Cord Cutting 14 Months Later

Fourteen months ago we cancelled AT&T U-Verse.  We kept AT&T for internet access only.  We now use Vonage for our land line.  Yes, I know we could have dumped the landline too, but what can I say, we’re old and set in our ways.  We just can’t quite give up the landline yet.

We were originally paying $60 a month for SlingTV but since the Olympics ended, we dropped the Sports Extra package and we’re back to paying $50 a month.  Since we have an antenna in the attic, SlingTV works fine for us.  We get nearly all the channels we used to watch on cable.  SlingTV recently added some of the Discovery networks so now I get to see Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush.  Those were the main two series that I had to originally give up to cut the cord, now I have them back.  Yea!!

We started out using a Tablo 4-Tuner for our local TV.  The only channel that gave us trouble at first was KOTV.  It would sometimes drop out and become difficult to watch.  I’m convinced that it has to do with a combination of the frequency they transmit on and the fact that we are in a river valley and there are hills and trees between us and the tower.  About 10 months after cutting the cord KJRH started giving us problems.  It was not all the time, but seemed to happen mostly during primetime.  Since it came in clear for 10 months, I really think that someone near us is creating some RF interference with the frequency that KJRH transmits.  That made two of our most watch networks nearly unviewable, NBC and CBS.

I had to find a solution.  We tried a free trial of PSVue since they carry local channels and it worked fairly well, but to get some our favorite shows would require subscribing at a level that would cost a fair amount more that what we pay for SlingTV.  Other live TV streamers had similar problems for us.  We needed a solution for the antenna.

I had a spare PC that I had built a couple of years ago to use as a media center PC.  When Microsoft dropped support for Windows Media Center that was the end of that experiment.  Now that PC was going to get a new purpose.  I had heard about Plex so I downloaded the Plex Media Server and installed in on the PC.  I bought a Plex Pass so I could experiment with Live TV and DVR.  I then purchased a Haupauge WinTV HD Dual USB tuner to use with Plex.  Once the channel scan was finished, I tried to tune into KJRH.  Wow, it worked with a nice picture and no sign of interference.  Then I checked KOTV, again a picture that was watchable.  We are down to two tuners, but if it becomes a problem, I can drop in another WinTV USB tuner and we will be back to 4 tuners.

Now we can watch OTA TV via Plex on our Roku boxes.  Occasionally we get some pixelated bands across the screen when the signal gets bad, but most of the time it comes through just fine.  I am disappointed that we don’t use the Tablo anymore.  I really like their user interface.  But Plex works well and we are getting used to the interface.  Using Plex for live TV is easier now since the latest preview version has a traditional grid guide.

We have yet to come close to using up our 1 terabyte per month limit with our streaming.  We have two TV’s that we stream, although we mainly use just one.  We might get closer to the limit if we were not using our antenna as much as we do.  If we did get too close, I guess we could switch from AT&T to Toast for our internet access, they have the same speeds as AT&T for a bit less money and they have no limits.

Bottom line is we are still saving nearly $100 a month vs cable and can watch virtually everything we used to watch when we had cable.  If we ever give up the land line we will be saving $120 a month.  That may be an option to consider.  At this point, I’d never go back to cable.  We are not in any long term contracts.  We can change anything with our TV packages whenever we want, no contracts at all, just month to month.

Cord Cutting Update #4

Well we did it.  I contacted AT&T and we cancelled U-verse TV.  The only thing left with them is our internet.  When I called they of course tried to come up with various packages to try and keep me with them.  All of them would cost more than just cutting the cord and going with what we have set up for streaming.  In the process they did bump our internet access from 18mb to 24mb for the same cost we are paying now.

We were thinking of moving to Toast.net for internet service, but now I need to do some evaluation to be sure.  The upside of Toast.net is that there is no data cap.  AT&T has a 1000gb cap.  From studying our usage so far it looks like we would able to fairly easily stay under the cap.  They both charge $60 for 24mb download speed.  But I think we might be able to use 18mb download without any buffering issues.  During our testing period we did not notice any buffering.  If we do decide that 18mb will work, Toast.net offers 18mb for $50 a month with no cap.  We will have to think about that some more.  It might be worth going to Toast.net just to avoid the data cap.

So how much do we think we will actually be able to save by cord cutting?  Here is the breakdown we are looking at:

Here is how our AT&T bill breaks down: Continue reading “Cord Cutting Update #4”

Cutting the Cord Update #2

We have moved our landline phone service to Vonage.  It went very smooth, after one bonehead mistake by me.  I went online and ordered the Vonage service on a Sunday.  I went with the 1 yr package since that included free hardware and activation.  In most cases you can keep your existing number.  Since we chose to do that, after ordering the service, I was directed to an online form where I entered our current provider and a few other bits of information.  This allowed them to handle the number switch for me.  It generally takes a week for the switch to take place.  I was just hoping that the hardware would get here before the number switch took place.  I was notified by email that the switch would be taking place on Friday.  That gave them four days to get the hardware to me.

I actually had nothing to worry about since the little Vonage box arrived on Wednesday.  Now I just had to wait for AT&T to do the switch.  On Friday morning I got up and checked the phone and sure enough there was no dial tone.  Also the Phone 1 indicator light on my AT&T router was no longer lit.  It was time to install the hardware and see if it all worked.

I followed the instructions included with the Vonage box, and then unplugged the phone line out cable from the AT&T box and plugged it into the Vonage box.  The lights on the Vonage box started to blink, but they were not blinking the way they should be.  I also noticed that the broadband indicator light on my AT&T modem was not lit anymore either.  What the heck did I do?  It didn’t take long to realize that I had plugged the broadband cable into the Vonage box instead of the phone line.  I put the broadband line back into the router and waited for everything to hook back up.  I then moved the REAL phone line from the router to the Vonage box.  I took mere seconds for the Vonage box to sync up and show the proper status lights.  I picked up the phone and had a dial tone again. Yea!!!

Not so fast, I could make calls just fine, but if I called my landline number all I got was a message that the number was disconnected.  Crap!  Was I going to have to call Vonage and find out what was going on?  I didn’t have time right then to do anything, I had to get over to my mother’s house to help her with some things.  I figured if it was still disconnected by the time I got back then I’d call Vonage.  Well by the time I got back home everything was working fine.

One more thing to check off the list.  Now on to the set top boxes (Roku).