How I’m Saving $800 a Year by Dropping Cable

Are you paying over $100 per month for Cable TV, High-Speed Internet, and Phone service? Would you like to find a way to trim that number in your budget? Do you find yourself feeling like you don’t get the value out of your cable subscription for the price you’re paying? I definitely did…and I finally took action to do something about it!

Why I Finally Sat Down to Do The Math:

I’ve known for a while that my ever-increasing bill from Comcast could be pared down to something reasonable.  I also knew that my wife and I rarely had the time to watch everything that piled up inside our DVR. We already had a subscription to Netflix, and I found myself (and my wife) sometimes watching that since we both have separate taste in TV shows (she likes comedies, I like sci-fi, etc).  I sat down with my most recent bill from Comcast to pull out the line-item costs and find ways to re-work those costs into something more reasonable.

So you probably want to see the math behind our switch.  Here’s what I calculated (your cost structure may be slightly different):

Check out those Savings!

Check out those Savings!

READ THIS BEFORE YOU START REWIRING YOUR HOUSE:

So before you jump off the deep end and start saving money like I am, make sure you understand all the following pre-requisites:

  1. You’ll probably lose almost all your access to anything Sports related.  I blame this on “exclusive broadcast rights” agreements that all the networks have with the governing sports authorities (NFL, NHL, MLB, etc).  If you don’t want to watch sports at the bar, or a friend’s house, you may want to hold off!
  2. If you plan to stop renting equipment (like I did), make sure you refer to your High Speed Internet provider’s list of supported modems.  I found the Comcast list of modems by typing “Comcast Supported Modems Docsis 3.0” into Google.  Give it a try, or just call their tech support for an up-to-date list.  Don’t Just Buy The Same Modem I Did Without Confirming Supportability With Your Provider… there, I said it… and don’t say I didn’t tell you!
  3. Don’t buy the Ooma HD2 phones if you don’t need to.  I re-purposed a cheap V-Tech DECT 6.0 cordless phone set (one base, 2 phones) for my house phone.
  4. If your TVs are a far distance from your wireless router, you may run into problems with signal strength.  Ask your Nerdy Neighbor or the Family IT Administrator to help you figure out if you need to use Powerline Networking and/or a Wireless Repeater.

My Setup:

This is my Home Network Layout

This is my Home Network Layout

So I used the following services and devices to get things going:

** UPDATE:  I was having troubles with my Blu-Ray player streaming over Powerline networking.  My wife and I recently moved our office to a different part of the house, and I believe this introduced some new “noise” on the powerline connection between our office and the family room.  I was unable to find an outlet in our family room that would show on the NetGear as connected with sufficient bandwidth.  I also found that even by hard-wiring our blu-ray to the router (yes, I’m a nerd and have a 100 ft ethernet cable), we still experienced intermittent streaming issues.   However, none of those issues are present streaming from any other device in the house!!   I’ve since purchased a Roku 3 Steaming Media Player and have found it works flawlessly.  We’ve yet to experience any issues with streaming in our family room.  I’ve also found the updated processor in the Roku 3 makes all the apps and the home screen snappy and responsive (far more than our Blu-ray player).  I highly recommend the Roku 3!! **

** UPDATE 2:  I still noticed some buffering periodically.  I ran some Wireless analysis and noticed lots of 2.4Ghz (Wireless-N) networks around my house coming from my neighbors.  Since my router was a number of years old, I decided to update to a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wireless Router.   This router allowed me to move the Roku3, our iPads, and my laptop into the 5Ghz band where only ONE of my neighbors was running an access point.  Since then, absolutely no problems!!

Getting Down to Business:

In my experience, the Cable providers always always always seem to screw up when I make changes to my account.  I don’t know why, but this just seems to be an inevitable.  As such, I made the switch as part of a multi-step process:

  1. Signed up for Netflix and Hulu Plus and ensured all the apps were configured to play on the correct devices.  Validated that the streaming worked even with the Comcast-provided equipment.
  2. Unboxed the Ooma and followed the directions to set it up and configure it.  NOTE:  For this part I set it up *behind* the Comcast cable Modem/router combo unit (i.e. part of the “LAN” portion of the router).  Validated I could make and receive VOIP calls.
  3. Unboxed the Motorola Cable Modem and replaced the cable company modem.  Plugged the Ooma device’s “INTERNET” port into the back of the cable modem, and then plugged my personal (Cradlepoint) router’s “INTERNET” port into the “HOME NETWORK” port of the Ooma.
    1. I waited for the cable modem to power up and come online (i.e. all the lights to come on) before turning on the Ooma.
    2. I waited for the Ooma to power up before powering up my Cradlepoint router.
    3. I connected to the cradlepoint and attempted to browse out to the Internet (www.google.com).  I was then greeted by the Comcast Self-Activation webpage.
  4. Stepped through the Self-Activation website to activate my personal Cable Modem (which replaced the rented cable modem on my Comcast account).
  5. Once the activation was complete, I could see the Ooma fully online and connected, and my computers all able to browse the Internet without issue.
  6. I waited a full 24 hours before calling Comcast to change my subscription, as I wanted to make sure my new Modem had time to register in all their systems.
  7. I called Comcast and reduced my “Triple Play” package down to an “Internet Only” package.  I chose the Tier of High Speed Internet that gave me 25Mbps down, and 5 Mbps up.
  8. I then removed all my Comcast gear (DVR, Remotes, Digital-to-Analog adapters, Internet VOIP Gateway Router) and took it to the nearest Customer Service center.

It’s now been 3 days and all is going well from the Comcast end of things.  No issues with my Internet connectivity yet.

Save Yourself a Headache and Read These Tips!!

Ooma Performance Tuning

Ooma QOS Settings

My NEW Ooma QOS Settings

This is the first time I’ve actually set-up a VOIP adapter in front of my Wireless Router.  I was initially having some problems with Netflix and Hulu streaming being extremely flaky.  It would stop, stutter, buffer, etc.  All-in-all not a great initial experience for my wife (and biggest opposition for cable-cutting).  After some research, I found that the default QOS (i.e. bandwidth tuning) settings on the Ooma Telo basically neuter your High-Speed Internet.   Log Into your Ooma Device (the default admin site is http://172.27.35.1), click on Advanced and set the QOS numbers to about 80% of the speed of your High Speed Internet tier.  If your speed is given in “Mbps”, you’ll need to convert it to kbps (multiply the number by 1024).  Be sure to click Update when you’ve added the correct numbers.

Avoid Administration Webpage Conflicts

The Motorola cable modem administration webpage defaults to http://192.168.100.1/.  Make sure the IP range you configure on your Wireless router uses a different 3rd number.  For example, my router uses http://192.168.0.1/ (note the difference — 100 v. 0).  This allows me to have connectivity to BOTH the wireless router AND the cable modem.  As a side note, the Ooma default website is http://172.27.35.1 and shouldn’t require a log-in if you connect from your home network.

 

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few ways to save money by dropping your Cable TV subscription.  In my case, I’ve opted for Netflix and Hulu as a replacement.  I’ve also managed to eliminate the need to pay recurring monthly equipment rental fees and signed up with Ooma for unlimited Voice-over-IP phone service for $4/month.   No more paying for services I’m not using! While I’ve run into a few bumps, I plan to get them all fixed (and documented here for your assistance) in short order!

If you’re having trouble figuring out what solution is best for you, or would like any additional information on what I’ve covered in this post, feel free to Contact Me!

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About Robert

An IT nerd with 10+ years of experience in almost *anything* windows (server and desktop), Citrix, Exchange, Google Apps, and WordPress. I like to dabble in just about anything IT related, and read blogs and tech books like crazy!

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