Toshiba LCDIn August, my wife and I decided to kill cable.  Since our latest Charter bundle had expired and we were paying out the nose for television service we were considering jumping into a new package or canceling the TV service.  I was very close to going with a package that wasn’t too expensive but after all of the nickel and dimeing combined with poor customer support, I decided to pull the plug.  Purchasing a Roku HD XR in June made the decision even easier (see details below).  Charter phone support and even local office support can be really bad.  The added fees to make changes to your existing service and the extra dollars each month for just a few channels (even children’s) is ridiculous.  I also wonder, what happened to respecting customers who auto-pay or never miss payments?  No one cares about great credit or customer history anymore.  I do need to say that, of the two or three service people we’ve had come to our house for cable related issues or tasks, they all have been phenomenal.

It’s been a few months now and I completely feel that we’ve made the right decision.  Don’t forget that channels are still broadcasted over the air and you may be able to pickup your local stations by using a digital antenna, this could even include some HD channels as well.  I was surprised how many people didn’t know they could receive HD signals over the air.  Our current home entertainment setup is pretty basic now.  We have a Roku, DVD player with up-conversion, and a Macbook & PC (Windows 7).  All three devices are using HDMI cables to transmit video and/or audio connectivity to a HiDef LCD.  The Roku delivers a ton of streaming media depending on your subscriptions.  Netflix being the blockbuster, MLB TV being the second charmer, and Amazon Video being third.  Roku offers free and premium channels that clearly show where home entertainment is headed.  The ‘Newscaster’ channel is all the news you need with feeds coming from CBS, NBC, CNN, ESPN, and ABC, just to name a few.  Streaming my Pandora channels is an awesome feature as well.  The more I dig and research on the Roku, the more I love knowing I have one.  Just recently I found a private channel code online that unlocked the USB plugin option.  Simply connect a usb hard drive or memory stick to the back of the Roku and you can play .mp4 video right on your TV.

Our Philips DVD player was $40 about a year or two ago and still works like a charm so we’re not changing it at this time or upgrading to BluRay.  The Macbook and PC HDMI video out is impressive and I’m looking forward to using our computers for additional media streaming.  Do you realize how many series and episodes are available online?  Our son began watching Special Agent Oso on the Disney Channel a few weeks ago and I felt bad cutting him off completely.  He likes to watch it on Saturday mornings so all I do now is plug in the laptop to the TV, goto disney.com and launch one of the episodes and set the video to full screen.  He loves it and I love that I can do it all without paying for cable TV.  For my own enjoyment, I began watching an FX show called Justified.  Hulu.com was streaming the episodes as the season was moving along.  Although I can’t watch them on the night of their release, I can watch them shortly after and on my schedule.  Now if only Hulu would do the same for Rescue Me, I’d be thrilled.  What I need to buy next is a wireless keyboard and mouse that works from 10-14 feet away.  I feel my setup is fairly minimalistic and anyone with broadband internet could be utilizing the same technology.  My cable connection is about 10mb and I can’t complain.  Web browsing and downloads are fast enough for me.  Gaming online and streaming video and audio is flawless.  Honestly, I wish I switched 6 months ago instead of selecting a new cable package at that time.

In all seriousness folks, television is going to change and we can help make it change.  I just downloaded the Roku SDK and I’d love to get my hands dirty on their BrightScript programming language.  I’m surprised other major networks and distributors haven’t jumped in and begun designing their own premium channels.  Imagine not paying for cable TV.  Imagine only paying for cable internet or broadband and using a small HiDef box to stream what you want to watch, when you want to watch it.  Honestly, how many networks or shows do you religiously watch?  First of all, if they were taken away tomorrow, you’d most likely get by just fine.  Second of all, if a network like FX or HBO offered their original series for a small monthly or annual fee, would you pay?  I sure as hell would and that’s the message we need to communicate.  To summarize, if you’re a Netflix subscriber, go buy a Roku.  Within one week, if you’re not blown away, and don’t see the potential, I’d be shocked.  I truly hope customer after customer begins dropping their cable TV service in order to show the networks that they should be delivering their content in a new and modern medium.  The bandwidth is here and it’s about time we start using it for more than just web browsing and email.

Checkout this post on WiseBread/Living Large on a Small Budget: Stop Paying For Cable Television But Keep Up With Your Favorite Shows

My goal here isn’t to make you call your cable provider and drop your service now.  My goal is to inform you of what’s possible, let it all sink in, and realize how much time you waste channel browsing and simply watch shows just because they’re on.  Of course, saving money on a monthly basis isn’t bad either.  Reading and writing more, rather than watching, is a good idea too.  If you have a broadband internet connection do yourself a favor and think about the possibilities.  Do you own a laptop that has a high quality video output capability?  Purchase the right cable and begin testing it out on your big screen.

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