It has been over a year since I cancelled my cable TV and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). And I haven’t regretted those choices.
Home Video without Cable TV
My home video has been exclusively via over-the-air digital broadcasts, Netflix, and the internet since then. My Tivo HD DVR has proven to be a good investment for this transition, as I can not only record and watch over-the-air digital high-definition broadcasts with it, but also easily order up and view Netflix Watch Instantly movies and Amazon Videos on Demand. There were two cable TV shows I refused to give up, and the Amazon service on my Tivo brought me the SciFi channel’s Battlestar Galactica, while my Apple TV brought me Comedy Central’s South Park. And now I can even watch many cable TV shows for free via Hulu, viewing them on my television without a computer by using the Boxee service on my Apple TV, which I’ve hacked with aTV Flash.
Economically, the switch from the bundled digital cable/internet service to only a 5 Mbps internet service saved me $700 over the year. I invested the savings in buying the Tivo HD and its service plan, which works out to $220 annually over the first three years of Tivo service. That cost should fall to about $100 annually after the hardware is paid off in the third year. Buying a season of episodes for each of the two TV shows cost a total of $65. But the Watch Instantly feature of Netflix, made painless by the Tivo, allowed me to drop my Netflix plan from 5 to 4 discs per month, so that saved me $72. So in the end I’d say that I really saved $487 over the year, or about $40 per month, on home video.
VoIP and Cellular Telephony
I’ve never been a big user of telephones and many people have ditched landline service entirely to rely exclusively on their cell phones. But I didn’t like the idea of carrying a cell phone around the house or running to it when there was a call, nor having to ensure it was always charged for calls. So I decided to keep my two wirelesss telephone handsets active by using a 500-minute Residential Basic voice-over-internet plan (VoIP) with Vonage, which saved me about $23 per month. But later I switched from a basic cell phone from US Cellular to the iPhone 3G from AT&T, and that increased the cost of my cell phone service by about $38 per month. So now the overall cost of my telephone services has risen by $180 annually, or about $15 per month. But with that increase came the luxury of the internet in my pocket via the iPhone 3G and a Vonage account that rings both my home phones and cell phone simultaneously.
The best part of ditching landline POTS was that my new VoIP phone number was unlisted. I’d been on the direct marketing do-not-call list for years, but that didn’t stop all of those annoying political, marketing research, and charity calls. Going unlisted sure did.
Having weaned myself off a traditional phone service, I’m now thinking I may join the trend and go cellular-only. I make and receive very few calls, so giving up my VoIP phone won’t come close to using up the minutes on my cell phone plan. And I keep my iPhone 3G charged up all of the time since I use it for email, news, as a book reader, GPS, and so forth. That would save me about $290 a year.
And I find that I’m watching far fewer DVDs (and Blu-rays) these days with the ever-increasing video options through the internet. I could drop down to a 3 discs-per-month plan on Netflix to save another $84 annually. Those changes would cause me very little inconvenience and more than double my true overall savings on video and telephony to almost $700 a year. Given that I certainly won’t be getting a raise under our current economic conditions, that sounds pretty good to me.