What's the advantage of this policy? It looks like a fixed fee without charging separate rental fees would encourage all customers to rent, else they're paying for someone else's modem. That the modem rental cost to you is essentially a $2 fraction of your bill instead of a $10 line-item only occurs because 80% of users are paying that $2 but not renting a modem; so why wouldn't you? On the other hand, if the modem rental is a separate fee, everyone gets to avoid it by buying an $80 modem... except poor people, who can't take the outlay, and have to pay the extra $10/month. The good news is those poor people would probably pay that $10/month anyway, since everyone would take advantage of modem rental, so there's no difference at the bottom end.
In other words: this proposed FCC policy does no harm to the poorest, but helps the less-poor. Okay, I'll buy it.
We've been universally bad at good consumer policy, in general, which is easily pointed out by Federal cell phone fees.
The Utility Users Tax for Wireless ($4 per serviced device) costs America over 90,000 jobs. When you factor in the Federal USF Cellular fee, it's almost 113,000 jobs.
These regressive taxes most strongly target the poor and middle-class, as they represent a larger percentage of income for users with lower incomes. An average 2.4-person household with one cellular device per person currently pays $115.20/year; for households with more persons, it's higher, and a two-adult, three-child household with five phones would pay $240/year.
A 0.01638% increase in all Income taxes would draw the same Federal revenue. A median-income household would pay $8.84/year; a minimum-wage household would pay $2.38/year; and a top-1% household would pay $278.46/year.
In terms of income tax, the average 2.4-person household as reflected above, paying $115.20/year, would pay a higher percentage the less income they have. The median-income household currently pays 0.213% of their income in these cell phone taxes; the minimum-wage household pays 0.794%; and the top-1% pays 0.000678%.
So there you have it: Federal wireless fees are equivalent to a higher income tax the lower your income actually is. I'm not saying the FCC's policy here with cable modems is bad, but we should be concerned whenever they start tinkering with fees because this shit happens.