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Why is Comcast’s ‘free’ Flex streaming box actually $13 per month?

Caveat emptor: After launching the Flex streaming box back in March for $5 a month (not including subscriptions), Comcast decided to change its tune on paying the device in September. It agreed that it was better than nothing to remove subscriptions from its cord-cutting, internet-only customers. Now it’s selling the package for “free,” just as in wine, it’s not available.

Last month, Comcast started offering a free streaming TV service to its internet-only customers. To get the device called Flex, the issue is that consumers should lease the xFi Gateway modem / router combo of the provider, which costs $13 a month. Those with their own networking systems must give up and use the equipment of Comcast to get the package.

At the time of the announcement, a Comcast spokesperson said that “in the coming weeks,” which is rather ambiguous language, the modem rental provision would be removed. Currently, nothing has improved over a month later. The stipulation of the equipment is outlined on the Flex checkout page, as the Verge reports.

What’s worse is that in the company’s FAQ on Flex service there is no mention of this condition. The only place it is mentioned before attempting to sign up is at the bottom of the sales page in tiny print. Don’t worry about getting your bottle of magnification. That’s what it says here:

It really comes as no surprise, of course, because Comcast is well known for charging and routinely rising secret (or secretly disclosed) charges.

Comcast does not do this alone. Technicians and representatives from almost any other vendor will try to convince consumers that equipment supplied by the company (at a cost) is required. Of course, if approached by someone with a small amount of IT experience, they usually go back down.

Most customers, however, believe what is being told and charge the $156 per year in charges for equipment. At this price, in the first year or two, a store-bought modem / router can pay for itself.

Once asked again about the equipment needed, a spokesman would only confirm that “coming imminently” was the opportunity to use a non-Comcast router. Again, deliberately vague language that could mean from now on until never before.

It initially started with a charge of $5 and had very limited options for viewing. So it’s obvious that it didn’t fly. The only option left is, of course, to give it for “free.”

Nonetheless, it’s no wonder Comcast is trying to foist its box on uninformed consumers. Most Smart TVs now have integrated software, like Roku, that make Flex a virtually worthless streaming option.

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