Cutting The Cord, Part III


Assuming you’ve read the previous discussions on the subject of dropping traditional cable / FIOs / satellite TV, you’ve pretty much thought it through and are now seriously considering dropping out for your television / viewing enjoyment. Of course, this begs a fundamental question: which service type is truly best for your Internet needs? If you’re moving in the direction that subscribers are increasingly heading toward, you need to ask yourself: which service enables you to fully exploit what the Internet can offer you?

The answer ultimately lies with location.

Each service – satellite, cable and FIOs – offer various advantages and abilities largely based on where you live. If you live in an isolated, rural area, than you’re not likely going to get FIOs or cable and will instead find yourself relying on satellite services. In other locales you may be able to get satellite or cable, but not FIOs, owing to FIOs requiring a need to be located no further than five miles away from the nearest CO (Central Office) (a central office is one of those ubiquitous square, usually brick telephone building where all the telephone lines come in and are routed to the nationwide telephone network).

In other more urbanized areas, you may the advantage of choosing between any of the three top services – cable, FIOs and Satellite – but may also be limited as to market access (for example, Comcast cable is notorious for crushing any competition in and around it’s home base, the City of Philadelphia, while FIOs rollouts are often delayed by Verizon seeking to focus on specific locales / municipalities with likely customers as opposed to reaching out in a blanket approach).

Let’s briefly review each delivery option (in layman’s terms):

Satellite

Cool stuff and neat idea, but there are still some aspects you need to consider. Weather plays a role; if you live in a region where there’s a lot of snow, rain and impenetrable cloud cover, satellite can become problematic. In addition, there are costs (sometimes more than either FIOs or cable) associated with installation and service (along those have stated to get cheaper). With the launching of second generation satellites, satellite internet service is getting faster, but still has a ways to go.

Cable

Cable has come a long way and offers some rather competitive services and advantages, so it shouldn’t be dismissed. Service and support is (depending upon your provider) is usually a common complaint / refrain, however, and thus is something you need to consider.

Another aspect of cable is that it’s based on old technology – Token ring – (no, not as in Hobbits) function by having (for purposes of analogy) a large pipe delivering data to smaller pipes within segmented networks – just like the water department delivering water to a neighborhood, where each neighborhood is monitored and controlled by larger network services separate and apart from one another (roughly speaking).

Two primary aspects of cable service you always need to consider are as more users sign up onto a particular section / neighborhood – or ‘pipe’ – delivery can be impacted and be somewhat slower depending on time of day and who’s doing what with their computer (got a neighbor who enjoys porn? Chances are that’ll slow things down a little).

The second point is that although Token rings have vastly improved over the decades and are far more robust, security is still a potential problem as ‘pipe’ sections can be accessed and monitored by unauthorized personnel, resulting in data loss – ‘hacking’. Naturally, cable providers will deny this but that’s the inherent nature of Token rings. Also, it’s worth noting that cable providers are presently offering faster services targeted specifically for television services, and not just for Internet (despite their claims to the contrary) – and not surprisingly for it is in their interests to keep viewers fixed to the traditional service delivery models and discourage any direct / uncontrolled access to Internet / torrent viewing.

In some instances, cable services are also increasingly (and quietly) imposing user data limitations, limiting users to how much data they can access and use during the course of ‘surfing’ the Internet. Cable providers will offer cheap television, but sometimes will charge more for Internet access, encouraging users to stay with traditional services and away from direct Internet access for viewing shows and movies.

FIOS

The future is here – for some. FIOs is very cool and their service / support is generally better than cable providers; problem with FIOs is not everyone can enjoy it based on the inherent need for FIOs to function within 5 miles of the nearest CO (Central Office). That being said, despite FIOs inherent ability to more readily interface and offer secure, high speed internet for come computers, companies offering FIOS are increasingly being criticized for ‘throttling’ users seeking more bandwidth for torrent and/or sole Internet services, pushing said users into higher paying plans that are increasingly viewed as a deliberate effort to charge more to those who want to move away from standard television offerings. In some instances, FIOs will allow a user to drop their television services, but will soon find themselves being charged far more for ‘router rental’ or other costs.

TNSTAAFL: ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch’ (kudos to Robert Heinlein)

Increasingly, more and more consumers are being hit with the reality that there’s no free lunch. Recent efforts by providers creating tiered pricing for Internet access is not an obscure development that only geeks can possibly appreciate, but increasingly regular families and the average consumer will soon find expensive. It’s not too much different than folks who have ‘Easy Pass’ access to the tool booths versus those who don’t: sure, everyone can drive on the freeway, but soon class distinction becomes obvious when you find yourself waiting in line to drop a quarter into the toll booth bucket while the other guys are zipping along past you getting the good seats at the theater or the beach.

The same goes for Internet access.

Depending on the service you’re currently using, review your monthly bill and break down the individual costs. When calling for a new plan, ask any provider the specific costs – i.e, router rental or any other special fees. Take it from me, chances are you’ll be surprised and more importantly, so will they as they’ll then respond to you a little better, given your knowledge and awareness.

It never hurts to shop around. One approach is to call your current provider and then inform them you’re thinking of switching; call the other provider and do the same. With any luck, you may get a better price (bear in mind, however, you’ll still facing factors that we’ve already discuss, primarily data limitations and potential ‘throttling’).

Revisit your viewing log, and ask yourself how badly do you really want to continue doing what you’re doing: continue paying high rates for a service that may not be giving you your money’s worth (whichever service it is).

Below is a (very) basic spreadsheet that may be of some use for you:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 11.27.03 AM

It may well be worth your while to spend a couple of hours one day and find yourself not only at the forefront of a growing revolution, but also at the forefront of saving yourself money.

And if you’re in doubt about this entire effort, realize that you’re not alone, for even the Big Boys are questioning the entire industry approach. Steve Wozniak, the co-investor of the Apple computer, once commented that he does not use any cable / FIOs or Satellite service for his home, but rather accesses his Internet access via his wireless phone service through a dedicated data plan; this may also be something to consider as well (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9263919/I-dont-have-home-internet-admits-Apple-founder-Steve-Wozniak.html).

It’s your computer; don’t you think you have a say in what websites you wish to visit and which shows you want to view?

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