A Simple Guide For How to Cut The Cord on Cable TV and Get More Content for Less

imgedward20scissorhands1This site is one page long, written by a former cable subscriber who has found new light without cable.  By the end of this article you will be able to get local HD TV programming for free, get more TV/movies than you can digest for $20/month or less, get free two-day shipping on everything you order from Amazon.com, and learn a bit about home media serving for when you’re really a cordless rockstar.

Time to Jump Ship
I had finally had enough. As they do every six months it seems, my cable provider (Comcast) raised my cable TV rates and added a $10 “technology fee” on top of what was already becoming an outrageous monthly expense. And I don’t watch enough TV to justify $120/month, which if invested at 7% over the next 15 years could likely be enough to send one of my kids to college.

So I called and cancelled. And much to my surprise, they didn’t fight it. There was no retention specialist or anyone pitching me a three month sweet deal (which I wouldn’t have taken anyway). They just let me go. And I was happy about it.

I had been planning how I would do this for some time, and I want to share my experience with you because the cable companies are ripping everyone off.  Unless you must watch every reality TV show on the day it airs (and this solution may still allow you to do that), or you consume a lot of live sports (you can do a lot of that too), or have to see the premium channel content (HBO, Showtime) on the season it airs (this is the only one that bothers me, but we’re very close to a resolution), this plan very well could work for you.  This is the future of TV and it is much less expensive and easier to implement than you might think. Are you ready?

Here’s the dirty little secret the cable companies don’t want you to know.  There are a ton of HD TV signals broadcast right now in your house.  You likely just don’t have a way to pick them up. Enter the HD antenna.  Once an expensive item to own can now be had for $30-$40 and they work really well; at least in my house near the Atlanta area.

Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna

I’ve highlighted two of them here.  I purchased the Terk antenna and my TV instantly found 51 channels, twenty of which are viewable and ten of which I will actually probably watch – those being the major network broadcasts and a few ancillary ones. But it’s plenty for me. I use the Leaf Paper Antenna in my basement and it works great too.  This is a laminated piece of paper that works as an HD Antenna.  It’s mind blowing how good it is.  Read the reviews on Amazon.

AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna


Also note, they came out with an amplified version.  I don’t have experience with it, but it’s worth a look.Update: AmazonBasics just came out with this $20 paper thin HD antenna that looks like a copy cat of the Leaf at a fraction of the price. For $20 this is definitely worth a look, plus you can upgrade it to reach up to a 50 mile range.

You won’t know how good these will work until you try. Where you live is a huge factor but you can check www.antennaweb.org to find out how far you are from a broadcast tower and determine what direction to face your antenna.I was blown away.  You may be too.  The quality is fantastic, in some cases better than my clunky HD cable box, and it only goes out when the weather is bad.  That’s really the only downside.  Give it a try.

Once you have the HD antenna set up, you will need some on-demand content to supplement the live feeds.

hulu-plus-free-trial
Thanks to three key services right now – Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime (this one gets you free 2-day shipping too and some Kindle books), you can get virtually all the TV shows and movies any normal personal could consume, and much more.

Each of these services cost about $7 a month for streaming content, so you can get all three for $21/month (1/5 of what I was paying for cable), which is what I did, and then see if you really are missing anything. (Get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime here)

Roku 3500R Streaming Stick


There are many options for streaming devices.  The Playstation 3/4 or Xbox 360 are both amazing.  For $50 you can get a Roku, which is a super small but massively powerful device that can bring you all this content.  I have both of those and then added a WD Live Streaming device which adds DLNA server functionality (which I’ll get to later). The cost is minimal for what you get and it’s a one time investment.

ANOTHER TIP: if you have a smartphone or tablet, check for apps from many of the major TV networks.  Many of them have apps, and stream their content, and they do it for free.

simple HDMI connector can plug it right into your TV.  NOTE: I watched the Superbowl this way.  The app stream had a live Twitter feed on one side of the screen and a choice of multiple camera angles on the other.  Cable can’t touch this…(note on the HDMI connector listed above.  I know they are more expensive, but I highly recommend using Apple branded cables for the iPad.  They just work better and more consistently than the generics).

Get a networked attached hard drive.
Here’s a sleeper many people don’t know about.  Are you using a gigantic hard drive to store your content and back up your files?  Does it connect to your router?  If not, you’ll be jazzed as heck to learn that you can scoop up a new networked hard drive from sizes ranging from 1TB-3TB for under $100.

WD My Cloud 2TB Personal Cloud Storage


I didn’t even realize all the benefits when I bought one. But these new ones have personal “clouds” built in and will stream music, photos and videos right to your aforementioned streaming device.  Have family visiting? Bring up all your photos in a nice slideshow right on your big screen.  Having a party?  Stream all your music right through your TV.

On the go? Some network hard drives, such as those from Western Digital even include mobile apps that connect to your drive (and your cloud) and let you access files from anywhere.  It’s amazing technology.  Please look into it.  You won’t be disappointed.I keep everything on here now and serve up the files to every TV in the house along with app-connected devices.  My Western Digital streamer will even allow me to stop a movie in the basement and resume it in the bedroom.  This new “personal cloud” may be better than the corporate-run clouds everyone’s pitching nowadays.  (I do love Dropbox though).

The latest bad boy on the block: ASUS RT-AC87U Wireless-AC2400 Dual Band Gigabit Router

Upgrade your wireless router.

I upgraded my wireless router to the fastest one I could find.

Based on CNET tests and some research, I opted for the Linksys router you see here.  It’s blazing fast, the wireless coverage is amazing, and it’s throughput is other worldly to support a bunch of streaming devices throughout the house.  It’s not a requirement for any of this, but it can help significantly.  I also upgraded my modem recently and that made a world a difference in streaming to so many different devices around the house.

This is just a tip but make sure you get a receipt and hold on to it for the return of any of your cable boxes and remotes and such. Once you’re gone, you won’t want to deal with the cable companies ever again.

Now you’re ready.

Everything I’ve outlined here is 10X easier to do than you might think at first. It’s a gut wrenching plunge to disconnect a service that has been your best friend for so many years. But it’s time has come. It can’t keep up with technology. So why not put money in your pocket and get tons of the content you want the most. Go for it.

HBO, CBS and Lionsgate Break the Mold and Announce New Streaming Services

hbo3I never understood HBO’s reasoning for tying themselves to only customers who have a cable subscription.  That was how I remember HBO and Showtime working when I was a kid, but times have changed, and the new media tide is bigger and moving faster than these companies may have expected.

When I cut the cord, losing HBO was my biggest challenge because I love their content. Sure there are ways around it.  You can use someone else’s HBO Go account, or just wait for the programming to appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  But HBO’s content is discussed the day after it airs.  It’s timely and compelling.  It demands to be watched now.

Thankfully, HBO announced that they would be launching a stand alone streaming service that is unhooked from the cable subscription.  This was news to my ears.  And they will gain me back as a customer right away, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

And HBO’s announcement apparently blazed the way for a few others to embrace the streaming consumption trend.  CBS said they would make certain real time programming available via a stream for a small fee (I’m ok with that), and Lionsgate along with Tribeca Studios said they will launch a new streaming services for films.

Here’s the thing.  Cord cutting is a reality.  Many of us are willing to pay for the programming we enjoy.  We don’t expect it to be free. We just don’t want to pay for 300 channels of mostly garbage that we never watch.  And it looks like the studios and networks are finally going to give us an offering that meets these needs.

A Few Updates From My Original Post

Amazon Fire TV

There’s been a lot of activity in the cable cutting, streaming space over the last 6 months since I began writing about the movement on this site.  It appears more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon and companies have realized this is far from a fad, but is now a real-life change in media consumption.

I’ll try to keep the updates rolling in, but I wanted to hit a few high level ones that have made an impact recently.

First up is an excellent offering from Amazon.com that took everything that was great about Roku and many of the other stand alone streaming boxes, and upped the game even further.  The Amazon Fire TV is a new highly powerful $99 HD streaming box that deserves proper exploration.  In addition to allowing you to access the major streaming services, including primeAmazon’s own excellent Prime service, this box allows for gaming, photos and music applications and also voice control, which is a first.

Next up is a service that has been in the news quite a bit recently, because it is the subject of much debate [UPDATE: Unfortunately Aereo lost its court fight; their future is yet to be determined at this point]. This usually means that they are doing something cool, and indeed they are.  The service I’m referring to is called Aereo and it allows you to watch high quality local programming through your streaming box.  It helps the issue of spotty signal reception you might be encountering through your HD antenna, by harnessing a powerful signal and beaming it down to your box.  aereoAs an added bonus it allows for DVR like recording capabilities so you can save your favorite shows and watch them at your convenience.  It’s not available everywhere yet, but at $8/month it’s a heck of a cool option. When paired with everything else I’ve listed on this site, you can replace cable TV almost in its entirety, and perhaps access even more content.

Please feel free to add comments on new services and technologies that you encounter.  Thanks for visiting the site.

The Xfinity TV App Is Actually OK; And Why To Get a New Modem

I’m not sure if this letter went out to everyone, but the other day I received a letter from Comcast. Usually, these go right in recycling after reading the first line, but this one caught my attention. My Internet speed was being increased but my modem was too old to process it. So I needed to get a new modem.

My modem was at least 4 years old, a now ancient version of the Motorola Surfboard so I wasn’t too upset to have to replace it. I called Comcast tech support to find the best, and fastest new modem they would recommend. This turned out to be the best customer service call I’ve ever had from Comcast.


First the gentleman walked me through a couple modem options and I settled on the new Motorola Surfboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem and purchased it through Amazon for $86.

Then the customer service rep told me to call back when I received the model, read them the serial number and some other IDs, and I’d be off and running at new super fast speeds. I wish I had more faith in Comcast.  I was skeptical.

Then as I was getting ready to hang up the gentleman said, “oh and this new speed will be $10 less a month than what you are already paying.” Now I was really skeptical. How often does this happen?  A proactive price decrease? So I said “sure, sounds great.” (After 8 months this cost savings would have paid for the new modem, and I’d be enjoying fast speeds the whole time.  What a bargain)

xfinityThen he went one step further and told me about the Xfinity TV app that I could download and use my Comcast account to access a ton of free TV (I guess he knew I was a cord cutter obviously).

So I asked him why anyone would need to pay for cable TV since I’m getting all this content for free as a subscriber, and he was silent for a minute.  “OK,” I thought, “now I’m on to something.”

So I downloaded the Xfinity TV app, which you can find links for here for all your different devices and mobile operating systems.

And guess what? There’s a ton of good, free content on here. Stuff I wish I had known about the whole time. Using this app may render some of the others I love, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, to be unnecessary. Regardless of what other paying services you might be able to drop or not subscribe too, this is a great resource to know of, for free if you’re an Internet customer.  It’s not a one stop shop that will blow your mind, but it’s not bad.

Then the modem arrived, one day actually since Amazon Prime sometimes really overdelivers, and I connected everything and made my dreaded call to Comcast support to hook everything up.

Turns out I got another really helpful gentleman. And now I’m up and running, and I will say the service is blazing. Pages load instantly. And as we put more strain on the system with a multitude of devices hitting the connection constantly from all over the house, this is a welcome addition.

So thanks Comcast. In this instance, I’m actually a very satisfied (Internet paying only) customer.