Image via Wikipedia
Cable TV was just one of those things that snuck up on me and became entangled in my life, kind of like ivy. While I’ve always loved television, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that we even had a color TV, and someone had to die for us to get that (a bequest of sorts, not a violent Sony-jacking, I assure you). We had cable off and on in the ’80s and then not again until we had kids, when we convinced ourselves that a little basic cable would be a good thing. People say they don’t use TV as a babysitter? They don’t know what they’re missing out on.
Then we got the high-speed internet, and upgrading beyond what they called “broadcast basic” was pretty cheap, so we did. Then we got into bicycle racing, which was showing only on the digital channels, which meant an upgrade to digital cable. Then we realized we were spending an unnecessary fortune on telephone service when it would be essentially free if we added it to our cable package, so we did. And suddenly, we’re entwined.
But that was fine. There was science on the Science Channel, History on the History Channel, movies on the various movie channels. Plenty to see. And then reality tv started taking over the earth, and mission creep became the byword of the day. The Independent Film Channel started producing TV shows and not showing so many movies. The History Channel started showing reality shows about junk shops. And there were f’ing Kardashians everywhere. I found myself spending more time finding something to watch than actually watching it. The DVR was one of the greatest inventions in the history of communications, but still . . . I was paying a lot for very little content I wanted to watch.
Through all those years, we’d had very very good service from Time Warner. Then this winter something weird happened, and we stopped getting a whole bunch of channels. Randomly. They’d go, then they’d come back. We changed boxes. We had three service calls that made no difference whatsoever. We were told our problem was going up to some magical higher problem-solving level (and that we wouldn’t be billed while we didn’t have service). Nothing happened, and we got accustomed to not having the cable available. I experimented with Netflix and Hulu Plus, and found pretty much everything I could want to find there, and the rest is available from the iTunes store.
Then we figured out that there were pretty much only 302 people who called us on our home phone: my mother, her father, and 300 telemarketers who ignore the “do not call” registry. So we were paying in the neighborhood of $50 a month for phone service we barely used — three out of the four of us had cellphones, and for $5 a month more, we could make that an even four out of four.
How did we get Time-Warner to finally fix our service? We decided if it wasn’t resolved by date certain, we were cancelling. When we said that to the service department, it made no difference. When we called the billing department to cancel the service, suddenly we had action. And suddenly the problem that had vexed everyone was fixed with just one more visit. But by then, we were off the junk, and really didn’t want to go back on. So we called again to arrange cancellation, and they offered to take $90 off our $150 monthly bill. Very generous? Well, maybe so. But it just pissed us off more than we had been paying way more than was necessary for years, if they were willing to give us such a dramatic reduction just because we threatened to cut the cord. So rather than mollifying us, it maddened us, and that was it: no more cable.
Not to say it was super-obvious. We were without Netflix or Hulu on the TV for the weeks that the Playstation Network was out of service, which was maddening. In the end, we decided to keep our home phone number we’d had for more than 20 years and transfer it to one of our cell phones, so we didn’t end up resolving the telemarketing problem and it took a couple of weeks of gyrations to make that transfer work.
We’re still trying to work out how to interface with the computer’s library, deciding if we’re going to go with AppleTV (which would require us to buy a new TV) or some other solution. But we’ll be able to afford a shiny new TV in a very short time with what we save on the cable and phone bill every month.
G’bye, cable! Time to disentwine.