The Truth About Cutting The Cord – Part 2: Equipment and Cost

In Part 1, I gave a brief rundown of the core reasons as to why I finally decided to Cut The Cord. Again, your reasons may be different or the same, or you may decide that sticking with cable (or satellite) is actually better for you. In either case, now I would like to explain some of the costs involved and detail the equipment I chose. Keep in mind that I’m not trying to say the hardware listed hereafter is the best or top of the line (in fact, I tried to keep equipment costs down as much as I could), but I feel it’s at least a good starting point for most. Also, though I will list some pricing here, the good thing about technology is that it’s always moving forward so the prices of already released equipment continues to drop as new things come out. Simply put – this is the stuff I bought, and it works great for me and my family and I think it will for you as well.

So, let’s get started!

  1. Digital Antenna

As many of you may remember, since June 13, 2009, all full-power U.S. Television stations have broadcast digital-only signals. Many mark this date as the dawn of the Cut The Cord revolution. I would also agree with some who say (I call them Cord Cutting Purists) that the only true Cord Cutting comes from getting rid of all ties to any cable or satellite provider. This would include losing internet access as well which, as you will see later on, will not work for the Cord Cutting I’m outlining.

If you want to get rid of the television service and still want to at least be able to view your local stations, you will want to purchase a digital antenna. I personally like to keep up with local news, so this was a no-drainer for me. The picture quality is amazing, as there is no signal compression from a service provider. And, as you will discover, I found there were channels floating around out there that I never even heard of that I now pick up!

There are many models out there – some indoor, some outdoor. I went with the RCA ANT1650R which I picked up 2 for about 25 bucks each on Amazon. I’ve seen the same model at Walmart priced at $30-$40.

  1. Internet Access

As I’ve mentioned, the Cord Cutting I’m outlining is going to require internet access. It should go without saying that you’re going to want broadband. When I first starting experimenting with this idea, I was paying my ISP for 20Mbps down, 2Mbps up. What I found over time was that this simply wasn’t cutting it – especially considering we’re running 2 Rokus (more on those shortly), a couple Android tablets, my phone and my wife’s phone and 2 PCs. Not that all of these devices are always connected simultaneously at all times, but there are periods when that’s the case. Also, with this speed, it seemed we would run into the dreaded Netflix “Loading” screen far too often while watching something.

So, I knew I had to beef that up a bit. Unfortunately, the ISP I had at the time could not offer more than that for my area, so I switched to Time Warner (whom I actually had before). I moved up to 30Mbps down and 5Mbps up, which has proven to be the perfect minimum speed. Time Warner offers higher speeds, but this level of connectivity works smoothly.

That being said, now would be the perfect time to explain what I mentioned in Part 1 –

“Surprisingly, even to me, cost actually wasn’t a factor as one might expect and as many people will blog or post about when they talk about cutting the cord. “

 

The fact is, the cable and satellite service providers want you to buy ALL of their services, not just one. As such, you will have to take into consideration when deciding whether or not this is right for you the fact that the connection speeds I’ve mentioned are going to run you somewhere around $70 – $75 dollars per month, or maybe even more depending on what market you’re in. And, that’s the catch.

Consider this –

The speeds I’ve described are what Time Warner refers to as Extreme internet. If you were to bundle and go with their Basic TV and Extreme package, you could get –

  • Over 20 Channels
  • Extreme Speed
  • HBO® with HBO GO®
  • Cinemax® FREE for 3 Months
  • Home WiFi, TWC WiFi Hotspots
  • Switch and get up to $50 Visa® Reward Card
$7999per Month for 12 Months

But remember, the devil is always in the details. Note the “Free for 3 months” and “$79.99 per month for 12 months”. And, not to mention as I explained in Part 1, you get what channels and content they tell you to get – you don’t get to choose.

  1. High Speed Cable Modem
If you’re still reading this, that means I didn’t scare you off with the ISP cost situation. Or, you’re just curious. Either way, if you’re still considering Cutting The Cable, and have decided to go with Time Warner’s Extreme Internet or something equivalent, you’re going to need a modem to handle the extra bandwidth bulk. You have a couple of choices here – buy your own or pay the ISP at least $4.99 per month to rent one from them. Well since we’re trying to Cut The Cord the only logical decision would be to buy your own ISP-compatible modem. Be sure to check with your ISP about compatible models (they should list them somewhere on their website) and purchase accordingly.

 

I’m not going to go too deep into tech mumbo-jumbo here, but simply state that I decided on the Motorola SUFboard eXtreme SB6141 (DOCSIS 3.0). I had originally purchased a Netgear equivalent to this model, the CMD31T, but it kept periodically dropping the connection. Upon exchange, it was only logical to me to go with a Motorola model – all of the years I’ve been paying for internet and renting modems from the service providers, I would always have a Motorola modem and had almost no issues.

 

The SB6141 will run you about $100 at Best Buy.
  1. Dual Band Gigabit Router
Just as you’ll need a modem to handle the connection speeds coming in from your ISP of choice, you’re going to need a router that can handle providing all the devices attached to your home network said speed. And frankly, that Wireless N router the kid next door told you to buy simply won’t do. Even if you’re not in the market to Cut The Cord, a Dual Band Gigabit Router should still be on your radar for a multitude of reasons, including: stability, network scalability, and speed.

 

Once again, I’m not going to go into too many technical details here (my fellow Cisco Academy friends can appreciate how lengthy detailing routers can be), but only mention that I personally chose the Netgear R6200 WiFi Router (802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit). True – it’s not Netgear’s ultimate offering, but it certainly gets the job done efficiently and smoothly at about $150 from the likes of Amazon or Best Buy.
  1. Video Streaming Device (or, “How in the heck do I watch TV?”)

 

Finally, we come to the device that brings it all together. There are of course many devices out there. If you are an IOS faithful then you may already be familiar with the likes of Apple TV. As for me, I went with and recommend Roku.

 

Roku is that hockey puck sized powerhouse that can be found literally at any major retail chain worldwide, and works with pretty much every TV. When I first started looking into Cord Cutting, I began with a first generation Roku. Once I grasped the potential and learned some of the tricks of online content streaming (yes – this is my clever segway into Part 3: Suggested Software), I quickly moved up to the Roku 2 XS and Roku 3.

 

The Roku 2 XS resides in our bedroom because we still have an “ancient” TV there – no HDMI ports. The Roku 2 XS offers the option of both HDMI and A/V output, with included cable for A/V, so it works perfectly.

 

The Roku 3 comes with HDMI only, so it lives in the family room of our home. Each comes with the option to connect to the internet either via wireless or ethernet connection. I suggest, if at all possible, that you connect via ethernet. Although it rarely presents a problem, even with beefed-up speeds from your ISP, and a top of the line gigabit router, a direct connection will tend to be more reliable than a wireless one.

 

I could go on and on singing my praises of Roku. Personally I believe streaming content is the future television entertainment, and I have for some time. But instead I will just encourage you to check out Roku’s website for yourself –

 

The Roku 3 currently retails for $99.99, while the 2 XS will run you about $74.99 – $79.99
  1. Miscellaneous Hardware

 

Lastly, there were a few other things I had to pick up to bring this all together. You may need to do so as well so I think they are worth mentioning.

 

First off – remember the TV in our bedroom I mentioned that had no HDMI port? Well, that also means it’s not an HD TV. So, in order to use the digital antenna for local channels, I had to also purchase a Digital TV Converter box. Retailing for about $40, I went with the RCA DTA 800BT. It has a pretty cool UI – looks much like a DVR box display, and comes with a fully programmable remote.

 

Secondly – as I also mentioned, I feel direct ethernet connections work better than wifi connections for your streaming device (Roku in my case). As such, I wanted to also connect the bedroom Roku directly via ethernet. Unfortunately, it’s on the second floor of our house, facing the outside wall. I considered climbing in the attic and fighting with dropping a CAT5 cable, but decided instead to go with Powerline Adapters. These little gems allow you to plug them into your power outlets and use your home’s electrical wiring as network lines from one point to another. Please keep in mind however that these work best in newer homes, as wiring standards have changed throughout the years, so they don’t tend to work so well in homes built in the early ’80s and older. I have run speed tests on the one connected in our bedroom and average speeds of about 19.5Mbps down, 3.5Mbps up through it.

 

Lastly – a PC to run dedicated servers. Specifically, Plex and PlayOn servers, and a bit torrent client. But, more on those in Part 3: Suggested Software.

 

 

Whew!! Trust me – all of that was the hard part! Once you get it all together (as overwhelming as it may sound), it will all be worth it and you’ll never want to go back to cable again!

 

Up next – Part 3: Suggested Software

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