May 31, 2022 — Many of America’s most hated companies are the cable, internet and telephone giants – Comcast/Xfinity, Century Link, Sprint, etc. People dread calling these behemoths for customer service, because they know they will get into a never-ending telephone tree that make it very difficult to speak to a human being. They also don’t like the bills that come along with telephone, cable and internet service. The bill starts out looking reasonable, but after you add in the modem and cable box rental fees, broadcast and sports fees, and 6 different kinds of taxes, the total tab can easily approach $300/monthly. Adding more sports packages and HBO can send it north of that. And of course, every year the bill goes up. For retirees on a budget, these bills can become just too much.
After talking with friends your editor decided to cut the cord – or at least 2 of the cords – home phone and cable. Here is how he did it.
Alternative to cable TV
There are several good alternatives to cable TV.
The cheapest and most basic one is to buy a good indoor antenna and try to capture local on air broadcasts the old fashioned way, for free. We tried that, but after some struggles only got about 7 stations, most of them spanish language or old movie channels. Maybe we didn’t have the right antenna, or are too far away from local TV stations. We could not get any network or local news.
Youtube TV. My friend suggested this, praising how many channels (85) he receives and how wonderful their cloud DVR is. The only thing he couldn’t get were Red Sox or Yankee games, but since John is a Mets fan – no problem there. The monthly fee for Youtube TV is $65, but there is a 14 day free trial. It does not offer the Weather Channel.
Hulu +TV Live. For a monthly fee of $69.99 you can get an astonishingly long list of live TV channels – just about anything you would want. That includes Disney+ and ESPN+.
Fubo TV and Sling Orange and Blue are also contenders.
Most cord-cutting reviewers think these competitors are roughly the same. Each of them has a few different exclusions or add-ons that could tip the difference, depending on your needs.
What you want to watch. If local news, certain sports teams, movies, or weather is important, compare each service carefully to see if it is included. Some streaming services like Disney+ or Peacock are included with some packages, and that might make a difference in your decision.
How We Cut It
Most people have figured out how to eliminate their home phone – rely on your cell phone instead. The key to cutting cable TV is having reliable Internet so you can stream everything. Streaming services like Youtube TV rely on your Internet to bring you the programs they carry.
Your TV is important. Newer TVs have almost every streaming app built in, so you only need 1 remote to do everything. If your TV is a little older, you might have to also buy a Firestick, Apple TV, or Roku to control the apps. We opted to replace our 15 year old TV with a bigger one with built in apps. So far that has worked great; using only 1 remote makes things simpler. You have to log into each paid app on the TV, but that is not too difficult. The most complicated one to install for us was HBO Max, since we pay for the service through another provider.
Optimize your wireless signal at the TV. Our main TV often stalled in the middle of a program because the wifi signal was slow. That wasn’t good if we were trying to watch the evening news or a favorite program. So we improved the wireless signal by installing another wifi repeater (booster or extender). You can use apps like Speed Test to measure the speed in different areas. Just by moving the locations of the repeaters around the house we were able to significantly improve the signal. We also changed the modem location to use the cable input that was by the TV, so now the wifi signal is at the strongest point in the house. You can also use a cable to input the signal directly to the TV from the modem. One final tip: get a new modem. Your Internet company won’t tell you this, but they are constantly improving their modems (same goes if you are buying your own). If yours is more than 2 years old, ask if there is a better one.
Youtube TV trial. Based on our friend’s experience we took a 14 day trial to see how it would work. The results were great. It recorded all of our favorite shows and never ran out of memory. It is easy to operate and there are more programs than we could ever watch.
Cutting cable. Since the trial was successful we went to Xfinity and cancelled the triple play, leaving only Internet. Of course they are charging us more than triple what they would for a new customer ($120 vs. $39), so the dollar savings are not that great (about $90/month in total vs. our previous bill). But since we are snowbirds we can now eliminate paying the $60/month seasonal hold fees for 6 months of the year. Perhaps that will allow us to qualify as a new customer next year!
It has been a week now and so far we are very pleased with our decision. We can watch anything we want on live TV, although we mostly stream other apps like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Max. It seemed like a big decision, but don’t think we will be going back.
Comments? If you have cut the cord or are thinking about it, please share your experiences and thoughts in the Comments section below.