The average modem rental is less than $6/mo with most providers. At retail, modems run from the mid-$50s to the mid-$70s, so at best, it takes a year for the modem to pay for itself. Plus, depending on the provider, some user-owned modems can be problematic if the ISP issues service changes or updates.
That said, if router signal strength (as in punching through multiple walls or outside use) is not an issue, some cable modems — like Motorola Surfboard Gateway series — have a built-in wireless router, so you can reduce equipment and cable clutter. Mine works fine within my office, but upstairs and outside it's useless, so I use a Belkin N750DB router (which has a much more robust signal than even Apples's APX) as a bridge.
Perfect, that's what I needed. You can get the Motorola SBG6580 modem/router combo on Amazon for $123.97 shipped. They have used ones for a bit cheaper but for $30 more you get new. I recommend the Motorola Surfboards.
The other wi-fi one, Surfboard SBG6782, is a newer model with dual band wi-fi, 2.4 and 5Ghz. If she is in a densely populated area where there are a lot of other wireless routers the 5Ghz helps to eliminate interference. You can bring your iPad over and see how many networks are in the area. It is close to $200 though. Your call there.
You could go with a regular modem and a wireless router that hooks up to it also. The all-in-one modem/wireless is a simpler and cleaner setup. With separate ones if one goes out you only have to get either the modem or the router. Combined cost of separate ones is about the same as an all-in-one.
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