The story of my near break with the cable company

With the help of fellow ZDNetter, David Gewirtz, I've all but broken my vows with the cable company. Thanks to a diminutive device and an understanding family, we're almost 100 percent free of cable company jail.

Back in early December, I wrote friend and colleague ZDNet DIY guru, David Gewirtz, an email and asked his best advice on how to break away from the cable company. He had several suggestions for me, including how he is setup at his house, but I settled on the Roku, The Roku 2 XD to be exact. It retails for about $79, or less, through any of your favorite online shops. The Roku is the best thing to happen to my family since, well, me. Here's my story.

We were spending almost $200 per month on cable/phone/Internet bundle from Cox Cable, so we switched from Cox to AT&T Uverse. And, after a few months, we were spending almost $200 with AT&T as well, plus our five, yes five, AT&T cell phones (iPhones). The amount was practically a very nice car payment or a payment for a house*.

It was time to make a change, hence my email to David Gewirtz aka Yoda.

The resolution seemed easy. Buy the Roku, hook it up, enjoy thumbing my nose at the cable company, whomever they may be.

It worked!

My wife was extremely excited to receive the Roku for our bedroom TV for a Christmas present. 

Side story: She kept mentioning that she wanted to break with the cable company and I didn't tell her that she was getting a Roku for Christmas so imagine my surprise/irritation/shock when she kept mentioning stuff like Netflix, Hulu and Roku just days before Christmas. I thought to myself, "I hope she's surprised." She was. Extremely happy too.

We've been so happy with the Roku in the master bedroom that I ordered another for our family room. It's been incredible. 

As for the cable company, my wife called and explained, nicely, that we were breaking up with you (the cable company) and we only want basic cable. Basic cable, in case you don't know, is what you get if you had an old TV with a knob on it that changes channels. You get about 12 or so channels, mostly local, just for news, weather and sports.

I had to sacrifice my Indie channels: IFC, Sundance, Syfy, BBC, etc. But, it was worth it. We now pay less than half and seem to get more even with our Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora One and HuluPlus subscriptions. We never really watched much "live" TV. We watched a lot of recorded TV: Big Bang Theory, Dr. Who, Doc Martin, The IT Crowd, King of the Hill, Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother. Of course my middle son watches such great cinema such as Duck Dynasty, Mythbusters and Hawaii Five-O. He's more disappointed at the change than the rest of us. He needs less free time on his hands or needs to embrace Dr. Who with the rest of the nerdy family he's been blessed with.

The transition hasn't been a problem for us. The savings is significant.

If you don't want to spring for a Roku, you can actually watch Netflix and maybe some other select premium services through a Nintendo Wii, which we did for a couple of years until we decided to make this break.

David Gewirtz also suggested Apple TV, which we considered but rejected based on some research that my wife did. We're happy with the Rokus and really haven't looked back. I do miss the occasional Indie flick but I can get most of them on one of our other services such as the "free" Crackle or others.

While writing this, my daughter just asked, "How do I get to the Roku?" And I'm back from showing her. Awesome.

The problem with cable TV is that you can have 500 channels and find absolutely nothing to watch. We always find something to watch with our subscriptions, Netflix being the most expensive at $7.99 per month. We still have to depend on the cable company for our Internet, home phone (I know, who still has a landline, but at $1.50 per month and no long distance, who can give it up?) and all of our cell phones. 

Soon, I'll give up my AT&T Uverse iPhone at over $100 per month. That's a ridiculous cost for not unlimited bandwidth. You'll read about that transition very soon. I'm tired of paying too much for too little. I can use Skype for phone use on a laptop or netbook and I can disconnect from just about everything except the Internet. If I find a way to do that, I'll let you know.

I feel another email in my head coming for you, David Gewirtz. Hurry, change your email address before I become a pest.

My sincere thanks to David for his patience and to Roku for providing what seems to be the best wife-pleaser since the automatic ice maker. 

Have you broken from the cable company? Write back and tell me how. Your story could be featured here on my column/blog. Woot!

*Yes, here in the MidWestern/MidSouth part of the US, you can still own a home for $500 (or less) per month. In town. In a good neighborhood. Good, well passable, schools. All that.


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