Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Day of Charter TV/Phone!

So I’m pretty excited about pulling the plug on Charter (all services but internet).  It’ll be a real test to see if I can get all the programming I love and enjoy (legally) using all the new hardware and services that are available these days on the cheap.  I am a very frugal geek.

I’ve been a loyal Charter customer for about 10 years.  Over the years, I have been enrolled in various bundles and packages with one goal..maximize programming and features while keeping costs down.  As you can imagine, with anything, it became increasingly more expensive over time.  I continued to make concessions, like turning in hardware, buying my own cable modem, trimming back on premium services, but at the end of it, I was getting very few services and still paying $165 per month.  I had had enough!

After about three calls to charter to try and get myself on a bundle or package that would bring all my services closer to the $100 versus $185 (which as the last bill I paid due to pro-rated service charges…) I called BS and called in and cancelled all my TV services, and my telephone services with Charter. 

I am in a 2 year contract for high speed internet so I am continuing to pay $29.99 per month for 8meg down/1meg up internet.  Fine for my purposes and reasonably priced.

So to get down to it…here  is what I did and the break down as to what it’s going to cost me.

1.)    Signed up for Hulu plus.  You may already be familiar with Hulu, but with the plus service, you can get access to previous seasons of tv shows, all episodes, from their pilots to their last available aired episodes.  I have currently watched every episode of ‘The Office’ and am completely caught up!  Some shows are even in HD. Cost is $9.99 per month, but then you need to find a way to get it to your TV…I’ll go into that later.
2.)    Signed up for Netflix.  Netflix is a provider of Shows and Movies that you can stream online.  Almost all new bluray players, some tv’s and almost all highend gamming consoles (ps3, Wii and xbox360) can stream Netflix.  Cost per month, depending on your packaged is $8.99-$12.99.
3.)    Purchased a Roku player.  This little box allows for the streaming of services like Netflix/Pandora/FLickr/Facebook/ to your tv via either wired or wireless access.’s services vary depending on if you’re renting or buying and/or whether or not you’re getting it in HD or SD (standard definition).  Ericka can purchase her fav show “vampire diaries” for $1.99 or rent it for 99cents.  Renting a show gives you access to watch it for 24 hours.  This requires you to sign up for an account.  It should be noted that if you purchase a Roku player, you get a free $10 credit to  ROku players come in three flavors ranging from $59.99 to $99.99.  Depending on the equipment you already have, you may not need to purchase one of these little guys…but at $60 bucks for the starter box, you can a lot of free content as they have an “channel store” with different services that aggregate media from all over the internet.
4.)    Purchased the new Apple TV 2 (hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t tell you too much about it).  This device will only work with newer/HD TV’s and receivers.  It only has HDMI and Optical audio outputs.  Services include Netflix and access to the itunes music and video store.  Apple has a new model out right now where you can watch brand new tv shows for 99cents.  I believe the show will be available for 24/48 hours.
5.)    Purchased the “play on” media software.  This little bit of software allows you to forward media content from your computer, and stream it to any UPNP compatible devices on your network.  In laymans terms it means that if you have a networked multimedia device, you can sling hulu to your tv and watch it from there.  I use old first generation modded Xbox’s running XBMC.  XBMC is an open source mediacenter solution that runs on 1.) First generation Modded xbox’s 2.) Linux PC’s 3.) Windows PC’s 4.) Macs.  Cost is about $30 but comes with a 15 day free trial.
6.)    I have used these for years, but modded xbox’s running XBMC.  You may not have access to an old school xbox, but modding them is easy (and gives you access to a lot of old school gamming content…NES/SNES/N64/Gameboy etc etc games right on your tv) so if you have access to an old xbox and a moderately sized hard drive, you'll be in good shape.  The OS you’ll basically be loading on the xbox’s is called XBMC.  A very powerfull open source media center that will stream your UPNP content from “Playon” and will also stream movies/music/pictures and internet radio streams right from a file share on your computer. I have three of these under each television I own.  It is the centerpiece of my media centers.  If you don’t have access to an xbox, but you have an old computer or laptop that you can throw under your tv, that will work too! price=Free

So most of this stuff requires some networking…so how do you minimize the cost and the clutter?  Two ways…1 is to go wireless.  This poses some challenges for some of the older equipment, but is still very doable.  To end the cable modem rental fee and to consolidate all your networking devices into one hard hitting, feature filled device…you could go with this:

It’s a modem a router and a wifi access point all in one.  It runs about $140 a best buy, but consider this.  If you’re paying about $6 a month to rent your current cable modem, by buying your own, it pays for itself in about 23 months.  That may seem like a lot, but consider that I rented the same cable modem for the first 8 years I had charter internet….I could have purchased three of these.

If wireless is not the choice for you, consider Linksys’s powerline networking products.  I have two of these kits in my house and they work great!  It uses a carrier signal that works over your powerlines to deliver network connectivity.  Sort of like DSL. Also, you can purchase multiple kits and they all work together right out of the box.

So lets break everything down….

Monthly recurring fees:  $20-30 + whatever a la carte programming you purchase
Up Front Hardware fees:  $0-$350 depending on what hardware you already have available.

Compare this to a bill that can reach upwards of $200 per month, and you’re already saving money by the end of your second month.

I can’t imagine if folks knew that they didn’t have to pay so much for television, they’d stick with Charter.  They’d be leaving in droves.  And to be honest with you…the more people that use these services, the better they’ll get over time.


  1. So Charter came and picked up the cable boxes today! You know, I almost forgot, but you can pull local HD digital tv stations off the antennae still. I'm going to see if I can pick up some cheap ones and try them out.

    I got a few questions asking me about what I'm going to do for news and some other programming.

    Theres three issues with the model I provided at the top in terms of avaialble programming. News, Sports and Kids shows.

    Ericka and I aren't really sports fans so thats not a biggie for us. it should be noted though that Roku has a MLB channel that provides (for a fee) access to Live Major league baseball games as well as historical content, interviews and clips. I'm assuming its just a matter of time before some other franchises follow suite. Alot of content to can be viewed right from the franchise websites too with valid subscriptions.

    Hulu and Roku both have aggregate news sources, albeit, not in real time. Ericka and I don't watch news that often ( I skim the headlines daily via RSS feeds on my igoogle page).

    We don't have kids yet, but alot of programming can be found on Hulu. Using XBMC, you can queue up several hours of programming via Hulu so that it plays continuously without interuption.

    So there are alternatives, its jsut a matter of finding the source and setting up your access.

  2. The rentable episodes on the itunes are 48 hours after hitting play.

    People can pick up an old XBOX for $50 at any GameStop Store.