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Cutting the Cord – 6 Months Later – TVBites


TV Bites


cord-cutter-tv-bitesCutting the Cord: Six Months Later

by Neena Louise

Back in October 2014, I’d finally had enough of my thug-ridden cable provider and canceled it (see Cutting the Cord). Six months later, I’m not regretting a minute of it. I’ve had to make some modifications since I first cut the cord, however.


Although most of the 12 over-the-air HD channels I receive come in crystal clear, there is one stubborn local affiliate that is a crap shoot as to whether I’ll get a signal that evening. But all the shows are available online the next day for free (and with Adblock installed on my browser, also commercial-free), so it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else.


It took a few tries to get to the point where online TV-watching was comfortable enough for me to fully enjoy. I had no problem watching from my desktop computer, but I had no laptop, so I was stuck in my uncomfortable office chair to catch up on shows that I’d missed on live broadcast TV. I tried a couple of solutions. First, I tried a Roku and found it a useless piece of technology. Sure, it has “thousands of channels” available, but most are weird obscure stuff that I have zero interest in. It offers a few networks, but they all require you to have a cable subscription in order to watch. That was quite a head-scratcher to me. If I had a cable subscription, I wouldn’t need a streaming device like a Roku. Furthermore, you can watch networks online for free without a cable subscription, so I saw no point to this. I used it for one frustrating week, then sold it on eBay. There are many other streaming devices available, of course, but all are limited, cost too much and/or don’t have web browsers – pretty much essential if you want to watch the shows offered up on networks’ websites. So much for the streaming device.


I next tried using my tablet. The networks universally require an app to watch from a tablet or smartphone. You can’t just use a browser like you would from a computer – at least not with my Android tablet. Trying to watch from a browser invariably returns the message “you can’t watch this on a mobile device” and directs you to iTunes or Google Play to download the app. I’ve boycotted iTunes since they stole my money and obnoxiously refused to return it (even after admitting they illegally took it…assholes). I steadfastly refuse to sign up with Google because I don’t like their sketchy privacy policy. So much for the tablet.


I spent a few weeks shifting in my lumpy office chair before I finally broke down and bought a used laptop for the sole purpose of watching TV. The salesman kept touting all the great features of it and how large the hard drive was and blah, blah, blah. I kept cutting him off, repeatedly asking “Does it have an HDMI port? Does it have WiFi? Does it have enough juice to watch online HD video?” He finally just stood me in front of it and told me to try it for myself. Now that’s more like it! For under $200, I have a most excellent TV-watching device. Bonus that I also now have a fairly decent laptop. Wish I’d done it sooner.


I’d never watched much TV online before except during the Olympics. Now, the world is my oyster – commercial-free, free of charge and all legal. I was very surprised to discover that there are some cable networks that offer up their series for free online without a subscription. Some offer just a few random episodes; others, the entire series. There are some frustrations with online TV-watching, however. ABC makes you wait a week and a day after a show airs before you can watch it online, unlike all the other networks that offer up the show the day after airing. Their website also hangs up the most – usually 10 minutes before the end of the show I’m watching. CBS won’t work at ALL unless you disable Adblock, forcing you to watch commercials. I understand they need to make money, but every minute I watch TV online uses my bandwidth. Even though I’ve never gone over my allotted usage, I still resent it being gobbled up by ads. Thankfully, CBS always comes in crystal clear on live broadcast TV and I just watch it live or record it on my DVR setup. Another drawback to online TV-watching is that newer episodes get dropped pretty quickly. Some, you can only watch the previous week’s episode; others, maybe two or three. If you want to watch older episodes, you are required to sign with your cable provider. Since I know this, however, I just ensure I watch any given episode before the next episode airs live.


Other than the free offerings on networks’ websites, there are also free streaming sites, the most well-known of which is Hulu. I find Hulu woefully inadequate. It generally requires you to subscribe to HuluPlus to watch anything worthwhile – even for shows that are available on the networks’ websites for free – so I rarely use it. I’m not going to subscribe to HuluPlus where I’m required to pay to watch commercials, after all. Who in their right mind would do this? There are also paid streaming services other than Netflix, the most notable of which is Amazon. But, again, I’m not going to pay for something I can already get for free. More and more streaming sites seem to pop up everyday – even some from cable and satellite companies(!) – but between what comes in over the air and what I can watch for free on networks’ websites, I have not yet found one worth paying for other than Netflix.


All told, my total investment for free TV was less than $350 for the laptop, antenna, DVR, hard drive and cabling. Considering I was paying $75 a month for cable, it’s already paid for itself and I miss nothing. Well, ok, I still miss the Weather Channel, but I’m starting to get used to that.


The dire warnings from the cable company’s (aka “The Evil Empire”) customer abuse representative were completely unfounded. I don’t lose signal strength during storms. Ever. Oddly, the signals are often stronger when it’s cloudy or storming – probably because the signal has something to bounce off. The worst thing for broadcast signals seems to be when the temperature fluctuates. When the temperature drastically drops or rises at night, the air and the ground are different temperatures which, apparently, creates a middle layer that affects broadcast signals. That’s the only time I’ve noticed serious signal problems, usually affecting just one channel. I also found weird things will briefly interrupt the signal. Like a car idling in front of my house. The snow plow going by. LED lights. Small, low-flying planes. But these are momentary and certainly not enough to make me question my decision to cut the cord. The other dire warning from The Evil Empire’s abuse rep was that it would cost me all kinds of money if I changed my mind and wanted to reconnect. That is most definitely not true. Cable and satellite companies are getting more and more desperate to acquire and/or keep their customers. The deals get better and better every day, so if I decided to plug back in, there are a plethora of companies other than The Evil Empire willing to compete for my business.


Good luck with that. I can’t imagine I’ll ever pay for TV programming again.


About Michael
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