Somebody tell Navin Johnson I just fell off the grid. I’m guessing I’m not a real person any more, because I no longer have a landline.
On Saturday, we called AT&T and dropped our home phone service AND more than 90 percent of our cable TV. We had just recently signed up for Uverse, and it included three months free HBO and several other services, and I was watching a LOT of HDTV. Too much.
I won’t be doing that anymore. Now, we have the local broadcast channels (which I almost never watch), and a few random junk channels. There’s no HD (and I can hardly bear to watch standard def anymore), no 24-hour news channels, and no sports. The latter two aren’t much of a loss for me. I recently discovered I will watch sports in HD, when I didn’t before, just for the spectacle — about as clear a case of the medium being the message as one is likely to find. And y’all know how I hate 24/7 TV “news.”
What does get to me is losing all the movie channels. The things I tended to watch the most were American Movie Classics (“Mad Men!” — which I won’t get to see at all now!), Turner Classic Movies, TBS and TNT — along with FX and a few others. And the HBO selections were pretty dazzling. Since we signed up for AT&T last month (after dropping Time Warner), I had spent a LOT of time on HBO. When I wasn’t watching a movie, I was recording one, or two, or three, on the DVR.
But part of the point here was that I was spending too much time on TV, period. I’ve got shelves of books I want to read and haven’t touched. I need to get to them. What has worried me lately is that I didn’t even want to get to them, as much as I should. Sure sign of brain rot.
What else did we give up? The phone number we’ve had since moving to Columbia in 1987. The one our kids had growing up. The one that was the reference point for so many different kinds of accounts all over town. I’m bracing myself for the first situation in which someone is calling up my account and says “What’s your home phone number?” And I have to say I don’t have one. (I also worry that someone might NEED to reach me, and has no way of finding me other than through published listings.) Now, I realize that’s not any kind of deal to my kids or their contemporaries. None of them live at home, and not one of them has a land line. But a land line — as irritating as it was, since nothing came in on it but telemarketers — was one of those things that said you were a grownup, you were rooted, you were established. I think that’s why so many people who HATE answering their land lines on the rare occasions when they ring still pay that monthly bill. Not doing so would make them feel — insubstantial, ethereal, not really there.
But NOT paying a bill for something I wasn’t using just didn’t seem a smart option anymore, so we pulled the trigger on the service.
There were a number of factors in the decision:
- Too much TV. The temptation to watch it was too great. I was losing sleep staying up watching it — that happens when what you’re into is movies.
- I was paying for Netflix, and wasn’t watching it at all any more. And didn’t want to give that up. And since I still have the Internet, I can still stream that, and that provides more TV than I’ll ever need.
- The upcoming deadline for dropping the AT&T service without penalty. We had 30 days since we signed up, and about a week left of that. So a decision needed to be made.
- The S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. OK, that’s an oversimplification, but that was sort of the last straw. It was really a) our failure really to recover from the 2008 crash; b) my getting laid off in 2009; c) the fact that, after a reasonably encouraging start, it seems harder to sell ads on my blog, which beyond the way it hurts my bank account, is indicative to me of people being tighter and tighter with their money; d) the political failure to come to grips with debt last week, and knowing that even if we had, it would have meant cutting more spending and raising taxes, which both tend to cool the economy; e) the turmoil in markets Thursday and Friday, which to me reflected less the usual fact that traders are feckless, fearful jitterbugs, and more the larger situation; f) the debt crisis in Europe and its long-term implications; and g) the downgrading of the credit rating. I didn’t figure any of us was going to be making any more money anytime soon, so spending all this on HD movies (as cool as they are) and telemarketing calls was ridiculous.
As you can see, it takes a lot to make me give up my HD.
I got up Saturday morning thinking that if we were going to move before the AT&T deadline, we had to move soon. And then, right after writing this post about the S&P thing, I told my wife I thought we needed to do it. She got on the phone immediately, because as far as she was concerned, we just had all that stuff for me, anyway.
Here’s the really bad news in all this: You know how much I saved? About $64 a month. That’s all. Which is why so few people actually take this step. Our bundle — high-speed Internet, phone, TV — was $150 a month. You would think you could get Internet service and the local broadcast channels (which is probably about 5 percent of what I was getting) pretty cheap, right? But the new total is $86. My wife — who writes the checks at our house — is pleased with that. I am not. I feel like I’ve given up so much, they should probably be paying ME for the loss.
But I guess that’s not realistic.
By the way, I could have kept HD service for another $10. And I was tempted. But as I understood it, that would have just been HD versions of the few channels were would still be getting, and who cared? HD matters on the movie channels and sports, not on local broadcasting. (OK, it’s nice to watch PBS’ “Masterpiece” in HD, but that just wasn’t worth $10 a month.)
… and I still have HD on Netflix.
Why not go all in and just cut the cable off completely? Just watch whatever comes in over the air. Somehow my brother has managed to never get cable or satellite. And last time I checked he’s still breathing.
I’d suggest a Roku player. For less than $100 you can buy one at Radio Shack and stream Netflix and many other “channels” onto your tv. That’s pretty much all we watch at our cable-free house.
What kind of example is that to send? You could have just gone the US Government route and taken out another credit card and you could have kept all of these items… and worried about paying them off at a later date.
With dropping HD, you’re probably rethinking that HD television set you just bought. One thing that will keep you from watching even more television is SD on an HD set… you might as well go find an old B&W set to use.
If you use the digital receiver on your tv/dvd/dvr, you can get 3 channels for 10, 19, 25, 35(pbs), I think Fox has 2 channels, and a couple of others. Some of these are old movie channels. $25 for a decent attic mount antenna, some sweat mounting it, and you are good to go. Gorgeous HD. Watched Nature off-air last night, and I think the picture was better than U-verse, which we are planning to drop. Morever, many of the newer DVRs and TV’s have built in streaming capabilty for HULU, Netflix, etc. Cable is essentially a loss leader for broadband, so as you and others do this, your internet may get more costly.
Tim, I’m trying to picture myself doing that, and when I do, I hear the theme from “Mission Impossible” in the background. If you’re old enough to remember the original TV show, that’s what you’d always hear when the tech whiz on the team (the black guy; I forget his name) would go to work tapping a phone or something that looked “high-tech” to us back in the ’60s.
I hum it to myself almost anytime I’m fiddling with wires or setting up a new piece of electronic equipment…
We love our Roku.
You can watch Med Men on Netflix, but you have to wait a year. You can also find it on some probably illegal sites if you google craftily….
I don’t feel like I have lived on any weekend when my wife is afraid I will break my neck, get electrocuted, or accidently lose my relationship with one of my digits, and in so doing ruin the upholstery or the paint-job on the wall.
Brad: Get thee to Best Buy or Radio Shack and get the analog digital convertor and a good indoor rabbit ear antenna (don’t get a cheap one) be sure to get enough cord to connect the antenna to TV because for this to work you need to put the antenna on the window sill or the ledge between the top pane and bottom pane. You don’t want to have to rearrange all the furniture to get the TV near a window. That is way too hard. This will let you receive a bunch of local digital channels. If I did it, you can do this. (No one in their right mind goes into the attic is a SC Summer especially this summer.) The secret is getting the antenna balanced on the window…duct tape helps.
This along with the decent DVD player and your library card can get you all the movies and TV you want need.
You have an I phone, you can do this too.
How dare you comment on my insanity? I take great pride in it. And so do I.
This all works fine depending on where you live. Back before the local stations went digital I set up a very expensive antenna in my attic, got it dialed into the local channels and got everything but WIS. Friends a mile away got it, I couldn’t get it from my house short of putting up an external tower. Over The Air (OTA) signals are not compressed like they are with cable/satellite providers. Using the OTA source on my television reminds me of television pre-1982.
We rarely use our land-line but we’re keeping it – and we have one of those old-fashioned wired phone with a really long cord. I recall Hurricane Hugo – we had no power for nearly two weeks but our land phones worked. No power for two weeks today means no charging your cell/smart phone (assuming you can get a signal), laptop, or cordless phone.
The only problem with OTA is when it storm the signals get weak. But heck in Columbia, when it storms who has power. It all sort of works out.
Sorry Tim, meant no offense. Don’t go in the attic in the summer, guy.
What form of distribution doesn’t go bonkers in a storm? Satellite goes out. My UVerse goes out. When I had Time Warner, it went out when I looked at it crosswise… and during a storm, forget it. Days went by, often, before it would get restored. Funny, they never refunded me the lost time.
And your warning is too late. I was up there running wires this past weekend. Early morning, so it wasn’t quite the 7th level of hell.
I feel your pain, but didn’t take your step. When we left cable (about $60 for bad cable) and went to satellite, I thought the extra $15 was steep. Now, after all the discounts have ended, I’m at $110. The oddity to this? My frugal wife, who writes the checks, insists it is worth it. I guess it’s all the “Say Yes To the Big Fat Gypsy Bridezilla Hillbilly Handfishing” shows they watch. Plus, my sports nut son would likely smother me in my sleep if we went back to cable. I guess I’ll have to turn off some lights and turn off the water faucet while I shave or brush my teeth.
Not to defend Time Warner too much but they are rock solid during weather events. I don’t recall losing reception in the last 5 years except when the power went off. But they are exhorbitanly expensive. We need to cut back.
Time Warner was always fading in my neighborhood. Dumped that as soon as able.
Of course, all these cable companies are heading toward legacy status, as we move toward a broadband delivery model. As I understand it, the cable companies use the profits from television to subsidize the broadband. As users shift to Hulu+, Netflix, and other online delivery, expect broadband costs to increase.
I’m with Tim. I’ve got an HD antenna in the attic, but it doesn’t pick up ETV very well–picks up almost everything else, which, as Brad already said, is not saying much. (I tried moving it to the roof, but that didn’t help.) But there is one place in the house, on top of an old filing cabinet–not really near a window, where the rabbit ears will pick up ETV, but not the other channels. So I switch off between the two, if need be.
Otherwise, the library card is the best investment there is. And the nice part about the Lexington Library card is that, with seniors 60+, you don’t have to pay overdue charges. Cheer up, Brad, you’re almost there.
By the way, an attic vent fan that is positioned to blow air from outside into the attic will pressurize the attic and force the really scorching air (the 180 degree stuff) out the ridge vents. That reduces the solar load, which I remember from earlier mails with Mike Cakora was a problem for Brad as well.
‘Earlier mails’ — should have been ‘earlier comments.’ Whatever happened to Mike, anyway?
Yeah, Tim. You know, this path has its limitations, but by turning more to Netflix, I figure I’m more cutting-edge. Right?
ETV is due north of Columbia. I called them and they told me that they boosted their signal last Summer. A paper clip should be able to pick it up aimed right.
Brad, you do twitter. You automatically are a rocket scientist/brain surgeon compared to me.
But Netflix’s streaming selection is so paltry.
Brad is not the only one cutting back. Don’t you hate it when you feel like just part of a trend?
Thanks, Tim. You just inspired a separate post.