phone encrypts your internet connection and hides your location from hackers. The VPN connection makes it almost impossible for third parties to track your online activity. Using a VPN application is highly recommended to protect your privacy on public Wi-Fi networks.

Keep your applications, web browsers, and devices updated. You should set applications on your tablet, phone, or computer to update automatically.  I would also recommend checking for updates manually on a regular basis (at least monthly). This includes the operating system of the device, along with web browsers and other apps that connect online. Updates not only fix productivity issues. They provide necessary security updates. Missing updates will leave you vulnerable to threats.

Reject cookies and other trackers when possible. Websites now ask or allow you to set what cookies and information you will allow them to track. Take advantage of this opportunity to reduce the information you share with sites. You can also set your web browser to block cookies and trackers on various websites. Web browsers can also be set to send a “Do Not Track” request to the site to block some of the cookies and other trackers. Not all sites process this request, but it is worthwhile to activate this setting. To learn how to change the tracking management settings in your browser, type in “tracking prevention and the name of the web browser you use (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, or other browser).”

Install antivirus software. Antivirus software (AV) can detect, quarantine, and\or delete threats that may exploit systems or devices. AV can also warn about malicious websites and provide other services that can help protect your information online such as VPN, scanning for your information on sites that sell information on the dark web, and other features.

Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments in emails or messages. Be wary of phishing emails or messages that trick you into revealing personal information or downloading malicious software. Phishing emails or messages may appear from legitimate sources, such as banks, government agencies, or online services. Still, they often have spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or urgent requests. Always verify the sender’s identity and the authenticity of the link or attachment before clicking on it by contacting the sender through an alternate means. Do not reply directly to the sent message. Look for senders’ information in your contact list or company website.

Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. In today’s environment, it is not a question of if your data will be involved in a data breach but when it will happen. You can purchase identity theft insurance through the same companies that sell your car or homeowners insurance. You can also purchase it through other companies like LifeLock or other Antivirus providers. While it does not protect you from the breach, it will help you recover your identity should your information be used to steal your identity or create loans or large purchases in your name.

Get your yearly free credit report and consider subscribing to one of the three credit monitoring services. You can get your credit reports from one of the three credit monitoring services, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every year for free by going to Annual Credit and filling out a request.  You may want to consider subscribing to one of these services, which allows you to receive alerts when changes happen to your credit report, lock your credit report, and set fraud alerts to prevent others from opening lines of credit with your information.