Cutting the cable cord: Can you really save money and have it all? - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Financial Advice

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Cutting the cable cord: Can you really save money and have it all?

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Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at Readers may send questions to

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Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013 5:45 am

Q: How feasible is it to get rid of cable television and watch everything on the Internet? — D

A: The term “cord cutter” refers to households that have discontinued using traditional cable and satellite providers for television content and moved completely to the Internet.

While the lure of cutting the expense for these services is obvious, the notion that you can have the same experience and options purely off the Internet is untrue for the time being.

There are no current Internet-only options that will replicate 100 percent of what you are used to getting from the traditional providers; the good news is that you likely don’t use 100 percent of what they are delivering anyway.

If you’re willing to change your viewing behavior (like having to wait a while to see new episodes of a hit show) and sacrifice some convenience, you may be able to completely “cut the cord,” but I know of very few people that have actually pulled it off.

Most people are currently engaging in “cord shaving” instead of “cord cutting,” meaning they reduce what they are paying the traditional providers and find streaming alternatives for some of the premium or on-demand content.

What you want to be able to see will determine how far you can go, so you need to start by making a list of shows and stations that are “must haves.”

If local television programming is important, you’ll want to start by experimenting with various HD antennas that allow you to get over-the-air HD broadcasts for free.

A basic HD antenna will cost you $20 to $40, but I haven’t seen too many that get all the stations clearly, especially if you live near tall buildings or mountains or far away from the transmitters.

Amplified HD antennas that cost $60 to $80 may help, or you may have to have a rooftop antenna installed which can run $300-$500 or more depending upon your situation (but it may make sense if you have a large number of TV sets that need HD antennas).

If live sports from ESPN is important, you’ll either have to have a basic cable/satellite package or a Xbox 360 with a Xbox Live Gold account (

If you don’t care about sports or local programming, you can get lots of movies and TV shows from set-top streaming devices such as Apple TV or a Roku Box ($50 to $100) and they are easy to setup and use.

You’ll also need to get a subscription for an all-you-can-eat streaming service such as Netflix ($7.99 per month:, Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month: or if you already have an Amazon Prime account (, you have access to their library of 40,000-plus movies and TV episodes included in your membership.

You won’t be able to see any of HBO’s popular original series like “Game of Thrones” or “Newsroom” on these streaming services, so make sure you understand what the limitations are before you cut the cord.

Google recently announced their $35 Chromecast streaming device (, which allows cord cutters to use their smartphone or tablet to push Netflix, YouTube and Google Play video up to a television and a company called Aereo (, is offering an innovative way to get broadcast television over the Internet if you’re lucky enough to be in one of their early markets.

Cutting the cord will require you to be flexible and willing to flop around different devices, different remotes and willing to miss out on some popular shows, but it will save you a bundle if you can make the changes to your viewing habits.

• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at

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