What’s it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job replacing the cable box? Every weekend, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experiences. This week’s featured cord cutter is Michael Kennerknecht, who was using a VPN account to access the BBC’s iPlayer long before he got a Roku.
My wife and I decided to cut cable in summer 2009. She was pregnant with our first son, so we were looking for ways to save money. Cable was among the first things to go.
With our digital phone, Internet and digital cable package with DVR, our Time Warner Cable bill was just shy of $150. We were able to save nearly $100 by going down to just RoadRunner and basic cable (the broadcast stations). Our bill is now about $56.
The key to our success without cable has been our PC. It’s nothing special – an HP Pavilion a6030n we bought in 2007. I did modify it with a TV tuner and it was also upgraded to Windows 7 from Vista. Other than that, it’s pretty basic: 2GB of memory, 320GB hard drive, AMD Athlon duo core processor and an Nvidia graphics card.
We have a 22” Proview monitor and a 2.1 Logitech sound system, which help make it ideal for watching content. Plus, the computer is in our living room in an armoire. We can easily close it up and hide it away, but since we don’t have a TV in the living room, it functions as our entertainment hub.
At first, we were so busy with projects around the house to prepare for our first-born that we really didn’t have much time to spend watching TV anyways. If we really needed something to watch, we would rent a movie from Redbox for a dollar or watch something on Hulu.
Then came Netflix, which we signed up for around the end of the summer. That changed everything. Not the movie rentals though; we still occasionally rent from Redbox. For only $9 a month, though, we got access to a massive library of movies and TV shows. We’ve primarily used Netflix to watch movies and TV shows instantly on the computer. We do have the one DVD at a time plan, but we sometimes go weeks before we get around to watching them.
Netflix and Hulu have been indispensable for us since we got rid of cable. However, the absolute icing on the cake is a VPN service. For $6 a month, we are able to hide our IP address and use a proxy in the UK. This allows us to access the BBC iPlayer. A really nice feature of the iPlayer is the ability to download shows and watch them offline. Plus, with the BBC being public, there’s no commercials – not even for sports!
With Netflix, Hulu and the VPN, we’ve gone almost a year and a half without cable. We actually take great pride in that. The savings is easily $50 a month. To us, that’s just money we’d be wasting. Between work and our son, we really don’t have much time to sit around and watch TV anyways.
My wife and I aren’t big big sports fans, so we didn’t have much to worry about when we cut cable. Although we’re thinking about the NHL GameCenter package, which would allow us to watch all the games online, live and archived.
Children’s programming hasn’t been a concern either. Our son is a big fan of Fraggle Rock, which is available to watch instantly on Netflix. At just 14 months, he doesn’t need to watch much TV at all. But if he does, we’ve also got PBS and Saturday morning cartoons. We can also rent or add family and children’s DVDs to our Netflix queue too.
As I was typing this post, our Roku XD arrived in the mail. It was a Christmas present from my wife. I wanted to be sure to start writing this before we really started using it. Now, I have This Week in Google playing on the big screen while I type away.
With the Roku, we’ll be able to access Netflix on the TV in our family room. I’m a big fan of This Week in Techand they have a dedicated channel. We have a one month free trial for Hulu Plus, which we’re anxious to try out. We also got a $5 credit for Amazon’s Video on Demand too. NHL GameCenter Live is now a more attractive option, with it’s Roku integration, but it’s expensive, so we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s Pandora, Blip.tv, Crackle by SONY and so much more to discover.
I’m really looking forward to our next few months with the Roku. We’re taking cord-cutting to a whole new level.
Michael Kennerknecht is a self-described politics and tech enthusiast from Endwell, New York. His Twitter account can be found here.
Want to share your own Cord Cutters survival story? Then send us an email (cordcutters (at) gigaom.com) or get in touch with us on Twitter (@cordcutters). And while you’re at it, also check out the latest episode of our weekly Cord Cutters web series:
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