Cutting the Cord

The price of our cable TV service has increased steadily over the years. Right now, we pay close to $60 a month for "Expanded Basic", which is the lowest option that gives us Disney and Nickelodeon. It's just plain old "analog" cable, which I prefer for a few major reasons: first, there's no extra equipment, I can take a "cable-ready" TV to any room in the house, plug a coax cable between it and the wall, and get all the channels I need; second, there's no extra cost for that extra equipment; third, the service is just plain cheaper. Comcast did let us try out digital cable for three months with no obligation once (with no change in price during our trial even), and although the digital box was neat, especially being able to pause and rewind live TV, it just wasn't going to be worth how little we'd use it.

With more and more content available over the internet, and the fact that our kids seem to consistently opt for watching a DVD over the TV, the need for a pipeline of predetermined, commercial-laden programming just isn't there. We can take that $60/month and put it to much more useful purposes. That's two or three new DVDs a month (even more if they're the $5 discs with old cartoons that my boys have enjoyed lately); or a new release video game; or half way to a nice universal remote that runs the TV, DVD player, and the Xbox; or simply $60 that we just don't have to spend.

Besides watching DVDs, we also have Netflix (whose basic sub-$10 service, with one-at-a-time disc by mail and unlimited internet streaming, is more than sufficient for our viewing habits). When I hear a rumor of a TV episode I absolutely have to see (such as South Park's "Dancing with Smurfs"), it's on the internet in one form or another. Anything else, we just don't care about. We've never seen Heroes, never rescheduled our week around Lost, never lamented missing an episode of American Idol. And I don't feel bad about it at all.

The only thing we might miss is the toddler shows — no Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Dora the Explorer, Little Einsteins, or Backyardigans to throw on for the 3-year-old. But then, his attention span never lasted a whole show, anyway, so it's hardly a big loss.

The Comcast service rep that I talked to didn't give me a hard time at all when I called to cancel the TV service. He did say there were less expensive TV options, but I told him that I'd rather just completely cancel it, and he didn't give me any more push back. In fact, the process was a lot more smooth than I was expecting. (Thank you, Comcast, for having a friendly and helpful representative on the other end of the line. He suggested an option, then accepted my decision without complaint.) In about a week, we will have officially cut the cord on cable TV.

The next step will be shaving a few bucks off the phone bill by moving from Comcast's $45/month VOIP offering to something a little more affordable as well. Ooma looks pretty appealing, although I do wonder about their business plan (can they really survive on "no monthly fees ever"?). Vonage is a possibility as well.

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