Cable TV is an Enormous Ripoff

Cut the cable cordWelcome to the future of television. (Photo via Thinkstock)

There are few things I’ve done in my life as satisfying as calling up Comcast and telling them to piss off. While Verizon recently got me fired up, I generally reserve my corporate hate for Comcast, a company that excels in luring customers in with a cheap rate, jacking up the prices, and then, when they call to try to get it reduced, they need to fight their way through a phone bank labyrinth. Little surprise that they’re a perennial contender for Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” and are regularly mocked as “Kabletown” by 30 Rock, one of their very own shows.

On Monday, the FCC slapped down Comcast, ruling that the city of Boston could re-instate regulations on the company’s basic cable rate, which only includes local stations and PBS. Why, pray tell? Because, according to the Globe, Comcast basically has a monopoly in the city and had raised their basic cable price 80 percent in just three years. Granted, that rate is just $16.58 a month, and only 15,000 customers in Boston use the service, but still: an 80 percent increase in just three years?! That’s absurd.

Then, yesterday, research market company NPD Group released some frightening news: Cable bills, which are already averaging $86 a month, are expected to top a $123 a month by 2015. By 2020, cable will cost a stunning $200 a month. That doesn’t include internet or phone service — that’s just for cable television. One more time: Two Benjamins a month for television.

So, here’s what we should all do: Cancel cable television. Seriously, everyone should call up Comcast today and tell them to stuff it. Trust me: If you have internet service, you really don’t need cable anymore. I made that call three years ago, and haven’t regretted it since. I’m not the only one: 2.65 million Americans have ditched cable since 2008; that’s expected to hit 3.58 million this year.

Fret not: You can still watch just about all the TV shows you want. Here’s, a step-by-step guide to cutting the cord:

1. Buy a digital antenna. Yes, an antenna. They work great, and you get all the local stations — NBC, ABC, FOX, etc — in high-definition. I have this one, which costs less than $40 and sits next to my TV. If it looks too goofy for you, there are loads of options.

2. Dust off your old computer. You’ll need a couple cables to connect it to your television. (Lifehacker has a pretty great guide on what you’ll need; the cords shouldn’t cost more than $15 or so). Boot it up and connect to your internet service, preferably through a speedy ethernet cable (wifi is slower). If you haven’t updated this computer in a while, you should do so; also, download a good browser, like Chrome or Firefox.

3. Get Hulu Plus and/or Netflix. They’re both under $10 a month, and have lots of great TV shows and movies.

4. Buy shows from iTunes. Can’t find the show you like on either Hulu or Netflix? iTunes offers many shows for $20 to $35 a full season, which seems like a lot, but you’re saving $86 a month on cable, remember? You could buy three or four full seasons of any show for that price! I just bought a season pass to the fifth season of Mad Men and download the latest episode the day after it airs.

5. Go to the library. Boston Public Library has loads of movies and TV shows you can borrow, for free.

6. Sports: Sigh. This is the biggest downfall. Sure, you get any live events on CBS and NBC over your antenna, but there’s no way to get NESN or ESPN. My suggestion: Go to your local bar, have a beer, and watch the game. Isn’t it better to support your neighborhood pub than Comcast?

7. Count your money. Even if you have a Netflix subscription, are regularly buying TV shows from iTunes, and are hitting the bar for sports, you’re still going to be saving money. Spend it on something fun. Think of Comcast while you do so.

That’s it: You’re cable free!