While your gas, car insurance, and credit card bills have all shrunk due to the coronavirus quarantine, there’s one monthly payment that’s as big as it ever was: your cable bill. And it’s not about to go down anytime soon, even with reruns likely to stretch into the winter. So if you’re starting to explore your options for cutting cable once and for all, we’re here to dispel a few myths that might be giving you pause.
Myth: Your monthly bill will start low and go up Fact: You can keep your bill as low as you want
Everything you’ve heard about streaming services is true: generous trial periods turn into recurring monthly bills and prices increase on a regular basis. And with more services popping up every month, it might seem like your cord-cutting bill won’t actually be cheaper than your cable one.
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Amazon Fire TV Cube (second generation)
While that may be true for people who want absolutely everything, it doesn’t take much to keep your bill low. Take Netflix, for example, Over the past 10 years, the price of the standard service has gone from $8 to $13—a $5-per-month increase—while the cost of premium service (which you’ll need for 4K resolution) has jumped from $12 to $16. Over the course of a year, that amounts to an extra $54 on average, no small number, but far less than the fees and various line-item charges (set-top box rental, whole-home DVR fee, fees for additional TV connections, etc.) that get tacked onto your cable bill every month.
And besides, if you cut off your Netflix subscription for a few months, you can recoup most of that cost. That’s the beauty of cord-cutting as compared to cable: there are no penalties for stopping and restarting service. The thought of dropping Netflix for a month might sound like heresy, but speaking from experience, you’ll have plenty of options to fill the gap. And when you rejoin in a month or two, just think of all the things you’ll have to watch.
MYTH: Picture quality will suffer and stutter Fact: Picture quality is generally awesome
Since you’ll be wholly dependent on the speed of your internet connection when you cut the cord, it’s understandable to be concerned about quality. Cable is delivered via a coaxial cable that delivers optimal picture with zero lag, while streaming video depends on the quality of your network connection. That’s true, and there will be times when streams pause, buffer, quit, and glitch for no apparent reason.
But for the most part, picture quality will be superb. Mind you, you’ll need either a smart TV or a streaming box or stick (an Apple TV, a Roku, or an Amazon Fire TV device, for instance), but most services offer at least some selections in 4K UHD, and even if you choose a live TV service like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or AT&T TV, you’ll get HD streams that rival what you get with Cox or Comcast.
Myth: I’ll need to sacrifice some of my favorite shows Fact: You can watch everything you want to watch
Even with hundreds of channels at your fingertips, most cable subscribers stick to a core five or 10 go-to channels when they sit down to watch something. And whether that’s HBO, Showtime, Fox, CNN, Food Network, AMC, or Nickelodeon, you’ll be able to find the shows you love.
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Nvidia Shield TV (2019)
If you’re looking for live TV, a few channels will be tricky to get. For example, if you want the full slate of Nickelodeon shows, you’re basically limited to Philo for $20 per month or Fubo TV for $60 per month. The same goes for AMC, which you can find on a few other services, including SlingTV (starting at $30 per month). But if you can wait to watch the newest episodes, you’ll find a nice library of on-demand content on Hulu and Netflix. Also, the AMC app offers sporadic free episodes of premieres and popular shows. And if you’re wondering where The CW is in your live TV lineup, you can watch whatever you want in the company’s excellent free app.
Bottom line: Whatever your favorite shows may be, you’ll still be able to watch them once you dump cable. And you’ll have a vastly superior library of on-demand shows to choose from as well.
Myth: I need to spend a lot on faster internet Fact: Your current internet plan is probably good enough
With all your TV watching being funneled through your router, super-slow internet speeds won’t cut it. But that doesn’t mean you need over-the-top speeds, either. Even if you want to stream as much 4K content as possible, you can probably get away with what you already have. For a single device, 5Mbps is sufficient for up to HD resolution, and you’ll need at least 25Mbps to stream 4K UHD. That will multiply quickly if you anticipate multiple streams at once—figure 50- to 100Mbps—but you don’t need to spend top dollar to get gigabit service or anything near it unless you need to support dozens of simultaneous streams.
If you find your streaming speeds are slow even after upgrading to 100Mbps service, you should consider the usual tips: move your router to a central location, update your firmware, switch to a mesh router, etc.. If your streaming device supports it, consider making a hardwired connection to your router to get the maximum speed you’re paying your ISP for (your Wi-Fi network will be slower, even with a high-end wireless router).
Myth: Account sharing is stealing Fact: Most services tolerate it
Remember when you wanted to get cable without paying for it? You had to find a less-than-reputable cable installer, slip them a few bucks under the table, and splice into your neighbor’s line. Good news: sharing streaming services isn’t nearly as frowned upon as stealing cable.
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Roku Smart Soundbar
While most services limit concurrent streams, the people in charge are well aware that close friends and family members share logins and passwords. And they’re totally cool with it. So you can swap your Netflix subscription for your buddy’s Disney+ sub without running afoul of any official policy. It’s not so easy with live streaming TV services, as most enforce strict location requirements, but you can barter Tiger King for The Mandalorian without a problem.
Myth: I’ll have to suffer through commercials Fact: OK that’s true. But you’ll know how long they’ll run
Just like cable TV, there are lots of ads on live streaming TV, especially on the cheaper services. They’re annoying and repetitive and often poorly timed. But it’s not like you don’t have ads on cable. And there’s a silver lining with commercials on the streaming services: Most of them have a countdown tracker, so you know exactly how much you have to grab a snack or hit the bathroom. That’s something, right?
Looking for more cord-cutting tips and tricks? Don’t miss the weekly TechHive column Cord Cutter Confidential.