It’s September 1st and you know what that means, MOVING TIME. As many local area Boston residents (or residents everywhere) are starting to move this weekend, the cable companies will be out in full force advertising juicy deals on bundles that you just can’t refuse. From buses to billboards and subway cars, the cable companies are casting all the lures to make sure they reel in a catch. Today your resident tech guru is here to make sure the cable companies don’t bend you over and have their way with you. Now the example I’ll be using will come from RCN’s website (my current internet provider). On the website for Boston residents, there is a cable tv/155 Mbps internet bundle for $49 that includes HBO access.
Now you’re probably getting all jittery like a june bug and getting that look that Haitian parents get when they see “discount”, 30-70% off” and “buy one get one free”. This is the part where I quote the black TSA security guard from the end “Not Another Teen Movie” and scream “Freeze Bitch!!!!!!!”. If you think this is a good deal and sign up without even reading the damn fine print then you might as well just pull your pants down, bend over the table and scream “I’M READY” like Spongebob at 7 am because they’ve already got you. Now you’re probably wondering what could be so wrong with this deal. Growing up I’ve watched my dad go back and fourth between numerous cable companies and both my parents always preached reading the fine print and boy is that print fine, it’s finer than a 75 degree day with no humidity except that the sun rays are laser beams and next thing you know your skin is melting from your bones like the infamous Terminator 2: Judgement Day scene. Here are some of the problems with this and other bundles like it.
1. If you click the advertisement, it’ll tell you that you’re only getting 55 channels and you’re probably thinking “oh this is great”, until you realize that it’s just 27 local channels (28 High Definition, 27 Standard Definition). These are channels you can easily get for free in HD simply by using antenna and you’re pretty much paying all of this for HBO which isn’t very cost effective given your options.
3. So you decide to pay $69 or stick with $49, make sure you look at how long these deals last. Most of these deals are for a year which is the amount of time most people spend in their apartments before finding a new place but, if you plan on renewing them leases, this price will go up after a year. You should also make sure you read to see if you’re locked into any contracts and what the fees are for cancelling prior to the end of the said contract.
-Your bill will go up by as much as $50 by the time the offer is over and a plan like this usually locks you into a contract and this doesn’t even include some of the extra fees.
4. These prices may seem pretty for intro prices but you will get nickel and dimed so hard your deal will no longer look like a deal. If you get just internet you’re fine but be warned, cable companies will purposely price their internet only packages a certain way to make bundling look enticing and that’s when they really screw you. Internet can’t be taxed but, cable tv can and that’s just the beginning.
-You can already see that the solo internet prices are close to the price of the bundles, this is where a representative or website prompts can easily trick you into paying slightly more to bundle which gives the illusion of getting more bang for your buck. The problem here is that while most of these internet bills stay static in price, the bundles will always double in price within two years and with cable attached, you are subjected to some extras fees that will jack up the price of your pretty promotion.
5. They will entice you with a DVR like Tivo for recording shows, this DVR is an additional $10 equipment rental fee, even the basic cable box warrants a $10 rental fee. If you get TV then you’ll get the HD fee tacked on which can be another $5-10, the sports fee for any sports channel since ESPN is greedy and charges a premium ($6-8), retransmission fee ($5), internet modem rental fee if you don’t buy your own modem ($10), DVR fee if you get the Tivo ($10-20). Before you know it, you’ve got $30-45 extra tacked onto your bill. and the taxes will really make it hurt, like Von Miller bringing Tom Brady and Cam Newton to the damn ground hurt.
6. So you’ve decided to stick with the internet only option, Just make sure you read that fine print. In that internet list you probably saw that nice $39.99 deal but hold your horses and read the fine print.
-And they’ve got you but, it’s still cheaper than a bundle.
7. Cable providers will attempt to trick you into getting more internet bandwidth than you actually need. If you live alone or only with one or two others then you can usually get by with 10-25 Mbps a second.
The key is to know your options which there are plenty of and those options can be decided by figuring out exactly what you and your housemates watch (options will be brought up in a blog post). You also need to read the damn fine print on EVERYTHING you sign up for to make sure they ain’t sneaking some fuck boy ass shit behind your back. Now you’ve probably read my post and you’re wondering where this is going. If you know what you’re doing and can dodge some of the age old cable company tactics then you can save yourself some serious money.
1. As I mentioned above, you have to figure out what you plan on watching. If you just want Game of Thrones and all of your HBO shows then you don’t even need cable. Last year HBO released a standalone service called HBO now. The service is $14.99 (as much or some times cheaper than what you pay per month for HBO on top of a cable package). You’re not bound to any contracts and like Netflix and Hulu, you can start and cancel anytime. HBO Now is a netflx like service that gives you access to HBOs entire catalog old and new. You even get access to all the movies that HBO is playing that month (HBO has deals in place with studios that gives them access to movies seven years before they come on Netflix, 3-6 months after a Bluray release most movies will end up on here). Showtime and Starz also have similar services for $9 and 10$ a month.
2. Netflix and Hulu can also cover you as far as movies go. Now one criticism people will throw around is that if you get all of these services plus the internet needed to view them you might as well get cable but this isn’t the point. The point of cord cutting is having the flexibility to switch services on the fly depending on what you’re watching at the moment. Let’s say you only watch Game of Thrones on HBO, you could simply sign up for HBO Now for the two and a half months that GoT is on and then cancel in June. You could then switch to Netflix to binge watch Orange is The New Black and House of Cards and then cancel when you get your fill with no penalty. There maybe something on Hulu you’d like to binge through, you can sign up for however long your need to get your fill and then cancel again. Cord cutting is the freedom to only pay for what you’re watching when you’re watching it.
3. You will need internet for these services so you will need to do some shopping around. Again, make sure you read the fine print because there are so many places to get screwed. If you’re in the Boston or DC area, RCN has some really good Internet only packages that are cheap for the speeds you get and, they’re contract free so you can cancel anytime.
-To save money, you should definitely buy your own modem and router combination in order to avoid the modem rental fees. The Motorola Surboard is a common brand of modem and is compatible with most telecommunications providers. As far as routers got, you get what you pay for. The router you get should depend on how many people are accessing your net work at once. If you’re living with four or more people then you will need to look for routers in the $150 range. The cost of entry is expensive but, you’ll save tons of money in the long run.
3. For those missing regular cable or for those who want the traditional setup without getting screwed, there are two services that can fill this void with some serious bang for your buck. These are good for people who want linear TV or those who watch sports. As mentioned above, figure out what shows you like to watch and use and go from there when it comes to choosing services.
–Sling TV: Sling is a TV service with two very lightweight packages that have $5 add on packs that you can customize depending on your needs. You can access the service on android and iOS devices as well as a Roku and an Amazon Fire TV. This is good if you’re specific about what you want to watch and don’t want to pay for a massive bunch of channels you don’t care about.
–Playstation Vue: Despite the name, this service isn’t exclusive to the Playstation. This is a service that mimics the traditional three tier structure of cable but is cheaper with a better mix of channels. The interface borrows from streaming services in order emphasize show and movie discovery. Those looking for a more traditional cable like experience that won’t wreck your wallet.
*Both of these services don’t require a contract and can be cancelled at any time. These services are also not subjected to the same fees you endure on a cable package.
4. You’re probably wondering what you’re going to need in order to watch al l of these services. Streaming boxes are your best friends along with mobile devices, here are some popular streaming boxes that will serve your needs.
–Roku: This is the original streaming box and one of the top boxes on the market. These guys have been around for a while and range in price from $49-129 depending on what model you get. For the sake of speed and performance, this mid range models ($69-99) are the ones you want to go for.
*There are TVs with the Roku operating system built into them if you want an all in one experience.
–Amazon Fire TV: This is amazon’s flagship streaming box. This is great if you use Amazon’s suite of streaming services. This box will run you $99 but, it’s pretty powerful and will last you a while. This has a really cool voice remote which can be used to do voice searches for shows and movies.
–Apple TV: This is Apple’s flagship device and is good for those who use Apple’s suite of streaming services. This box has a cool voice and motion remote. The prices range from $149-199. This device doesn’t have access to Playstation Vue just yet but, that could be changing in a matter of weeks.
5. For those who only care about local channels like ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS, a classic antenna can solve your problems. Today’s HDTVs come with digital tuners that allow you to pull in full HD broadcasts with no additional boxes. These channels will always be free but, you should figure out how far away you are from broadcast towers in order to determine what size antenna you’re getting. Tvfool and antennaweb are two places that can give you all of this information.
Cord cutting is pretty intimidating on the surface and most people stick to cable because it’s simpler. If you’re looking to save money in the long run then you should definitely examine these options. If I missed anything or you want more in depth info then don’t hesitate to reach out and as always,