This seems to be a popular topic these days, especially with those of us who are looking to save a few dollars here and there. One of the most aggravating bills each month is the cable television bill, and there is a lot of talk about “cutting the cable” and instead use streaming services for entertainment. So here we will try to address this topic in today’s language, and maybe give you some more accurate information to work with concerning online entertainment vs. cable.
You may already know that all television is digital now, meaning that if you have an older TV, a little box is required to decode the signal and make it so that you can display it on the screen. Nothing to talk about here other than that is the state of the technology new, and if your television needs it, then you need it.
Cable TV provides three (and maybe four) things for your home – Television, Internet Access, Home Phone Service and in some markets, Home Security. (We will save home security for a later blog.) And as far as home phone goes, let’s just say that most people can get my without a traditional home phone anymore as long as your cell service is adequate at your house. That leaves us with TV and Internet Access.
Internet can come into your home in one of three ways. One is DSL, which is an acronym for Digital Subscriber Line. While DSL is adequate for a lot of people, it is commonly thought that DSL is generally a “slow” way to access the internet. All computer technologies improve over time, and DSL is getting better all the time. DSL is normally delivered via the traditional phone lines, meaning that your phone provider would also provide you with DSL.
The second method for accessing the internet is via your cable TV service. Like the DSL service, it uses a wire or cable to transmit internet data signals. Generally speaking, cable can provide a faster signal and tends to be the “preferred” method when there is a choice. However, local conditions and services may make the decision between DSL and cable more of a coin toss than anything else.
The third method is via fiber optic services. These projects are taking shape in large cities such as Austin, Texas, where Google is laying in fiber optic lines to provide super-fast data to everyone in the city. Services can be as much as fifty times faster than traditional cable or DSL. Unfortunately, the only way to get these new services is to live in a city that has been “wired.”
So most of us are stuck with either cable or DSL. “Cutting the cable” isn’t as easy as we thought.
That turns us to television and entertainment. We use the TV to play shows on networks, live and tape-delayed sports, and local and national news. While pay TV provides us with a multitude of channels, the typical user only watches a handful of them and bypasses the rest. Our providers won’t let us choose just the channels we want – we have to buy “packages” of channels, often paying for programming that doesn’t interest us. But, you know all of this.
So many are contemplating eliminating the pay TV part of the cable/DSL bill and going with streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Using these services costs less than $15 a month and provide both “movie” programming and TV programming. Hulu, for example, runs network series programs the day after it appears “live” on the network channel. If you are looking for the latest episode of “Castle,” you only need to wait until the next day. Hulu also offers a subscription that is “ad free,” so for a few bucks more a month, you can eliminate the commercials. Nice deal.
If you are going to try streaming, you may feel that you are missing out on local news and local TV stations. However, you can get digital TV that is broadcast “over the air” (OTA) in your area. Remember putting up that TV antenna on a pole on the side of the house or on the chimney? You can do it again, trapping OTA channels. To find out what stations are broadcasting in your area, go to http://www.antennapoint.com/, put in your zip code and it will provide you with a map of the broadcast sites in your area. This will allow you to make a decision about whether you want to go OTA with local television.
So, you can cut the cable, go OTA with an outside antenna, and then subscribe to the various streaming services that you want. But a word of caution – you may need to upgrade your internet service to a “faster” speed in order to properly stream your entertainment.
Cut the cable, but do the math first. Add the cost of the antenna, equipment, and installation if needed, divided by the number of months of use to get the real cost of OTA. Then look at the cost of the faster internet speed per month, and add in the cost of the streaming services. Put that all together, and you may find that paying for cable TV isn’t that bad – for now.
However, we are in a pretty volatile time in home and broadcast entertainment, and the landscape is changing rapidly. What we say here may change in a month or a year. We will not ignore this topic…in fact, we will comment on it as things do change. So, as they say on TV, “Stay Tuned to This Station for More Exciting Information!”
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