January 24, 2011

How I Went Nearly Cableless

I hate Comcast. Simply because they're a monopoly. It's like a girlfriend you desperately want to dump, but there are literally no other females on the entire planet.

Still, I wanted to try. I wanted to cut the cord. But, it turns out they're prepared for this.

You see, I wanted to unsubscribe from cable entirely. My goal was to use my QAM-unencryption capabilities on my Samsung TV to still get my local channels in HD, for the vast majority of live shows and sporting events that we watch. And then utilize Hulu Plus and Netflix for the rest.

Comcast had two defense strategies for this plan. One, if I got rid of my cable plan, my Internet costs would rise by $10/mo. Two, they would come out and put a block on my line so that I wouldn't even be able to access the local digital channels. And I would have to pay $10 for their guy to come out and do this.

Now, this obviously infuriated me. I'm quite certain it can't be legal. I'm not under contract. So an arbitrary fee for removal of service?? Why not just charge $2,000 and ensure no one ever leaves?

Their suggested alternative? Go down to a "basic cable" plan for $20/month and my Internet rate would stay the same. So for a net $10/month, I don't have to buy and install an antenna on my roof to get local channels. Sort of worth it to me, for now at least.

"Wait, so now that you're down to local channels, you're missing out on all that content you used to get?"

That's partially true. But, it's why we signed up for Hulu Plus (at $7.99/mo) and Netflix (streaming only at $7.99/mo)

While some Food Network and HGTV shows are included via Hulu Plus, this is the biggest content loss for my wife. And I no longer get to watch SportsCenter. But in exchange for the cost savings, we're getting a huge content increase. Hulu Plus offers not only full seasons, but full series of hundreds of shows. This includes current seasons, with new episodes released the day after air.

And Netflix's streaming library is much more limited than their mail-order library. But we use our local library to check out new releases free of charge.

"Wait, how are you watching Hulu Plus and Netflix on your TV?"

I bought a Roku XDS player for under $100.You can get an HD version for less than $60. Mine's just slightly more future-proof when Hulu and Netflix decide to provide 1080p streaming.

The Roku is a wireless device that brings Web apps to your computer, including Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora and more. Why Roku over Boxxee, Apple TV or Google TV? Well, Roku is cheaper than Boxee. And Apple TV and Google TV are extraordinarily content-limited at this point.

"Why can't I just hook up my laptop to my computer?"
You absolutely can. But then, you can't use your laptop while you're watching TV.

Our old Comcast bill was $95.70
Now it's $72.63.
+ 7.99 for Hulu Plus + 7.99 for Netflix and we're at $88.61.

A net savings of only $7.09/mo. But it's a start. And it's a savings, along with a huge content and convenience increase. And I'm not done haggling with the evil Comcast reps. Just a matter of time before we go even lower.

Tomorrow, How I Plan on Cancelling my Wireless Phone Plan.