Friday, March 4, 2011

Cutting the Cord: Time Warner Cable be damned!

When I moved to Cincinnati last summer, I was scouting the internet/cable provider scene. Not particularly surprisingly, the providers were no less weaselly than those I have dealt with in the past with other cities. Also not surprisingly, a behemoth of a company (Time Warner Cable) held a monopoly over the cable market over much of the city (including where I would be moving). As we've all learned in Econ 101, monopolies do not make for good service, price, or quality of goods in most cases. This is certainly the case with cable/internet providers. They are going to give you a little content you like, a lot you couldn't possibly care about, and they're going to bend you over the barrel monetarily for it.

I got one of those new customer deals with an introductory offer of $80.00 or so for the highest level internet, the basic HD cable package, and a DVR. Not terrible, but also not the best deal in the world. There certainly are other things I'd rather spend my money on. All was good in the world until six months later, when the introductory offer expired and the normal price commenced. $130.00! This was clearly unacceptable. Rather than call and threaten to cancel my service to get my prices lowered (monopolies will call your bluff), I decided on a different, more "extreme" option. I would cancel cable, chopping my bill in more than half.

Not only would I save money, but hopefully time, too. In retrospect, the amount of time I spend in front of a television watching some terrible show that I wouldn't possibly miss if it wasn't put in front of my lazy face is galling. Just terrible. Of course, there are movies and television shows I love. How would I get to watch these? Enter Netflix and Hulu Plus. I've had Netflix for ages and with the slow growth of their streaming collection, they present a reasonable alternative to cable. Ditto with Hulu. While the basic Hulu collection is a bit more limited, Hulu Plus contains back episodes and entire seasons for show. They have a mix of new and older shows (randomly: Alf).

To watch these, I have a slimline desktop PC hooked up to my television in the living room via HDMI and in the bedroom I have a neat, little Roku Player. The Roku Player is really cool. The size of a small paperback book, this little guy allows you to stream Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon VOD, and various other sources on content wirelessly. You can also hook it up with a wired connection if your wireless connection is too week for streaming HD video.

The question that must be asked: how is it going so far? Actually, not that bad. I miss some cable channels like the Food Network, but it's only a minor inconvenience. The other thing, which is much larger of an inconvenience, is the lack of live sport options. For this, I'll probably drop some money for an over the air cable antenna since most of the sports I watch will be on the local major networks. I'm certainly still early in and it still feels a little weird to not be able to flip on the boob tube and decompress, but I think it's going to take. It's not terrible and things will only get better as current streaming service improve and new ones emerge. Obviously I'll never be able to cut my bill completely as I need internet for most of these services, it is a decent start

If anyone else is interested in getting rid of their cable service and need pointers or tips, just let me know. I'd be happy to share my experiences with all the services I've dealt with so far.