Ditch Cable and Satellite for Free Internet TV

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You pay a high cable or satellite TV bill every month--but what do you get for it? A lot of stations you don't watch, sprinkled with a few you like, containing entertainment that you can also find on the Internet. In fact, between the Net and old-fashioned, over-the-air broadcasts, you may have little reason to keep spending money on extra stations.

Of course, dumping your cable or satellite setup has some potential drawbacks. You might not get good over-the-air signals in your area. If your cable company also supplies your Internet access, dropping the cable means you'll lose the discount for two services from one provider. And you'll have to make some up-front investments in your new setup before you can start saving money. But for a lot of people, the investment will be more profitable than stocks bought two years ago.

To approximate your cable or satellite experience, you'll need a DVR that can receive over-the-air broadcasts (in the world of digital broadcasts, you can't time-shift with a VCR), and some sort of device for sending Internet video to your TV. I'll offer three strategies for acquiring these capabilities.

Getting Entertainment Into the Room

The Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit comes with the basic hardware you need to transmit TV signals through your home's electrical wiring.
First, however, you'll need an Internet signal in the same room as your television, and you'll need a TV antenna. See "Now that my TV has gone digital, how do I get more channels?" for antenna purchasing suggestions.

Now, about the Internet: If you're thinking "No problem, I have Wi-Fi," think again. Most Internet-capable entertainment devices use ethernet, not Wi-Fi, and there's a reason. Wi-Fi isn't always reliable enough for video, especially HD, and especially if your TV is far from the router.

That's why I recommend Powerline AV, a standard for sending network signals over your home's AC power wires. I tried Belkin's Powerline AV+ Starter Kit, and found it ridiculously easy to set up. It really is plug-and-play. You can find the Starter Kit for about $140 if you go bargain hunting. See "Better Together: Wi-Fi and Powerline Networking" for more information.

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