Friday, February 15, 2019

FYI: I Dropped Cable TV ~ AKA "Cutting the cord"

Here is my story about dropping Spectrum Cable TV!

I cut the cable but I can still watch more TV than I have time for.

And... I'm saving over $100 per month!!!

Here is what I am now paying:
  • $51/mo for 100mps Internet
    • I have over 50% more Internet speed
    • The hardware (modem/router) is included.
  • $23/mo for Spectrum TV app
    • I have my BayNews9 channel.
    • I have local broadcast stations with no need for an external antenna.

  • I pay $ 0/mo for a weather channel and hundreds of radio channels
  • I pay nothing extra for Amazon video (it's included in Amazon Prime)
  • ...nothing for YouTube videos; I can now watch them on TV
  • ...nothing for Netflix ($13/mo after 30-day trial mode)
  • I have lots and lots of on-demand video, including syndicated TV shows and movies.

What have I lost?

I have lost the DVR capabilities that allowed me to record a program to watch it later, and to skip past commercials during the show.

(Did you know there are 20 minutes of commercials in a 60-minute show? In a 30-minute episode of The Big Bang Theory, 10 minutes of that are commercials.)

ROKU Device #1

This journey actually began several years ago when I purchased a Roku device and connected it to the TV in front of the treadmill in my garage.
Roku 2500x

I did register the device, but I didn't really use it because I also acquired a Spectrum digital box w/DVR for my treadmill.

I spent my daily walks either watching a recorded program or searching for programs to to record. My Roku was ignored.

Love/Hate Spectrum

By 2018, my cable bill had increased to over $200/month. I enjoyed the service, but I mentally winced every month when I paid the bill.

The first major "hit" came when Spectrum went to an all-digital signal last summer. My office TV stopped working. I moved my Roku device to the office, downloaded the Spectrum TV app and restored my BayNews9 channel.

Lesson Learned: Streaming TV from a Roku device is no different than using a digital cable box from Spectrum.
The quality is the same through either device

In January, 2019, I became serious about "cutting the cord."

Tampa Bay Technology Center

Screen Capture of Tampa Bay Technology Center

The TBTC was formerly known as the Tampa Bay Computer Society which, in turn, had its roots in the IBM Users' Group of the 1990s.

Among the free classes offered by the TBTC is one titled "Cutting the Cord" (duh!). The instructor connected an Amazon Firestick to the wall monitor. He gave live demonstrations for setting up the device and streaming video.

At first, it didn't seem to apply since I was using Roku. After a couple classes, I realized that the fundamentals are valid for both Roku and the Firestick.

ROKU Device #2

In December I had returned my bedroom receiver to Spectrum (saved $8/month) and bought another Roku device. It was a streaming stick for half price: I paid $25.
An image of a Roku stick streaming device

That was a great price considering that the basic Amazon Firestick goes for about $40.

I downloaded /installed the Spectrum app, connected it to my Spectrum router with the 5G network connection and Voila!

I had the two channels I mostly watch in the bedroom: a music channel at night and BayNews9 in the morning.

ROKU Device #3

Fortunately, every other week or so, Roku puts one of their devices on sale. When I was ready to get my 3rd device, I waited until another sale came around.

"Cutting the Cord"

The big day had finally arrived!
Rick's Roku Device #3

  • I had hands-on experience with streaming TV, and I was happy with the results.
  • I had attended TBTC classes.
  • There was another Roku sale - a basic Premier for $25.
    • Roku prices are set by Roku, and the places where I shop match that price.
      I picked up my 3rd Roku device at Walmart.
  • On Wednesday I disconnected my final Spectrum device and went to the Spectrum office to make it all happen.

Spectrum ~ My Service Change

That morning, my Spectrum bill was $180.

That afternoon, my Spectrum bill was $51. My only service was Internet (A $130/month savings.)

Bonus FYI: The normal Spectrum Internet runs $79/month. For new customers, the cost is reduced to $49/month for the first year.
By simply asking about "retention offers" I discovered that I could get the $79/month service for $51/month for my first year.

The only Spectrum equipment now in my house is the modem, which is also a router with wireless capabilities.
  • In my office, I had my original Roku device connect to the TV
  • In the bedroom, I had my new Roku stick. It connected to the TV to turn it  on/off and adjust the volume - all on the one remote!
  • I put the newest Roku device in the living room. I'm still struggling with three remotes: Roku, TV, and the sound system.

Seemingly endless choices...

Next came the challenge of what to watch and how to find it. Turns out this is really really confusing.

Streaming apps have monthly charges varying between $4.99/month and $20/month. It's easy to get "nickled and dimed" to death.

Fortunately, many of the apps offer free trials. My 30-day free NETFLIX trial will eventually go to $13/month. Earlier, I had pointed out that I also get free video from my Amazon Prime account.
Firestick, from Amazon

I can buy individual TV episodes from multiple sources for around $1.99 each without making a monthly commitment. Interesting.

Some of the apps seem to consolidate multiple channels. I'm unsure what is in YouTube TV, but that service costs $49/month.

Finding what to watch is going to take a lot of research, and I will eventually write another article about this.

Spectrum TV App ~ A Hidden Gem

The Spectrum TV app costs only $23/month.

Signing up for this was a bit scary. I turned down offers for premium channels ($15/month HBO, Showtime, etc) and News/Sports ($12/mo) and Latino ($9/mo).

The process did not ask for either a userid or a credit card number. I called the toll-free number and was quickly connected to a real person.

The customer service representative could see my bill. He told me that my services were only Internet plus the Spectrum TV app, and that my total bill will be $79/month. That calmed my queasy feelings.

The Spectrum TV app has most of the channels that I had found on the physical cable boxes I had turned in.
Rick's Roku Device #3

I found a rewind button on the Roku remote, but I still do not have DVR capabilities. And...

I have BayNews9 on all three of my TVs!!

I wrote a followup article on March 16th. You can follow this link to read it: "Cutting the Cord" Follow-up (

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