With the arrival of the new year, it is a time for reflections. Many people write about their professional and family accomplishments and most people will have one or more to highlight. I too have different accomplishments that I could write about but I’ve decided to write about a milestone in our family’s entertainment.
First, this isn’t about getting completely out from under the thumb of the various large cable television corporations. With my husband needing internet in his home office and our overall need for it for streaming services, we need high-speed internet and that usually means one of the big providers. This is about dropping them for everything else.
Second, cutting the cord has some upfront costs associated with the process. These costs, for the most part, are one-time costs that will eventually pay for themselves but cutting the cord isn’t cost-free.
At the beginning of 2018, our monthly bill from our cable provider was about $222 for what they call the Triple Play and Digital Preferred. What this means is that we had internet, cable television, and cable telephone. This price was a bundled package providing a discount of $36. We had dropped the premium channels previously when the most recent broadcast season of Game of Thrones was finished, we found that for the most part we only watched two programs on HBO and very little on any of the other premium channels.
Yes, there are many cable television channels that had programs that we watched but more and more we turned to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The holdout for us was that cable television gave us broadcast television. What would we do without local news and our favorite network television shows and with busy lives, don’t even think about taking away the DVR. So we trudged along paying that enormous monthly fee. Just like burning our money.
In the summer, I began reading articles about streaming packages that could possibly give us local channels and many of the cable channels that are included in the cable television that we currently have but for less monthly. I started making charts comparing Playstation Vue, Hulu, and Youtube which were some of the few providers of such services. This lead me to articles on “cord-cutting” websites. Finally, my husband and I circled back to the idea that those streaming packages are just another disguised cable bill.
Looking at cord-cutting websites such as Antenna Web, we began thinking about getting an HD antenna for broadcast television. Talk about a brain explosion. It all seemed very complex and the idea of an antenna installed on our roof made me think I was entering the Twilight Zone in a world of the 1960 or 1970s.
In the end, we decided to try an indoor antenna. There are so many to choose from and you have to know the broadcast zones that you are trying to receive. We lucked out with the one we bought on Amazon but I am not sure we really knew what we were doing. I guess we figured we could just return it if it didn’t work. We weren’t dropping the cable until we had it all functioning.
Yes, that is our antenna. If we had it in our living room, it would make a good conversation piece for guests but it is out of the way in my husband’s home office on the second floor (higher is better). It doesn’t take up much space. We purchased long cables in order to use the antenna for the televisions on both floors but started out just hooking up the television on the second floor which was closer. With the television remote, we set the service to “Antenna”, ran a channel update and with our fingers crossed started going through the channels. You would be amazed at how clear the picture broadcasts. For many of the channels, I thought it was more clear than cable. We discovered that one of the needed broadcast channels had very bad reception so we tried changing the direction of the antenna. This resolved the distortion without affecting other channels.
The next thing that needed to be resolved before we cut the cord was DVR. With shows broadcasting at the same time or when we can’t be home, a DVR was something that we became dependent on and didn’t want to give up. Again there are several options for this but some require a monthly fee which we didn’t want. Our televisions are not Smart TVs so some type of device is needed for streaming. We currently use an Amazon Fire Stick but also have older Roku devices and blueray players with streaming capability. With having the Amazon Fire Stick, we decided to purchase Amazon’s DVR, the Fire TV Recast. I am so glad we did. The two devices play nice together. When we went with antenna, we thought we’d be constantly using the television remote to switch from “antenna” for broadcast tv to the Fire Stick for streaming but having the Recast eliminated that cumbersome process by putting DVR on the Fire Stick menu. That menu option takes us to the live broadcast channels and the DVR functions. Do you remember I mentioned buying long cables to connect the antenna to the television on two floors. With the Recast, we don’t need them. The Recast is connected by cable to the antenna but the televisions are connected to the Recast by wifi.
With everything set with television entertainment, we dropped the television portion of our service but still had the telephone. We haven’t seriously used a home telephone line for a few years due to having cellphones but the cable telephone had been part of a package and my husband used it as his work line. When we dropped the television from cable, the monthly cost of the telephone increased since it was no longer part of a triple play package. At $45 a month, it had to go. Voiceover IP was the answer and we chose Ooma. For this part, it has only been a few weeks but so far it is working well.
As a family, we are getting used to the reduction in television channels. Without the large monthly bill for a bunch of channels we don’t use, we now have options. With streaming services, we maintain a base of Netflix and Amazon Prime but pick and choose others as we feel fit. I recently picked up Britbox and after a month or two I decided to drop it and pick up Acorn TV instead. We have the freedom of no long contracts. After dropping the telephone portion of our cable bill, our monthly bill for internet and related fees is $114. We cut it just about in half, not bad.