Tag Archives: netflix

Cutting the cord

dl_tv_Pablo GarciaSaldaña

I cut the cord this week and said goodbye to Comcast television and phone.

I am going to tell you how I did it and the services I am using to replace what I eliminated. But first I am going to tell you why…

People like to scream about how terrible Comcast is as a company and from a customer service perspective, but I can honestly say whenever I had a problem in the 8 years they have been in the house, they fixed it pretty quickly.

So if the service wasn’t bad, why did I cancel a bunch of stuff? I was paying $222.21 per month.  

I do not live in an area where I can get another internet provider. I would be stuck with DSL, which is just unacceptable speed. I can get dish TV or something like that, but Verizon Fios isn’t an option in my area.

I had TV/internet/phone with 3 cable boxes, a cable modem ($40 in equipment rental fees), and I subscribed to the DVR service after a promotion that “saved me money”.  I started with a triple play package at $99 per month and over the years it inflated to well over $200.

I called Comcast two weeks ago to negotiate and reduce my bill. They took $20 off (which was not a victory in my book), but later in the day, I found out they cut service to one of the televisions in the house. When I got it fixed, the bill went back to the starting price.

I don’t really watch much television.  I would rather be reading, writing, and making stuff. My son is an avid user of Netflix and Hulu.  My wife was the biggest issue as she is a content grazer and channel flipper. I walked her through my plan and she eventually got on board.

The biggest selling point: I went from $222.21 to $87(ish) per month (not including the streaming services).

Products I am using:


I decided that one clear method to save is to stop renting equipment from Comcast, including the modem.  For my home and the setup that I prefer, I needed a modem, a router, and a streaming device for every television. I was thinking about buying a Ooma for phone, but my friend tipped me off to another device that I will get to later.

This this is what I purchased:

  1. Modem: Arris Surfboard SB6183 ($97) – Part of my $87 dollars with Comcast is a faster internet, I wanted to make sure I had a modem that supported faster speeds, so I opted for the SB6183 over the SB6141.
  2. Router: ASUS RT-AC66U ($132) – I already have one of these routers in my home, I installed a 2nd router a while ago to ensure I have great coverage throughout the house.  I thought about getting Google’s On Hub, but it was more expensive and I would have to get a small switch to network all of my back office devices together. Important to note that both the router and modem support gigabit networking.
  3. Streaming Device: Roku 4 ($133) – If you have a preference go with it. I selected the Roku 4 because it supports 4K streaming and is provider agnostic (works with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Google). I also like that it has an optical out to support older audio equipment that might only have HDMI pass-through.
  4. Streaming Device: Amazon Fire TV ($85) – I could have purchased 3 Roku 4s, but I wanted to try out this device and it was on sale.
  5. Phone Service: ObiHai 200 ($48) – My buddy Gorcka suggested this device after I expressed an interest in an Ooma. The cool thing with the ObiHai is that is connects to Google Voice/Hangouts. So instead of having to give out a new number, my house phones will ring with my Goolge number.  There is a drawback to this service, you cannot dial emergency numbers. But it nice alternative to nothing and I am not even paying the $4-5 per month in taxes that you would with Ooma.

Additional Services:

As you can see in my chart above, I was already paying for Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.  Since it is April and Game of Thrones is coming back, I didn’t want to be without HBO, so I signed up for their HBO Now service for an additional $15 per month.

A service that surprised me was Sling TV. I thought it was a part of Sling Box, which lets you stream your existing TV service via equipment… Sling TV is not the same product. This is a service from Direct TV that gives you live streaming cable channels like CNN, AMC (Walking Dead) Food TV, HGTV, and Cartoon Network (20 in all).

I always joked that I would miss HGTV the most if I canceled and now I don’t have to. The service isn’t perfect, you can only watch on 1 television at a time and there is no recording service. I haven’t completely made up my mind about keeping Sling TV or HBO Now but it is nice to know I have the option.

Closing Thoughts:

The thing I want people to understand is that it costs money to get off of cable. It is a huge savings for me because I subscribed to many of the streaming services BEFORE I cancelled. That made it easier for me to make the decision (because I knew how much we were watching on normal vs. streaming).

I laid out $628 in equipment for me to feel comfortable getting off of Comcast. It is going to take 6 months for me to break even. With that said, I feel very good about my decision and it was fun setting everything up.

So far so good… I will write an update in 6 months.

Photo: Pablo GarciaSaldaña

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Netflix vs. Hulu Plus

( #netflix, #hulu )


Last week I signed up for the Hulu Plus service and I decided to share my experience. I have been a Netflix customer for years and I am very happy with the service. Since the stream service has been getting better selections, I rarely watch actual DVDs anymore. I decided to drop my 3 movie per month package to 1 and unlimited streaming. With the money I saved, I signed up for Hulu, so I am paying the same price.

Hulu is not available on the Xbox (it is coming in a few months), so I set it up on my PS3. If the image does not look good on the PS3, it is not going to look good on anything. After I signed up, I found that the Hulu web interface is not nearly as polished or easy to navigate as Netflix. Adding things to their queue system is not simple and requires going deep into the selection to save it (or I am missing a button somewhere which is just as bad).

The interface on the PS3 is no joy to navigate either and it drives me nuts that there isn’t a search feature since their queue system kind of sucks (but in Hulu’s defence, until the recent upgrades to Netflix’s console dashboards, navigation was not so great either). Once you select a show, the picture quality is very good (for HD). My wife and I watch 30 Rock and Outsourced over the weekend and the picture was great. There is a big but… the service is glitchy and skips a few seconds ahead sometimes. Netflix does not do that (even when dropping signal rate). I assume they are working the bugs out, but it is very annoying.

My other major beef is the commercials. This is a pay service, there should not be commercials. I could forgive one at the start of the program but not during. I suspect that Hulu won’t be doing away with that feature which is making me rethink keeping the service. Hulu’s catalog of TV shows isn’t nearly as robust as Netflix, but where they beat old red is posting shows within 24 hours of airing. You have to wait a week for Comcast on demand for many shows, and who knows how long with Netflix.

Overall it is a solid service at a good price ($7.99 per month), but they are going to have to get their back catalog expanded very quickly, fix their bugs, and ditch the commercials for me to think about keeping the service. I will give them a few months to see how the service evolves. If you are deciding on the two, Netflix wins hands down (especially if you already have cable). Neither services are a full blown cable replacement yet.

Looks like Netflix is offering an $8 streaming only plan and they are bumping up DVD costs.

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Customer Service Showdown: Blockbuster vs. Netflix

On Friday night, I received an email from my Blockbuster rewards account informing me that my subscription plan would be ending at the end of the month and I would have to choose a new one. The email then states that the most similar plan to the one that I had is $7.00 more per month and I would not be able to exchange mailed movies in-store in an unlimited capacity. After I did some digging, I found this to be a mistake and the $25.00 subscription is for unlimited in-store rentals but I was pissed nonetheless because I had to look…

My issue is that Blockbuster’s online service is terrible (although I will say that the in store staff in Glassboro is excellent and friendly – consistently). A returned movie may get back to the processing hub within 24 hours, but it takes several days to ship new movies to you, their online queue robot is buggy and gets confused if the movie you want is in waiting status (it doesn’t skip to the next one). In store movie selection usually sucks: old movies are quite limited, and the newest movies are always out (it takes about three weeks to snag them). In the last month, their online queue has been getting backed up for movies that you would never guess would have a wait (Karate Kid, North by Northwest). Blockbuster’s direct competitor Netflix online service is much better although they don’t have a store to go in a get movies, but you can watch movies on demand online as part of your subscription process. Netflix recently reduced their subscriptions by $1.

Bottom line: I am going to let my remaining 44 movies in my Blockbuster queue ship and then I am canceling the service and going back to Netflix unless I see a massive improvement with their online service.

I just dropped off movies at blockbuster and wasted 40 minutes due to their crap selection in store. When I got in line, I heard the gentleman in front of me asked the staff (who is newer) about the change in the program. The manager made it seem like nothing is different and I open my mouth and say that they are taking away the unlimited in store movies for the current price ($18) he was paying or you get to pay an addition $7.00 per month for the same service.

The man wasn’t happy and the store manager proceeds to tell us both that Blockbuster was doing us a favor before by giving us the service at that price. I THEN find out that they are doing away with the free monthly gaming coupon as well. The manager asks me if I am really unhappy with the change. I replied to him with “you are charging me 25% more and giving me less services, what do you think?” The guy says you can always cancel.

What an asshole.

The website makes it seem that the $25.00 plan allows you to rent unlimited games, but the guy in the store said that isn’t the case. I must verify.

Update to follow

Not getting free game coupons anymore. You get a “discount” which as of yet seems undefined (probably $3.00 off the $6.00 game rental).

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