Cutting the Cord - Why and How I did it
What exactly does “cutting the cord” mean? For almost a lifetime, we have been used to getting our TV entertainment delivered by Cable or Satellite companies. You typically get packages of channels bundled together at different price points, all delivered on a set top box connected to your TV. Cutting the cord means finding a different way (Hint - over the Internet) to deliver TV, likely at a lower price point and with more choice about which channels you receive.
For cable, I live in Comcast territory so I had been a customer since the late 90’s, until a month ago. Back then, the TV experience was horrible with those awful blue menus but a number of years ago Comcast came out with their X1 service that brought them into the modern age. Other than the price, I have been completely satisfied with the service although I watched only a small subset of channels and never anything other than HD content. Of the 140 channels in my package, well over half of them were irrelevant to me because they were delivered in Standard Definition format. Comcast also delivered my Internet service at a zippy 250Mb/s coming into the house and 6Mb/s uplink speed. Again, no issues.
In the end though, it all comes down to economics and competition. My $115 per month promotional fee for TV and Internet went up to $164 and when I called the “loyalty” number to negotiate it back to $115 or less, I was offered $128 per month for the same service. That is what motivated me to shop around.
If I kept Internet only from Comcast, it would have cost $82 per month. I checked into AT&T’s new Gigabit fiber service and they have a promotional rate of $80/month (going to $90 per month after the first year), but the service offers 1000Mb/s into the home and 1000Mb/s out of the home with no data limits. (note that there are slower speeds available for less money too). I’m not sure why I need 1000Mb/s but what the heck, I’m game to find out.
OK, what about TV? With all that speed, I might as well get Live TV delivered over the Internet. I looked at multiple services for the right channel combinations for me, the price, and how exactly it gets delivered to the TV and other devices like cell phones and computers. The choices included DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, SlingTV, Hulu LiveTV and a few other lesser knowns. I ended up choosing YouTube TV for $40 per month (cancel anytime) which happened to have the right mix of channels for my liking. Another neat feature is that you can hide the channels that you will never watch so that your guide is not loaded with junk.
I have one Samsung SmartTV that supports the YouTube TV app and use the TV app and remote to pick between Live TV with YouTube TV, and Netflix for other content. The other TV did not support the app natively but I have an AppleTV 4k that does, so I run both YouTube TV and Netflix on the AppleTV with the second set.
Total monthly cost is $120, going up to $130 in a year. This comes with screaming fast Internet and no data limits. With the AT&T Internet service, you are forced to use their supplied router (no added cost), but I turned off its WiFi and tucked it in line with my own routers that I use to blanket the house for Smart Home coverage.
Overall, the TV experience is excellent, but of course different from X1 so there is some adjustment period. It is easy to record shows, but I did learn about some subtle nuances regarding ad skipping. With Comcast X1, you cannot skip ads on VOD content but if you record the show, you can ad skip. With YouTube TV, the same applies for VOD content, but if you record the show you MIGHT be able to ad skip but it depends on which channel it was recorded from. For example, when I record shows from NBC (which happens to be owned by Comcast), you cannot ad skip due to the restrictions placed by NBC on Youtube TV. I'm sure we all hope that Comcast will just come out with their own cord cutting service to compete in this market, rather than making it difficult for others to offer a seamless service but time will tell how this market will develop. Such are the pitfalls of allowing carriers to also be content owners.
In my area, we get all the local channels and regional sports channels to you can keep track of your favorite sporting events. There are so many quality choices now for Internet delivered live TV that it has never been easier to cut the cord.