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Do I Need A Modem For Cable TV?

For over seventy years, cable TV has provided households with access to basic and premium cable channels. However, as technology has developed, there are more ways to access television content than ever. Due to this, many people of how cable TV works and whether it requires a modem or internet access. 

Since cable television predates the internet by four decades, it does not require a modem or internet connection to function properly. Cable TV uses radiofrequency signals that are transmitted via coaxial cables, which can be connected to your television to provide access to cable TV channels.

We’ll explain everything you should know if you’re wondering why cable TV doesn’t require a modem or internet access. Once we’ve explained how cable TV infrastructure works, we’ll discuss cable internet access, which utilizes the same infrastructure as cable television but requires a modem to work properly. 

Does Cable TV Need A Modem To Work Properly? 

In recent years, the internet and the rise of streaming have greatly changed how consumers access and watch video content. Despite many consumers shifting to alternative methods of streaming their favorite movies and series, an estimated 65% of American citizens are still paying for cable TV services. 

Since consumers have more ways to watch content today, many people are unsure of how cable TV works. Many people have found themselves asking whether cable TV requires a modem and internet connectivity. To answer this question, we need to explain how cable TV works to watch television content at home.  

Radiofrequency (RF) signals are used to deliver television programming to cable TV subscribers. Traditionally, these signals were transmitted through coaxial cables, which would be plugged directly into televisions. However, it’s also possible to plug the coaxial cable into a converter box, which is then connected to the TV. 

While many people still use coaxial cables for their cable TV, newer systems utilize fiber-optic cables. Many people are aware that fiber optics are used for telecommunication services, such as the internet. Ultimately, these newer fiber optic cable TV systems only add to people’s confusion about whether cable TV requires a modem or internet connection. 

Despite newer cable TV systems utilizing fiber optic cables, cable TV has never required an internet connection to function. In fact, cable television became available in America in 1948, while the internet would only be available to the public in 1991. At the time the internet was launched, it was not yet possible to stream video content. 

Of course, a modem is a device used to establish a connection with your internet service provider (ISP), allowing this device to act as your gateway to the internet. Given that cable television predated the internet by roughly four decades, cable television doesn’t require a modem or internet connection to display content on your TV. 

Modern “Internet TV,” which includes streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, uses the internet to deliver content to smart TVs, streaming media players, and other devices. However, cable television utilizes wires, cables, and satellites to provide subscribers with TV content. This functionality means that cable TV uses older technology and doesn’t require the internet to display content. 

Cable television was originally launched to enhance the poor reception of television signals broadcast over the air, particularly in geographically remote locations. Coaxial cables – and, more recently, fiber-optic cables – allowed consumers to have an alternative means of watching content on their televisions. 

When the internet was first launched, an estimated 60% of all US households had cable television subscriptions. Since the internet has rapidly advanced and offers consumers even more alternatives, cable TV has been in slow decline. However, if you’d like to get television content without a modem or internet connection, cable TV is still a great option! 

Cable TV Vs. Cable Internet: How Do They Differ? 

In the previous section, we discussed how cable television works and why it doesn’t require an internet connection or modem to work properly. However, since the advent of the internet, cable internet has become a new networking solution for households. Many people are confused about how cable TV and cable internet differ. 

While these two cable-based services greatly differ, there’s a reason people get the services confused: cable internet is a type of broadband service that utilizes the same infrastructure that cable television uses. Furthermore, unlike cable TV, cable internet access requires a specialized modem. 

As we explained, a modem is a device used to connect you to your internet service provider (ISP). A cable modem is a device that acts as a network bridge, allowing you to get internet access via radiofrequency signals over coaxial cable infrastructure. While cable TV doesn’t require this modem to display content on your TV, you’ll need a modem for cable internet access. 

Once again, the rapid development of the internet means that consumers now have faster alternatives to cable internet. Currently, fiber internet is the best connection type. However, regardless of which connection type you use, you’ll need a modem to connect to function as your gateway to the internet. 

Luckily, cable TV is a more streamlined service that doesn’t require a modem or internet connection. For example, let’s consider smart TVs that rely on internet access to stream content. Even without an internet connection, you’d be able to connect a cable TV coaxial cable to your smart TV to watch television content. 

Despite declining cable service users, cable TV and cable internet access are still reliable telecommunication services due to the coaxial infrastructure that is used. However, in the future, we’ll continue to see a shift towards fiber-optic-based telecommunication services. 


In this article, we explained why cable TV does not require a modem or Internet access to connect your TV to a cable television channel. Ultimately, this is because cable TV functions by transmitting radiofrequency signals over coaxial cables. While cable television doesn’t require a modem, cable internet access requires a cable modem to connect to the internet.