Cutting the Cable

While out on our early morning long run Saturday, Chris and I were lamenting that our cable tv provider, Comcast decided to raise our rates again (it’s not Comcastic). Like a used car salesman, cable companies offer a product with no fixed price, which forces us as the consumer to engage in a truly exhausting form of haggling. Every six months, we call them up and threaten to drop them. They tell us they’ll, “see what they can do” and come back with a cheaper monthly rate for cable. Ultimately, we end up with a rate that’s only slightly higher, but it’s frustrating.

Struck with inspiration (or maybe just heat exhaustion) Chris said, “Maybe we should just cancel cable?” Done. See, I hate the TV. I like a lot of TV shows, but I hate the TV. I hate trying to find something that I want to watch when I want to watch it, and I hate commercials. Generally, I spend 5 minutes browsing through our 100 or so channels of absolute garbage before giving up and watching reruns of older tv shows on Netflix. Also, I’m cheap, so canceling cable was right up my alley. It helps that we have a few friends and family members who have done the same, and they have no regrets, so it seemed like an easy call.

Chris was thrilled. I think he was really excited to use his power as a consumer to stick it to The Man, so we cut the cable.

Miles was really excited too.

Ok, so you don’t actually cut the cable, which sort of bummed me out; you just unplug it. Then, you call Comcast and tell them, “Smell ya later, suckers!” I don’t think Chris really said that. He was probably very polite; that’s why he’s in charge of these things. Being the jerks that they are, they jacked up our internet costs sine we’re no longer bundled, but we’re still saving about $50 a month. It’s not going to make us millionaires, but it surely doesn’t hurt, and an extra $50 a month for a subpar product that we were barely using was really a waste of money. Just like that, we were cable-less.

And now we spend our evenings reading by candle light.

Not really. In case you’re thinking of cutting cable too and are wondering what you’ll do with your free time, here’s what we plan on using.

First, Chris went out and bought an antenna for $50 (pays for itself in a month!). I thought it would be rabbit ears, but apparently those don’t exist anymore. Instead, we have a sleek black square about the size of a magazine sitting next to our tv. With the antenna we’re able to pick up all the networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, WB, and some news channels) in HD. That means we can watch the news, the Olympics and most importantly, The Bachelor for free. We already have a Netflix subscription for $12 a month, which provides one DVD at a time as well as unlimited streaming. There are a huge selection of DVDs, and turnover is usually 3 days between when you return one DVD and when you get a new one. In order to stream movies and tv, we use the Apple TV.

It’s teeny, and it does a great job of streaming Netflix as well as movies and tv shows from our home computers. The selection for Netflix streaming is lacking. They have a ton of documentaries and a surprising amount of tv seasons, but the movies are usually stuff you wouldn’t want to watch, even for free. To compensate for that, we subscribed to Amazon Prime ($70 a year) which provides a larger movie and tv selection to stream for free. Apple doesn’t allow you to view Amazon Prime through the Apple TV, but Chris was able to hack (jailbreak) the Apple TV and install a program (XBMC) and an add-on that works around Apple’s restrictions to stream Amazon. The interface for Amazon is not as sleek as Apple’s native apps, but it’s easy to figure out how to use, and Chris says it was easy to install (I doubt that because he’s a smarty pants and often describes ridiculous tasks as “easy” but there are tutorials online).

Since we already paid for Netflix when we had Comcast to supplement cable, I’m not counting that as an additional cost, so if you break down the cost of Amazon Prime plus the antenna over the course of a year, our savings  still come out to $40 a month or $480 a year. It’s not a huge number, but I feel much better paying for services we’ll use than putting more money for nothing in Comcast’s pocket month after month.

So there you have it. We’re cable free and loving it. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, do it. It’s liberating.




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