My cord cutting experience (and the bullshit that came with it)

Last week I was a TV subscriber with a landline phone. Now I stream my TV and have much faster Internet. This transition was a lot harder than it sounded because service providers deceived me.

Streaming your TV sounds like a simple idea. Our viewing is nearly all broadcast channels like Fox, premium channels like HBO, movies, and Red Sox baseball. I could substitute Amazon Prime Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MLB.TV. And I could hook up an over the air antenna to pull in those high-definition broadcast channels for free, just like your granddad did in 1965.

My family includes two adults, two teenagers, two TVs, and ten Internet devices. Anyone at home is bound to be on a device or two, plus I run my business out of my home. Our home internet was bogging down, so I planned to quadruple the speed to 150 Mbits per second. Since I pay an obscene amount for programming on two TVs with two DVR cable boxes, I figured I’d save money even with faster internet.

The plan worked . . . sort of. Here’s who lied, what didn’t work as well as it should, and who exceeded my expectations. (My coping strategies are in the chart at the bottom.)

Outright lies: Verizon

Verizon’s rep quoted me a price for rapid Internet, didn’t try to talk me out of dropping TV, and set up an appointment for the next day. The Verizon tech arrived on time, was very pleasant to work with, and set up the equipment efficiently. The Internet speed was just as fast as advertised.

However, the nice telephone rep had also told me that my new “home gateway” could broadcast WiFi far enough to reach from the basement to everywhere in my house, and that the tech would combine the new and existing Verizon routers to give me more ethernet ports.  These promises were false. Verizon’s broken promises foiled my plan to use their router to connect all our home devices with ethernet jacks and WiFi.

Note: I just talked to Verizon. They have agreed to allow me to keep their router in place, since it routes all the Internet traffic in my home, but to refund my charge for it. In an interesting twist, I have to wait 4 weeks for my refund, because the customer service rep handling it is on vacation when the billing starts. I never heard that one before!

Not as good as I expected: Apple TV, TiVo, and MLB.TV

Back in 2006, I predicted that Apple would release a device that combined streaming TV, downloads, and digital video recording in one box. I’m still waiting.

Apple TV is a beautiful device with a simple little remote, but doesn’t record programs. It aggregates services like NetFlix and Hulu Plus, but you can’t search across the whole collection. It’s also missing Amazon Prime Video (perhaps since Amazon’s Fire TV competes with Apple TV).

So I turned to the TiVo Roamio, which records and lets you search across services in a nice interface. But TiVo is missing HBO, which only runs on Apple TV for now. So I needed both. Flipping between them is a pain.

One more annoying glitch: the MLB.TV subscription allows you to watch only out-of-market games. I could watch any baseball game I wanted, except the Red Sox. For me, this is like a pastrami sandwich without the pastrami. My wife and my kids found this incomprehensible. However, if your device appears to be somewhere other than Boston, MLB.TV will show you the Red Sox. I figured out a way to do this, but it only works on the Apple TV, not on the TiVo.

Great: Terk’s Antenna and Netgear’s Router

cutting the cord 2To get TV over the air, I bought the Terk Ultra-Thin Omni-Directional Indoor Amplifed Antenna. It looks like a photo hung on the wall and pulls in a higher quality signal than cable. As a TV analyst 15 years ago, I thought local broadcast was irrelevant in a cable and satellite world. Wrong.

cutting the cord 1To compensate for Verizon’s disappointing router, I educated myself on networking, switches, and daisy-chaining routers. I bought Netgear’s Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router, which looks as cool as it sounds. It’s not cheap, but despite the crap in my walls that interferes with WiFi, it delivers fast internet to all reaches of my big, old house.

Here’s a table of my trials and tribulations. If you’re ready to cut the cord, you’re driving off the paved roads onto bumpy terrain. It’s doable, but don’t believe all the bullshit you read about it being easy.

Note: I followed this up later with a post on the economics of cord cutting at my house.

cutting the cord

 

 

 

22 responses to “My cord cutting experience (and the bullshit that came with it)

  1. We cut the cord two months ago. We use Netflix, an over-the-air HD antenna for free broadcast channels, and the library.

    We don’t miss it at all.

    Your wifi router shouldn’t be in the basement but up high in a bedroom or the attic. We had a bad experience with it being located in the basement several years ago, but the local cable company sent a different installer who moved it upstairs and the signal has been great ever since.

    We don’t miss cable, and even with buying a few shows on iTunes, we are hundreds of dollars ahead. Also, we find we are reading more instead of just watching what happens to be on at the moment.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Regarding the router, I can’t move the Verizon router since it needs to be near the household patch panel and the ONT (Verizon Internet switching equipment in my house). But the new Netgear router now sits up near the ceiling of the first floor and reaches that whole floor and the second floor as well.

  2. It’s not just Boston that is blacked out on MLB.TV for Red Sox games, it’s the entire NESN reach. A couple years ago I was in Harpswell, Maine in September. That late in the season MLB was offering the TV service for $9.95. I purchased it thinking I could enjoy a few Red Sox games on my iPad during my stay. Wrong. NESN is available in that area so it is not considered out of market even though it is 150 miles from Boston. If you find a way around the out of market obstacle I’d love to hear it.

  3. Reconsider the role of television in your life, and get rid of it altogether. I have not had TV for over 4 years, and I do not miss it at all. I bet you would be hard pressed to articulate at the end of any given day, month, or year any specific benefit TV added to your life.

  4. Shoot. For way less money, a Roku might have been a way to get all the streaming channels you wanted for a low cost. It does not record. It can search for a title or person and show results from across all the channels.

    For us the only challenge has been access to sports, and really, that is only a challenge for my dear husband.

  5. Let me get this straight:

    You’re upset at the ‘outright lie’ that the gateway would broadcast WiFi to your entire house, but then say that you have ‘crap in my walls that interferes with WiFi’. (Did the rep know that?) And then your solution to get around this is to buy a router that costs at least 2x the stock router that Verizon sent you AND put it in a more copacetic location.

    This is not even apples and oranges — it’s apples and rocket fuel. A customized, more expensive solution works better than stock equipment provided by someone that may not even have known that there were specific issues with, uh, YOUR house? Shocking!

    Doesn’t mean they lied.

    As to the other ‘outright lie’, well, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

    Verizon may indeed suck, but this sounds like ‘case not proven’ at best; at worst it belies the very name of your website…

    1. Fair comments.

      The Verizon rep promised 325 foot range that was greater than their existing router in my house. What they delivered had identical range to the existing router. I don’t call that an upgrade.

      The Verizon rep promised the tech would set up the two routers together so I would have 7 hardwire ethernet connections. The tech said “I don’t even know how to do that, we never do that.”

      These were broken promises.

      Since they didn’t solve my problems, I picked a better solution than they had promised. I ended up with something better than they had promised, but that doesn’t affect the fact that they delivered something worse than they had promised.

  6. Josh: I’ve been thinking of going the cord-cutter route for a while now. The Disney Channel is about the only one holding us back. There are a couple of others for me and my wife, but nothing we can’t live without.

    1. For Disney: do you have a friend or relative who won’t give up cable? Ask then for their login to their provider. If you’re using an AppleTV, you can get Disney with their login. I don’t feel bad about this, b/c my 76 year old MIL doesn’t watch Disney, so her grandchildren get some value out of her cable payments.

      We cut the cord 8 years ago. AppleTV, antenna with Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and library DVDs. Sometimes I find movies cheaper on eBay, buy them and rip them into iTunes. Either way, I figured we’ve saved $4,000 (conservatively) since eliminating cable/satellite and landline. Plus, the quality of life factor of breaking away from network schedules or dealing with a DVR.

  7. An update on this: I just talked to Verizon. They have agreed to allow me to keep their router in place, since it still routes all the Internet traffic in my home, but to refund my charge for it. In an interesting twist, I have to wait 4 weeks for my refund, because the customer service rep handling it is on vacation when the billing starts. I never heard that one before!

  8. We went FiOS as soon as it was available on our street a few years ago. Like you, it was an adventure getting it to work well enough to satisfy someone who used to be an Internet engineer (me).

    My Verizon FiOS router was free as part of my deal, so I’ve kept it as a backup for diagnostic purposes. However, while the router is fairly fast, it doesn’t do 5 GHz and I have a lot of devices that benefit from 5 GHz WiFi.

    I had originally thought I’d simply leave the VZ router in the basement, but ran into similar problems that you did. I also tried power line networking the bandwidth throughout the house, but discovered the electrical outlet that was handy was on other phase of the AC than the rest of the house, making the power line network worthless.

    Like you, I ended up ignoring the VZ router. At the end of the day, I drilled a hole in my living room floor and ran an Ethernet cable from the ONT upstairs to a Netgear AC-1700 Nighthawk router next to my TV, which feeds a gigabit Ethernet switch to connect to all the devices in the TV stack. The network configuration is such that I can always insert the Verizon router back into the stack for diagnostics, but mostly just use my which works like a champ and does both bands.

    Re the TV, I’m still using a TiVO premiere connected to an amplified Terk indoor antenna. We receive about 40 channels over the air. We watch News and Amazon Prime on the TiVO, and pretty much everything else on the Apple TV.

  9. we cut the cord in Autralia at the beginning of the year. While I don’t have the baseball problem, it is amazingly easy once I convinced our SP to give us accelerated broadband. What has helped is having both my family and my wife’s on Apple. This makes communication easier.
    All in all it was no big deal and to be honest I did not think of it as such when we did it, rather just the flow of life.

  10. What is it with people’s obsession and WiFi? We cut the cord a year or so ago and I found that it was easier to just run ethernet cable to our main TV, Computer and printer leaving the WiFi to the smartphones and tablets. The more devices you have searching and using WiFi is going to diminish your overall signal no matter how sweet your sweet spot is. Running 1 Apple time capsule (main router) with 2 Apple express routers both at each ends of our home leaving virtually no dead zones throughout the house.
    Side note, we have a cut off time for the kids smartphones, tablets, and game consoles. 8pm and it network outage time for them.

  11. Tablo is a great alternative to put all this together. It has a “whole home” OTA DVR (not confined to one device/TV) and runs through the same box that you stream your other content on. Tablo with a Roku at each TV gives you everything you need. Add plex server/channel and you have all your local content/media as well. Basically everything you would get elsewhere and more for less. VPN is a good way to get out of market as well.

  12. The obstacle blocking most cord-cutters is live sports. So many teams have such lucrative, exclusive deals with regional broadcasters (i.e., NESN, the Fox regionals, etc.) that the owners of the product (MLB, NFL, NCAA, etc.) are contractually forbidden to give viewers an Internet backdoor to the goods. So you’re stuck with Root Sports or whatever, and that means you’re stuck with cable/satellite.

    MLB Advanced Media can deliver 15 simultaneous games to any device you like (well, 14, because one of them is in your market and is blacked out). Technology is not the issue. Once league commissioners can get all their team owners to realize they can sell their product direct to consumers without the Fox/Root/NESN/etc. middleman, and keep the advertising revenue for themselves besides, the blackouts will fall away and one of the biggest reasons to hang on to cable will disappear.

  13. Wow, this is us to a tee. I cut the cable cord last year (Comcast), and use Roamio, Netflix, apple tv, etc., (with cable internet) and it’s great with 1 huge exception – no Red Sox or Celtics games – they are blocked by MLB and NBA tv.
    I am considering crawling back to Comcast for TV so I can watch the Sox this year, since I want my 3 and 5 year old sons to be able to watch. We are so happy with being cord cutters, but this one thing is bringing us back to cable and an extra $100 per month. If you know of a way to pay for MLBTV, and not have Sox games blacked out, and are inclined to share, PLEASE let me know (I’m not a huge techie, so if its really involved, it won’t work for me). Thanks for your blog and comments!

    1. Get an Unblockus subscription. It’s $5 per month. Change the DNS in the Apple TV to the one provided by Unblock. Now your location is hidden. Blackouts are removed.

  14. It’s to say yes to cord cutting method but it’s really hard for a person whose TV is everything to him and people in USA are very much addicted to their TV screens. If you not getting the required results from your cable provider and thinking of cord cutting, I suggest to switch to Spectrum in Dayton Ohio and enjoy the experience of your dreams.

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