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Cutting the cable cord

It was easier than I thought to dump cable and go online for all my television needs.

By Kim Peterson Jun 17, 2010 2:16PM

For as long as I can remember, I've paid for cable. But as the years have gone by, I found myself watching less and less of it while my monthly bill crept higher.

I was finally at the point where my family was paying $65 a month for cable -- just so my son could watch an hour of the Disney Channel each day. Wow, that was a pricey hour!

It didn't take me long to come up with a plan. First, call up Cox Communications and cancel. Resist urge to say nyah-nyah-nyah to polite customer service agent. That was the easy part. Then I had to get creative.

I could have fiddled around with a high-def antenna and free HD channels, but I've tried that before and found the reception horrible. (By the way, here's what Karen Datko did after she pulled the plug).

Nope, everything I wanted was online. I already pay some $50 a month for high-speed Internet. Why not get more bang for my buck and start watching online video on my television?

But there lies the problem that everyone from Netflix to Microsoft to Sony has been trying for years to fix. Once you bring the Internet to the TV, the possibilities are endless (and there is big money to be made by selling content). But how to get there?

The best way for me was to buy a computer for the TV. I found an elegant solution in three parts:

1. A wireless network. This is a must-have, because I didn't want cables all over the place.

2. A Mac Mini. Sure, there are non-Apple computers that work just as well, but I love Macs and think the Mini is super cute. I found a used one on eBay for $300.

3. A wireless keyboard and mouse. Another way to avoid cables. But because used keyboards are kind of ick, I shelled out $135 total for new versions of Apple's wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse.

Kim's TV setup
So I spent $435 on this setup, which will pay for itself in under seven months (going by the $65 I had been paying for cable).

The TV acts like a giant monitor for the Mac Mini. So far, the main thing we watch is Netflix on demand.

I've had a Netflix subscription for years, but only recently realized the wide variety of videos in its online library. For my 3-year-old son, there are complete seasons of "Blue's Clues" and "Dora the Explorer," plus many episodes of "Bob the Builder," Barney, the Wiggles and Thomas the Train. Also, the Disney Channel's website streams shows that he can watch.

For grownups, there are seasons of shows like "Weeds" and "Arrested Development" and movies like "District 9" and "Julie & Julia."

I also watch Hulu. The website has episodes of "Glee" and "The Office," which are all that I pretty much watch. For sports, I've been watching World Cup games on ESPN3.com, which has live streaming video.

There's always iTunes if I want to rent movies or buy episodes of TV shows, but I haven't done that yet.

This setup doesn't completely replace cable, and I'm sure one day there will be something I want to watch that I can't find online. But it sure works for my household right now -- and I can find better uses for that $65 monthly cable charge.

 

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20Comments
Sep 8, 2012 1:21PM
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I dumped cable about 5 years ago. I haven't really missed it. I dumped netflix as well, cause they never seem to have anything new, and I've seen everything I want to on it. I may bring it back in a year or two to see if anything's changed. (They're hot 100 list hasn't changed in more than 3 years.).

 

Anyway, I digress. There is one trend that needs to be noted here. I watch all tv shows online. I don't pay for fancy boxes or equipment. I dropped cable for economic reasons and really don't have the money for those hookups, even if they do eventually pay for themselves. I pay for my internet because I need it for my job so I can work at home. (Saves on gas and parking fees.)

 

So, some networks are getting smart or greedy. Depends on how you look at it. TBN won't let you see any of their shows unless you have an account for a cable service. I never got to see the end of the The Closer and some other shows I liked on there because of it. FOX TV makes you wait a whole week before you can see their episodes. USA Network makes you wait for a whole month before you can stream their videos.

 

Some of the national networks like CBS and NBC will let you view their shows the next day - some they will not at all. The Mentalist and Harry's Law come to mind for that. CBS has some of their comedies not streaming - 2 Broke Girls was streamed until they won the People's Choice Award last year, and then it was cut off.  My personal suspicion is that they are setting us up for purchase of their dvds Again, more of that corporate greed thing.

 

Not all of these shows are on Netflix either and Hulu  also won't let you stream certain shows unless you pay their monthly fee. It's not a lot, but still annoying for something that was free for a long time. Also, please note that Hulu does not have all the major networks. They do not have shows from CBS or TBN.

 

So, totally dumping your cable is not a total bed of financial roses. If you know the ins and outs and can accept the fact that some things you're not going to be able to see without it costing you something (even it's far less than the $85/month cable fee), you'll be fine.

 

I'm still mad about TBN, but eventually, I'll find the final season of the Closer. The other stuff is a minor annoyance. The nice thing is that you don't have to worry about rushing home to catch your favorite show, or wondering if I remembered to set the TiVo.

 

As for commercials, there are a lot less ( and I have yet to see one political ad, thank you very much), but you need to get over the fact that they keep playing the same ones over and over again, every time there's a commercial break. I find I can refill  my ice tea glass in the 120 seconds that the break occurs.

 

Happy surfing. 

Oct 28, 2011 6:47PM
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I dumped cable television over a year ago. Gave Comcast back my box and had them provide high speed internet only. And I have NEVER regretted or missed it. In fact, I have so much stuff to watch I don't even have time to watch it all. I stream Hulu and Netflix on my Playstation 3, get blu ray movies in the mail from Netflix, and buy whatever favorite shows I have that I can't watch on those on iTunes and watch them on my Apple TV. I can watch ANY program I want to see using one of the above methods, for a FAR lower cost than my $85 per month cable tv bill was.
Jul 13, 2011 6:36PM
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I've really cut back from watching allot of tv. I'd say only six expisodes of Family Guy and 2 episodes of Star Trek on Netflix at night.  I then spend the last 3 hours searching the internet for information of alien lifeforms that might be living in the united states.  When I knew I needed to cut the addiction was after watching 23hrs straight of Tivo'd General Hosital. I only ate three boxes of pop tarts for the whole day and never moved an inch. Now, with all this free time to roam the internet I'm becoming quite the expert on UFO's.  You need to cut the cord and cancel the subscription. The only way to overcome the addiction is to slice the cord with a pair of knitting scissors. That's what I did. Then  I called Comcast and told them off in ways that would be considered illegal in most middle eastern countries.  

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