Lessons Learned from a Would-Be Cord Cutter – Part 2: It ain’t that easy…

The Best Internet Service vs. Server Response

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To be a cord cutter, you need a couple of additional pieces of equipment. As I mentioned, you need a digital antenna and might need a digital converter. In order to get some of the video content you’re going to miss with just the OTA antenna – like HBO or other cable movie channel, binge watching of TV episodes or movie series and sequels or older TV shows that aren’t available via channels like Me-TV or The CW, you’re going to need a media streaming box like an Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast dongle. I mentioned these in my original Cord Cutter article.

As a brief aside, you’re going to also need to make certain you have the right connectors for the hardware you put in place. For example, the Apple TV only has an HDMI out connector. If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI in, things can get interesting. My TV did not.

At first I purchased an eForcity 538581 HDMI to Component (5 RCA) converter cable. The cable didn’t work. The TV has 2 different HD RCA connections and 3 SD RCA connections. It wouldn’t work in any of the 5 RCA options I had available to me. I’m not busting a flange gasket over the purchase, as it was less than $8 bucks, shipped, but it was $8 bucks, and doesn’t work on my TV. I need to check it out on another TV setup to see if it’s the cable or the TV.

I purchased a Sabrent HDMI to Component/S-Video Converter. This works very well, but the box was $60 bucks and actually gets very hot when it runs. It also wouldn’t work the second time I went to watch my Apple TV. I had to unplug it and then reconnect the AC adapter in order to get the video to pump back through it. I will check this back out again tonight, as Apple TV has an ESPN channel that contains some full, live content; and I hope to watch Monday Night Football through it.

The biggest thing you’re going need, however, is a decent internet pipe. I’ve noticed that the cable internet service I have in my new city is pretty decent. I’ve got Cox service, and I was getting 30-34Mbps service. It wasn’t bad, but I noticed that I was getting a lot of stuttering when it came to Netflix and Amazon Prime video. Over the course of a couple weeks, I upgraded from their Preferred service (30Mbps guaranteed) to their Premier service (50Mbps guaranteed) to their Ultimate service (150Mbps guaranteed). I learned something very interesting about Cox and their internet service tiers.

There’s little difference between their Preferred and Premier tiers.

While on both, I never got any higher than 30Mbps service. I worked with both tier 1 and tier 2 support to resolve the issue. It never got resolved and I need to contact them for a service credit during the time I was on their Premier tier.

One of the solutions I had in front of me was their Ultimate service, which guarantees 150Mbps down, 20Mbps up. I’m actually getting between 175Mbps to 190Mbps down and 20Mbps to 25Mbps up. The service is smoking hot. Songs and videos download nearly instantly from iTunes to my iTunes Library. Downloading software and other files is equally as satisfying from Microsoft TechNet as well as Soft32. Again, pulling down 3-5MB files is almost instantaneous.

Streaming content, however, is a totally different animal. Here, it’s all about what the server is doing and how many other users you’re vying for server attention from. No matter how fast things are, if the server is bogged down, it doesn’t matter how fast you are on your end, you’re only going to be as fast as the slowest link. In other words, I’ve still got a lot of service stutters from both Netflix and Amazon Prime video. If they don’t disappear, I may drop the service back down to either Premier (50Mbps, $60 monthly) or Preferred (30Mbps, $50 monthly) levels and deal with the stutters. The Ultimate service may give me 150Mbps, but its $99 monthly.

What to Expect (You must Unlearn what you have Learned)

The idea behind cord cutting is to save money. Period. If anyone gives you a line about not buying into the establishment or providing either cable or satellite companies with too much personal data, they’re giving you a lot of bunk. This is all about saving a couple of bucks; but you have to have the right equipment and internet service tier to make it all work.

I’ve spent $200 on making a free TV work. The TV I have is 32″. A corresponding, middle of the road, flat screen TV can be purchased for an average of about $400. Appropriate internet service to handle HD streaming will cost me $720 a year on my introductory rate. If I stick with the Ultimate service tier, that jumps to $1200 per year. My costs for the first year range from $920 to $1400.

Comparatively, basic cable service – which will remove the need for the digital converter and antenna – and the Preferred (30Mbps) internet service will run me about $960 a year ($30 TV, $50 Internet), plus the cost of the TV – $200 – that puts my first year costs at $1120.

That’s nearly a wash, kids; but please note that’s just basic service, and your mileage may vary. Costs for TV service are a la carte and may be cheaper for you based on your geographic area, provider, what you bundle and what you may be able to squeeze out of your provider for an introductory or contract rate.

I’m going to give this a shot for a few months and see how things go. Please watch for another small update on this issue a few months from now. I may decide to grab back onto the cord if I don’t get what I want or need.

Are you a cord cutter? What kind of monthly costs are you bumping into? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.

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