Cutting The Cord Act 3 – Cordless Is A Myth

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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.
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Cutting The Cord Act 2: Why Cut The Cord?

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Scene 1: Why not?

I won’t beat around the bush. My reasons for cutting the cord are almost entirely to do with money. When I ranked my monthly bills my cable bill was consistently my third greatest monthly expense behind mortgage and car payment. After decades of dealing with cable companies (note I’m lumping satellite and cable services together into the term “cable” for this discussion) I’d like to think I’ve become somewhat of a pro at working their systems. It usually goes something like this – sign up for new customer bundle deal, bundle deal runs out a year or two later and price soars, call and get a discretionary deal that reduces price but adds content and features for 6 months, call 6 months later and cancel the new content and features and receive another special offer that lasts for another 3-6 months until finally the price inflates again and fed up I cancel service altogether and repeat process with a different provider. Similar plights to mine are well chronicled on many cable hating blogs in much more angst-filled terms so I’ll stop there and move the discussion on to the second reason of why I cut the cord.

Scene 2: Choice

Over the last few years the market has been flooded with new streaming services all vying to top each other with brand new binge ready content. Their original content is getting really good as budgets continue to increase and as this year’s awards season begins they are sure to follow the trend over the last couple of years and snag up more than their fair share of awards. I decided I wanted in on all the fuss, however, we’ve already established my skyrocketing cable bill and the 475 out of 500 channels I never watched made it unfeasible to splurge on these new services.

I decided enough was enough and I was ready to watch what I wanted to watch when I wanted to watch it!

Additionally, cable is inherently wired and by nature made it difficult to watch my content on the go. It’s only recently that many cable providers are making inroads on their mobile apps to allow for even paltry mobile experiences, for me though it was just too little too late. In hindsight, I wished it was a greater factor in deciding to cut the cord than it was at the time else I would’ve ditched it likely long before I eventually did.

Even 6 months later and 475 channels less my newfound freedom and variety are no less appreciated.

Scene 3: The Gear

Let’s face it I’m a gadget guy. I’m unashamed about this fact and I was simply fed up with my 4 year old cable box and its clunky interface, noisy hard drive, a litany of indicator lights that lit up my bedroom like a Christmas tree, and wretched rental fee to boot!! This was not lost on me every time I passed a tiny Roku stick at Best Buy with its tiny remote and Netflix shortcut button. It sorta gets back to wanting choice and not just about the content I consume but also the hardware by which I watch the content and by extension control over my experience. In fact, I’ll never forget the time when I returned to a cable provider after running the gambit with another provider and literally being handed the exact same hated hardware I had turned in 3 or so years earlier! Not one thing had changed in that time.

I suspect most like me will consider cutting the cable due to the promise of big savings, and make no mistake you will save, however, in hindsight should in some alternate reality the price savings be voided I will NEVER give up being able to choose my own tailor-made experience that I now have to return to the bondage of cable.  If you can ever get past the shock and bumps that I’m about to unleash in my next few posts I suspect you will neither.

Cutting The Cord Act 1 – Kickoff

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Scene 1: Introduction
People are cutting cords in droves this past year and I was one of them.  I considered blogging each step of my experience and perhaps in hindsight it really was a missed opportunity because in so many ways so much went so so wrong; it would’ve been great fodder.  Nevertheless in the next few posts I’ll hit the highlights of just what it takes to cut the cord and along the way offer some perspective after 6 months cord-free (which turns out is not entirely possible) and I will at least cover some of what went so very wrong because it’s so relevant to the conversation of just why so many people are cutting the cord in the first place.
You’ll also notice I’ve decided to label this series by Acts and Scenes as if it was some long drawn out saga because really well it is!  The whole process has been full of drama with highs and lows ranging from extreme rage to ‘Well I’ll be darned’ moments of surprise when things actually work really well so sit tight and enjoy.  I hope my ongoing chronicles help tailor expectations for those just starting your own cord cutting journey or for some validate your choice to stick with cable and for others maybe just feel good to know somebody else feels your pain.