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Why Are We Paying For Cable Again? A Wake-Up Call

Over the summer, we got lulled into paying the new, higher rate for cable television (after our promotion expired). I’d meant to do something about it, but never seemed to have the time. Reading Kacie’s post about the digital converter box was a real wake-up call.

Right now, we have cable internet with the smallest cable package available. We got it because it was cheaper to have both than to have just the internet (and I don’t mean we spent to save, we just saved). Of course, promotions like that are meant to do exactly what this one did, get the consumer to subscribe to more services than they’d planned after the promotional period runs out.

While Comcast did profit from our inaction, they’re not actually doing a good job of keeping our business. When I saw Kacie’s article, I thought, “Wait, we can get the exact same channels without cable!”

There may be one or two we’ll lose, but we only ever watch the big 4 (CBS, FX, NBC, ABC in that order….we don’t really watch ABC). Our package is so small that they weren’t able to hook us into any other channels because we only have about a dozen others—including shopping channels, telenovelas, and PBS. I’ve never tried watching any of them with the cable unplugged, but I bet most would work. CBS actually has better resolution when we unplug the cable feed.

To give them credit, Comcast used to include G4, or tv for geeks (well, during the day the shows kinda sucked). I really enjoyed their “Attack of the Show.” But they cut that out of the package last spring—it just disappeared.

What kept us subscribed? Apathy. Fear of change. Not thinking about it.

Hearing about the need for a converter box if you’re not using cable suddenly woke me up. Wait, why am I using cable? Why don’t we just buy a simple box and get it over with? Why not get a $40 converter box coupon here?

Apparently Rite-Aid has converter boxes on sale for…$40. But even if that sale isn’t around when I get the coupon, it’s still worthwhile in the long run to pay the extra $20 or so. That’s a month of cable.

We’ve already applied for the coupon. The plan is to buy a box once it arrives, set it up, and set about canceling our cable tv. We could cancel cable first, but I admit fearing change. I want to be sure the new system works before I get rid of the old one.

Quick facts:

  • There are 160 days left (it’ll be February 17, 2009) until the converter box will be necessary to watch tv without a cable connection.
  • You can probably start using it right away.
  • You can get a coupon and a list of local retailers here.
  • It’s entirely possible you can get the latest episodes of your favorite shows on anyway, so you only need to pay for the internet connection.
  • Commenters on Sense to Save report good experiences with their converters so far.

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Sunday Link Love | Remodeling This Life
September 14, 2008 at 6:08 am


Frugal Vet Tech September 10, 2008 at 11:06 am

We got a coupon for a digital converter box. Then we forgot to use it before it expired. Oops. If you do get the coupon, make sure you use it! We don’t watch much TV anyway, and have considered getting rid of ours, so it’s not a huge deal, but still…

We’re at the same place with our phone service – we need to change our long distance plan, but keep not doing it. I tried to drop it online, but there was no option for that. We need to call, but we just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. At this point, I think we’ll just wait until we move in two weeks and change our package then. Sometimes it’s hard to get those little things done…

Miranda September 10, 2008 at 11:08 am

For us, the final straw with cable was when we noticed that, not only were we getting charged a great deal for TV service we rarely used, but they were also nickel and diming us by — not kidding — charging us a rental fee for the remote control every month. Since my husband can’t live w/o ESPN, we switched to a satellite carrier that let us have a smaller package than the cable company offered. We are saving $40 a month on our TV. I know we could save more, but again, that darn ESPN…

Andrea September 10, 2008 at 11:46 am

My boyfriend and I have decided to try dropping cable entirely now that NBC is making it’s shows available on iTunes again. We bought an Apple TV (it allows you to watch videos from your computer on your tv, and you can buy/rent movies and tv shows directly from iTunes) about a month ago, and we’re estimating that it will be about the same, or possibly cheaper to just BUY episodes of our regular shows every month vs the cost of cable, since we don’t watch a whole lot of TV anyway.

Emily September 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I just posted about my new love affair with hulu. I must be living in a cave, as I’d never heard of it until a few days ago.

I have to get the converter box still.

Kacie September 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for the links! We went without cable for the first six months of living in Pittsburgh. There just wasn’t room in our budget at the time. We didn’t really miss it, as we had a small account with Netflix back then.

Our bill is really low now, but them tricky cable companies could raise it at any time, I’m sure!

Amy September 10, 2008 at 2:13 pm

We did the same thing you did. Ordered the coupon, bought a converter box to try out digital cable and then finally canceled cable.

Very happy with our decision! Our reception quality is better and we found ways to watch our favorite cable shows for free using Hulu and Netflix (which we already subscribed to).

If you are curious about picture quality, we have some screenshots on our blog as well as a Showfinder which lets you watch your favorite shows online.

Amanda September 10, 2008 at 6:26 pm

We’ve had our boxes for a while now and we’re pretty pleased. The picture quality (not sure of exact phrase here – I’ll blame pregnancy brain πŸ™‚ ) is so much better. The only thing that is annoying is that if the signal is weak, the channel shuts off (ei “no signal”) instead of just being a little fuzzy on regular analog. πŸ™‚ We’re happy we have the boxes. πŸ™‚

Zhu September 10, 2008 at 9:26 pm

I’m still lost on how the TV works here… I was used to have 5 channels in France πŸ˜†

I’m gonna have a look at our package.

thinkingthing September 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm

In college, I made do without a TV for four years. Upon graduating, I decided to keep it up and make a run for it. Surprisingly, I still manage to be up to date on Idol, Lost, etc, just through regular conversation. I swear, like a quarter of what you people talk about is television.

I fear the day February 17, 2009. That is when senior citizens nationwide, unaware of the digital conversion, unable to watch Matlock, will rise up and destroy us all.

It’s a shame that all the freed up airwaves got swallowed whole by the existing broadcasters. I would’ve loved to watch an independently produced personal finance channel. Might’ve made television useful again.

Dad September 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm

From my own experience and talking with various friends and co-workers, I have come to feel that Comcast is the worst of the bunch. There is an arrogance about that company that is grating. When I manage to save my wife’s email archive and help her become free of her comcast email address, I’ll be switching. One thing I will avoid in the future is using the ISP’s email service. It ties you down too much. If all of your email addresses are from groups like gmail, yahoo, hotmail, mac and similar groups you can switch ISP with no upset in your email.

Jenna September 11, 2008 at 12:07 pm

We got the funniest letter ever from our cable company yesterday.

They were writing to inform us that since our promotion had expired, they were going to “give us a special deal”. Instead of hiking the price up to the regular rates, they were going to auto-enroll us in a new “rewards program” and our bill would only go up $5.

Wow!! REALLY? You’re raising my bill five bucks, and I should feel like a special rewarded customer…..

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