I wasn’t one of the first consumers to get rid of my land-line phone years ago, but I happily did. And I’m not the first to cut ties with conventional cable TV. But I’ve finally done that, too.
No, it’s not in the same way that younger phone addicts have eschewed cable. They rely on social media for their news and viral video, although they’re quite good at knowing what high school classmates are doing 12 years after they last saw them. And what’s “trending.”
I still need local news channels and broadcast networks to keep up on things. But hilly Connecticut can be a difficult place to pull in over-the-air TV signals. So here’s a how-to on cutting those $220 cable/Wi-Fi bills down to less than $100 a month for Wi-Fi and maybe a streaming network or two. Eight steps:
1. Bring your DVR and cable boxes into the retail store and say buh-bye. Tell them you’ll continue with the internet service only. (As a colleague pointed out, once you do that, the $80-plus for fairly high-speed Wi-Fi is not taxed or laden with fees. Loving that!)
2. You’ll need a streaming service or three, but choose carefully or you’ll save little. If you deal a lot with Amazon anyway, get an Amazon Prime membership, which gives you free delivery and Prime Video. Consider T-Mobile for your wireless phone carrier, since you’ll get Netflix thrown in for $2 a month on typical T-Mobile plans.
3. Get Amazon’s Fire Stick for each TV ($18-$30). The interface is pretty simple to use and it works well with your Wi-Fi.
4. If you miss your cable DVR — and who wouldn’t? — do purchase another Amazon device, the Fire TV Recast; if you’re patient, you can get it for $129 (for the 500GB, 75-hour storage model) instead of the normal $229. We got it on sale and there are no continuing fees with this baby, as opposed to your rental DVR on cable.
5. Also purchase an over-the-air, indoor digital antenna online for about $25. The rectangle-shaped pad is mounted on a window or wall and pulls in signals in our central Connecticut home from New Haven to Springfield, Mass. Be sure to get the “amplified” version with a plug-in electrical cord. For best placement, see the next item.
6. Download the Fire TV app on your phone to easily set up Recast. The great thing about this little black box is you can connect the antenna wire, hold the pad up to various spots in your house (higher level probably) and run the channel search on your phone to see which location pulls in the most channels. I must have done it 25 times before I settled on a top-of-wall spot in a spare bedroom, facing southeast.
7. Another great thing is you can leave the box there and it sends the channels to the Fire Stick on your main TV in the living room or den as it serves the TVs in your bedroom or basement (via Fire Stick there). If you’re in Hartford or Cromwell, you will have days where the New Haven signal is weak and cuts out, but then you can use the Springfield signal for ABC programming. If you live in New Haven or Derby, the same will apply to Hartford or Springfield signals, but then you’ll probably have New York channels to use for network fare.
8. If the loss of cable sports, HDTV or Hallmark Channel is too much to bear, you have some alternatives. There are some streaming channels to which you can subscribe for a fee, and there are free apps on Fire Stick that have a bunch of available channels in them (one of them has a substantial channel guide to peruse). Free! As a Yankees fan, I pay extra to buy a streaming channel carrying YES Network for the season. Two years ago, it was Sling (around $25 a month for a smallish package of channels (until Sling lost YES), and this year it was Hulu ($55 or so for a larger package with YES). Once the season ends, you simply cancel it until next year. See ya!
Side notes: Hulu also had a built-in, cloud DVR to record shows but, unless you pay another $6 a month, you can’t fast-forward through commercials, which was torture. On Recast, however, you simple hit the FF button once each time to go 30 seconds ahead. Score another one for the free service.
The bottom line: Your equipment total will run about $200 for Fire Sticks, Recast and an antenna. But in monthly savings, your $160-$225-per-month cable bill goes down to about $85-$90 plus any modest charges for streaming extras that get you YES, NESN or SNY for six months a year or pared-down Hulu, Philo, Fubo or Sling packages for $6-$30 a month. There will be moments when you wish you had ESPN or some other missing channel, but during the pandemic, there’s been little to watch there anyway.