Cutting the Cord

In August, my wife and I made the decision to cut the cord and get rid of cable television.  We had several reasons, some financial, some technical issues and unhappy customer relations, and some related to free time and not watching much television.  When we had cable, we only regularly watched a few shows across a couple of channels. At the time, we were subscriber's to AT&T U-Verse and over the last three years we sat by and watched the bill increase by over thirty dollars in only a few years.  At the time we cancelled, it was costing us over $150 each month for their cable and internet package.  Getting rid of cable meant saving at least $100 each month.

In addition to the rising costs, the signal reception was notoriously spotty in our area.  We would constantly lose the TV signal, especially during the spring and winter months when the ground would freeze and thaw, and leak water into the underground cables.  Last December through January, we had technicians at our house on a weekly basis to remove and replace equipment (three times), rewire the house (twice), replace fuses at the central hub (four times), and finally determine that their team of engineers would have to replace the underground wires...which the engineers refused to do because of cost issues.  According to one technician, we lost the signal 123 times in one day.  We rarely saw the end of any television show we watched, and most of the time our TV was filled with AT&T's version of the Blue Screen of Death.

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So when we finally decided to cancel cable, it wasn't exactly a hard decision.  Especially not in this day-and-age where there are other viable options.

For free over-the-air stations, we rely on an HD antenna, which has worked well...until recently.  Our ABC affiliate, WXYZ-Detroit, recently stopped coming in, for whatever reason.  But at least it's a free failure.  Back in the AT&T days, I had to pay $100 to not have reception!

As an Amazon Prime member, we had access to their Instant Video programming and a bevy of worthwhile free stuff, and a nifty Amazon Video app on the PS3, which let us watch HD content.  We also bought an Apple TV, which has allowed us to purchase TV shows ala carte.  Even while subscribed to cable, a lot of our TV content came through purchasing blu-rays of TV seasons, like Game of Thrones or Supernatural, which we are constantly behind on (and since everything we DVR'd contained plenty of missing time, there was little point in trying to record any of our favorite shows).

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I've got a backlog of shows and movies on my Amazon watchlist, and have been rewatching The X-Files, and previous seasons of Chopped and No Reservations.  We also took advantage of their exclusive rights to Under the Dome.  Our digital catalog on iTunes is slowly growing, too.  We have season passes set up for Blacklist, Iron Chef America, and Haven. We have some free pilots on the queue to watch, and a list of other shows we intend to purchase soon.  The video and audio quality are great.  Even The X-Files looks pretty damn good for being standard-def!

The best part, and what was great about having a DVR, is that we can watch it anytime.  And not only that, but with our iPad, we can watch anywhere.  We don't have to schedule time around TV, or be in a specific location to view something.  For a lot of people who have been weaned on watching shows online (something I was never quite able to adapt to), this isn't news. But for me, it's been a wonderful and freeing experience.  More importantly, it's been an experience that works and works well.

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Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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