Use Your Own Cable Box

How To Use Your Own Cable Box and Router To Save Money With Comcast

[This is a guest post from a friend.  He’s one of those smart guys, you know the ones who build all the cool sh*t and then you’re standing around wondering how he did it?  He also was tired of Comcast’s outrageous bills for leasing equipment to him and then charging for service.  So he wanted to find a way around it.]

I’ve chosen to maintain cable service largely due to the speed of the Internet. Internet, in my case, is a necessity because that is how I connect with work, handle my holiday shopping, search for jobs and connect with my social network…..Facebook is a necessity, right?

Satellite doesn’t have an option for internet service and the land line phone networks are nearly obsolete (in my opinion because I use VoIP and my cell phone).  Fiber is coming soon….

Since I am “committed” to Comcast, I decided I would do everything possible to limit the amount of money I was paying to them. 

I decided to challenge the status quo and re-think what I was using cable for. We all know that the cable TV business is extremely flawed. I prefer to pay for things that I actually consume.

How on earth can we consume 900 channels of content that are forced upon us? We can’t. What about the time that I’m away from the house? I’m not getting any benefit of the cable when I am away.

I personally want my cable programming to be based off my consumption, just like all the other bills that come to my house. I don’t pay for my water or electricity on a subscription basis. I pay for what I use.

There are a growing number of people who would be perfectly happy paying for entertainment options à la carte because we are becoming used to doing just that. On-demand programming gives us that flexibility. Why can’t I order a single live football game the way that I order the last Star Wars movie?

As consumers demand this type of programming, you should know that the large cable companies spend an obscene amount of money from a corporate perspective lobbying to keep the cable model exactly as it is today.

Of course when the lobbyist gets a hold of an already corrupt politician, they force in laws that make it difficult to get à la carte programming that we want to see. There are plenty of arguments to be had for NOT introducing à la carte programming but I’m not here to debate those. And the tid appears to be shifting.

That being said, I’m using cable…….for cable, and that is it. Comcast is a service provider. They are not a hardware provider (though they love to be due to the crazy amount of money they make off of it). And this was key for the first part of the equation.

Buy your own hardware (cable box) – You mean I can buy my own cable box? You’re damn right you can. Let me be clear, it isn’t an easy process and might be an extreme option, but if you are like me and just want to stick it to Comcast however you can, this is a good option.

They don’t make it easy though and from what I found, cable boxes aren’t really sold in a “retail” capacity. Cable boxes are intended for mass distribution THROUGH the cable providers so you can’t just go and pick one up at your local Best Buy.

Here’s how I did it.

I found a website through a few articles I read on the subject. The website is down now and looked super sketchy anyway when I ordered from them.  This is a bit of a moving target, so give it a fresh search or comb though Reddit.

I was on a mission though and regardless of the fact that it wasn’t a polished website, I picked an HD box and decided to put a possible stolen identification on the line. At any rate, I was pleased to see that my order was received and I got notification that my item had shipped.

I chose the Motorola DCX3200 High Definition Box and I bought 2 of them ($160 each plus $35 shipping on the whole order – total was $355).

Keep in mind that all of the cable boxes that this company sells are refurbished. You can expect some minor scratches but everything they ship is thoroughly tested before it leaves their facility.

What comes in the box? The cable box, power supply and remote control. (note this model doesn’t have any buttons on the front of it so I’m pretty sure I’m screwed if I lose the remote). This may not be the best option but it is working great for me for now.

What you should know:

You must have legit cable service. Don’t try this if you are stealing cable.

The cable boxes will not work right out of the box. I was hoping they would but go ahead and prepare yourself for the setup.

Expect 2-3 hours of dedicated time to setup the boxes. This was over 3 or 4 phone calls but each time, the Technical Support person at HD DVRs and I agreed on a time. This was largely due to Comcast screwing the pooch on adding cable cards to my account properly.

You will have to go to your local Comcast service center to pick up these things….the cable card. Cable cards are issued for free by law but the cable company can charge a “nominal fee” per month.

In the state of Georgia, that fee is $1.50 per card. Better than the $9.95 Comcast charges to lease their HD cable boxes. To make it easy on yourself, just tell them that you are there to get Cable Cards for your TiVo. Don’t give more information than is necessary.

You will need phone support from HD DVRs technical support team. Good news is they are AWESOME!! They walked me through all troubleshooting and when we had to get Comcast on the phone, they handled the whole call with me only having to provide serial numbers and my account information.

You won’t be able to use Comcast features like on-demand. You get the channels live. If you buy a DVR from HD DVRs, you can record as you would on any other DVR. For my bedroom, I actually like not having a DVR. That means my wife isn’t streaming “Real Housewives of wherever” while I am trying to sleep.

In the end, after I got the cable boxes in the mail, got the working cable cards from my Comcast service center and spent some time with HD DVRs technical support team, it WORKED, it actually worked!

Every channel I am subscribed to comes through perfectly. The HD channels are full HD and all the other digital channels are just as you would expect…..and I’m not paying Comcast for anything more than beaming the signal through the wire…..and that is sweet relief.

Buy your own hardware (modem) – it is insane to pay $10 a month to lease a crappy modem from Comcast. As an IT professional myself, I’m actually embarrassed that it took me this long to buy my own modem. Shame on me.

Here’s how I did it.

I always recommend looking on-line first to find the best deal. You MUST get a modem that is DOCSIS 3.0 compatible for it to work with your Comcast service.

Open it up and plug it in. In my case, Comcast automatically detected it to “activate”. If it doesn’t auto-detect, you just have to go here and follow the on-screen prompts. Worst case, you’ll have to call Comcast support but I was lucky and the modem was fully functional within minutes.

Comcast Bill Before / After purchasing and activating my own hardware

 Cost per month BEFORECost per month AFTERSavings per month
HD Cable Box (DVR)Free (with promo contract)Free (with promo contract)$0.00
HD Cable Box$9.95 (leased cable box)$1.50 (nominal cable card fee)**$8.45
HD Cable Box$9.95 (leased cable box)$1.50 (nominal cable card fee)**$8.45
Digital converter cable box$2.99$2.99$0.00
Cable Modem$10.00 (leased cable modem with telephony)$0.00$10.00

**rates / fees may be different in your area

Given that my total investment in my own hardware was about $450, my return on investment will be about 17 months. For me that is worth it. Just remember, the more TVs you try to add to your service, Comcast will hit you with an additional $9.95 per month.

Before you know it, you might be over $200 per month or higher on your bill. That was unacceptable to me which is the reason that I went through this process. Now I can add more TVs if I want without pushing up my recurring bill.

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