Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cutting the Cord --- Done!

We finally did it!!!   We finally cut the cable TV cord.  I could not be happier.  If my family of eight can do it, you guys can do it too. You know what? The kids do not miss it much either. At least not nearly as much as I thought they would.

I will attempt to outline all of the details that we did along the way.  This will help to show you how our entertainments needs are met without cable TV.

Let me warn you, this is one of my longer posts.  Go get a cup of coffee and have a nice drink while you read this.  Also I have some affiliate links to products on Amazon.  If you decide to cut the cord and buy some of these products from Amazon, it will help keep these posts going and send my kids to college if you use my referral kinks. :)

First, we built our entertainment services while we still had cable TV.  This is very important.  This gave everyone time to adjust and learn how to use the new devices. Most importantly, we got the kids used to using the alternative services before we cut the cord.  We purchased a couple of Rokus and the kids already had XBOX360s.  These devices act as our front ends for streaming services.  Since I am a nerd, we use XBMC on a couple of TVs also, but this would not be a good solution for the non-nerdy person yet.  You have to be able to improvise and love to tinker if using XBMC.  There will be more on XBMC over at the Geek's Garage.

Second, there is no way around it, you have to still have a high speed internet connection. We were paying about $170 per month on the "bundled" Comcast deal.  Once I cancelled everything else, my internet connection is about $64 per month.  That is well over $100 per month savings on the Comcast bill.  Sure, I am spending a little more money on streaming services and possibly higher bandwidth rates or what I like to call the "nerd fee", but we will get to that later.  But this is still a significant savings and we get to watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch it.  Say that ten times over and over!

There is third very important item you will need to get used to.   The days of picking up the remote and just mindlessly flipping through channels are gone.  They are never coming back if you cut the cord (other than over the air broadcasts).  You have to do some work now. You must seek out your entertainment and plan a little better.  Channel flipping is so Y2K! Streaming services don't have channels.  Sure the Roku tries to create channels, but it is not the same. You have to get used to the user interface change of streaming services.  The only real way to do this is to experience this yourself.  Don't get me wrong, the Roku is very easy to use, after all my lovely little five year old can use it blindfolded!

So what do we use for entertainment?  First, the streaming services.... We use Netflix and Amazon for the all of the kids shows.  Sure, I will buy the latest episodes of their shows from Amazon, it is still massively less expensive than the cable TV bill.    So for those keeping a running cost total, we pay $9.00 per month for Netflix, get many free shows because we are Amazon Prime members (about $7.00 per month), and then we buy about six episodes per month on average at $2.00 per episode. We also subscribed to Hulu Plus at $8.00 per month, although I am not sure we will keep this, more on that later.  So the total streaming services per month are about $36 per month.  I have to admit we kind of splurge to get to that amount.  You could make this even cheaper if you wanted.

By the way, a quick plug for Amazon Prime.  We have been Amazon Prime members for a couple of years now.  It is one of the best things we have done. We now make many less trips to the store which saves us money in the long run.  The convenience is the real selling point of Amazon Prime.  I highly recommend that you look into it.

We also use offline movie rentals such as Redbox, but we used those while we had Cable TV so I don't think it is fair to add those in the cost.  We also had Netflix before cutting the cord too, but I still think it is important to include that as our cable TV like entertainment cost.  Honestly with what I am about to describe below, I don't think that Hulu Plus is really worth the $8.00 per month.  I can DVR most of that stuff over the air.  Your mileage with Hulu Plus may vary.  It is nice if you want an easy solution to catch up on the latest TV shows, but I am still not convinced it is worth the cost.  Also, it plays advertisements during playback. I am not a fan of that at $8.00 per month!

We also added an over the air antenna like this one (here).  It picks up all of our local channels and then some.  Just use a site like AntennaWeb.org to find out what stations you can pick up. I know our Antenna is very directional, so you have to have it pointed the right way to pick up channels. I also installed an HDHomeRun in the basement and added it to our local area network.  This gives us two HD tuners available for Live TV DVR like functionality.  This is where I use Windows 7 Media Center on an older PC along with XBMC to provide the DVR functionality and total media center entertainment.  I won't get too technical here, but I will make a post at the Geek's Garage that details the technical setup.  Let me tell you, sports look and sound much better over the air than they do through cable TV.

Let me just say, I don't hate Comcast.  I love the internet service that they provide.  I do hate all the other services.  I can't stand things being forced on me and I felt like the other services were forced on me.  I would gladly pay for the channels I want to watch, but the industry is just not there yet, so I will have to do it my way until it comes around.  Since I am streaming so much over my Internet connection, I believe the Internet Provider's next move will be to start charging us for bandwidth.  Don't believe me?  If you have Comcast, log into your account and check.  They are tracking your bandwidth usage.  Here is a sample of mine:

Can you tell we cut the cord in November?!?  And that the kids are out of school for part of December? My kids still watched a lot of shows on Netflix before we cut the cord, but they really ramped it up in November.  My five year old will play an episode of Kickin' It like it is a radio station in the background.  Over and over and over I see Jack, Milton, Jerry, Kim, and Rudy in her favorite episode over and over.  Not to mention, my older kids have iPads (provided by their school) and they will sit upstairs in their rooms and stream their favorite TV shows. Now I know I need to watch what she and the rest of the kids are doing. You know I will admit, it is not all my kids, we like to watch an occasional movie now and again and catch up on our shows via online streams.  That is the way it is going.

Now for the bad news, there is currently a 250 GB limit per month.  Mine says my limit has been suspended.  That translates to they are not shutting me down, yet. This is where the so called "nerd fee" will come into play. I have read online that they are testing this in the Southern states and right now it looks like the pricing limit is set to 300 GB at default and $10 per month for every 50 GB that you go over.  This of course is all rumor, no one nows what they are really going to do until they do it.  I will update more when I get notified.  Maybe I need to adjust the Netflix quality as a test?  We will see...

Tired of paying the high cost of pay TV?  Do your part to change an industry.  Develop your cord cutting strategy and get moving!

More updates to come as things develop.

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