Cutting The Cable (Part 1)

cableAfter more than a year of thought and debate I finally cut the cord this week. I’ve lived with Cable TV service as long as I have been alive and never considered another option. But as the cable bill grew larger and the alternatives greater I started to wonder why I was paying for these services and whether I was getting my money’s worth. It's only been a few days since I cut the cable, so this will be the first in a series of blog posts discussing why, how and whether I'm happy with my decision. Why Cut the Cable? Two years ago when I moved to this area I signed up for a cable bundle package that was a pretty good deal, $99 for expanded cable TV (no premium channels), high speed Internet and basic phone service. This $99 bundle was not a special, it was advertised as the “everyday value price” for this bundle. Over the years, that price has grown and now my bill just over $150, that's quite a price increase in two years.

I've used a TiVo since the early 2000s and although I haven't been happy with some of the recent decisions the company has made, I still love the TiVo service. My current TiVo HDs work with either Cable service or over the air digital antennas.  Looking at my TiVo season pass list, I realized that nearly all of the shows that I record were network television shows that were available free over the air. There were a few non-network TV shows that could easily be watched or bought through other services. I quickly realized the $65 I was paying for the cable TV portion of my bill was really being spent on only a few channels.

As my cost for cable service kept increasing, I didn’t feel like I was getting anything more for my money.  My cost for services went up at the same time my cable company instituted bandwidth caps. Shortly thereafter, they started running television ads boasting “free HD” that were simply blatantly untrue. I was paying over $15 a month for a “digital gateway” and for cable cards with the only benefit being HD service. When I called the company to inquire about these claims and charges the representative was downright rude and refused to address my concerns. That was the straw that broke my back.

Making the Switch Since I already owned the TiVo HD units and HD TVs the only hardware that would be required was the antenna. Prior to cutting the cable, I wanted to install the antenna and make sure I was happy with the reception. I started my research at and after inputing my address and some basic information was able to see what channels were available in my area and the type of antenna I would need.

I purchased my $20 antenna from Mono Price and was pleased to find in total, I received 10 channels including all the network channels (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) as well as several public broadcasting and local stations in pristine high definition, all free.

Installation of the antenna was the only thing that did not go as expected. My initial plan was to install the antenna in the attic and splice it in place of my primary cable line so it would feed all the TVs in my home and be out of sight. Unfortunately, when I got up in the attic I found there was a barrier between my access point and the cable junction box that made the installation more difficult than I was comfortable with. Though I may end up paying a professional to come out and run a line in the attic at some point in the future.

For now, I installed the antenna on a wall in my guest bedroom next to an unused cable outlet and back-fed the signal into my cable junction box, using that line as my new input which feeds the three HDTVs in my home. The solution works perfectly, but means that there’s an antenna about the size of a basketball mounted on the wall in my guest bedroom which is a bit of an eyesore. It's out of the way and I don’t have guests often, so hopefully they won’t mind.

I re-ran the guided setup on the TiVos to look for the antenna signal and they adjusted their setup and converted all my saved season passes over with no problems. All my regular season passes are recording as they should.

Canceling Cable After a couple of days living with the antenna and finding everything worked according to plan, I set out to cancel my cable. This was probably the most difficult part of the process. Because of the options in my area, I needed to keep my cable Internet service but could choose between the cable or phone company for the phone service (I have a monitored alarm system that requires a hard-wire phone.)

When I called the 800 number to cancel my cable I was on the phone for no less than 35 minutes with the cable rep who was determined to convince me that I really didn't want to cut my cable. The misinformation this sales person was spewing was almost entertaining. She first tried to up-sell me the cable company DVR and cable box telling me to ignore the fact my bill was going up, but I was getting a "better value." Then, she tried to sell me a less-expensive cable package that included none of the expanded channels I actually watched and was nothing more than network television plus some extra junk channels. Lastly, she explained to me how "concerned" she was for me because without my cable I wouldn't be able to get my local news and weather and after all, it was hurricane season in Florida. After this I lost my patience, asked her if she was intentionally lying to me or if she was really this misinformed? Things went downhill from there.

The cable rep on the phone was not very helpful and told me after unbundling my cable service the price of my phone would double and my Internet service would go up significantly making the savings of cutting cable TV very minimal. I decided to do nothing and later that day went in person to the local cable office and received much better service and better options allowing me to keep my current pricing on both phone and Internet services, just lose the cable. Overall, by dropping cable I'm saving $65 a month off my bill and keeping the same level of Internet and phone service.

Concerns: It's only been a few days, but so far from a technical standpoint my antenna only setup with cable phone and Internet service seems to be working well.  Making the switch from cable meant I lost about 70 channels, however I can tell you from my experiences so far, there are less than a half dozen that I actually miss.  My biggest loss was 24-hour cable news programing and a few custom channels like HGTV. I'll be experimenting with replacements through podcasts, Hulu and other providers and see how this works and if I really end up missing the lost channels. I have a feeling those few lost channels won't be worth the $65 premium I was paying for cable.

Conclusion I’m not yet a week into this experiment, but so far I’m not going through any major withdraw. I still miss CNN and HGTV but that’s about it. I expect as time goes on, I’ll find even better ways to fill these voids. I’ve heard from a number of people who have cut the cable in the last couple of years as I’ve been considering this move, and I’ve yet to hear of one person who went back. I’ll check back in a few months to let you know how it goes.