Confessions of a Cord Cutter

In the summer of ’09 I had finally had enough:  $200/mo Cablevision bills, a shitty GUI courtesy of Motorola to control my media, pixelated screens, and crappy customer service.  I had been trying out Plex for a few months, had set up an antenna on my roof, plunked down the money for EyeTV and an HDHomeRun, set up ShowRSS and had been gradually weening my two young children off cable.  I live about 40 miles from a major metropolitan area, in a fairly wooded area, yet despite that, I was picking up 47 HD OTA channels including all the ‘majors’: CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC.  Friends, family and neighbors began to note how my picture quality (when using the OTA HD antenna) was ‘so much better’ than theirs.   And then the final blow:  a power outage.  Thing is, my area gets a lot of these, winter, summer, doesn’t matter, so we had a backup generator installed a long time ago.  Yet despite my house being fully powered, no cable, no internet.  Normally, for a day or so, its not a big deal, but we typically lose power for days on end, in this case, seven.  Thing is, my home’s entertainment system kept humming.  OTA broadcast television?  Check.  Plex + all my stored content?  Check.  (I even used my iPhone tethered to my iMac to keep ShowRSS downloading the latest show episodes).  And the thing is, my family didn’t even realize the difference.  No cable for a week – no problem.  Our house became a hotbed of neighborhood activity.  Friends would come over with their kids for a much needed entertainment break.  As soon as power came back, I packed up my three HD DVRs that were costing me $24/mo and drove them over to the local Cablevision office, waited patiently in line, and cancelled cable.

I’ve written a number of articles here on TotalHTPC about cutting the cord, and to be totally honest, it was the best utility decision me and my family have made.  During the past 18-months I’ve saved $2,000 ($110/mo), and that’s including having spent the extra $10/mo for Cablevision’s ‘boost’ speed to get 30Mbps/5Mbps upload/download speeds.  For that $2,000 in savings I spent about $600 for the OTA antenna, EyeTV, the HDHomeRun, some cabling, signal boosters and iPhone apps (I already owned the Mac and had a Netflix subscription, although I moved down to a streaming only account).  My media never leaves my pocket.  When I’m on vacation with my family or friends, it all travels with my iPhone: live TV, stored media, everything.  I’ve helped three other friends fully cut the cord, and other than ESPN (see our cord cutter guides), none of them know the difference (in fact every one of them is happier with their home entertainment).

Nerve Center: iMac running Plex PMS, Netgear 24-port switch, Airport Extreme Router, Synology DS209, crappy Cablevision cable-modem, HDHomeRun

It may seem onerous to set this up, and you might be concerned about the family-acceptance-factor, but what you find is that you only watch what you want, when you want, and other than internet costs, there’s no monthly fee.  I remember back to the power outage during the summer of ’09, one of my neighbors came up to me, his kids over taking one of those ‘entertainment breaks’ and he asked me,  “How is it that you have cable and internet?”.  I smiled proudly and said, “I don’t, I cut the cord.”

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