Back in late August, I dropped cable television. The main reason was the consistently rising cost. Channels that my family would watch would be moved to a “higher” service tier, which meant that I had to subscribe to more channels to get the few channels that we actually watched. I was paying about $9.50 per television (we have three) to watch cable, which I already was paying for, on that television. Lastly, I was paying an additional charge to access local channels and sports (which I don’t watch). Here is the breakdown of what I was paying:
|Cable & internet bundle||$153.45|
|Cable cards (for TiVos: 2 * $9.95ea)||+ $19.90|
|HD fee for cable box (just to access the HD channels)||+ $10.00|
|Broadcast fee (to receive local channels)||+ $8.00|
|Sports fee (we don’t watch sports)||+ $6.30|
|Speed boost (for internet, added without consent)||+ $15.00|
|Equipment rebate (for using the TiVos)||-$5.00|
|Taxes & fees||+ $13.39|
Because I also have the two TiVo boxes, there is a fee of $30.35 per month that I was paying to them. That brings the total amount to $251.39. All of this just to watch a few channels.
Before making any decisions, I had to figure out a few things. Fortuntely, because I had already been streaming content from by my home server, Netflix, and YouTube to each television, I knew that I had the equipment I needed. I also understood that I could get over-the-air channels. However, I knew that most of the content would need to be from streaming services, so I had to answer a few questions.
Would I be able to use my current internet provider and plan?
Having stumbled onto this information a few months ago, I found that my cable provider had a 1TB per month data cap. If there was an official anouncement, I don’t remember. I know it certainly was not on the monthly invoices. I had only exceeded that 1TB cap once, and that was after switching on-line back-up providers. Now that we would be using the internet more, I needed to know if we would exceed the cap. I also needed to know how big of a connection that I needed. The connection I had was 250 Megabits per second (Mbps) or 31.25 Megabytes per second (MBps). Did I still need that big of a connection?
First thing I needed to figure out was how much data does streaming use. I was able to find some information from Netflix regarding now much data a movie uses. They estimate (up to) 1GB per hour for standard definition content, 3GB for HD content, and 7GB for Ultra HD. All three televisions only support 1080p or less, so I would use the HD content estimate of 3GB.
From the same Netflix article, I was also able to get an estimate of 5Mbps for the bandwith needed to stream HD content. This number would also come in handy for knowing what speed we needed. Since there is three of us, I estimate a 15Mbps connection would be the minimum needed.
Second, I needed to know the estimate time spent watching television. My wife is currently a stay-at-home mom. During the day, she likes to leave the TV on, even if she is not watching it. She also likes to have the TV on when she is sleeping. So, for her, I figured 24 hours of consumption. My daughter, she likes to watch stuff on her Kindle when she is at home and awake. So, I figured 6-12 hours for her. Me, I barely watch television at home. And, most of that time is spent watching as a family. So, I estimated 2-4 hours per day. Going at the highest estimate, that would mean that we would consume 40 hours of TV per day.
Now that I had my two numbers, it was time to figure out our estimated usage. 3GB (HD stream per hour) x 40 hours = 120GB per day. 120GB per day x 30 days in a typical month = 3,600GB per month. Since 1TB is 1024GB, we would exceed the cap before a third of the month was through. Cutting down consumption and quality of streaming content may keep us under the cap, but I was doubtful that would work. So, I needed to shop around.
The speed with my cable provider was good, but the price and data cap was an issue. So, I checked out other internet providers. Despite living in a Seattle suburb, there is not much competition for high-speed internet for someone living in an apartment. The only alternative I had to the cable company was a 7Mbps DSL connection. So, I had to explore if there a way to get around the data cap with the cable company. Fortunately, I was able find a way, but it would cost me $50 per month. So, I checked out the internet plans offered by the cable company and found one that was $20 cheaper than the one I currently had, yet still was fast enough for streaming.
Where would I get contect from?
Had our cable provider offered an a la carte option, we may still have cable. As I mentioned before, there was only certain channels and television programs that we watched. So, I compiled a list of those channels onto a spreadsheet. They were:
- BabyFirst TV
- Cartoon Network
- Comedy Central
- Disney Channel
- Disney Jr
- Investigation Discovery
- Nick Jr.
In addition to the channels I listed, I also wanted to find a service that would stream our local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC afiliates.
Thanks to the r/CordCutters sub-thread on Reddit, I was able to find a list of different streaming service providers. I went to each provider’s website to see what each plan cost and which channels they provided. I ended up having issues with some of the websites not being up-front with what exactly they were offering. Often, they would show small channel logos or say things like, “these channels and more”. Content providers, if you want people to chose you, my advice is to be up-front with what you can offer them.
Eventually, I found two streaming plans that would work; Hulu Live TV and DirecTV NOW. We already had Netflix and decided to try Hulu’s streaming library, so the Live TV option was appealing. All of the options had free trials, so we checked each one out and ended up just going with DirecTV NOW for live TV and Hulu’s streaming library and Netflix for prerecorded content.
The big day and after.
Prior to actually cutting out cable, we tried to live a few weeks on only streaming content. By the day came to cut off our cable service, we were fully ready to say “goodbye”. This is what our current plan looks like:
|Internet (60Mbps/7MBps) (taxes & fees included)||$49.95|
|Unlimited data option||$50.00|
|Netflix (streaming only, grandfathered price?)||$12.13|
|Hulu streaming library (no commercials) (taxes & fees included)||$13.22|
|DirecTV NOW (Live A Little) (taxes & fees included)||$44.16|
Compared to the amout we were paying with cable ($251.39), that is a savings of $81.93. The majority of the cost is from the internet service, which I plan on rexamining alternatives the next time we move.
Since going with streaming only, we have also found a few more sources for free content. Channels like Pluto TV, Roku TV, Tubi, Crackle, and Crunchy Roll. In addition, our local library also provides streaming services and DVD check-out. If anything, since cutting the cord, we have discovered more content that we ever had with cable. My family and I are happy we made the decision.