Scene 1 – The Cord Was Already Cut
Newsflash – there is no such thing as going truly cordless not if you’re ditching the cable box for streaming services that require a data connection to stream. My first act to cut the cord was to establish a healthy data connection and that meant dealing with a cable company since in my area the conduits are completely controlled by cable cos.
It’s at this point I feel a disclaimer is warranted – this is the one post where I will definitely be going into full-on rant mode so for those of you hoping to read an eloquent post full of practical advice (though there will be some) and void of angst then move on. Nothing to see here.
Still with me? Good then read on as I scorch the cable industry as a whole as the reasons why so many customers like me are ditching cable become crystal clear!
My approach to cutting the cord and one I recommend for anyone else was to overlap my streaming services with my cable subscription for at least a month. This takes the edge off the shock of cutting cable and allows some extra time to work out at least the biggest and most unexpected kinks. Little did I know then but I would end up maintaining an overlap for almost 2 months as what transpires over the next few paragraphs is a colossal failure to execute a basic reconnect by a previous cable provider! My current data connection was capped at a paltry 18 Mbps with my current provider which shall remain nameless (eh hum nickname Ma Bell). Their tap (code name for the actual distribution box where their lines are distributed to several residences) was the limiting factor and it was barely adequate for our needs to begin with so I decided to return to a previous provider where the tap could feed us up to 300 Mbps. We would settle on their 100 Mpbs plan which included phone and internet since we still maintain a landline.
This does bring up a good question, what’s the best data speed for cutting the cord? Generally speaking, I recommend a minimum 25 Mbps if you plan on streaming from multiple devices including mobile devices. Ideally go for 100 Mbps and above to future proof you for data-hungry 4K content. Side note of caution…read the fine print when you ditch your cable programming package for internet only. Since customers are fleeing profitable cable bundles cable companies are fighting back by capping their internet data packages, usually at 1TB per month. For those of you who sleep with your tv on this may be troublesome for all others a 1 TB limit is more than adequate however as the amount of 4K content increases over streaming services it may become a factor in the future.
So now back to the task of reconnecting the cord (internet sic) so I could cut the proverbial (cable) cord and stream away. Leaving my current cable service intact I contacted my previous cable provider (who shall remain nameless but whose name just might rhyme with fox) with faster internet to schedule a reconnect. Bear in mind my last connection with them was only 3 or 4 years ago and since we were keeping a landline we also needed to get our phone number transferred to them as well. The initial phone call was easy and pleasant. I was told the cable would be on in a few minutes as it was just a flip of a remote switch for them though I learned that my old modem that I’ve kept won’t keep up with the data speed I’ve chosen so I had to purchase a new one. I tell them I’ll get my own rather than pay their silly rental fee. When I’m done reestablishing the internet connection I’m transferred to an automated system to request the phone transfer a process called “porting”. I followed the instructions and was advised that the porting process would take up to 5 business days. No problem since I was wisely overlapping my two services anyways right? So VERY wrong!!
It’s at this point things took a diabolic turn. I purchased the new modem that day and went online to register the IP/MAC addresses with the cable co. as instructed before connecting it. It doesn’t register a signal. After exhausting all avenues of troubleshooting including reconnecting my old modem and busting out a multimeter I’m convinced there’s no cable signal coming into my house. I finally call customer service and thus enter a pit of misery that I won’t see daylight from for several weeks. I’ll skip the blow by blow because honestly it could fill a novel and might just come off as so outrageous that it must be embellished and just do my best to summarize:
- 2 visits by techs just to find out previous cable co. sabotaged box on my house by cutting all cords. Apparently this is a thing and “I’m lucky they didn’t cut cables in my attic”.
- Over the next several weeks after finally reestablishing a signal it will lock up on average once a day and sometimes once per hour. The only way to resolve it is to reset my modem. Call customer service. More fruitless troubleshooting which leads to many more visits usually by clueless contractors and not actual cable co. techs not to mention at least two instances of being stood up at appointment times.
- There’s constant squabbling over service fees and my insistence that nothing has been resolved meanwhile I continue to extend my other cable service until resolution.
- Coinciding with all this a whole separate saga with transferring my phone unfolds. It includes work orders never created to work orders mysteriously closed. There’s confusion between cable co. and techs whether the phone box on house must be upgraded. I’m also given a ginormous phone modem I now have to find a place for and a temporary phone number until old one is ported. This would eventually be the last issue sorted out nearly 2 months later!
- Related to the phone issue is nobody at any point ever asks me if I have a monitored alarm system. Once phone finally gets ported my connection with alarm co. is thus severed. Alarm co. begins making weekly robo calls 8 AM EVERY SINGLE Saturday morning to inform me that the line is not connected. More visits by clueless contractors until I pitch an epic fit and finally get a cable co. expert tech out to resolve the issue.
At one point I happen upon a cable guy messing with my box. Turns out he’s performing a QA inspection for cable co. because apparently the contractor who ran new cable had botched several jobs. (Contractor ran a whole new cable from my house over a hundred feet to the tap because contractor “wasn’t allowed” to repair a short splice cut by prior cable co. between two boxes something that an actual cable co. tech would have been permitted to do. I will have to mow around said cable for a month while contractors will miss two appointments to bury it). QA guy finds multiple errors in wiring the box and terribly loose connections.
QA guy is a breath of fresh air whereas I explain my plight he pulls out a meter and succinctly explains that line resistance is too high and builds until it keeps tripping my modem. From his diagnostic tools (the same tools that all techs are required to carry btw) it’s unquestionable this is the cause for my resets but not the reason for the build up? He offers to take a look inside. I have a junction box in a closet that distributes all my coax and ethernet throughout the house. I (unwittingly) moved my modem from a dedicated cable line to make it easier to reset. He spots it immediately while none of the 5 or 6 techs before him ever did. Performace improves after he reroutes my lines to give my modem a dedicated line again though there will still be intermittent resets thereafter. Ironically final cable guy who fixes my phone/alarm issue also discovers the QA guy’s connections are loose which if you recall QA guy was there in the first place to inspect and fix faulty and loose connections. #FACEPALM!!
Scene 2: Trapped Now And Forever?
So why the long cautionary tale? Truthfully it feels good to vent but also there needs to be a reckoning for cable cos. and their crummy service. As badly as I want the onset of cord cutting to be it, the sad fact is it isn’t.
Returning to my previous cable provider for internet should have been as simple as a flip of a switch. I went through this whole experience because I had no other choice if I wanted a good internet connection since my market is dominated by only two players. I still suffer a modem reset about once every three weeks which I guess I can live with. It’s amazing what you become numb to.
5G is on the horizon and many wireless providers are just beginning to announce details of their initial rollout. It does promise lightening speeds without all the cable hassle yet I remain pessimistic. For one my market usually lags on rollouts and secondly though I live in a saturated market for my current wireless provider I live in a perennial dead signal dead zone. One that for the last 11 years I’ve tried to convince them is a dead zone to no avail, but alas that is another woeful cautionary tale for some other time.
5G is going to take years yet before it’s truly disruptive to the cable industry. In the meantime most consumers are trapped like me and my cautionary tale only serves to add fuel to the fire to cut cords. For those on the fence just do it!
My next few posts will paint a better picture I promise. Though things won’t be totally rosy there is something to be said for enjoying some freedom; though I’m still tied to the cord it feels less like a dog locked in a crate and more like a dog on a 20 foot chain now. I definitely do not want back in the crate! Stay tuned and I promise plenty of practical advice herein out:-)