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
To 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.
To 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.