Cutting the Cord

And adding a half dozen more.


I hate cable companies. The only reason they exist is due to incredibly suspect laws at the local government level that basically ensure you’re getting screwed by some of the worst consumer-ranked companies in America. And the cable companies don’t give a shit because you have no option. 

Oh, but you do have an option: tell them to fuck off, and cut the cord.

What you need to understand is that the cable companies are playing the long game. They are happy to start charging you $50 for internet and 200+ channels of shit you won’t watch, because they know three years from now your bill will have creeped up to $170+ and it’s going to be very hard for you to change cable providers. So knowing that, you can beat them at their own game. 

To begin, call and cancel your TV subscription completely. You want to keep your internet service, but return all their hardware (DVR, modem, everything). You don’t need anything from them, other than the cable coming out of the wall and the sweet, sweet internet on the other end. You can’t cancel the service online, because they don’t want this to be easy on you. This phone call is going to suck and probably take you 45 minutes to complete. Be ready for some aggressive boiler room sales tactics. When they ask you why you’d like to cancel your TV subscription, simply reply, “I’m not going to tell you the reason, just cancel it.” You will need to repeat this like a POW in an interrogation cell. Hold strong! After they transfer you through various levels of “support” people who threaten you with higher bills, remember that you’re now the one playing the long game, so ignore their threats. They’ll eventually cancel it somewhere around the 45 minute mark. 

Depending on the cable company, you’ll have to drive out to some DMV-style return center in a rough part of town (again, they want this to be hard on you) and give them back all of their equipment. Once that’s over with, you should have nothing but that cable in the wall.

First thing you’ll need to buy is a new modem. Normally, the cable company would send you one and charge you $5 per month to rent it. Instead, you can buy a better modem than what they give you for $90 on Amazon called the “ARRIS / Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0.” Connect that and an Apple Airport Extreme to the cable coming out of the wall. Now, you have WiFi so you can watch your “arthouse” films anywhere you want.

Now it’s time to decide on what channels you need. You can use a Mac Mini, ChromeCast, AppleTV or Amazon Fire to get content onto your TV screen using paid services like Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, Showtime Anytime and Amazon Prime. This will get you almost everything worth watching, except for sports (I’ll deal with that later) and some of the more family friendly channels (you can use Sling for those).

Want the Emmys, Oscars and the national news channels (which are on ABC, CBS or NBC)? You can connect a digital antenna to your TV and get those channels over the air – digitally – for free, which the cable channels certainly don’t tell you. Amazon sells a great antenna called the “AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna” and it costs about $30.

If you need a DVR for those over-the-air channels (because who watches live TV anymore?), then Amazon sells a “Channel Master DVR+” for $300 that will do everything your old cable DVR did, but won’t cost you anything month-to-month. You would connect the antenna to this instead of the TV, which enables you to use a projector too. 

Finally, we arrive at the last bastion of the cable company: live sports channels. Sling has made ESPN available on demand, but you won’t get the local team or national games that aren’t on ESPN. I think you’re better off signing up for a VPN service like SmartDNS or TorGuard to mask your IP address, and then buy NBA’s International League Pass or NFL’s GamePass. You’ll get all games with no blackouts, all on demand. Everything I’ve mentioned so far is perfectly legal. The VPN stuff is frowned upon, but it’s not breaking any laws, just like dating your step brother.

My personal setup is a Mac Mini connected to a projector that I use to stream all my shows from the browser. That’s it. So, my monthly cost is HBO, Netflix, Amazon, NBA International League Pass, TorGuard VPN and the cost of the internet connection.

The big advantage is that I can cancel any of it at any time I want: it’s all on demand and my bill won’t creep up unexpectedly. It will only get cheaper over time. 

Now it’s your turn to screw over the cable companies!

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