Cable and satellite companies have long been gouging customers, because buyers didn’t have the option to take control of their airwaves. We were subjected to whatever channels these companies felt like giving us, for whatever price they felt like charging. Then we were emboldened by the Internet. Using digital streaming services, we had the option of cutting the cord: canceling our cable and satellite subscriptions to watch our stories on our computer. With a combination of services like Netflix and Hulu, many have successfully found affordable freedom, and you can too. Or, at least come close.
Those who are thinking of cutting the cord, or have already started scaling back use of cable and satellite TV services need to go about this with their eyes open. Otherwise they’ll find themselves frustrated to no end with how they must live away from the gatekeepers of television. The more heavily you rely on television for your entertainment, the tougher the transition is going to be for you, and those you love. Follow the steps slowly and wholly and you’ll be closer to free.
Know What You Can’t Miss
The first step to cutting the cord, or reducing your reliance on cable and satellite companies is understanding what you must have. Anyone who enjoys live sports on a regular basis are going to be hard-pressed to get all their Red Zone goodness anywhere but through a cable company. Sometimes, not even then.
Consider what you watch most commonly, and what you are willing to pay to see right away. If you have to stay up to date with Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or any other scripted show, you’ll need streaming services like HBO Go or Hulu that have the shows up within days of initial airing.
Check Your Internet Pipeline
High-speed Internet bandwidth with few or no restrictions is normally required for cutting the cord. If you’re among those who rely on capped satellite Internet, or mobile data, cutting the cord is almost certainly going to cost you more than paying for a cable or satellite connection for your TV. Know how much you have to use before you clip anything.
Household Size and Bandwidth
How much bandwidth you require will often depend on your household size. A family of four with relatively normal media needs – such as gaming and streaming – can usually get by on less than a Terabyte of data per month. That’s the usual cap for the big names, like Comcast and Time Warner Internet. Larger families, or those who live and die online, will need more.
There’s no way of determining exactly how fast a connection you will need to keep everyone happy. It’s all trial and error. We strongly suggest you look at your average Internet usage now and see where it falls. If you’re right on the cusp of your data cap, cutting the cord is going to put you over the top. If you have a lot of breathing room, it’s more likely that you can get what you need without upgrading your Internet service.
Get What You Need
Once you’ve compiled a list of the material you must have on a regular basis, it’s easier to figure out what you’ll require. Cutting the cord usually requires a combination of online streaming services, subscriptions, and patience.
If you watch a lot of major network television, a basic cable package with a DVR might be enough to get you by. Most people are going to need to find a mixture that checks everything off their list.
Consider Free Content Sources
Keep in mind that you can attach a standard antenna to your television to get local, broadcast channels for no cost. In some cases, your Internet connection might entitle you to certain content through your provider. Check out the website of whomever gives you your connection to see if they have any bonus features you’ve been ignoring.
Some channels will also allow you to watch content online. Daily Show fanatics and the like can typically find at least some of their content put out for free on the website. Sometimes there’s even a YouTube, DailyMotion or other video service where episodes are distributed. If you can find it, it’s not illegal to watch it.
No matter who you are and how you get your content, almost all cord-cutters have one thing in common: Streaming. By using a streaming option – either through their smart TV or a dongle of some kind – cord-cutters attach to streaming services.
The most prolific option is Roku, as it offers the largest number of streaming services with the smallest amount of initial investment.
Though Roku tends to work the best for the most people, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, Google’s streaming, and Apple TV each have their own advantages and drawbacks. You should do a deep dive on which streaming services you need, using your must-have watching list as a guide.
Cut The Cord Without Actually Cutting
You may think you’ve considered everything, right up until you actually try dropping your TV provider. Suddenly, you’ll realize how much time you spent flipping around channels, or how devoted you were to Cake Boss.
It’s important to do a dry run, by disconnecting your cable or satellite from your TV, but not actually turning it off. You’re asking for reconnection fees and any number of problems if you actually drop your subscription without being ready. Try it out and see if you can use your streaming gear and computer to reach where you want to go.
Save Money Elsewhere
You should never rent a cable box from your company, and should avoid renting your DVR from them whenever possible. Renting equipment is a black hole of expense that never ends. You’re going to save money in the long run to buy a cable box, or to use an app to create your own cable box. If you’re spending even $5 a month renting a box (or a cable modem, router, etc.) you’re throwing that money away.
Trim Without Cutting
Most people who have been wed to their television since the days of Night Court won’t be able to fully cut the cord. Instead, they’ll find that getting only what they need from their cable company, then streaming to supplement will give them the best savings. It means culling out the stuff you don’t need right now, and filling that in by streaming choice shows on Netflix down the road.
If you’ve been with your television provider for a while, it might be time to shop around. A new contract with a cable company can save you money for the first year. Plus, whatever extensions they give you when you threaten to cancel. Though this is hardly the ideal way to save money, it can help you cut costs while you acclimate to a streaming lifestyle.
You Can Always Steal It
We do not advocate committing crimes against copyright laws. Which means you should never, ever, ever, ever even think about learning how to use BitTorrent websites in conjunction with a VPN to snap up all the free stuff you want. That’s Internet piracy and can land you all kinds of fines, as well as jail time.
But, it will get you totally free content.