OMG! How will you ever survive without Cable TV?
To be honest, we don't watch a lot of TV Shows that are available on basic cable. Over the last few years, I've noticed that the cable channels have moved their "good" content over to their premium channels and have replaced the content on the standard channel with reality TV and all-day marathons. Because of this, we rarely actually watch these channels anymore, and we don't want the added complication of a cable box, since we use a Windows Media Center PC as our DVR.
Many of the TV shows that we did watch from cable TV are available online, either from somewhere like NetFlix or from the cable channel's web site directly.
OMG! What about the Internet? The World Didn't Exist Before the Internet!
While we will no longer have access to super high-speed internet, we can get a reasonably-priced alternative, Clear. For $50 per month, we get unlimited bandwidth and 3-6Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. This is actually about the same level of service we have from Warner Cable now.
The biggest advantages to Clear are:
- Portability. Since Clear is based on WIMax cellular service, I can get my internet anywhere I can get a signal. So I'm no longer tied down to getting my high-speed internet at home. If I'm going to some function somewhere that requires Internet access, I can take it with me.
- No Contract. Clear is completely without contracts. In fact, you can even buy internet access by the hour if you only need it for a short time. Time Warner has been doing this "guaranteed pricing" business for the last several years and requiring their customers to sign a 2-year agreement with them in order to get service. I don't like that. It restricts my options as a consumer.
TelevisionOver the previous several days, I researched what would be the best antenna for our location and available stations. I headed over to AntennaWeb.org's tool to identify what antenna type I needed. To get all the stations in my area, I compromised on an external antenna for the "light gray" region. Since the stations I want to tune are located both north and south of me, using a directional antenna wasn't an option for me. I didn't want to have to futz with an antenna rotor.
Then, once I figured out what antenna "color" I needed, I started researching outdoor omnidirectional antennas. I wanted an outdoor model, since I planned to install it in my attic, and also plan to take it with us when we head to Texas. I'll put it up on one of the wind turbine masts, some 30-40 feet in the air. I might even be able to pick up stations from El Paso that way, and be able to skip satellite TV when we move out there. It was important to have omni-directionality so that I could get stations from both Dayton and Cincinnati.
H.H. Gregg's site, I even found some reviews from people in my area praising it. It seems that price point does have a bearing on quality for these things. The super-cheap ones usually aren't that great. If you live in a place that has really strong signals, you can often get by with one of those. However, since my walls are plaster (essentially ROCK), using antennae indoors is really an exercise in futility. So, we coughed up the $100 for the antenna, fully intending to return it if it wasn't any good.
We did pay a price premium to get it locally rather than online, but I wanted to get it installed right away, and I wanted a local store that I could return it to in the event that it didn't work.
First, I just assembled the antenna and stuck it on the floor in the attic an ran the 50' of RG-6 cable down the stairs to the TV. I was able to get quite a few local stations that way, but I knew I could do better. I went up into the attic to mount it in there, but decided that since there was a window in the attic that I would try to mount it outside. I just barely got it to mount and allow the window to close. After the remount, I was able to get almost all the local stations in my area with the exception of WCVN-PBS in Northern Kentucky. There is only one TV program from WCVN that we regularly watched, "Kentucky Afield." We will miss that show, but perhaps I can watch it online.
InternetI've already tried Clear internet, so I just need to get the hardware I need. I plan to purchase a refurbished modem (without Wi-Fi) from Clear.com for $20, and sign up for the $50 per month plan. I don't want or need a modem that provides Wi-Fi because I already own an Apple AirPort Extreme that serves as my internet router, and it's been far more reliable than any other router I've ever used aside from a Linux-based one.
I'm not totally sure what speeds I will see, but according to the Clear web site, there is a clear tower within about 1/8 mile of my house. This should mean that I will get the maximum speed possible.
If I do manage to get the full 6Mbps down and 1Mbps up, I will actually doing better than I am now on the Warner Cable connection. Even if I get closer to the minimum of 3Mbps down, I'll be quite happy, since I am still reducing my expense, and I'm able to cut the cord.
Once I get everything tested, I'll call Time Warner and give them the bad (for them) news.
ConclusionI'm quite happy with the results from the antenna. There have been a couple small digital glitches in TV shows I've recorded, but it's quite tolerable. This will save us $30/mo and not impact our lifestyle very much. It will put us a little bit closer to "off the grid."