Cutting the (Cable) Cord

There’s no denying it: most of us loathe our cable providers. They give us 12 hour windows for service appointments (and often miss them anyway), they’re incredibly expensive and their services often come with significant downtimes – always at incredibly inopportune times.

The cable companies get away with this because most of them are monopolies. Most people have only one major cable operation in their area, allowing these guys to essentially operate with impunity. Without another option, we’re forced to put up with the 8-5 time windows and the $200 bundle bills.

Over the last few years though, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have popped up, which could eventually signal the end of television as we know it. You can get a lot of commercial free (or reduced) television from the broadcast networks, often by just waiting an extra day after release. Premium channels like HBO and Showtime have versions of their programming available for internet distribution and though they’re currently only available to those who subscribe to their television programming, it’s only a matter of time before that’s not true anymore.

So how much longer until we can give up cable altogether? That’s really up to you. But consider that the streaming services for many channels with depend on live programming still require a cable subscription. ESPN and CNN both fall into this category. You can get NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS with an antenna if you live close enough into a city, but that’s about it.

Also remember that you’re still dependent on your cable company for high-speed broadband services. The net neutrality issue continues to rage on in Washington, which means one provider might have faster speed for a streaming service than other. For example, if Comcast and Netflix make a deal, then Netflix would be faster there than say on Time Warner, whereas Time Warner might make a deal with Amazon. Until the nation gets full, nationwide broadband coverage, we’re still at the mercy of the big cable providers, no matter what services we use.

But – if you’re determined to cut the cord, here’s two must-have devices if you like watching your television on, you know, television:

Apple TV
For around $100, you can purchase a device that’s the size of a stack of coasters. Apple TV allows you to connect your TV to the iTunes library, HBO Go, Netflix and a whole host of other options. If you have a Mac or iPhone, you can also wirelessly send any signal from your screen straight up to your TV, which just a click or a tap.

Sony Blu-Ray player
Also runs around $100. Aside from being able to play DVDs and Blu-Rays both (yes – Blu Ray players also play DVDs – a common misconception), models like the BDP-S590 will come pre-loaded with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Crackle and Sony’s own proprietary streaming service (the same one which is on Playstation).