Cutting the Cord

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

This is a reprint of an article I wrote in the summer of 2019.  Aside from prices, the concepts hold up very well.


Tom, a friend of mine, wanted to employ me to help him cut the cord.  In other words, he wanted to save money by not paying for cable tv, phone and internet.  In truth, cutting the cord is not really possible.  Cords are used to hook up TVs and internet access which also involves cords and wireless signals.  That said, the average homeowner can save hundreds of dollars per year by reducing and substituting entertainment services.

Avoid Bundling

In Northeast Wisconsin, cable reigns supreme.  Spectrum cable offers a low introductory rate of $100 per month for bundling TV, digital phone and internet services.  Of course, when the low rates expire, prices go up dramatically and only go up year after year.  In second place, AT&T offers the same services (similar prices), but TV is offered through DIRECTV, which means getting a dish installed on your house.  AT&T’s internet is data capped, but Spectrum and AT&T offer 100 Mbps internet speed, but you should avoid AT&T’s DSL service which by comparison is very slow. Bundling with either company, makes it very difficult to break when you want to lower your costs of entertainment.

Step 1:  Digital TV

Buy a digital antenna in order to pull in digital stations.  This is live TV offered by stations in the area supported by companies that buy commercial time interrupting shows.  Many stations offer more than one subchannel.  For instance, WBAY offers channel 2.1 through 2.5, including ABC programming, local weather, ION TV, H&I and Start TV in that order.

While any digital antennas will pick up some stations, pick one that has sufficient range (in miles) to pull all the stations in your area.  Antennas can be mounted indoors, in the attic, and externally connected directly to the TV usually via RG-6 cable.  Point the antenna in the direction of most of the stations in your area and search for all on air through the menu on your TV.

Step 2: High Speed Internet

To go beyond live tv, a high speed internet connection is needed.  The faster the speed, the more devices can be supported in the home.  Devices like Smart TVs, cell phones, tablets can all be connected through ethernet or wirelessly through a modem and router supplied by the provider (for a fee) or purchased by the homeowner.  Don’t have a Smart TV?  Devices like a Roku or FireTV can connect to the HDMI port on your to make your TV smart.  Streaming content is available via apps like Netflix.  A small warning here: some apps offer comprehensive services like YouTube TV, but those prices per month have also been going up lately.  Most app programming are paid monthly — Pluto TV and the like are free, but also has commercials.

High speed internet allows connection to phone service via Voice over IP(VOIP) technology.  Ooma, Vonage and Grasshopper are companies that supply the hardware and support to connect your phones online.  Also, high speed internet is needed for apps like Skype to communicate with family, friends and colleagues.

High Speed Internet is delivered to the home from a provider like Spectrum.  There is no way to avoid these costs (unless stolen wireless from a neighbor) :-). And speaking of wireless, the provider often offers a modem and router for a rental fee per month.  Otherwise, some providers allow the homeowner to purchase their own equipment to avoid the rental costs.

Many devices rely on wireless connections to the internet.  A wireless router (separate or combined with a modem) will supply a secure password connection to the device.  Older routers support the 2.5 Mhz range at a slower speed, while modern devices can take advantage of higher speed wireless in the 5 Mhz range.  The limiting factor is always determined by the speed of the internet from the provider through the router.

Step 3: Recording TV

This is the holy grail of cord cutting.  Watching live TV is one thing, but recording that content is another.  TV providers often supply a DVR as part of the package, but you pay for the box as part of your monthly fee.  And as we know, those fees only go up over time.  Substituting your own equipment is possible, but often is expensive.  One solution is less expensive.  SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun comes in several models, but the least expensive comes with two digital tuners.  Combine the HDHomeRun with a PLEX server and pay for Plex Pass ($40 a year).  The equipment is provided by the homeowner and the prices are reasonable.


Cutting the cord is possible.  Initial equipment and program expenses can be reasonable to save money long term.