Cut the Cable!

Snip!

I just took the plunge and cancelled my Comcast cable!

I’ve been on the cable since 2002, so they were sorry to see me go. I’m sure they are. Cable companies have been losing a lot of customers as technology shifts to a streaming environment. For me, an additional consideration is that, while Comcast has definitely improved how they roll, I have many bad feelings from the earlier years when they seemed always on the Ten Worst Company lists.

The combination of those feelings, plus the economics and logistics of it all, made it exactly the right choice for me now.

I’d heard that Comcast was raising their prices, so I waited for a bill showing me how bad the increase would be. Cancelling after the increase would also make a point, I thought.

And… nothing. My November, December, and January, bills are identical.

But in looking at them, I decided that all the fees were on the outrageous side:

  • HD Technology: $10.00
  • Broadcast TV Fee: $8.00
  • Regional Sports Fee: $6.50
  • FCC Regulatory Fee: $0.06
  • Franchise Fee: $9.16
  • Local Programming Fee: $1.87
  • State and Local Taxes: $13.10

This $48.69 is on top of the $158.00 for their Digital Premier package, so my cable bill has been just over $200/month.

That’s for broadband cable. I don’t get internet from Comcast (who call themselves “Xfinity” now), I get internet from my local phone company, CenturyLink.

There might be a price advantage to switching to Xfinity internet (which would be faster than the 80 megs DSL I have now, but I’m suspicious of broadband internet — uncertain about how it handles high traffic periods). Also, I’d never give up my local loop.

The bad taste I have for Comcast lingers, so combined with uncertainty about broadband cable, I don’t consider it an option. There is an emotional part of me that just wants to be done with “cable companies” — a long-standing social bane.

§

A stick in my craw for years is the top item on the above fees list.

An “HD Technology” fee? That’s total BS, and Comcast gave it up as BS when I first tried to cancel.

Having hearing issues, I tried their online chat. But their chat guy, after trying to keep my business, couldn’t actually close the account and referred me to an 800 number where (he claimed) I would just have to select the cancel option.

Which was never offered, and the automated system ended up dumping me on a “Loyalty” agent who was, after again trying to keep my business, able to cancel the account.

The thing is, the chat guy offered a new package that, for one thing, would remove the HD fee.

Um,… if you can remove it so readily, why is it there in the first place? Why are you screwing me for $10 a month when you obviously don’t need to?

Knowing your company is losing customers, wouldn’t the smart thing be to step up and cut the BS in an attempt to keep them? By the time I called, I had zero interest in keeping the account under any circumstance.

[Well, if they’d offered to refund about $2000 that they’d over-charged me over the years, I might have re-considered, but like that’s ever gonna happen.]

I would highly recommend anyone still using Comcast see if you’re being charged that $10, and if so, call and tell them to cut it out.

§

Another reason it’s a good time to change is that my TV viewing habits have changed over the years.

It’s been a very long time since I found Cinemax, Starz, or Showtime, that interesting, and I especially don’t need all the channels each of those offer.

I almost never watch a scheduled movie on those channels, it’s nearly always an ondemand selection. These days, why would I change my schedule just to watch a movie? That’s nuts!

I don’t even watch HBO that much anymore. Westworld last year (and not again until 2020) and John Oliver (sometimes) is about it.

As of now, I do not have any of those four cable channels. If I make it to 2020, I’ll figure out who to buy HBO from to see Westworld.

§

I took a good hard look at what TV I do watch anymore.

In the summer, there’s baseball, which means live TV for local games (Fox Sports North), the All-Star Game, and post-season, which means I need ESPN and other sports channels, plus TBS or TNT or whomever gets post-season games.

And I need (okay, want) the MLB channel itself. Right now I’m using YouTube TV for all my live sports TV needs. I also have a digital antenna for local channels.

The YT TV also provides MSNBC and other news channels. I’ve mostly given up on CNN, but I do watch Nicole Wallace on MSNBC every weekday. (I can handle about one hour of cable news before it either depresses me or enrages me. Or both.)

There is also Doctor Who on BBC America, but I won’t have to worry about that until 2020 (damn it).

§

As for “my shows,” I seem to be migrating mostly towards Netflix and Hulu. The former has some very good original stuff I’ve gotten into (haven’t found any of Hulu’s original content that compelling yet).

Network TV and I seem to be parting ways, more or less.

The only ABC show I watch is Fresh Off the Boat (which I really like), and that’s on Hulu.

On NBC, it’s down to The Blacklist and The Good Place (one of the best half-hour sitcoms ever on TV). Hulu has new episodes of The Good Place, the older seasons are on Netflix, so I’m set there. I still need NBC (via YT TV) for The Blacklist.

And then CBS. Ah, CBS. I’ve commented recently about how lame pretty much every CBS sitcom since 1999 seems to me.

Then there’s the whole Les Moonves thing. And the thing with Eliza Dushku. And now I’m reading stories about how bad things are on the set of NCIS: New Orleans.

I’m beginning to think CBS has some major problems.

I’ve now given up on both NCIS spin-offs (the LA one years ago, and as of this season the NO one). I’ve begun to wonder if I’m over NCIS, too. I think that might be a topic for its own post, though.

Anyway, on CBS, it’s down to NCIS, Madam Secretary, and Bull (which I’m increasingly iffy on). And the last season of Elementary, if they ever get around to airing it.

All one-hour dramas. Apparently the only thing I think CBS can pull off.

Sometimes.

§

I’ll get those shows from the YouTube TV for now.

That’s the one thing that might change down the road, which “live” TV streaming service works best for me. I have some minor complaints about the YT TV interface, so I would like to shop around on that one (Hulu has live TV, for instance).

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Google anymore. Used to be.

§

So, to add it up, I’m paying about $10 for Netflix, about $12 for Hulu (both great values, seriously), about $10 for Amazon Prime, and about $40 for YouTube TV.

Nearly all my TV watching needs for about $75 dollars. Big difference from just over $200 for a lot of stuff I never watched.

I pay about $100 for internet, but I would regardless. Gotta have ‘net.

Of course, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and YouTube, also have lots I’ll never watch, but they aren’t charging me an arm and a leg or hitting me with silly fees.

§

I’ve been looking forward to this day for about a year now.

I took the advice of cable-cutting articles and did it slowly, eased my way into it. I’ve had Netflix and Hulu for about a year, and have loved them (Hulu’s interface leaves a lot to be desired, though).

I just joined Amazon Prime (and you know what, you do start ordering stuff; smart of them), and I love having modern Doctor Who on tap. (I just wish they’d offer Classic Who free to Prime members.)

I also just joined YouTube TV (they had a free trial month thing back in December, so I jumped on board).

So, for the next year, we’ll see how all this works out!

Stay watching, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

24 responses to “Cut the Cable!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Ah, when we were talking on the other thread, I didn’t realize you had started another one on this topic!

    If you haven’t noticed it yet, you can actually get HBO and a lot of other premium channel content on Amazon now, albeit as a subscription again. Or you can buy the series ala carte, although I’m not sure if they come out at the same time as the broadcasts.

    I do need to give Youtube TV a shot and see if I can live with the UI issues.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I did see that in Prime, plus Hulu and, I think, Netflix offer some of that. I do like the idea Prime has of buying the series rather than the channel. That’s definitely an option for Westworld. I don’t need to see it right away.

      YT TV, as I think we’ve discussed, is fine for live TV, but as a DVR it still makes you watch commercials. I guess your $40/month is just access to the channels plus recording them for later. Sometimes recorded ones have fewer commercials, something I’ve noticed on Comcast ondemand, so it might come from the provider.

      I’d be willing to pay $80/month if it meant never seeing a commercial.

      The app on my LG TV seems the worst. It’s better on my iPad and using Chrome on my Win10 laptop. Hulu’s interface does some things that annoy me, too. I feel a post coming on…

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Based on what I’ve seen, built in TV UI’s are a mixed bag. And they’re not very secure. I’ve heard horror stories of people’s TVs being hacked with no solution available from the manufacturer.

        I access most of these services on a Roku, which is far from perfect, but has been pretty decent. That said, I’ve been doing that for a while now. It’s probably time for me to see if any new alternatives have come up.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s been my experience, too, that the TV apps are the least best. I figure it’s at least partly related to each service having to create an app for each platform. The ones I download from LG are obviously made for LG by the services. I don’t know how much commonality there is between platforms. They do seem to be using some form of Unix as their O/S, but would an app for LG work on Samsung? I would imagine not.

        Hulu had a bug in their app a while back where you could only play one video. Then you had to log out and back in. They acknowledged it was a bug in their app. Workaround (until a new version) was to cycle the auto-play setting. That seemed to kick the lockup free.

        Part of the problem is writing an I/F where the input device is a TV remote control. No guaranteed navigation gestures (let alone a keyboard) other than “arrow keys” along with a notion of “enter” and (maybe) “back up/exit.” Getting that right is hard.

        My LG remote has a “wand” feature where a cursor appears onscreen and you can wave the remote around to move it. It’s sometimes very useful, and there’s a button on the remote to activate it when wanted. What drives me crazy is it also activates if you just wave the wand… like if you pick it up. I wish I could disable the auto-activate feature!

        That said, Hulu’s Windows 10 app is broken wrt closed captioning, so I have to use the web I/F for Hulu. Which is fine. They have a quieter I/F than Netflix with there damn auto-play, which I loathe (bravo, as you once said, Prime for not doing that).

        Funny how, no matter how sophisticated it gets, there always seems to be issues. What’s the old saying? “It’s always something.”

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Well, at least if LG is providing updates, that’s a good sign. I think those horror stories came from the early days of TV interfaces when you were stuck with what you got until you bought a new TV. Although I miss the days when we didn’t have to wait for our TVs to boot.

        It looks like Roku is still the best streamer: https://www.cnet.com/topics/media-streamers/best-media-streamers/ (Warning: the CNet site is utterly obnoxious.)
        Although I think I’d spring the extra $20 for the Ultra edition.

        I also keep an Asus Chromebox connected to the TV for sites that don’t have a Roku app (like my stupid cable company’s streaming site). Although it hasn’t seen much use in the last year or two.

        Yeah, Netflix’s harassment of me in the UI actually makes me use it a lot less than I used to. I now go in knowing what I want to watch, watch it, and get out. I guess it doesn’t matter to Netflix since they’re getting their subscription money anyway. But I won’t miss them once the they’re crowded out by everyone else’s streaming service.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, these days it’s downloadable apps from the LG store, same as with phones and pads and PCs. The flexibility is nice, you can pick from a wide variety. I’ve downloaded and installed the Netflix, Hulu, Prime, YouTube, YouTube TV, and MLB, apps. The TV even has a web browser built in.

        Without my cable box, I have an HDMI input free. I’ve been thinking of hooking up my old laptop or something. I have a disc player I hardly ever use as it is, though. Man, times have changed. Used to watch DVDs all the time.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I actually built on a vast DVD collection. I threw away a lot of it a few years ago, much of it TV shows I was never going to go back and watch. But I still have a bunch on a shelf that is now rarely visited.

        I remember when I bought a Bluray player resolving not to build up a similar Bluray library, trying to stick to rentals as much as possible (Netflix in its original incarnation as a mailer of rental DVDs and Blurays). I still ended up buying a few before the streaming paradigm made it wholly obsolete.

        What’s funny is my aunt and uncle still watch VHS tapes. They check them out from their local library. Nobody manufactures the players or the tapes anymore, but apparently they can still check them out from the West Palm Beach library. They’re in their 70s and DVD players are a challenge for them. (Any kind of streaming is hopeless.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Wow, yeah, very same here.

        Huge VHS collection, now long gone. Trashed; library didn’t want them; recycle said nope. Also a huge DVD collection (lots of TV series), and I’ve been giving those away over time to the library. (My oldest collection is my books, and I’ve been taking boxes of those to the library, too. Haven’t done anything with the music CDs yet, but that’s another obsolete library.)

        (One thing about those VHS tapes I threw out… I spent years trying to tape all episodes of M*A*S*H and TNG. Babylon5, too, come to think of it. Taped off the air, broadcast TV. Used to try to pause during commercials, but it was too upsetting if I missed starting again, so many of them had commercials (which age poorly 🙂 ). So much dedicated effort, a library planned for my future… never watched a single tape, later bought all the DVDs, and now I’m ready to give those away. The waste makes my stomach hurt sometimes.)

        I had a similar experience when I finally bought a BluRay player. Mainly wanted a modern disc player for my DVDs (the remaining collection still fills many shelves and I’m slowing realizing I’ll never watch them again). By the time I did buy a BluRay, I was pretty much out of the buying discs thing, so I dodged “buying the White album” again on that. VHS to DVD was bad enough.

        The only BluRay I’ve bought is both seasons of Westworld, Fifth Element, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s not impossible I’d buy a couple other beloved films… the 4K HDR is pretty sweet.

        My parents were like your aunt and uncle. They were techophobes who believed it was beyond them, so of course it was. I used to get so frustrated with them because it felt like they weren’t even trying to see the sense of it. My dad’s first experiences with floppy disks had him believing files came off the disk into the system and weren’t on the disk until saved.

        I explained about how the music doesn’t come off the record or cassette tape, just a copy of it. It took a while, but either he got it or just took my word for it. Ah, parents. 😉

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I often wonder if I’ll become less technically astute as I age. When you think about it, streaming’s requirement that you first have a wireless router (or equivalent home network) is a barrier for a lot of people. My dad (who was relatively technical when he was younger) never got one, so getting him set up to stream would’ve been a project.

        My Blurays were 2001, Avatar, and a few others. The latest movie I have in the format is Gravity, and that was because someone gifted it to me. (I had already streamed it.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I dunno. I’ve always viewed my mind as my best feature (by far), so losing it terrifies me, and I’m definitely getting to the age where that’s a potential concern.

        I do make it a point to keep challenging my mind and to always keep chewing away at learning stuff. I am going to understand GR, and maybe even QFT, mathematically some day. That’s the goal, anyway. Sometimes it’s more about the journey. (You saw my post about quaternions, that’s part of the study. It’s led me into group theory and symmetry principles. Fascinating stuff.)

        But then I’ve always been a major techno-geek. Apparently, as an infant, I made wires by rolling clay and networked my wooden blocks. (Talking back in the late 1950s.) My first two words were “star” and “light.” 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m with you on being terrified at the prospect of ever losing my mind. I’ve heard that, in addition to continuing to challenge yourself with new topics, there’s a lot of value in maintaining an exercise regime. It doesn’t have to be super strenuous. Going for a brisk walk each day supposedly helps. (I know in my case it helps with overall wellbeing.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Very much agree on exercise. As with my mental exercise, I like it best if my physical exercise isn’t rote; “going to the gym” requires a buddy system.

        I like shoveling the snow — gets me outside. And I live in a very nice area for walks. Got lazy last summer, didn’t walk. Can’t let that happen again, I can really feel the difference.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        For walks, something I’ve found to make them more attractive is listening to podcasts on topics I’m interested in. I’ve also listened to audio books, although most of what I like to read isn’t available in audio. Many people listen to music, but that’s never been enough to keep my mind occupied.

        I’ve recently been thinking about buying a treadmill for those days where walking outside isn’t going to happen.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        In part due to a lifelong hearing defect, I’ve never seen talking as an attractive way to get information that interests me. And Podcasts have no Closed Captions, which makes it even harder. Text lets me focus on a paragraph until I’m comfortable I understand it. The way most people talk is filled with non-signal “noise” and redundancy…

        Don’t get me wrong, I love chatting (especially over beers) and can chew the fat for hours. It’s just never been a way I’ve been able to learn, so podcasts haven’t worked out for me. I tried a baseball podcast a few years ago, stuck with it a whole season, but gave it up. Just not my cup of tea.

        Without making any claims at skill or talent, I have been a musician all my life, so listening to music when I walk is right up my alley. My iPod has something like 33 days of 24-hour listening. Sometimes if I’ve got it on shuffle for the whole library, a tune pops up I can’t identify, so it’s almost like listening to the radio.

        One of the things that fascinates me about people I like is how we can be exactly in sync in lots of areas (hence the liking) but completely opposed in certain areas. The matching-not-matching of two complex phase spaces. A close fit, except for bits that aren’t. 😀

        I, too, have been thinking treadmill. Because 162 baseball MN Twins games in a season, plus various others I catch, each three or more hours long. They gotta be watched, that’s the point. Why not walk while I watch?!

        Part of the problem last summer was weather, so a treadmill is a good solution. I think I’m in; just a matter of picking one and ordering it. There’s an outfit around here, called “Second Wind,” that sells used exercise equipment. Been meaning to give them a looksee.

        I am feeling more aggressive about doing stuff these days. Five years of retirement, deliberately loafing and answer no calls, no bells, no requests of any kind. I’ve gotten a little restless… 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Ah, sorry, I forgot about the hearing issue. I’m actually the same with texts, particularly ones covering difficult material. That and my attention tends to wander with either videos or audio recordings. I seem more able to stay focus on the written word, or perhaps more accurately, if I can’t stay focused, I move on to something else.

        On the treadmill, I’ve thought about ordering one, but I’m intimidated by the idea of assembling it. And most of the used ones on sale around here are on the low end. I learned years ago with cycling that the quality of the equipment matters a lot when it comes to continued usage, and high quality equipment costs. There’s a local chain here I’m planning to visit. Just haven’t worked myself up to it yet.

        I can understand the restlessness. In truth, it’s the only qualm I have about retiring in my 50s, that I might sit around and do nothing. But I think I know I would blog at least! And hopefully with the extra time I’d finally fire up the fiction writing mill. And frankly, a year or so of doing nothing is kind of appealing right now.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yep, exactly. That said, as I’ve mentioned, there are some YouTube video creators who do outstanding work. There are a few channels I follow pretty closely. Content that used to be in a lot of blog posts seems to have moved to YT.

        Very much agree about equipment quality. I learned long ago that spending a few extra bucks can go along way!

        Thing is, for most, once first grade starts, only our summers are free. Once high school or college starts, for many, summers involve study or work — they aren’t free. After college, nothing is free.

        Until you retire (and happen to be single). Then, for the first time since kindergarten, there is no call on you.

        When your entire career has been in various support functions, when people come to see you as the guy with answers, the guy with fixes and solutions, your days get very full. You likely know what I mean. Some days I never got to my own work because I was fielding requests All. Day. Long. (I used to work 10-7 just to give myself some hours on the back end to call my own.)

        So for a year or so the silence was the most wonderful thing I ever imagined. Enjoyed it a lot the second and third years. I only even noticed it around year four. By five I was wondering about making changes. (Which I’ve been doing the last six months or so.)

        The trick is to be very involved in your own projects. I have lots of hobbies and interests, so there is no lack of things to fully preoccupy me. A problem I’m finding since 2016 is serious energy-sucking ennui from the Weltschmerz. I’ve got a huge TODO list, but part of me keeps asking, “Why bother? What’s the point of it all?”

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Yeah, and I’m sure events in the last few years haven’t helped. I think the trick with the overall frustration with the world is to limit your exposure to it. The happiest time in my life was in the 70s, when the world was an absolute mess. But I was mostly unaware of just how messed up it was, so life was good.

        This is why I mostly take in my news over the internet now and avoid partisan sites like the plague. I also limit my exposure to news channels as much as possible. Their agenda is to rile you up so you keep watching and/or clicking. F*** them. Learn what’s going on in the world in case it affects you, then disconnect from it.

        On finding the motivation for projects, I’ve had my own struggles with this over the years. Work used to cover up a lot of that ennui, but it was there under the covers. I think the secret is to find efforts where you’ll get at least some satisfaction from it sooner rather than later.

        Blogging is a nice example, because you usually get feedback from others. (Some people don’t take comments on their blogs. I’ve never understood how they were still motivated to post without the feedback, but I guess everyone beats to a different drum.) My plan is eventually to mix in story writing and novels, but not with the expectation of fame and fortune, just with getting feedback from at least a few happy readers.

        But the key is simple grounded achievable satisfaction. Working for some far away goal has never really worked for me. I suspect it doesn’t for a lot of people.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I think the trick with the overall frustration with the world is to limit your exposure to it.”

        Yeah. The problem is it conflicts with my ‘pay attention for maximum situational awareness’ principle which I feel pretty strongly. As we’ve maybe talked about, I’m down to Nicole Wallace and my newsfeed. Some days not even them.

        “But the key is simple grounded achievable satisfaction.”

        I’m a fan of goals, although they can be a personal weakness in that I often find the journey of more value than the destination. I’ve walked away from projects that weren’t that far from completion because I’d solved all the challenges, and the rest was busywork. I’ve never needed trophies. The work, the journey, is everything.

        That said, designing a great doghouse or bookshelf isn’t worth much to the dog or the books unless you take it all the way. I usually finish what I start. It has taken decades in some cases: My BOOL language… I’ve been dicking around with that since at least the early 1990s. :O

        I’ve recently begun to ponder closing shop on it and walking away. It turns out too many of my central design hopes are a real bitch to implement. But even after all this time, it’s not like anything else I’ve seen, so that’s cool. I may give it one more try. I got really close last time.

        So I really appreciate the simple pleasure of cleaning the garage is my point. Or shoveling my driveway. An arc of effort with a clear finish and result. Sweet!

        I can see that blogging has been rewarding for you. It has for me in the expressing myself sense, but I obviously affect readers the way I do people in real life. My blog’s kind of a study of ‘guy off in his own world yelling at clouds.’

        What’s the Latin for as life, as blog? 😀

        “Work used to cover up a lot of that ennui, but it was there under the covers.”

        Yeah, exactly, in so many ways. It’s not until you finally can stop all that noise, good and bad, that you really begin to hear yourself again.

        In some ways I find myself shedding skin and returning to someone I was long ago, but much, much wiser (or at least more experienced, smarter) now.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        If you don’t mind my asking, which theme are you using on the BOOL blog? I like the look of it.

        Hopefully when I retire I won’t go back to my teenage self in the summers sitting around doing nothing, but this time without my mom around to make me get up before noon. It seems unlikely, but you never know.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s called “Retro-Fitted” — I like it, too. Nice clean look, good colors. (Do you find it slightly weird running into a blogger who uses your same theme? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I find it slightly strange.)

        Teens need a lot of sleep. We old folks don’t. 🙂

        I think the real key is staying curious about (at least some aspect of) the world. So long as there’s another corner to look around, another mountain to climb, life is always interesting.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks!

        The only themes I’ve used so far were Sundance and Twenty Ten. I customized Twenty Ten to look as much like Sundance as possible. (I had to switch due to bugs with the commenting system in Sundance, ironically involving the posting of Youtube videos, but I liked it enough to ape it as much as possible.) I do run into the Twenty Ten theme all the time, but can’t ever recall running into Sundance.

        I suppose if I ran into another blog that looked similar to mine, it would be weird. But I’m unlikely to use a theme unmodified.

        Definitely agree on staying curious. Life without it seems like it would be pretty bleak.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I know people who seem to have little or no curiosity. I can’t imagine. I’m curious about nearly everything!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        My curiosity tends to be more focused, but that focus moves over time. For the last few years, I’ve been very focused on neuroscience, and I still am mostly, but I expect that to change eventually. It always has before.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        My major interests have likewise been pretty steady over time. I have no evidence to back it up, but my pet theory is that one keeps the mind fresh by seeking out new material from time to time. Even within complex fields, like neuroscience or baseball, there are new areas to explore, so they can keep us busy!

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