Alright so preface here: I recently cut my cable, switching from Comcast 25mbps + basic cable to RCN 110mbps +no cable. I'm talking internet options for TV & Movies here. I'll also tell you how I canceled Comcast no mess in 30 minutes, if anyone's curious
Alright first some education in cable and internet & tech terms so you don't get lost when I throw all the options at you:
Internet Speed - When I say I get internet at 25 mbps, that means I have download speeds of UP TO 25 megabites per second - the rate at which data transfers. Higher numbers, more data transferred, in theory. Really your rates depend on the company, your modem and your router. There's plenty of apps to test your speeds.
Coax Line - short for coaxial line - is a cable that transfers data, such as your cable and internet. This line goes from your wall into your modem, and may have a splitter on it to go to your modem AND cable box or TV.
Modem - The first place of access to your internet. You run a coax line from the wall (the coax outlet) to your modem to receive internet. From there you can connect to a computer or router using an ethernet cord, whose connections look like the old phone cords, if you remember those. Think of your modem as your internet translator - it takes in the 1s and 0s from the coax line and turns them into a connection to the internets. For both good and bad, the internet has become WAYYYY different in the past 10 years, and if your modem is over 3 years old, you may want to upgrade. But I'll get into that in a different time. Often you rent this from the company, but it't totally worth it to buy (you make up the price within the first year vs. renting). If you do buy it, figure out how to trouble shoot it because your ISP will always blame the modem for any internet problems.
Router - takes that internet it gets from the modem and shoots it as far as it can via WiFi. Because of those internet changes I mentioned, if your router is over 3 years old, it may be time to change. Mine is from 5 years ago and throttles my 110 mbps internet down to 25. This CNet buying guide is great, and when it comes to what router is best for you, you'll have to do some research. My 2 cents: always buy the best for your situation so it can last you the longest (less electronics waste). New routers have USB ports, so you can connect storage, like an external hard drive, directly to the network instead of to a computer then to the network. Super cool. You pretty much always have to buy this.
HDMI cord - a cord that gives you HD quality video, pretty much necessary for any of the hardware options I give you except for the Roku 1 & an HTPC. Never buy name brand or in store, they're marked up like crazy. Have an extra on hand. Apple requires a different kind of HDMI cord because of course they do.
ISP - stands for internet service provider. That means Comcast, RCN, Time Warner Cable, that satellite internet, whatever. Usually whatever company takes a money bath each month thanks to you.
Alright now we got the basics down, we can get into how to switch, and what your options are.
First off, think of what you are currently getting for the price. What works, what doesn't. Do you get stuff you never use? What's the cost of upgrading your current plan to get the channels you want? If you get stuff you don't use, are overpaying (which you pretty much always are, but let's talk relatively here), or can't realistically get the channels you want for the cost, you should think about switching. If you like your provider then stick with em. If not, switch (if possible).
I am lucky enough where my building receives both Comcast and RCN (2 competing ISPs). I was tired of Comcast for everything you've heard about them and wanted to switch. My first tip is know what you want, and the rates that are listed online, then talk to someone over the phone or in person. My building couldn't be found on the website, so I called, and found out I could actually get the 110 mbps without renting equipment from them. Win. Don't let them talk you into more than you want/need. If you don't use it, it's wasted money, even if it's only $5 a month.
How I Cancelled Comcast: I got my new internet set up, they came out to switch over the building hookups from Comcast to RCN (if you need this service, ask if they have promotions/coupons). Once I had my new internet set up, I immediately went to the Comcast store and brought in all my equipment and cancelled. I cannot promise the company won't be an a-hole and still charge you, but this worked for me. Bring in everything (cable boxes, remotes, modem). Be courteous but steadfast in you are cancelling. No I don't want half the price, but thanks for price gouging me for months. They'll try to talk you out of it, it's their job. But they'll relent. If they say they can't cancel in store, they're lying. Get a receipt for your equipment, make copies and keep it forever. If you've had problems in the past, try to get something signed by the manager saying you cancelled your service on that day. Always be friendly, these people deal with a lot because of the company and I know they'll appreciate it.
30 minutes waiting, 3 minutes to cancel. Got my official 'sorry to see you go' email a few days later with a bunch of calls begging me to come back. But I had new internets. I had moved on. Woot. Got a bill that was for a half month that I never used, but $35 to not talk to them again was worth it.
NOW ON TO THE FUN PART!
OK So I'm breaking this into 2 parts, streaming services and hardware. Make a list of what you want to get for entertainment, then find the hardware & streaming combos that fit for the best price.
This is the video part - movies & TV shows - that you want to watch. *note - some cities charge an amusement tax so prices will be a little higher.
- Netflix - you know em, you love em. Currently $9 for new customers, stream on 2 devices at once.
- Amazon Prime video - Great for lots of movies & TV shows, comes free with Amazon Prime membership, currently $99/year ($8.25/mo), you can now only share your prime membership with 1 other person (if you split the cost it's $4.13/mo).
- Amazon Video - You can also rent or buy videos on Amazon without buying Prime Membership. A great option if you want to watch just-out movies.
- Hulu - used to be free, now it's a subscription. You can watch past and present TV seasons. This is a great option if you have a few shows you can't go without. They have options for commercial free video too (for extra money). Starts at $8/month.
- HBO Now - Different from HBO Go, this is a streaming service for HBO Shows and Movies that you pay for (i.e. if you don't already have HBO, or a friend doesn't have HBO, you can buy this to get your fix). So if you need to watch HBO, you can for $15/month.
- Channel 'watch' apps - HBO Go, CBS Watch, HGTV Watch, PBS, etc. These are apps you can stream from IF you already have those channels. If you don't then you can't stream. *cough* get a friend or family members sign in *cough*. My boyfriend has HGTV and HBO from Comcast, so he can sign into these apps and stream them at my apartment. He doesn't get DIY Network so we can't stream that.
- Sports streaming - The MLB, NFL & NHL all have their own subscriptions where you can buy a season and stream live. They are overpriced, in my opinion, but if you are really invested then look into it. I'm waiting until local games are streamed online, because that's definitely happening soon. Like, get real, sports. This is the main reason lots of people don't give up cable. Remember local games can be heard over the radio. SUPER old school. I listened to half the cubs season + post-season over my grandfathers 1950s Zenith radio. Felt good & all-American.
- Sling TV - A paid streaming option where you can get all those extended cable channels like ESPN, TNT, USA, HGTV, Disney Channel, etc. You can get add-ons for $5 or $10 more for things like DIY Network. This may be worth it if you need those Law & Order Marathons or you don't have access to a cable sign in for the channel's 'watch' app. Currently $20/month.
- Old School DVDs/Video Files - If you have a large DVD collection, consider that when looking at your hardware options. If you have lots of Video Files, look for a machine that can hook up to an External Hard Drive or look at the following options.
- XBMC/Kodi - A program that you can set up on your Home Theater PC. A great option for lots of video files, and you can hook up Netflix into it's interface, though I could never get it running. Takes some tech know-how. Requires a HTPC. Has great & customizable interface. Does not stream to other devices. $0
- Plex - I looooove Plex. I use it for my media files and on my Home Theater PC. It allows you to take the videos connected to your computer and stream them anywhere - not just over your network (i.e. I can play my movie files at my parent's house without having to bring my external hard drive/hooking up a computer). The Plex App is available on Android, Chromecast & Roku. You can also add in your photos and music. Note that you do have to have your network & the program running to stream. $0
- Google Music/Video - Stream your music and video files anywhere. You can easily rent/purchase media to add to your collection. This service can be used on your TV via Chromecast or a PC. $0
- Your local library - Unexpected? Libraries still exist? They sure do, and they usually have DVDs & Blu-Rays to rent. My old suburban one even had games. Fantastic for older movies and documentaries (which are often hard to get streaming). Check it out. Support your local library. They also have e-books, FYI.
This is how to get those movies & TV shows onto your TV.
- Smart TV - a TV that has options for things like Netflix and Hulu. This is a good option if you want some basic streaming options, but you'll probably need more if you don't have cable. (Big $$, but getting cheaper every season. May be worth it if you're buying a new TV.)
- Roku - Roku is a hardware piece that streams various sources with lots of options. I'll be buying a Roku 2 certified refurbished. This can stream Netflix, Hulu & Amazon Prime plus apps like CBS watch, HGTV watch, HBO go/now, & PBS. Basically has 3 types of streaming sources: paid (Netflix), cable sign-in (CBS Watch), and free (PBS). Lots and lots of options, and my favorite. You get a remote and it has it's own interface, making it really simple for non-techy people. ($50-100 depending on model)
- Apple TV - Personally I don't know a lot about this one, but it seems like it covers the major streaming options (HBO, Hulu, Netflix) and you can purchase movies, and the new one has games. Again, you get a remote and it has it's own interface. Connects to iTunes. $135 new edition)
- Chromecast - I own one. I use it every week. It streams more than you'd think (Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO plus a bunch of channel 'watch' apps). I have the first edition. This is great if you only want basic watching capabilities or if you have a TV that can't access a cable box, or if you want a 'smart tv' without buying a new TV. The speaker chromecast is super cool looking, too. This guy doesn't have a TV interface as it streams from your mobile device or computer (where the chromecast app will be downloaded), so it's not as easy to use for non-techys and it requires a device to stream from - it plays in the background, so you can still use the device, but still something to consider. ($35)
- Amazon Fire Stick - Very similar to Roku's streaming stick, comes with lots of streaming options and a remote (plus TV interface). Haven't experienced it myself but seems easy to use. ($40)
- Gaming Consoles - XBox, Playstation - these guys can stream. Though as I annoyingly found out with my XBox 360, you need gold membership to stream a service you already pay for (Netflix). BS. But if you already have the equipment, look into all it's capabilities.
- HD Antenna - This is a digital channel antenna (modern equivalent to those 2 wire antennas on old TVs) so you can receive basic cable channels without paying per month. A great addition if you want to watch live TV shows and receive whatever sports still go through basic channels (which seems like null these days). $5-$40 depending on the receiving distance. You can probably get TeleMundo this way. Fantastico.
- HTPC - stands for Home Theater PC. This is for the techys. You can use an old computer, a new one, or build a new machine with a Raspberry Pi. This is best if you have a ton of video files. Load up XBMC or Plex and you've got yourself a movie machine. I have an old laptop that can't move/be unplugged that I use for this - I mostly use it with Netflix or Plex for Home Theater, it's not all fixed up with bells and whistles but it gets the job done on my secondary TV. Learn more about HTPCs from Lifehacker. ($0 using old computer to $500, depending on what you want)
CNet did a great comparison of the major devises here if you're interested.
After you get all your options out on the table, you need to figure out which one(s) fit what you need and what what you really want. Try to get down to as few hardware pieces as possible, as it can get confusing with multiple. Also, know your tech limits. Do you need an easy-to-use interface? Or is simple streaming from your phone/tablet an option? (aka how often do your parents visit?) Now for some maths...
All these things can add up quick. I suggest you find friends & family you super-duper trust and see if you can share accounts with them. I share my Netflix account with my parents & boyfriend, and I use my parents Amazon Prime and my boyfriend's cable login for HGTV & HBO. This allows me to only pay Netflix monthly but have access to Fixer Upper (aren't Chip & Joanna soooo cute?!?!?) and True Detective. I use Netflix everyday (keeps me company working from home), so it's totally worth it for me to pay for it. Also look into whatever tech you have now and see if you're missing out on some of the features, maybe you don't need to buy as much as you thought.
So... if you're ready to jump, I want to warn you - these options all require bandwith (aka access to your interwebs). If you have a real old router or less than 25mbps I suggest upgrading. You can probably get away with your current internet, but look into it. It may be worth it if you want to stream while using the internet. I suggest a router no more than 2 years old and 25mbps or more.
My math is as follows:
Before: $70/mo for Comcast 25mbps (always tested at 16mbps, though) and basic cable + $8/mo for Netflix + $0 Chromecast = $78 per month
Now: $45/mo for RCN 110mbps internet + $8/mo for Netflix + $4.17/mo for Roku 2 Refurbished for one year ($50/12 months) + $0 for New Router (upcoming Christmas gift) + $0 Chromecast = $57 per month with access to a lot more channels (maybe + $20 for HD Antenna or $1.67/mo for one year = $59 per month). Totally worth the hassle of switching and the research.
I cannot give any advice on how to get a good deal with your current ISP on your new internet only plan, sadly. Threatening to cancel usually gets results. If you have any experience with this please leave it below for fellow readers. Also if you've ever used a ridiculous reason to cancel your cable (e.g. I'm going to live in a Yurt in Iceland to survive the zombie apocalypse) please share with the class for entertainment value.
So, what's your setup? Have you switched or are thinking or switching? Any resources you want to share? Leave it below.
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