Cord cutting

January 21, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

I got close.

Obsessed with the idea of joining the ranks of the Cord Cutters, I have found myself on the roof pointing antennas, buying boosters, and generally scraping my knuckles a whole bunch in this nutso distraction.

Here’s the deal. Terri and I watch very little television: the occasional live broadcast from PBS, a handful of select shows or movies on HBO, Netflix, or Apple. My bill from Comcast reflects the package I bought giving me access to hundreds of useless channels and sports we don’t watch, internet, and HBO. For this privilege, we pay $200 a month. When I look at the numbers a subscription to Netfilx is $10, HBO $15, and PBS is covered by our annual donations. Aside from local television, which we don’t watch, all I need is the internet.

I found a great app for my Apple TV, Channels, and that was the last link in the chain of cutting the cord. Only, it’s never that easy.

Working my way through the Comcast website and flurry of popup boxes with eager online helpers ready to take more money gets stuck as soon as I try and actually do the opposite: lower my bill. Those online helpers scatter like leaves on a windy day. Next step is to take a number at the Comcast store and waste a good portion of my day.

I know monopolies spend gazillions in building the infrastructure needed for connecting my home to the internet and for that they deserve my financial allegiance which they will get by supplying me the internet.

I just wish they could do it with some semblance of customer service. Seems a smile and helping hand is expensive.

If we treated our community the way cable companies do we’d not have a business.

End of rant.

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33 comments on “Cord cutting”

    1. Well, Paul mentioned antennae, so perhaps he was aligning them for over-air broadcast when his cable(?) subscription was terminated. I hope it was that, rather than despair over the whole process tempting him to take a fatal dive. I tried Googling Comcast, and they do not appear to be a firm which is well-loved (discrete understatement). Living in the UK gives us a disadvantage when understanding these things. Would a US resident be well attuned to the social resonance of Waitrose?

      On the central point of poor customer service, I think we get what we are prepared to pay for, and in general we seem to go for the cheapest. Many things, like the death of the High Street and of UK manufacturing, are closely related to the purchasing decisions we make. It is a big subject. There are casualties. After dozens of years being held on the line by outsourced call centres I can no longer bear Vivaldi.

      1. I have Sky Q, the product is brilliant and the service just as good. All the equipment is now free and they come round as many times as necessary to get it working perfectly. They even put in a 30m CAT cable for a wired connection for music. Maybe it would be safer if Paul moved to the U.K.
        +1 for Waitrose. An upmarket department store and food market business that has always operated as a partnership in which ALL staff share the profits. Best customer service on the planet. Everyone well dressed and unfailingly polite. My local Waitrose employs a lovely guy who is deaf and dumb and we are all developing our own version of sign language.

      2. Thanks for translating for Steven, Chris. We fully grasp by this point that Everything Was Sorted Out in a Better Way over there before we even got on the boat to populate this neck of the woods. We’re still a young country, we’ll get it together eventually ; )

        1. New chances for the US – after cutting cords (Brexit) the Brits aim for more. They might even grant you the big chance to become a member in their common wealth. Don’t miss the opportunity 🙂
          Also HiEnd would profit as they basically invented everything audiophiles lust after already in the 1950ties; And still build it today!

        2. The one good thing about having too many people crammed on a little island is that you get good wifi and satellite coverage. You couldn’t make up Brexit if you tried. I’m an ardent European, regrettably the only one in my family without a European passport.

          When Trump asked why the Europeans didn’t import American cars, he was told because they were rubbish. Personally, I think the best speakers are from the UK, but electronics from Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland and Denmark.

          I have said many times that the main reason for the UK leading in HiFi is because the BBC is the oldest, largest and most successful public service broadcaster in the world (in no small part from our having an empire), they had to invent most broadcast technology, put fortunes into research and consumer audio was often a side product. The USA had Edison and Marconi, more on telegraphy, The thermionic tube was a British invention, the resistor a German born American. The USA was better off when it let in clever penniless immigrants.

    2. Paul,
      If you find your way to Steamboat Springs there is a Comcast office there with a lonely rep or two. Almost never any customers in there. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
      Jim

  1. Hi Paul,
    We were having the same thoughts only our bill was appx. $200/month. If you say “cancel” enough times you will get to talk to an English speaking American who can help. We now have their basic HD TV package + 1024 gigs of very fast internet for $135 / month (no movie or sports channels). I tried to get just the internet only and its not offered. You are right. Customer service is really hard to get with any of the large companies. Kind of makes you wonder how they got large.

    1. Once you get that large, you don’t have to care (or at least it’s harder to fake it).

      Reminds me of Lily Tomlin doing Earnestine the Phone Company operator. “We’re the Phone Company – we don’t give a damn” : )

  2. Good morning-

    I’ve been cable free since late 2001. Time -Warner cable in Raleigh, NC wore me down and wore me out with lousy service and rising cost. I now live in rural South Carolina and get about 45 channels over an antenna and I could not be happier with it.

  3. Paul,

    When my wife and I moved into our new 50-year-old home four years ago we also decided to become cable cutters. It was also a time to get rid of other services that have become obsolete like telephone landlines.

    Moving to a new place is a great opportunity to rethink many things that we use and own. For us hooking up an aerial was easy. When the house was built broadcast TV was all that was available. The roof of our mid-century modern house is flat. Best of all the main broadcast tower for all the major local stations including PBS is easily visible to point our antenna at.

    Sadly, we still need to negotiate our Internet service with AT&T yearly or the rate doubles. Every year for the past three years it’s the same song and dance in January. Call customer service, wait 30 minutes, speak with an individual in India who is trying their best to earn a living but has been trained to say nothing but no, threaten to change internet service providers, wait online additional 30 minutes to be connected with a manager, be connected to a manager in the United States, be advised by manager they want to keep us as a customer and will maintain our current rate for another year.

    Why companies feel the need to assume we are all fools willing to part with our money as though it is falling through holes in her pockets is beyond me. I would think that having a faithful customer willing to renew each year was a good business model.

  4. I’ve gone through the same exercise (Charter/Time Warner is my carrier) but it generally ends up not being worth the savings. My bill is $220 a month, with Internet being a third of that (to get high speed upload you have to pay a bit of a premium but I need that for my real estate sites). I still keep a land line through them because the bundle of cable/phone/Internet is cheaper than unbundling. We watch a lot of college sports, and BBC America is also a personal favorite. I have tried to shop services elsewhere but the savings end up being less than $50 a month not worth the hassle of the changeover in my mind. I have friends who swear by Dish but every time it snows or rains hard their dish has to keep reacquiring the signal. No thanks on that! I just bite the bullet and write the check and try not to worry about it much.

    The cable company’s music channels are awful, that much I will say ha ha.

    1. Cable has been less entertaining and more expensive with worse customer service and attitudes consistently since I started paying my own bills as I became an adult. I remember when the cable co. would send a rep to your home to explain all the different packages to make sure you received the channels you wanted- seemed it was $30-50/mo (not so bad). Cutting the cord 5 years ago has been much more of a positive experience for me than negative. One less source of assholes and headaches to deal with. The streaming experience has gotten much better over the past 5 years! If you have trouble with your smart tv try an Apple TV or Roku box. I stay away from usb sticks.

  5. Cutting the cord with the cable company is one of life’s greatest pleasures and worth the aggravation- they’ve screwed us for decades, raised prices, provided terrible service, been fined regularly for not providing the internet speeds they’ve been charging extra for and a host of other monopolistic abuses. We dropped our bill from $225 a month to $79 (we just kept high speed internet) and never missed a beat. The cable industry is losing millions of customer monthly across the nation- couldn’t happen to a more abusive business.

    Wait…there’s Sears in a similar boat- decades of squandering their brand with dirty, understocked stores staffed by part time untrained and uncaring people, over charging on credit card interest rates, being fined for ripping people off in their automotive repair locations nationally, fined millions for illegally pursuing customers that filed bankruptcy and so on….

  6. With respect to Broadcast TV, the trick with the antenna bit now is, if you have an upper storey window facing the local HD broadcasters, you can tape one of those $20 flat, magazine-sized antennas up, and it works better than the massive traditional rooftop antennae. Depends how far away you are, and line of sight and so on. And you need to sort out getting the coax to your TV.

  7. I cut my cord as well to internet only. The cost was not justifiable and the product, west coast created Hollywood television programming is reprehensible garbage. Main Stream Media, ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and the like are liberal corporate propaganda and not welcome in my home. I’ve not missed a minute of it. Back to our beloved pastime audio.

  8. Amen brother !!! Same situation with Spectrum/Time Warner here in Ohio. I had a similar experience with ADT security for which I was also paying high fees. We’re taking the opportunity in building a new house to rid ourselves of these pricey services. Otherwise, “it ain’t easy”.

  9. Comcast has a monopoly in many areas and they are going to do anyehing they can to increase your bill. It used to be they increased your bill every couple of years and now it’s every year. Last year my internet speed was dog slow (I had the 10MB plan and I was running at less than one)so I called up to complain, they said it was my personally owned cable modem which was now on the unsupported list. i told them it was more likely the 30+ year old coax that ran from the pole to my house but they insisted it was my modem, they offered to lower my bill a bit if I subscribed to their blast internet in a bundle but I had to keep the plan for two years..

    I bit the bullet and bought a new modem rated at 700Mb, I got it installed and had the new MAC entered into their database. It came up and worked and now I was getting 2Mb speed on a 200mb plan. I called again and they said it might be a faulty modem since I didn’t buy it from them, I told them I wanted that coax changed. i also told them I had a log that showed that speed was consistently low over 72 hours. They hemmed and hawed but they did send a tech out and low and behold the old coax was waterlogged and water is a pretty good RF attenuator, A speed test now showed 240mb.

    Now we know the problem was that waterlogged coax but I had already agreed to a 2 year plan and they were not going to let me off the hook. In the end it cost me $110 for a modem, $100 for a new high speed switch to fed my network and weeks of frustration. To make it a more enjoyable experience they also increased my monthly bill by $12 a month when they promised me several times that my monthly bill would go down.

    Comcast is a terrible company to deal with, the employees seem will to do what they can to help you but management makes sure they have zero flexibility when it comes to solving a problem, everything is scripted. If you ever deal with Comcast over the phone make sure you record the conversation so you have proof about what they tell you.

    1. Agreed. The in field service techs are great to work with. During our last upgrade he didn’t like the signal strength making it into the house and ran a new cable from the pole, stuck around to make sure everything worked and explained the new features very well. Phone support however is almost non existent as documented.

  10. Poverty is a humbling experience, but it is not without benefits. My amplified HD TV antenna pulls in 50 local channels (Including two that appear dedicated to “Walker, Texas Ranger.”) But, I would rather listen to music.

    If you really want to watch an event on ESPN, there appears to be a legitimate outlet on the internet which re-broadcast live coverage with a three-minute delay and a lower resolution.

    The thought of paying for TV, when free TV is a right under Federal law, seems like upsampling an [email protected] to 24/192…without any defensible position to argue.

    Cut the cable, and someday, a la carte programming over the internet will make sense. We will pick the channels like items at a cafeteria. And if you love beets and hate broccoli, nobody will force you to buy broccoli.

  11. I recently went from paying $90 per month for CATV to $29 I switched to the senior package that gives me all the off air channels and a few extras. I don’t miss the channels I gave up as I also use a firestick between IP TV and all the other options I have more available than I ever did before! The bonus is the $720 I save every year can go toward my STEREO!

  12. In my Arizona home, I’m out in the wilds of Pima County where cable doesn’t go. But In Western NY, I deal with Spectrum and have gone through the online stuff you describe so vividly and accurately and I have a suggestion. Try a phone call before hauling yourself to the Comcast waiting room. I find I can get through to a reasonably cooperative Spectrum person fairly quickly and when I do I usually can make my wishes known.

    Good luck.

    And for those who might be wondering, I get my AZ internet through a local provider using a terrestrial antenna installation that’s known these days as Fixed Wireless. I can look out at the mountain a few miles away behind my house and see the antenna that’s shooting the Internet to the small dish on my roof. For local channels, there’s a good old UHF-VHF antenna on the roof that does just fine, thanks. We get about 30 channels which we winnow down on the TV’s setup menu.

    A Roku stick takes care of Netflix, Amazon Prime video, Hulu, etc, etc, etc.

    http://www.highspeedlink.net/understanding-fixed-wireless-vs-satellite/

  13. No cable here since we bought our present home in 1987 which is in line of sight of the major transmitter in a large metropolitan city and only 16.1 miles away. Perfect reception OTA (Over The Air) on all channels and we’ve been using a TiVo DVR for anything we wish to record. Comcast Cable has been after us to buy into their rip off cable service for years, but we have no need for the extra channels which we would never watch anyway.

  14. Longmont, CO installed high speed internet as a city-run utility providing fiber speeds at a reasonable cost (something like $50/mo if my ageing memory serves). The “take rate” among existing cable users (again, if I remember correctly) was north of 60%.

    Fort Collins (where we are) voted to have the city install and provide high speed internet, which will hopefully be fully built out within 2 – 3- years. The amount of political ads run against the measure was insane. A bit of digging revealed that the “citizen’s committee” creating the ads was funded by Comcast and the cable industry.

    Long story short – the measure was passed by something like 70% to 30%. Can’t wait.

    1. It’s always about the Benjamins. I recall sitting next to a guy on a flight maybe 30 years ago who was traveling to negotiate the rights to put fiber optic infrastructure in for the City of El Paso. That’s what the Comcasts of the U.S. have always balked at – it’s a Big-Assed Country, and the cost of installing new infrastucture is the killer. The tech has been there for a long time, it just “the Last Mile” to your house.

      After we had chatted about it for a bit, I asked, “Can I buy stock in this company?” He explained it was a private consortium of Extremely Weathy Individuals, and sorry, but no : (

  15. You don’t need to bother with an antenna since 2018 now that locast.org is running. It works fine on a TCL TV. If it’s not in your area yet, they are working on it.

  16. I download about 140 gigabits a month on my smart phone and probably at least as much on my computer. My plans have unlimited everything for a fixed price. My ISPs are Xfinity triple play and Verizon wireless. I can also use my smart phone on Xfinity wherever there is wi fi and I can use my computer on Verizon wireless by using my phone as a wireless data hub or node. I AM CONNECTED WIRELESSLY. My bank account is also connected wirelessly to Comcast and Verizon Wireless once a month. The signal goes only one way at those times…… out. 🙂

  17. Due to a Charter error in converting me to an update done locally, I was dropped from ~$170/mo to a $125 triple-service deal for three years that’s still got over two years left. Before that, I had thought about cord cutting, but it seems complicated and not all that much less $$ to arrange for someone whose viewing includes some sports channels (ESPN, Golf, Tennis, etc.), that doesn’t want to pay a bundle for a cell phone sub vs. a landline (+ a cheap flip phone), and likes the 60+ mb/s internet service, including wi-fi access.

    It seems to me that the monopoly arrangement(s) in the U.S. encourages users to take advantage of non-official channels to watch a lot of things. But even then, most of them require an internet connection, if I understand correctly.

  18. I’ve been a cord cutter for about a decade. Luckily, I’m not into sports so it works for the most part.

    Unfortunately, the promise of increased competition from allowing Comcast to become so massive has left my neighborhood with only one choice for broadband. The speeds are unremarkable for what I pay and we tend to approach the data cap every month.

  19. When we used to live in Texas as Expats, we cut the cord for TV after 1 year. The biggest irritation were the commercial breaks. Subscribers pay US$ 70 for those couple of TV channels worthwhile watching, yet those are broken up by a stream of commercials that take 5 minutes every 3 to 4 minutes, forcing the subscriber to stay put more than 2 1/2 time loser then necessary. Really?
    So we cut the cord for this worthless service. We cancelled the TV channels and the phone line, both ridiculously expensive, got a Skype Voice ver IP box and subscribed to Netflix. Watching the News on Internet, a Skype contract with personal phone number and global no limit call service and Netflix, we paid just 70% of the total package we had before we cut the cord.
    In Europe we pay a fraction of what is charged in he US. I can understand to a certain level as the population density is less in the US, the costs broadcasting per user are higher. But does that justify the fact that in Europe we get 4 x faster Internet, a phone line with no limit for calls and TV channels, decent ones, with commercial breaks only in-between shows, for the price we paid in the US for internet only?
    Oh and airports in Europe don’t jam the cellular network facing you to get on the boguous airport wifi network, where you need to pay to get the same bandwidth as on the cellular network for which you already pay.

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