How I cut the (cable) cord! By Jeffrey Compton (with Cory Roberts) September 26, 2014 at 8:56 am Note: A couple of Saturdays ago I made the comment – in plugging a column by Cory Roberts, our technical director, that “based on Cory’s advice I cut out cable television, saved $100 a month and have more – good – choices than ever before.” While quite a few people clicked to read his column on new Apple products, quite a few more emailed me requesting details on my cable cutting. Last week I sent out a memo to ten people I consider to be key “advisors” (both team members and subscribers) asking how they felt about my doing a column on a totally non-gaming topic. Members of the team were generally against it (creates a bad precedent), but the subscribers said “go for it!” And seeing that next week we all will be quite deluged with gaming, gaming, gaming, I feel that this is the perfect time to talk about how I cut my cable! There are certain parts of growing up in Ohio that I remember fondly: learning to swim and ride at summer camp, Christmas trips downtown, most of my years at school … and free television. You just turned it on and it was there – no fuss, no fees. Reception (on all three channels) was very good and most network shows did at least 36 episodes a year (today the average is 20). As there was usually only one television set per house, viewing tended to be a family affair. (By contrast, I live alone – and have three televisions in my home). There are now many, many more stations available, many more programs available, and the overall quality of both programming and broadcasting is first rate – but I missed the free part! Especially when the cost of cable TV in my home was getting close to $100 per month and especially when Cory showed me an article that the cost of basic cable TV has increased at four times the rate of inflation! There had to be a better way – and a year ago I found the perfect combination (at least for me): an roof-mounted television antenna and a Roku box. Via Angie’s List (under TV antenna) I located a local provider who first directed me to a site to check which channels I would get from the antenna. After I agreed that was acceptable, he did the entire installation, including mounting and wiring, for $475. I now get about 30 channels (12 of which I really like – CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and several from PBS) in HD – at no charge. Yes, this is completely legal (the installer said that’s the most common question he gets), and the reception is great except in really inclement weather, when I get some skipping on some channels. Even better is the Roku box. These boxes are small devices (about 4 inches square) placed near the television set and plugged into the set as you would a DVD player; they connect to the programming world via the Internet, either directly (Ethernet) or wirelessly. Most cost about $100 (less if you get a deal). Once installed you can connect to over 500 different channels. Many of those 500 channels are free. Some of my favorite non-free channels cost less than $2 a month, with the most expensive and extensive (Netflex, Hulu) costing less than $9 a month. With a minimum of exploration you can find 500 hours of “must see TV” and spend no more than $15 each month. For example, if you are a Prime Amazon customer (pay $90 a year and get free two-day shipping) you can access Amazon’s extensive no-additional-charge library to catch past seasons of HBO and Showtime series (The Sopranos, Broadwalk Empire, Game of Thrones) plus thousands of hours of free movies and TV. Several channels show quality movie classics for $1.50 a month. British TV lovers should check out Acorn TV ($5 a month – you will not need another channel). The free (and beg-week free) PBS channel is excellent – for example the recent 7-part Ken Burns series “The Roosevelts” was on the Roku PBS channel before it was completely broadcast on the network. There are cooking channels, religious channels, college lecture channels, an excellent classical arts channel – you name it, you will find it – and for nothing or next to nothing. (RokuGuide.com provides excellent reviews of almost every available Roku channel.) Would this work for everybody – no! If you are a news buff (as in watching Fox, MSNBC or CNN several hours per day) you will not find the equivalent on Roku or via an antenna. If you pay your cable company extra to watch out-of-town football games (you’re a Green Bay Packers fan living in Washington, DC) that option is not yet available on Roku – though the baseball, hockey, and basketball equivalents are available. And if you or a member of your family must see the next episode of “The Walking Dead” the day it becomes available, then think twice before eliminating your cable (though it is available the day after a la carte). But if you, like me, fondly remember free TV (or would like to begin to remember it fondly) and also want to see more quality TV in less time (many shows have no commercials or PBS beg-breaks – so that hour long TV show you like to watch only takes 45 minutes) then consider getting a television antenna or a Roku box – or both.