Today I made a call to my TV service provider that was long overdue. “Hi there! I’m good, thanks. I’d like to cancel my TV subscription all together.” The bottom line, is that I am paying far too much for the amount of television being watched in my house. And when you dwindle it down to the shows that my family really want to watch, it hardly seems justified. When my bill jumped from $135/month to $165/month, I knew it was time. While I still have another 30 days of service, I already feel better knowing I won’t be shelling out a huge sum of money every month for a service that we can really do without.

So, What Now?

While Canada is still behind the times when it comes to internet based media consumption, we at least have some options now. Netflix finally jumped the border, the iTunes catalog has greatly improved, and many of the top broadcasters have at least the most recent episodes of their primetime shows available online. Not to mention, there’s always BitTorrent and Usenet (my preferred method of acquiring media).

But What About Those Pesky Bandwidth Caps?

Bah, don’t get me started! Since I’m ridding myself of a $165 monthly expense, I decided to suck-up the bandwidth overage fee and download/stream to my heart’s content. The plan I’m on gives me 125GB/month, which can go quickly when you’re viewing HD content. Netflix estimates an hour of HD viewing at 2.3GB, which works out to about 54 hours per month. That’s not a lot, considering I have a family of four, and that’s not counting any other internet usage from browsing, phone (VoIP), work, video games, etc. The overage fees are ridiculous, but my ISP caps it at $50. An extra $50/month as opposed to $165 is fine by me.

Viewing Downloaded Media

As I mentioned, many of the popular network shows are available to stream online. The quality isn’t HD (or even SD, for that matter), and not every show is available. There will always be shows we have to download. Getting episodes from Usenet to a watchable format on the living room TV used to be a hassle. My lovely wife gave me a Boxee Box for Christmas, and I can’t express how much I love that ugly little device! I have a networked hard drive attached to it via CAT-6, and it streams 720p/1080p MKV files beautifully. I recently beefed up my internet service to 25MB/s down, and since I no longer have to convert videos for the Boxee Box, I can have an hour long HD episode ready to watch in about 10 minutes.

Hopping the Border

While Canada is in better shape now than ever in terms of availability of online content, the US is still totally kicking our asses. There are even shows available via cable/satellite in Canada that we can’t view online, which throws a bit of a wrench in my plan. But all is not lost – enter VPN. I signed up for an inexpensive VPN service to give it a test run, and am quite pleased with the result. I can now watch videos on Hulu, and other sites that are typically blocked in Canada. Boxee Box even has a VPN setting, so I can easily hop onto some of those US sites from there. Hulu is the big exception at the moment, as they target and block Boxee Box all together. There is still promise of an official Hulu Plus app, but we’re yet to see it materialize. This is where a HTPC would surpass Boxee Box, which I’ve definitely considered.

Let’s Not Forget About the Kids

Addison and Shiznit, watching TV together

Perhaps surprising to some, my daughters were the hold up when it came to making this decision. Children’s programming isn’t exactly in abundance when it comes to online services. Netflix has a good amount, but it’s lacking many of the pre-teen shows my eldest watches. Thankfully, the American networks are doing a great job of putting and keeping children’s shows online. When I mentioned to my eldest daughter that we could access US sites now, she was ecstatic! I didn’t realize it, but she had actually tried to watch many shows online, only to be hit with regional disclaimers. Meanwhile, my youngest has been enjoying episodes of the new Peter Pan spin-off on the Disney Junior website, which hasn’t even started airing in Canada yet.

The Grand Total

Once the final cable bill is paid, here’s what I’m looking at each month…

  1. Internet Service – $69.99
  2. Maximum Bandwidth Overage Fee – $50
  3. Netflix – $7.99
  4. Usenet – $9.99
  5. VPN – $6.99

Total: $144.96 (plus tax)

Previously, I was paying for everything minus the bandwidth overage fee and VPN. That’s an extra $57 each month, but once again, I’m no longer paying $165 for TV service. I’m chalking this up as a win, possibly prematurely. But I’ll be sure to report back once I have a few months under my belt.


Comments

Awesome, I’ve toyed with this idea for a long time. What we get isn’t worth what we pay for cable in this country, in my opinion.

My one hangup is that my wife likes to watch TV as "background noise" etc. while she works. I have yet to figure out a solution that would allow one to just "watch a channel" for hours like cable or satellite.

Anyways, I’m still curious. What VPN did end up using?

I was worried that my wife would be the hang-up, as she has been known to flick through the channels. That’s not even an option when you go this route, but she said she would rather be forced to find something else more productive to do than flick through the channels.

I’m using Strong VPN, and they’ve been great so far.

Ha ha! Matt, I love your cat’s name! As for cutting the cord to your cable t.v. provider. Good luck and please do let us know how it goes.

I’m having a hard time convincing my wife that we don’t need $40/month phone service since we both have cell phones.

Like you, I pay way too much a month for all 3 services using AT&T U-verse (~ $180/month). I’d love to be able to cut the cord even if I could just guarantee streaming movies in HD. As it stands, streaming Netflix from the XBox 360 isn’t quite HD quality, but I might have a look at upping my download speed to try and make that happen.

I often forget that my cat has a silly name and am taken back when people chuckle at it. 😉

I’ve had a VoIP phone service as a landline phone for 5 or 6 years now. $30/month flat rate for unlimited calling in North America and all call features. Definitely worth it if you make many long distance calls. My wife’s family is on the West coast, so it’s totally worth it for us.

Netflix HD is great, if you have the pipe for it. I get 25MB/s now, so it’s no problem. The stream starts within seconds, and never stalls to buffer. Quality is great, too.

Congrats! We cut the cable a year ago and we haven’t looked back. There is the odd time that it would be nice to turn on a live broadcast, but that’s pretty rare and certainly not worth $100+ a month.

We used to use streaming quite a bit, but lately we’re downloading all of our media from usenet. I’ve set it up so that it’s fully automated and as soon as a new episode of one of our favourite shows is available it gets downloaded and added to Plex automatically. A combination of Usenet + SABnzbd + SickBeard + Plex makes for a pretty seamless experience.

I detailed our initial setup here: http://chriserwin.com/blog/post/cutting_the_cable but a few things have changed since then.

I remember reading your post on this topic, two years ago now. Kids were always the hitch for me, and the lack of decent alternatives in Canada. But I’m feeling good about finally making the jump.

While I have the Boxee Box, I’m considering going the HTPC route and automating downloads from Usenet as you’ve described. While things are pretty easy now, that will make downloading almost effortless.

An automated setup is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’d love to see an updated version of what you’ve got running now.

I did the same thing over a year ago. I use a combo of Netflix on my Xbox and Apple TV, Redbox, iTunes and online streaming. I was never into watching tv shows or sports, so I don’t miss cable at all. I definitely don’t miss the commercials or the extra 80 bucks a month I was spending.

I guess live sports would be the hang-up for a lot of people. Like you, I don’t watch sports at all, so it was a non-issue.

I am looking forward to your comments after a couple months on this setup. I am heading the same way, but one person that doesn’t speak English at home is keeping us from the big cable cut.

I am already set with Sabnzbd, sickbeard and boxee box and I love it.

It would be interesting to know which vpn service you use, is it good on hd streaming?

I’m using StrongVPN at the moment. Good service, and while I haven’t done any speed tests, I haven’t had any problems streaming HD content through the VPN. I did notice that video quality from the American networks is much better than Canadian.

Tested StrongVpn for a week now and is awesome, vudu testing gives me 1080p videos for my Internet connection(High Speed 7.5 Mbps) even through the VPN, netflix content from the US is 1k times better than Canadian netflix and there is a lot more boxee content from the us available.

Vudu renting and netflix can make your 7 $ vpn fee worth it.

However, it looks like my plans on keeping my vpn service can change if application NaviX (http://website.navi-x.org/) improves a little bit and get better servers to keep working longer without crashing that often. Navix gives you access to US content without the vpn connection, as well a huge list of free streaming movies; this is really an app worth to try, keep in mind that can be slow and crash sometimes, but 90 % of the time just works. I haven’t used UseNet since I started using NaviX (maybe another fee to cut?).

Grooveshark for boxee is another app highly recommendable.

Cutting my cable service at the end of May BTW.

Hi Matt,

I have left cable every since I moved to Israel, most shows are not available or are a couple of seasons behind.

I have been using Rapidshare which is great unfortunately its becoming slow and has a number of issues.

I would interested to hear your feedback on StrongVPN especially on speed and of course your thoughts on Usenet.

I’m looking for a good VPN service and other solutions

Thanks,

Almog

I love this article because its exactly what I have been wanting to do for some time now and might end up doing it soon. I pay $160/month for television and internet through our telco company CenturyLink. Although I am tired of paying all that for a few channels I only watch and most of that is for Showtime or Starz anyways.

I use all Windows 7 machines and have been looking at ways to do this. I use TED, uTorrent, and Boxee Box as well. Do you use VPN to kind of mask your connection so the ISP doesn’t see anything your doing if your downloading through Usenet or torrents? Im curious about that because thats my biggest concern. A lot of stuff I can get on probably Hulu or Netflix but premium shows I can’t.

I stumbled upon your page while searching the BookArc and I’m very glad I did.

I agree that our services here in Canada have become a lot better in terms of content and wish that our government would step up to the plate and eliminate these bandwidth caps. Another recommendation would be to check out the Wal-mart $5 section for DVD’s. I’ve picked up a few good ones for my 6 and 2 year old and seeing you have kids as well, might help curb the expenses on iTunes (if you use their services).

Looking forward to reading more!

I cut my cable 4 month ago and I have to say it is a smooth ride. Netflix and iTunes make more than up for it. For sports i simply have to go to a bar. Not the worst thing ever. One good thing is, you don’t have the possibility to just switch from channel to channel and end up watching something you are moderately interesting in. If you can’t find something, you simply turn it off (you will understand what I mean after the first weeks 😉 Here in Montreal I end up with a monthly bill of around $99 for a 30MBit line with !20GB + iTunes + Netflix. On the contrary, the money spend on amazon has climbed up dramatically … let us know how it goes.

If you guys up in Canada would stop being charged by usage you would be set. I download well over 400gb a week here and it never cost a penny more. Though i would rather have healthcare myself.

$165 p/m for television?! That’s a hefty subscription, I don’t blame for you cutting the cable. What’s with these bandwidth overage fees though? Isn’t there another provider that offers unlimited bandwidth out-of-the-box? I pay £25 p/m (over here in the UK) to Virgin Media for my broadband (Unlimited 50MB) and fortunately don’t have to deal with any sort of caps.

I also got rid of my TV service a long time ago and now use Usenet exclusively – I haven’t as much as glanced back since. I don’t watch most of the junk on TV nowadays, so being able to download certain TV Shows when I please has been a welcome change.

Ditched cable TV about 2 years ago. Been really happy with the result using a PS3/Xbox 360/Roku XD as our primary content players.

Here’s our cost breakdown:

Comcast Internet (United States 12-14mbps with 250GB cap): $79/mo

Xbox Live Gold (includes ESPN3 for some sports): $3.33/mo

Playstation Plus: $4.17/mo

Hulu Plus: $7.99/mo

Netflix: $7.99/mo

Total: $102.48/mo

Hey! That was a really great decision.. I also cut off on some “luxuries” lately.. I am a freelance web designer (currently working at http://www.peopleperhour.com) on a dryspell and much needed to get cut! I wasn’t watching much tv anyway, so cable was the first to go, and many other followed! So well done.. I totally support this! 😉