Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts on cutting the cord and getting Comcast out of my life

A casual survey of my friends and acquaintances shows that more people have cut the cord on cable or thinking about it, lately, despite the complete ignorance of industry executives. My wife and I are thinking about doing it for economic reasons, but also just for time. And I think we're actually going to do it.

I'm building a strategy around doing so before I actually do it, as I'd like to completely cut ties with Comcast. Their internet is probably without a doubt the fastest and most reliable (you get what you pay for as it's also the most expensive) available where I live. But, I just abhor them as a company-I don't think they do many things that are particularly customer friendly, and they constantly jack the rates and give you more shit that we don't need or want to watch for it. (and if any Comcast reps are reading this, don't bother to comment here, I will delete it as we're through!) We do watch shows on multiple cable networks, but a lot of it is disposable crap that I don't think I would really miss too much, or couldn't find elsewhere if I really wanted to.

What I think I'd miss
In theory, sports have been the main driver for me to not already have done this. In analyzing my actual viewing habits, I have not consumed enough sports to justify the exorbitant expense of having cable. I watched a handful of Twins games last season, and almost none in the second half of the season. That would probably increase if they were doing better, but there's also no shortage of watering holes where I could take in a game from time to time. I've been watching Gopher hockey this year, but I could live without. I'd probably miss being able to watch college hoops and the NBA as I tend to watch a lot of random games, but I'll just have to catch more on the networks. The Timberwolves might be better this year, but maybe I'll just go to more games. The Vikings are on network TV if I even care to bother watching them anymore. I'm also fortunate in that I'm still a fan of multiple out of market teams including the Bulls and the Cubs, for which there are several viewing options through their streaming packages if I'm so inclined. The NCAA tournament is totally streamed for free as well, reducing the need to have the cable portion and all the big games are on CBS anyway.

Other TV shows aired on cable would be missed, but I believe there are alternate legal means to get most of them should I decide I miss them and want to continue watching. I can think of a couple of shows that fall into this category. With the money we are saving on cable, I can justify splurging on a few season passes via Amazon.
Obviously, cutting ties completely with Comcast and not wanting to get involved with the even more deceiving Satellite industry leaves us with over the air as our alternative. I'm looking at various antenna options and tells me that we should be able to receive everything broadcast in the area with an indoor digital antenna. I just bought this antenna from Amazon and I'm going to test it out before committing to cancelling cable.

I'm also looking at getting some kind of additional streaming option - such as an Apple TV or a Roku box. But that is something I'm probably going to research later. I already have a TiVo which can download some items and I've bought a few TV show season passes through it for items aired on AMC (a channel for which I could not justify the extra expenses in having the expanded tier by itself, with no interest in other channels on that tier). We're going to keep the TiVo around and hook it up to the antenna to record network items that we still watch, but we may even get rid of that eventually depending on how much we end up using it. My TV can also handle certain types of streaming as well, an option which I have not spent much time exploring.

This is probably the trickier one for me. As I said earlier, Comcast is probably the most reliable and fastest but it is also the most expensive. I think I am paying $55 a month for the second to top tier of service. I could dial back to the cheapest tier of service, and that may be something I consider, but if I cut cable completely, then they will charge me more for that.  (I've also considered going down to the bare bones basic tier on Comcast if the antenna doesn't work, and then cutting down to the cheapest Comcast option may be better).

Alternatives where I live are DSL from CenturyLink and USI Wireless internet. I've not looked at the first option too much as I've heard the speeds are suboptimal in our neighborhood and I also don't want to deal with pairing it with POTS to get the best price. I have little interest in a traditional landline. I've seen mixed reviews of USI Wireless and have several friends that have ditched them after bad experiences, but I've seen more good than bad lately. I've heard the service has somewhat improved.

In the interest of not pigeonholing myself, I'm going to get USI Wireless internet set up and see how it works at my house. I've heard this is a huge YMMV thing, with some people having more success then others, based largely upon your home's orientation to the antennas in your neighborhood. It seems to be favorable as there is one at the end of the block and one block over, and I am the second house in with a clear view of the antenna from the back windows of my home. So I'm going to give it a go and not cancel Comcast until I'm sure it will work for us. It'll probably require me to reconfigure my router setup and have a bridge in the basement to get hard wired ethernet ports but I can figure that out.

We're going to give it a go. We can always go back later. I have a feeling I won't miss it enough to bother. I've generally been watching less TV lately and this frees up time to do other things instead of watching mindless crap.

I'll update here as we go along for those who are interested.