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What Is AT&T Equipment Fee?

Last Updated Jul 14, 2022
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When you’re getting your Internet access through AT&T, the Internet connection alone isn’t the only thing you’re paying for. If you get your Internet through this provider, you’ll also need to pay a monthly fee called an equipment fee.

The AT&T equipment fee is a monthly ten-dollar lease that covers the rental of a WiFi gateway and modem. This mandatory charge will be added to the Internet bill even if a third-party router is used in the setup. Dedicated equipment is necessary for AT&T’s fiber Internet networks.

The AT&T equipment fee isn’t avoidable if you want to use AT&T’s Internet services, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use your own equipment. Read on to learn more about AT&T equipment fees and how they’ll affect your final bill.

What Does the AT&T Equipment Fee Cover?

The AT&T equipment fee is a surcharge that covers the rental of the physical hardware used to run AT&T’s Internet access. This equipment fee is ten dollars a month and covers the use of an AT&T router and the WiFi gateway.

Why Does AT&T Have an Equipment Fee?

If you’re a little cynical, you might believe that the only reason AT&T has an equipment fee is to ring an extra ten dollars out of you each month. However, officially the AT&T equipment fee is to cover the use of standardized hardware for Internet installation. (Source: AT&T)

Here are some reasons why AT&T (and other companies) like to use their own hardware for Internet setup:

  • Maintenance: If AT&T sends out the same rental equipment for each account, this makes it easier for their repair technicians to diagnose software and hardware issues if Internet access ever goes down at your residence.

  • Access: By providing the necessary equipment for AT&T Internet access, AT&T ensures that its customers can use the Internet they paid for regardless of whether they have their own router or not.

The good news is that if you upgrade to AT&T Internet, especially for high-speed fiber, you’ll be provided with all of the equipment you need to get started right away. You also don’t have to worry about finding routers or other hardware compatible with AT&T’s Internet service.

What Equipment Does AT&T Provide for the Equipment Fee?

In exchange for the AT&T equipment fee, the company provides a combination modem/router (a “gateway” device) that allows the customer’s hardware to connect to AT&T’s Internet network. This equipment has to be turned in whenever the Internet contract is concluded.

Depending on your location, you may end up with one of the two following pieces of equipment if you set up an AT&T Internet account (Source: AT&T):

These devices are broadband gateways that provide both modem and router services. Other routers can be incorporated into the Internet gateway for increased security, but you’re required to rent the equipment either way.

Is the AT&T Equipment Fee Mandatory?

Even if you don’t want to use the equipment provided for AT&T, you’ll still be required to pay for the rental of the equipment. This fee is added to your AT&T bill automatically. (Source: CNET)

While it’s only ten dollars a month, this fee can add up to significant amounts of money over time. The equipment fee is rarely mentioned in marketing campaigns. Unless you’re already signed up for an account you might not even be aware of the extra charge until you’re locked into a contract.

Can You Use Third-Party Equipment with AT&T?

It’s impossible to get out of paying your monthly rental fee for AT&T’s Internet equipment if you’re using a contract through them. To justify charging the fee, AT&T claims that specialized equipment is necessary for the maintenance of their fiber networks.

However, you can still add your own router by disabling the router portion of the WiFi gateway and connecting alternative equipment instead. (Source: AT&T)

Is AT&T’s Equipment Fee Legal?

There has been some confusion as to whether AT&T’s equipment fee is legal since federal regulations passed in January 2021 forbid Internet service providers from charging customers for the use of their own personal WiFi equipment. However, these regulations don’t apply to AT&T’s equipment fees. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • AT&T uses custom equipment: The custom firmware used and designed for AT&T Internet access isn’t available anywhere else on the market.
  • AT&T doesn’t sell their WiFi equipment: Since AT&T only rents out their WiFi equipment and doesn’t sell it, this falls outside the scope of federal regulations.
  • AT&T doesn’t rent CATV or DSL services: These are the services that the new federal regulations were aimed at, not the WiFi gateway equipment used under AT&T’s equipment fees.

Even though you might not be a fan of AT&T’s hidden service fees like equipment fees, they’re perfectly legal to charge. The only alternative to avoiding these fees is using a different service other than AT&T.

How Is the AT&T Equipment Fee Charged?

The AT&T equipment fee comes as a part of your bill, and is a ten-dollar surcharge that is added each month rather than added up and paid once a year. This helps keep the appearance of the fee lower.

Equipment Fees Come with the Territory for AT&T

If you want to take advantage of AT&T’s high-speed fiber Internet, paying a monthly equipment fee is just part of the package. You can still integrate your own router or hardware if you want to use your own equipment as long as it’s compatible with AT&T’s network, but you’ll need their WiFi gateway to authenticate the wireless signal.

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