Monday, March 14, 2011

Steps and Missteps to Cord Cutting

After some setbacks to my cable television independence, I've recently climbed back on the horse. This time I have some new weapons and a new strategy: ownership. I'll get to that in the next post but for now I'd like to summarize my attempts to cut the cord.

This all started about 4 years ago. I made a change to our cable plan and I let the nice CSR sign me up for the $100/month "Triple Play" service that includes Internet, phone, and Cablevision's extended "optimum" television line up. She also threw in a second DVR, free for a year and made it so the first DVR was billed as a regular cable box. All told it was about $120/month, but for that money I got a lot of services and perks.

Then the introductory period ran out after 12 months. Those perks that seemed so nice for $120 didn't seem so great when the bill started closing in on $200. I took a step back and questioned how much I actually needed these services and which ones I could afford. I kept the Internet services, as theirs is the best in my area. I returned the both DVR boxes. I cut my cable back to their lowest plan, which isn't much more than a rebroadcast of channels available over the air (OTA). I even tried getting a better antenna to see if I could switch to just OTA, but apparently I can only do that if I speak Spanish. Also, I switched my phone service to Broadvoice.

These changes brought my total back down to a more manageable $80. I didn't sack the extra money away in the bank, though. I knew if I'm to make this work I need to invest in some other forms of entertainment. I do have a child, and I'm a guy who likes to watch TV and movies. So I bumped up my Netflix membership to 4 discs and made it a point to buy my son DVDs every couple weeks. I augmented my viewing with online streaming services like Hulu, and I started watching a lot more fansubbed anime. This worked well.

...For a while. Then my mother moved in for a month or so. She's hopelessly addicted to TV. In her house the TV runs 24/7. Often on one of those blathering, vile, manipulative news channels. I'm sure you know the one. So we had to reinstate a broader cable line-up. We kept our separate cable service, though. No DVR this time. A couple months after she left, we dropped our television service back to previously low levels.

...For a while. Next up came my wife's research project. Her concept was to monitor some of those blathering, vile, manipulative news channels and write about how they influence one's worldview. I'm sure it was interesting, though she never let me read it, and she got a good grade. However, this meant we needed to increase our service level and add a DVR. At the time my son was approaching his third birthday.

Big mistake. Once a habit formed of recording shows on the DVR and watching them later we became stuck. Sure, we can always just get rid of the thing and deal with him when we do. That's annoying, though, and it's a little unfair to him. He's just a kid and he likes some shows that have a limited or non-existent DVD presence. We limit the time he watches TV, but kids seek out new things so the shows he watches will drift over time. Two shows in particular seemed troublesome: Nickelodeon's Bubble Guppies and Disney's Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

That brings us up to a week ago.

Here's a quick rundown of the setup:

CableCablevision$70including DVR
PhoneBroadvoice$15No Long Distance
Rentals/StreamingNetflix$284 disc plan

Since we're all caught up now in my next post I'll go over some changes I've made, others I plan, and what the long term picture looks like.

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