It has been six months since making the decision to ‘cut the cord’ in our house. In that time, I think that we have all pretty much adjusted to life without cable. I suspect that it’s a lot easier for Noah and Carla because they both spend most of their time elsewhere with full-blown cable — Noah at his mom’s house, and Carla in her apartment in New York. I, however, am the one who has been functioning daily without cable. For the most part, all is well. The one thing that has been driving me nuts, though, is the less-than-stellar (read: shitty) reception. The primary issue, as I’ve discussed, is that the reception will either become pixelated or completely go out. Initially, I thought the problem was only when freight trains passed by the house, but I have discovered that poor reception is not exclusive to CSX interference. Poor reception has become a rather regular, and quite annoying, thing.
I am unwilling to put a big ass antena on top of the house, or some huge wire contraption in the attic. Honestly, for the sake of receiving a handful of stations, connecting anything more than small, unobtrusive antennas is out of the question. What to do? I must admit that one night when reception get blinking out, I came about —>this<— close to calling up RCN to get the mack-daddy cable package. Fortunately, fiscal restraint took over and just kept moving the antenna around until I could get a steady signal. The channel was clear (full HD to all of those who have been making jokes about the quality of over-the-air broadcasts), but I could no longer focus on the show because I sat, pissed, looking at the antenna jerry-rigged over the top of one of the pocket doors. Terms like: Janky, Ghetto, and FAIL! came to mind when I looked at what I had to do just to watch Jeopardy.
Perhaps it was time to rethink the whole “cutting the cord” thing.
Sidebar: Let me make something clear. Just because I post on my blog about traveling in one direction, doesn’t mean that I won’t, or can’t, change my mind. Even with that said, though, I did wonder what people would say if I went back to cable. Oh well…who cares? I have do what’s right for me (and my family).
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a stripped down cable and Internet package on RCN’s New York page while I was looking at some options for Carla. (She is fed up with Time Warner, and we talked about her switching to RCN.) I looked on RCN’s DC website, and didn’t see that package. Having reached the point where I just couldn’t live with the terrible reception in the house, I reluctantly started to peruse RCN’s website to see what was the most inexpensive bundle package. While on the site, I just happened to click on “Special Offers.” Well looky here.
For the same price I am paying now for 50Mbps cable Internet service, I could be connected to a steady signal for local stations. I see this as a way to still “cut the cord;” because, essentially, I am just using RCN as my antenna. Semantics? Perhaps. You know what? You can call it what you want to, but I this move as a win-win. I still have my high speed Internet, needed for streaming services and multiple users, and I get crystal clear reception of all the local channels I was using my antennas to receive. Nothing more. The total difference is cost per month? $3 (taxes)
One other thing worth noting in this update is a channel that I added to my Roku account. If you have cut the cable, and would like to add some streaming of online content, you should seriously consider adding Plex.
Plex works on a number of devices. Note: You will need to install Plex’s Media Server software on your computer to make it all work. The process is really easy, and I’ve been able to enjoy content from ESPN3, ABC, CBS, and YouTube. Most recently, I was able to watch all of the NBA playoffs that aired on ESPN3 on my TV, instead of sitting at my computer, watching on my laptop, or trying to run and HDMI cable between the laptop and the TV. You can also use the media server to stream photos and videos from your computer to your Plex channel or app. Speaking of apps, you can pick up the Plex app for Android and iOS devices, which, I think, runs around $5. Here is a video by Janko Roettgers of GigaOm’s Cord Cutters demonstrating Plex.
Thanks to my friend Carol leaving a comment on this post, I was prompted me to come back to add a note about our home phone. Part of the cord cutting experience included porting our home phone number over to an extra Verizon Wireless line I had on my account. That line was set to come off contract in April, so I sat patiently, waiting for the contract to expire. Sure, I could have paid the pro-rated early termination fee (about $40), but why? I set a reminder on my Google Apps calendar. On April 30th, I signed into Google Voice, and went through the steps for porting the home number over from Verizon Wireless.
I already have a Google Voice number, but that number is associated with my fledgling photography business. My wife uses two Google Voice numbers for her business. I assigned the home number to my personal email (run with Google Apps). A while back, I had given up on Google Voice as my daily mobile number, principally because it lacks MMS (image and video) messaging. As a home number, though, Google Voice is perfect.
Here’s how we make having a Google Voice number work in our house. I bought a Panasonic cordless phone system, with Bluetooth integration, off a guy on Craigslist.
The key to this system is Bluetooth. I can connect two bluetooth mobile phones to the Panasonic system — essentially creating a home phone. As soon as I walk into the house, my phone automatically connects to the Panasonic base. I can receive and place calls through the three headsets, as if calling from my cell. With the Google Voice app on my phone, any calls that come into the “home phone” number ring through my cell and all of the Panasonic handsets. I have the app set to show the Google Voice number so that anyone in the house will know whether it’s a call to the home number or my cell number. I lose Caller ID with configuration, but I don’t mind giving that up for the convenience of having both my cell and Google Voice numbers ring through the phone. I can always set the Google Voice app to show the incoming number if it really became important. When Carla is home, she can also have her phone ring through the Panasonic system. I have developed the habit of putting my smartphone down by the base to charge when I come into the house.
If you have any questions about cutting the cord, or life without cable, please ask them in the comments.