Cutting the Cord and Kicking Comcast to the Curb
You know the drill. New year, and suddenly the price for TV and internet have gone up a few bucks. We’ve had Comcast for internet (something like 105 Mbps down/15 Mbps up) and DirecTV for, well, TV, since we moved in in 2008. The DirecTV decision was based on who carried the channels I wanted for sports, mostly. Comcast didn’t have channels I wanted (mostly for racing), and DirecTV’s DVR features were far beyond what was offered by Comcast at the time. Comcast, on the other hand, was the only game in town for good internet speeds (unless you wanted DSL…yuck). It was an arrangement that worked well–I was working from home periodically even back then and never had connectivity issues. In fact, the decision to cut Comcast and DirecTV loose ultimately has nothing to do with services…it’s all price. As of 2019, we were paying ~$230/month for TV and internet. Yikes.
I’d been considering checking out CenturyLink’s gigabit fiber service here in Portland for a while. For $65/month (for life, they say), it’s $30 cheaper than my Comcast service–and nearly 9 times faster, without a data cap. Plus, with some network know-how, you can cut their not-great router out of the equation and use your own. So, I went online and scheduled an install. The tech was great. He ran the fiber to the house and left the excess inside a box on the house (you can’t cut fiber and resplice it without spendy tools), then ran a fiber line under the house to a spot in our crawlspace where there’s power. The ONT (Optical Network Terminator–a box that takes the fiber optic signal and sends it over CAT 5e) plugs in there on one of the joists of the house, just under our crawlspace access hatch. Then he ran a CAT 5e cable under the house and into the nursery (because that’s where everything is still). Long term, I’m probably moving the router, both NAS devices, and other odds and ends out to the living room–he let me pull another length of network cable if I need it, which was cool. After he left, I gave CenturyLink a call to get my PPPoE credentials–once I had those, I could set up my existing router to make the internet connection rather than having the provided router upstream. Easy as pie. I had to make some tweaks to network settings, but I’m getting about 700 Mbps down and 900 Mbps up. Upgrading my router probably would give me another 200 Mbps down, but I’m pretty happy with it. The MacBook gets almost 200 Mbps down over wifi, twice as fast as I got on my desktop! It’ll be interesting to see how long an IP lease I have–the Comcast lease was 6+ months, but my experience with PPPoE in the past is that it cycles often. That’s a bummer for someone who remotes into things when they aren’t at home.
The DirecTV move is one that I could’ve possibly made sooner. Ever since we had the house re-roofed a few years ago, more and more channels started running into interference until basically I got nothing. It was either that the satellite dish got put back incorrectly, that the big-ass tree in front was blocking the signal, or a combination of both. We’d been watching less and less TV–basically only sports–so it wasn’t a huge imposition. I’d figured out that my DirecTV credentials gave me access to ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, so I never had issues with football, soccer, F1, IndyCar, or any of the things we watch pretty regularly, so I’d just sign into the correct app on my Android TV box (Nvidia Shield) and be able to watch whatever race/game I was looking for. Then one day I was talking to someone about YouTube TV. When I heard that it had local channels, ESPN, FS1 and FS2, NBC Sports, and NBC Sports Northwest (which I couldn’t get on DirecTV and carries local Blazers broadcasts and some Portland Pilots games) as well as your standard other “cable” channels, I was intrigued. Best yet, it’s only $50 a month! We’ve had great experiences with it so far, watching the National Championship, most of the 24 Hours of Daytona, and plenty of Premier League. I’ll give it a workout this Sunday with the Super Bowl (go Niners!), too.
All told, once I cancel Comcast and DirecTV (waiting for my most recent bills to show as paid before I give them a call), we will have cut our monthly cost for TV and Internet in half. Literally. Maybe I’ll take the savings and buy a new TV to replace this 8-ish year old non-4K one. 😉