2011: The year we cut the cable for good (and how you can too)

So I am the keeper of the bills (and the budget) in our household. I try at minimum to keep our costs in check, and at best lower them. So imagine my reaction when I looked at our phone/internet/cable bill to see that it would be rising $20 a month come January.

My first plan of action was to call the company. This had always worked in the past. I lowered our bill once from $175 to $105 with one phone call and even upgraded service. I usually make a call to them regardless of our bill price once every three months to see if we could get any savings. Usually this netted $20 savings a month, plus a few, sometimes temporary upgrades like free Showtime or HBO. If you’re not already doing this you should. If they really give you a hard time – threaten to leave. Works like a charm.

So I was very frustrated to learn that this time they weren’t budging. Not even a $5 “thanks for being our customer” discount. Nada. So I threatened to leave – only this time I was serious.

I had been pestering my husband about cutting the cable since summer. Streaming video is on the rise, and hardly a month goes by without a new headline that another network, show etc. being available. These services became available in 2010, and really kicked it up a notch in 2011. I am going to go on the record as 2012 being the beginning of the end for cable.

Anecdotally most of the folks I talked to rarely watch live television anymore – instead opting for Tivo (a  premium service by the way) and watching when they have time. Some even quipped that they enjoy TV show watching marathons over live TV. These people were from all walks of life and lifestyles – from single working folks, to parents with young children, to retirees.

This is exactly what streaming TV offers. You are able to watch the shows from the major networks the day after it airs (in the case of the evening news only an hour or so after it airs). At this point, you would be hard pressed to find a show you can’t watch on a streaming device (or perhaps online for free).

The major sticking point for most folks when I mention streaming video is sports. Our household doesn’t watch any sports at all, so it’s a non-issue. However, from what I read, you can subscribe to various channels and get all the sports you want – live – WAY more than is offered by any cable package. The only one I have heard complaints about is NCAA. Most of my friends who have switched to streaming don’t subscribe though, and instead opt for a crowd cheering experience at the local bar.

So in December we cut the cord. After extensive research we opted for the Roku streaming device (affiliate link) . We chose Roku for a number of reasons. First, the entry level price was attractive at only $50. We ended up with the Roku 2 xS (more at $80) because we wanted HD capability and my husband has a small obsession with games (that version comes with Angry Birds). Second, it seemed to have the most options when it came to programming including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and HBOGo, plus a ton of additional free programming.

GoogleTV‘s user interface is better – allowing you to search for programming across all channels, but has very little programming. AppleTV – perhaps the most well-known streaming device – comes with a heftier $99 price and has less channel availability. It doesn’t allow for Hulu Plus, and the alternative of renting TV shows is quite expensive. And AppleTV’s resolution is less than our 1080 Roku.

So I made the call in mid- December to upgrade our internet from 5 mbps to 15 mbps (I read that 10-12 mbps is recommended for streaming devices).  After loading up all the channels, we flipped on our wireless Roku, watched, and waited. We were thrilled. There were no hiccups (sans one minor one with an initial HBOGo load). No pixelations, nothing. It was just like watching TV, and in some cases better quality and with fewer interruptions. We were sold.

I made another call and cut our cable completely. This netted (even with a HuluPlus and Netflix subscription) a monthly savings of $50!!  I must admit I was sad when I couldn’t watch the parade live on Christmas or the Golden Globes – but then I thought about the $50 and wasn’t sad anymore.

We have hope of getting the major networks (and thus live TV) for free through an HD antenna. If you live in a major metro – this should be a snap for you. We, unfortunately don’t, and with the antenna we just purchased are only able to get the local news and PBS channel. We’re going to experiment a bit more and I will report back on our findings.

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  • mdoe37

    I asked Santa (my mom) for a Roku for Christmas.  I’m tired of the dish bill as well. . . and it really seems that when you want to sit down and watch something. . . there isn’t anything on.   Santa also brought me a wireless router which, despite my technological challenges, was able to hook up in a jiffy. 

    We are just starting to get into it and there seems to be new channels available daily.  Our dish went out the other day with a mere inch poof of snow.  That just may have sealed its fate.  I had purchased an antenna which I rigged up quickly and was able to get a few channels in a pinch.  In better weather, I’ll permanently wire it.

    I think the dish is nearly done!  :)

    • Anonymous

      I hear terrible things about dish cable. They always seems to go out in bad weather – which is exactly when you’re inside and want to be watching TV. I would seriously look into the Roku. We really love it.

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