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Cutting the Cable TV Cord

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Do you ever feel that no matter how many TV channels you get, nothing is on? Getting rid of cable has become a hot topic as of late. James Stanley walks you through the process, potential cost savings, and pitfalls of saying "no" to cable (or satellite) TV service based on actual experience doing so. The advent of Netflix, Hulu, and Internet-connected HDTVs enable possibilities for a home without cable, but not for everyone.

Over the last year I've heard the idea of people cancelling their cable subscriptions and opting to get all their television over the air and from the Internet. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but it wasn't something I was willing to jump right into without doing some homework, lest I be smacked with immediate regret—and by that, I mean an unhappy wife who watches more broadcast TV than I do.

I've never gone all-in on available cable services; I think the most I ever spent on cable TV was $30/month (not counting Internet service, for which I'll happily pay $50/month), so it's not so much about the money, but the principle.

I've always hoped for a day when I could just buy channel a la carte, like HBO or Showtime, without having to first buy 100 channels I don't really want, but so far that day has not come. For many others, though, finding an alternative to cable could save them $1,000 or more per year. Many people I know pay $100–$200 per month by the time you throw in all the set top boxes and DVRs that you're forced to rent.

So I took the plunge, cancelled my cable TV, and so far things are going well. Could it work for you, too? It might, but not in all cases.

I'll walk you through the things you need to think about and help you figure it out for yourself. The hardest part is identifying all the content that you really care about and finding alternative sources for all of that content.

Over-the-Air Broadcasts

You can still get TV "the old fashioned way" by using an antenna, and if you live within 100 miles of a major metro area you can probably receive all the major broadcast networks. If you live within a city, you can get going with an unpowered indoor antenna for $10–$20.

If you live outside of a city, you may need a powered indoor antenna or an attic/outdoor antenna, depending on the distance and terrain, and these cost $50–$150. If you have three or more TVs, you'll want to go with an amplified attic or outdoor solution so you can split the signal and not have to buy an antenna for every TV.

Over-the-air channels should set you up with content from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and maybe others. That's quite a bit of local news, sports, sitcoms, and educational programming.

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