Is It Time to Drop Cable?
By Tracey Dowdy
Are you thinking about cutting the cord? There are pros and cons to keeping and cutting, so before you take the plunge, there are a few things to consider.
COST For most of us, the discussion of whether or not to cancel our cable subscription starts with the rising cost of services. Your cable and internet provider are likely from the same service, and providers commonly bundle their services to appeal to a broader customer base. For example, it’s better for me to subscribe to a monthly phone/cable/internet package than to purchase internet as a standalone service, not only because of cost but because the bundle offers unlimited data. We watch a lot of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, and nothing eats up data faster than streaming. You can sometimes negotiate a better rate by calling your provider and threatening to leave, but most price breaks and promotions have an expiration date when the cost bumps up again, sometimes without notice, and you’ll have to start bargain shopping again.
NEED At my house, we watch more shows on streaming services than on cable, which is one of the original reasons we looked at canceling cable. But, I’m a hockey fan and adding Sling TV to watch my Penguins comes with a $25/month price tag. My husband is a baseball and football fan, so access to NFL and MLB games means additional subscription fees for each. You can see how quickly any savings are wiped out. The best plan is to sit down, make a list of what you watch, what you can wait for – streaming services don’t always have the latest episodes on-demand – and go from there. Consumer Reports has a great list of streaming services, what they offer and what they cost.
DVR vs. ON DEMAND Live TV streaming services like Sling or HBO Now provide access to content via a “cloud DVR,” but there are limitations. Often, you have to sit through commercials, there’s a cap on the number of shows you can store, content expires, and some channels don’t allow shows to be recorded at all.
ANTENNA The one workaround for cord-cutters to access local channels is to use an antenna. Most TV’s come with an over-the-air tuner built-in, allowing you to plug in an antenna to access networks like ABC, NBC or PBS. However, depending on where you live, reception may be excellent or non-existent. Streaming services often offer local channels, but not nationwide, and the channels available are limited.
One final note, many people who’ve cut the cord share login information across households, e.g., with family or friends. Be aware this contravenes the Terms of Service with your provider who can track logins and potentially restrict access based on location.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.