6 Steps to Cutting the Cord of Cable

A Modern Home Network Can Enable Streaming Content Without Paying Monthly Cable or Satellite TV Bills

A Modern Home Network Can Enable Streaming Content Without Paying Monthly Cable or Satellite TV Bills

In these days of on-demand streaming services and high-speed Internet access, do you wonder why you pay so much for hundreds of channels that you don’t watch?  Do you wonder why you can’t just choose a la carte the channels you watch most?

I did.  So I began the quest of planning out what it would take to make the big switch and “cut the cord.”  I’m starting from having Time Warner’s Signature Service, which includes Ultra Broadband Internet (50/5 Mbps), Unlimited VoIP Telephone within the Continental U.S., and HD TV with 2 DVRs that can share shows.

Your process will vary depending on your starting point and where you want to end up, but here are the steps that will approximate a replacement to cable TV.  Over the next several days, I’ll elaborate on each of these steps, but for now, I’ll stick to a single paragraph and you can use this as a summary.

1) Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV)
Most new TVs have a built-in digital tuner and HDMI input.  Let’s call this step “table stakes”.  If you’ve never replaced your old “glass” TV, stop reading now and go get yourself something like this Vizio from Walmart for under $200.  You can spend up to $2000 on a TV, but this post will be much better if we assume this is in place before we go any further.

2) Get an Antenna for Over The Air TV – $20 to $100
There are lots of options for digital antennas, and more than half of them are mediocre at best. My favorite style antennas are the multiple bow tie that can be used for 95% of the HD stations.  There are others that can work and I’ll go into details in a future post.

3) Get an Optional Digital Video Recorder – $200 to $400 plus guide service fees
TiVo was the first big dog to this party, to the point that, back in 2003, the word “tivo” was being used a verb, meaning “to record television show on a hard drive in digital form for later viewing.”  There are newcomers to this market now that have reinvented this market and are worth considering.  This will also be part of a future post.

4) Get a Media Streaming Device – $35 to $200
There are three primary competitors for this, Apple TV, Roku and ChromeCast, although there are lots of options.  They help put your content on your TV.  Many BluRay players and game systems come with network apps that provide interfaces to many content providers, which leads to the last two steps…

5) Get a WiFi N Router – $40 to $60
Many of us have had G-speed routers (802.11g), which supports 54Mbps shared bandwidth, but if you want to have multiple wireless streaming devices in your home network, it’s really better to be running at N-speed (802.11n).  Doing so will ensure you minimize any video streaming jitter and buffering.  Of course, you can avoid this need if you run Cat5 ethernet cables to your devices, but many devices today are WiFi only.

6) Create Logins and Subscribe to Streaming Services – $10 to $50 per month
Streaming services give you content on demand, which means you can start it, pause it and finish it anytime that is convenient to you.  The easiest way to introduce this topic is by example, so here are some that you probably have heard of: Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon Prime and vudu.  There are many others, specializing in niche content, such as Mexican soccer, NBA, old westerns, YouTube videos and independent films.  Some are free, some require subscriptions that are usually less than $10/month.

Those are the five steps that you need to evaluate in order to cut yourself loose from Time Warner Cable TV, DirecTV, Dish Network or AT&T Uverse and replace them with Internet-based content.  In each of five future posts, I will dedicate to the above five steps.

Take your time to plan your attack.  Read my future posts for ideas on the steps and map out your transition along with me.