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Is Your Cable Bill Worth It Anymore?

Are you spending way too much on your cable TV?  Do you feel like you have to decide between paying a fortune for cable and going without TV all together?  Well it might be time to join the growing group of Americans who are “cutting the cable”.

According to a recent Nielsen study, more than 5 million U.S. homes have “zero TV.”  That doesn’t mean that they do not watch TV, it means that they no longer watch TV via broadcast by satellite or cable.  The study also noticed that 20-something apartment dwellers were likely to not even have a traditional television set in their home.  Cost was a big factor for 36 percent of these homes but 31 percent stated that they did not have a TV in their home due to “lack of interest.”  Like the generations before them, swapping the radio for a TV, an antenna for cable, and now… dropping satellite or cable for the Internet.

Below we will explore your viewing options after you tell the cable company that you want to “cut your cable”

Free Local Stations

That’s right! FREE!  That was not a typo.  Old fashioned analog TV signals are now a thing of the past.  If you tried to hook up that old set of Rabbit Ears to your TV you would get nothing but “snow”… the days of receiving your local stations with an antenna are over.  Or are they?

Actually you can get your local TV stations, usually in High Definition, by using those old rabbit ears.  But wait, you just said that those days are over… what gives?

Well, Under the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, full-power broadcasting of analog television in the United States would have ceased after Tuesday February 17, 2009. To help U.S. consumers through the conversion, the Act also established a federally sponsored DTV Converter Box Coupon Program[1].  There were a few delays in the switch over, but now all broadcast of analog TV signals has stopped.

“So how do I get those free HD local stations?”

If you have a modern (built in the last 10 years or so) chances are that your set has a built-in digital tuner.  That digital tuner in conjunction with an antenna, even those old Rabbit Ears, will allow you to receive high definition, digital stations.  The caveat to this is your location and the type of antenna that you have.

If you live in a metropolitan area there is a good chance that all you will need is an inexpensive set-top antenna and your TV’s digital tuner. If you live in the suburbs or out in the country, there’s still the possibility to receive these stations but you might need a roof-mounted (or taller) antenna.  Antennapoint.com is a great source for determining what stations are in your area and their distance and direction.  All you have to do is enter your location to perform a search.

TV Fool has a similar tool that “will analyze your location to determine which broadcast television signals are available in your area.  It will compute the expected signal strength for every channel “in the air” at your location, including adjustments for transmitter power, terrain obstructions, curvature of the Earth, and other factors that affect signal availability.  This information can help determine the relative signal strengths of stations that are potentially within reach of your location.  It can also come in handy when trying to troubleshoot reception problems.”  With this search you can enter your actual street address for an accurate analysis.  I entered the address for my place in GA, which is pretty far out in the country, and it shows that I should be able to receive some local stations with just a set-top antenna.  To see the results click HERE.


For those of you that don’t watch or care about local stations, “Streaming” is the way to go.  You can stream videos and past seasons of virtually every TV show, for very little money (especially compared to cable) or even FREE!

This is what we do at our house.  We however have basic cable for our local channels (it’s included in a bundle with cell phone and high-speed internet) we watch a variety of streaming programming through a Roku© box.  The Roku© is a wonderful device that according to the Roku© website, “…makes it easy to enjoy the hottest movies, TV shows, music, games and more on your TV. Millions of people use their Roku players every day to watch their favorite entertainment instantly and on demand.”

The beauty of Roku© is that you can also access your Amazon instant Video, Hulu, Netflix and other paid providers, all through one device.

A Roku© box will set you back around $50 for the basic version and connect to your internet via WiFi or a wired Ethernet cable.  It is important to have a high-speed internet connection in order to stream your shows in High Definition without buffering.  In addition to the paid providers mentioned above, there is a plethora of free providers that offer original programming, classic movies, documentaries, and nearly anything else you can think of.

There has never been more options when it comes to watching great, high definition programming.  You may be reluctant to “cut the cable” but if you do you, will also be “cutting” your entertainment bill in the process.



[1] “Broadcasters Prepare For DTV Transition”. 2008-01-07. Retrieved 2008-03-23.

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