Communiqué

Getting Rid of Cable: Good Luck With That

Just recently I decided to get rid of one of the cable boxes in our guest bedroom that was never used.  With the cable bill that includes a VoIP phone and high speed Internet almost hitting $200 per month, it seemed like a good way to cut expenses.  And it was.  Even though the guest TV rarely got used, I thought I could just connect an antenna and get the local stations free.

Roughly 90% of all households get subscription TV from cable or some alternative like VDSL-based U-verse from AT&T, or fiber from Google, Verizon, or other. That also includes satellite. So only about 10% get TV over the air (OTA) from local stations.  With all OTA TV being digital HD today, it seemed like a good idea to go this route as theoretically I could get ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS and a few others.  With that line up, some have opted out of cable to go with the OTA channels supplemented with streaming over the top (OTT) video from Apple, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others.  Not a bad deal and a great deal cheaper than cable and other subscriber TV.  Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.

I found an old Radio Shack rabbit ears antenna in the garage that I hooked up to the TV set.  I did a scan and could only get three stations, the local Fox station and two snowy Spanish channels.  I was disappointed.  I live in the hill country outside of Austin, TX about 20 miles from most of the local station antennas.  The only station I got was channel 7 a VHF channel which naturally has greater range than the other stations which are all UHF.  My solution was to invest in a better TV antenna.  I bought a couple to test out.

Both of the antennas, indoor models, were promoted as being good up to 30 miles.  Both were flat panel types with amplification. The manufacturers will remain nameless.  I did another channel scan and got the same result as with the rabbit ears.  I even tried the rabbit ears with one of the amplifiers and again, no better results.  I must be in a dead zone or something.  I suspect I will need an outdoor antenna at some height to get the results I want.  The home owners association does not permit such outdoor antennas except those for satellite TV.  I could try an antenna in the attic but that is a major hassle.  I won’t do that.  So I am stuck with a one channel TV set in the guest bedroom.  I suspect that will be OK as no one uses it any way.

If you are thinking of going with the local OTA channels in lieu of cable you had better check out your reception first with an antenna before cutting the cord.  A good resource is TV Fool.  It can estimate the results that you can expect.  It was dead wrong in my case but it may work for you.

My alternative is satellite TV with Dish or DirecTV.  It is cheaper than cable but not much.  Looks like our B&B guests won’t get good TV.  But we will feed them well instead.

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