It’s official. We quit cable. TimeWarner Cable is no longer showing in our home theater (read: family room).
We still have our internet and landline through TWC, but the phone may be gone soon, too. Before we can start saving money, though, we have to pay their early termination fee, of course.
The decision wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. At first, we thought we could just cut the line and be done, but there were some roadblocks. The first thing we encountered was the early termination fee. This was news to us, too.
Apparently, two years ago when we added phone and internet to our television package, we were put on a contract similar to the ones you sign up for with cell phones. This wasn’t made clear to us, though. There was no mention of an early termination fee at the time. Earlier this year we were notified that our preferred rate was coming to an end, but again the information we received didn’t say that we would be penalized for canceling. We deliberately did nothing, because our opinion was to let our contract expire and make a choice later. That was a bad choice, but not an informed one.
The first time we tried to cancel, we ran into the ETF, and at approximately $135 we had to consider whether it was worth it. We tried to negotiate with TimeWarner Cable over the phone to get it reduced or removed. For over an hour. I talked to four different people in four different departments. Each time I had to verify my information. You know, name, address, phone number, last four of Social, etc. I didn’t even want to talk to the fourth person, but got transfered there after being put on hold while the customer service person tried to find the answer to one of my questions. This fourth person was so condescending and rude when I asked to be transferred back and I was so tired that I just hung up. Also, one of the people I talked to put me through a survey to see if I wanted to purchase more television services!
Staying the course to quit cable was going to be tough, apparently. We had to do some research and be willing to adjust our watching habits. No more live TV (unless we bought an antenna), and a lot of our shows would be unavailable to us. But when we weighed the cost of the television service against the cost of our time actually sitting in front of the television. Two questions occurred to me: What else could I be doing with the time I’m spending in front of the television? and What specific programming do I want to spend my money on?
We were paying about $175 a month for three services, two boxes, one DVR, digital/HD, and the Disney on Demand channel. We also were already Netflix streaming customers at another $8 a month.
There are some alternatives out there. The biggest players include AppleTV, GoogleTV, Roku, and Boxee. All offer TV over IP, or internet-streamed video. It is all on-demand. They key differences come in the subscriber services and hardware offered. Honestly, none lives up to the hype, but I am hopeful that the number of streaming services improves. We chose Roku based on the number of subscription services offered and price. We were able to buy a box about the size of a deck of playing cards for $79. It has two cords: power and HDMI. It sits inconspicuously behind my TV and gives a great HD picture. It’s important to note that this is just for one TV, though.
Now we have to consider getting an antenna for broadcast channels. This could cost between $40 and $100. On the high end, that would mean our capital outlay for this venture is between about $120 and $200 with taxes. After all of the adjustments to our TimeWarner bill shake out – prorated television services and early termination fee – we will need to take account of how long it takes us to recover our equipment costs. We also have to be careful what subscription streaming services we subscribe to. We don’t want to sign up for too many $8 and $10 monthly services to add up to the cost of cable in the first place.
Ultimately, it comes down to preference. We decided we were tired of paying for a television service that did not fit our household. We could enjoy using our television in a new way, deliberately instead of passively. Who knows, maybe we will return to cable. But we are off for now.