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Cable or No Cable?


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Posted on Sunday, February 8th, 2009 at 11:28 pm CET

The last few months we’ve had to make do with the standard broadcast television stations. Using the built-in antenna in our Vizio TV we’ve been able to get about 15 channels including CBS, NBC and ABC for free. I’ve been really impressed by the quaility of these free HD channels. I am blown away by the details when we watch our favorite shows like Lost and 30 Rock. Now that we’re moving into another house we’ve decided to sign up for Comcast high speed internet and try out their cable TV as well. Costs for this is going to be around $80 per month of which $40 is for the digital starter TV package. It’s one of their smallest packages with only about a hundred channels. We have seriously thought of not getting cable TV and only watch our free broadcast channels and our favorite shows online. We’ll give this a try and cancel the TV package if we’re not watching it enough.

These last few months we’ve been using our Playstation 3 to feed TV shows and movies from Hulu and Netflix to our TV, using PlayOn as a media server. This way we are able to watch almost all of the shows we want to watch for free and in pretty good quality, but I still miss watching the news on CNN and shows on some other channels. More and more people are giving up their cable subscription in favor of watching TV online. With the tough economy cable TV seems like a luxury to many, especially with services like Hulu.

We signed up at Comcast.com last week and were disappointed to find out that the earliest the technician could come by would be 3 weeks later, on February 20nd. Due to the planned digital transition on February 17th they were apparently fully booked with people who needed to get cable on their analog TVs to be able to continue watching TV after the 17th. I called Comcast a few times to ask if anything opened up but even last Wednesday the earliest day had already moved back to the 28th if we wanted to reschedule. But then on Thursday Congress voted to delay the transition to June 12th after reports that millions of U.S. homes are not yet ready for the switch. A half day later I got an email from Comcast that our appointment was moved up by two weeks to the next day. Gosh, apparently the announcement of the postponed transition made many people cancel their cable appointment.

The cable guy came right on time yesterday. The email had given a window of three hours between 1pm and 4pm, but in the morning we still received a phone call with an automated message that the technician would arrive between 1pm and 2pm, which was nice. He had to do quite some rewiring to make the outlet work in the room where we wanted to have TV. He drilled a hole on one side of the house; ran a cable from the outside cable box through the crawl space under the house to the other side; drilled another hole to make the cable go outside; and a couple of feet higher he drilled another hole to make it go back in into our living room. Holy smokes! I thought this was quite funny; most homes in the Netherlands are made of concrete and stone and you wouldn’t be able to rewire this easily. He was busy with the wires for about an hour and then set up our TV and internet connection. He explained how the remote of the TV box worked and then left. But 5 minutes later as I was flipping around the channels I noticed that none of the HD channels were working. Upon calling the Comcast helpdesk I was informed that I didn’t have an HD receiver, which is apparently $9 per month extra. D’oh! Why did no one tell me about this? I signed up for the digital package with half the channels in HD and they gave me a non-HD box. The technician could have said something too, he saw our nice Vizio HDTV. Now we’re going to have to go to a Comcast shop to trade in our box.

I’m looking forward to watching our new TV channels in HD. Hulu and Netflix are great, but I do want to check out cable TV for at least a few months. We’ll keep track of how much we watch these channels through Comcast and go from there. One thing I’m worried about is the 250 GB per month cap that Comcast introduced last October. This means that if you watch a lot of HD shows and movies online you could get in trouble and have your internet connection suspended. I’m going to have to keep track of our bandwidth and see how much we’re using. I saw that we have Comcast On Demand on our TV box with free TV shows and movies as well, including recent episodes of popular shows. If that works well we may not need to watch as much online as we’ve been. To be continued. 😉

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