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Stream Video or Keep the Cable Box?

Are cable TV carriers joining the streaming revolution? Yeah…sort of. With the advent of mobile devices, cable providers used apps to meet their customers’ demands to watch their content anywhere. Now, they’re realizing they can keep you as a customer for internet service and do away with some of their technical and product support headaches. But cutting the cable cord is not a clear-cut decision.

Verizon’s entry into streaming sparked our interest in cable vs. streaming. Here are some points to consider if you want to cut the cord. The first one might be this: Are you cutting costs or reallocating them? You get what you pay for, and everyone has their idea of what value is.

Most homes and small businesses get their internet, (landline) telephone and TV service from a single provider, such as Verizon and Fios. You can get each service independently from just about all the carriers, but they offer incentives to be a sole provider. But as we see our rates for all services rise, we always wonder how we can get what we want for less money. Our cable TV component includes a subscription fee for channels we never watch and extra fees for premium channels we’d really like to watch. It also includes a monthly fee for each cable box that brings the content to our TVs. We sense we could save a lot of money by getting rid of cable, and there are savings opportunities with streaming.

If you have a smart TV, you already know something about streaming. It’s built to connect to the internet, and you can use your Wi-Fi network to tap into all those premium channels that cable offers; you pay the channel provider directly instead of through the cable company. For your cable channels, you can either keep the cable connection or use their streaming app – the same app you use to stream on a mobile device or computer. There are apps such as YouTube TV, Hulu+, Sling, and AT&T TV – which is separate from other AT&T communications services – that essentially replace your cable channels. Unfortunately, just like with the cable companies, the streaming services and the content providers are always fighting about their fees, and you might not get all the channels you want from a single provider. Most of the squabbles center around fees for live and local sports programming, so make sure the streamer you choose has your favorite teams. You can mix and match streaming services, but it will cost you more money. You’ll need to do your own research and decide what you can live with – or without.

You don’t need a cable box for any cable replacement streaming, which is good news, but the not-so-good news is that you need to get internet capability to your TV. If your TV has an HDMI port, it’s a simple matter of plugging in a streaming device, such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast or even Apple TV into the TV and connecting it to your Wi-Fi network. That turns your TV into a smart TV, and you’re almost ready to go. If you want to retain your cable channels as a streamed service, you’ll need to make sure the streaming device is compatible with the content provider. For Verizon Fios, you’ll need either Verizon’s own streaming box, which you can purchase for less than $40, or an Amazon or Chromecast device, which can be less expensive or more expensive depending on the device’s features and capabilities. Fios doesn’t work with Roku, a popular device for streaming.

If you’ve made this far in thinking about cutting the cord, you should consider two other sets of factors: 1.) your Wi-Fi network and 2.) a new way of watching your TV.

As a rule of thumb, you should have 25mbps speed for each TV and device on which you plan to watch video content in 4K high definition. If you have a total of six devices on at one time (even one that might be used for gaming instead of watching video), figure on 150mbps service from your internet provider. In addition to just speed, you should also make sure you have a strong modem and router system that can handle the high-speed traffic and a mesh network to distribute the strongest signals to the farthest point from the router. Otherwise, your viewing or gaming will be interrupted as signals are downloaded from the internet to the device. If you don’t have the bandwidth coming into your home or the network to distribute the signals, that’s an investment you’ll need to make.

If you do cut the cord, watching video by streaming is more like using a computer than a TV that’s hooked up to cable. When you turn on a TV that’s streaming, it’s like starting up your computer. You’ll see a home screen, and you’ll need to scroll to the app you want to watch unless your remote control has voice activation. Practically any selection you make within an app will involve navigating with up-down/left-right arrows and using the arrows to type information. You may find that to be an intolerable inconvenience.

If you decide to cut the cord, we can help you make sure your Wi-Fi network can carry the video traffic, and we can help you set up smart TVs and streaming devices, either in person or by walking you through the process. Call us -973-433-6676 – or email us to get your network ready for streaming or to discuss the pros and cons of keeping cable, going exclusively to streaming or using both.