After years of griping about Charter’s ridiculous cable bills, we finally cut the cord over here on Bluff Road (or rather, John “JD” DeVol cut the cord – I’ve got the pics to prove it).
And we couldn’t be happier. Partly because we no longer have those ridiculous Charter bills, partly because we’re still getting pretty much the same thing as with Charter, and partly because we got to chat with JD about all things Old Mission.
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We still have a bill, but it’s way less than what we were paying for Charter. Read on for what we did, how we did it, and why we did it.
Switching to AcenTek for Internet
We started thinking about switching to AcenTek last summer, as we watched them installing fiber lines around the Old Mission Peninsula. I believe they are only part-way done with this project, so depending on where you live on the OMP, you may not have access to AcenTek’s fiber lines yet. But you will, possibly as soon as this summer. Call them at (888) 404-4940 to see if you have it or when you might have it.
AcenTek, by the way, is our local service provider here on the Old Mission Peninsula, offering Internet, voice and video (they do have a TV package). This is the company that evolved from Peninsula Telephone Company back in the day (read our interview with longtime owner Vi Solomonson and her daughter Mary Jo Lance here).
While AcenTek was installing fiber along Bluff Road last summer, we learned that they would run the line up our hill at no cost if we did it then. If we waited until later, we’d have to pay for the line to come to our house. Because I had an inkling that we’d switch sooner or later, and because our hill is used as a training run for the Olympics luge team, we decided to have them bring it up the hill. It was pretty fascinating to watch – read more about it here.
AcenTek Cost and Speed
There are a bunch of reasons why AcenTek’s fiber is a great option, and you can read more about them here. I’ll focus on cost and speed, because that’s what most of us are concerned about. AcenTek is offering an introductory deal of $30/mo. for one year for Internet service. After that, it goes to $50/mo. for “Extreme Velocity” or $60/mo. for “Maximum Velocity.” We have Extreme and it seems fine. We also are paying $5/mo. for AcenTek’s wireless modem; you can supply your own, which we may do at some point. AcenTek also required $75 upfront, which I believe covers the installation and first month of service.
As for speed, it’s much faster than Charter – which is important for me because I’m on the computer all the live long day tapping out stories like this for Old Mission Gazette. AcenTek’s fiber offers speeds around 200 Mbps for both uploads and downloads. Charter’s speed at our house was 100 Mbps for downloads and 8 Mbps for uploads. We’ve had AcenTek for a week, and so far, it’s been noticeably faster, with no downtime or issues whatsoever.
To switch, call AcenTek at (888) 404-4940. They will schedule an appointment for someone to come to your house and connect the line to your house. Mostly likely, that someone will be John “JD” DeVol, lifelong OMP resident who’s worked for AcenTek and before that, Peninsula Telephone Company, since the beginning of time. I called just after the first of the year, and JD was here on Jan. 14, so based on my experience, you might be looking at around two weeks.
Here is a picture of JD with his clippers about to cut the actual Charter cord outside my office window.
After JD made the switch, I gathered up my cable boxes that same day, trekked into Charter, plopped them on their desk and said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (From the movie “Network,” by the way.) Ok, I didn’t really say that, but thought about it.
Here’s the clincher, though. After I declared to all within earshot that I was “Shutting down my Charter account!,” the gal at Charter said cheerily, “Don’t forget, if you sign back up after 30 days, you’ll get the introductory offer!” To which I said, “I’ve been with you for 20 years! Why couldn’t you give me a deal for being a longtime customer?”
The truth is, they probably would have given me a deal if I’d threatened to quit before I actually did. But I wanted out, so it wouldn’t have mattered. And, apparently, introductory offers are a thing. I mean, AcenTek is doing it, too, as are all the Charter alternatives I’ll talk about below.
A Note About Jane’s Email
If I’d done things the smart way (why start now, right?), I would have started preparing for the switch two months ago by alerting people that I’d no longer have my Charter email address anymore. Instead, I chose the hard way and only had two weeks to begin the arduous task of shifting all my email from firstname.lastname@example.org, which I’ve had since the beginning of the Internet, to my main email going forward, email@example.com.
Most of you reading this probably have my firstname.lastname@example.org anyway, since it’s the one I’ve been using for all things Gazette and OMPstore. The silver lining is that all the spam and junk mail I get at my charter address will drift off into the ether somewhere, never to be heard from again. And by the way, I still have all my old Charter emails in an Outlook folder, which I will probably never look at again.
Switching to a Cable Alternative
Ok, let’s talk about the TV part of this project. We’ve had a Roku box for a while, so we were already set up to cut the cord. Think of Roku as a portal to all of your TV viewing. You buy the Roku box or streaming stick, hook it up to your TV, and gain access to all sorts of channels, both paid and free. You can also buy Roku TVs, where you don’t need the box and can simply turn on the TV and see all the Roku options. Roku is a one-time payment. You buy the box/TV, and from there, you choose which TV options you want, i.e. Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Chromecast, Google TV, Amazon Fire TV/Stick and Apple TV are some of the other portals similar to Roku.
Through Roku, I’ve had Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video for years – a holdover from writing about movies and TV for decades before I launched Old Mission Gazette (and most of that time I had free access). I might keep Netflix for now, because I love a lot of their shows (“The Crown” and “Stranger Things” are two favorites), and it’s only $8.99/mo. (Netflix is $12.99/mo. to watch on two screens at once, in HD; and $15.99/mo. to watch on four screens at once, in HD and Ultra HD. That would be if you have four different people watching TV on various screens throughout the house or college dorm.)
In addition to streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, there are numerous “cable alternatives” where you can watch live TV just like with Charter. The big three are Sling, Hulu Live and YouTube TV. I checked them all out, and they all have their pros and cons.
A note about Roku: Because we had an older version of Roku (Roku 2), it did not support the “live TV” option that we were looking for to replace Charter. There are various newer options, but I bought the latest version, Roku Ultra, which is currently on sale for $79.99 at Best Buy. (I bought mine at Best Buy in Traverse City.)
Ok, let’s look at the cable-alternative options…
YouTube TV – Good, But No History Channel
YouTube TV is a good option, and includes a ton of channels, including ESPN and sports channels, and unlimited DVR space (you can record shows and play them back later). They also offer local channels and some of our favorite channels – Cozi, Comet and TCM. But YouTube TV has one dealbreaker for us. They don’t offer the History Channel, which is sort of our go-to TV channel that we watch all the time (“Oak Island”!).
I’m guessing YouTube TV will make a deal with the History Channel at some point, and we might check it out again at that time. YouTube TV is $49.99/mo., and they also offer a 5-day free trial. Check it out here.
Sling TV – A Good Option
Sling is a good option, but by the time you add everything you want to the base packages, you might end up at YouTube TV or Hulu Live’s rate. With Sling, you choose between three main packages – Sling Blue, Sling Orange, and Sling Orange & Blue. Blue and Orange have an introductory offer of $20/mo. for the first month, then $30/mo. thereafter. Orange & Blue are $35/mo. for the first month, then $45/mo. thereafter. Sling also offers ten hours of recording space, or you can pay an extra $5/mo. for 50 hours.
Sling does not offer local TV channels in any of their packages. So if you want to watch local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox), you have to buy an antenna and hook it up to your TV. And by the way, I think it’s hilarious that we’ve now come full circle and are back to having antennae on our TVs. These modern antennae are generally flat and square, and look nothing like the old rabbit-ears and tinfoil we had at our house in Old Mission in the 1960s.
To really test out the Sling/antenna option, I bought an RCA indoor antenna at Best Buy for $40, but could not get it to work with our TV (a several-years-old Panasonic), so I’m taking it back. I followed the instructions, but when I scanned for available local channels, nothing came up, even though we should be able to get ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox here on the OMP. I’m sure there’s a way to make an antenna work, but I didn’t want to put any more time into it and gave up. We don’t watch much local TV, but it’s nice to have that option.
Also, if a channel isn’t included in the Sling package you choose, you can add various channels or packages a la carte starting at $5/mo. for channels like TVLand and TCM, and more for premiums like Starz and Showtime. Sling does not offer HBO, but I believe we could get that through Roku if we wanted it – which we don’t because there are tons of others things to watch. Check out more about Sling here.
Hulu Live – Why We Chose This
We ended up going with Hulu Live over Sling for assorted reasons. While we like the interface of Sling better (the actual on-screen “TV Guide” is easier to read for our aging eyes), the fact that Hulu Live includes local channels right off the bat, most of our favorite channels, 50 hours of DVR time over Sling’s ten hours, and doesn’t require fussing with an antenna made it a winner for us.
Hulu Live offers a couple of pricing options, including the base package of Hulu plus Live TV for $54.99 (includes ads with “On Demand” shows), and Hulu plus Live TV (no ads with “On Demand” shows) for $60.99. Note that the “no ads” option does not apply to live TV as you’re watching it. It applies to the “On Demand” part of Hulu, where you can watch all sorts of movies and shows as soon as the day after they air with no ads.
Right now, we have the $60.99 package, but we are still testing out the ads/no ads options to see if and when we can fast-forward through commercials. With our current package, I believe we cannot fast-forward through commercials on shows that we’ve recorded. For an extra $10/mo., you can add “Enhanced Cloud DVR,” which lets you fast-forward through commercials on shows that you’ve recorded. We may add that, which would put us at $70/mo., which is still way less than we paid for Charter.
Hulu Live also offers a variety of add-ons, including HBO ($14.99/mo.), Cinemax ($9.99/mo.), Showtime ($10.99/mo.) and Starz ($8.99/mo.).
Other Cable Alternatives
There are a few other cable-alternative options that I’m going to investigate further and report back: FuboTV, PhiloTV and FrndlyTV. Fubo and Philo offer a lot of channels and might be good options. Frndly looks like a good option if you’re watching mainly Hallmark channels, UpTV, game shows and such.
The Bottom Line
With Charter, we were paying $225/mo. for Internet and TV. With our current setup, we’re paying $35/mo. for Internet/Modem and $60/mo. for Hulu Live, so a total of $95/mo.
When our AcenTek bill goes to $55 in a year, our total will be $115, which is still far less than Charter (and we’ll continue to investigate all the streaming options).
Also, with all of the cable-alternative options, there are no contracts, no extra fees for cable boxes and broadcast TV surchages, and best of all, you can cancel at any time.
Interestingly, since we cut the cord, we find ourselves not watching much Live TV at all. Roku offers a ton of channels and apps you can add for free, so we find ourselves watching shows like “Tate” and “The Real McCoys” on the Classic TV apps, and the worst movies you’ve ever seen on the “Midnight Pulp” and “Drive-In Classics” apps.
Stay tuned! I will continue to update you on streaming and cable alternatives, and even what we’re watching, if you’re interested. Also stay tuned for our next project: cutting the cord with Verizon and finding a cheaper cell phone alternative.
Have you cut the cord? What cable alternative did you go with? Drop a note in the comments below, or feel free to ask me any questions you might have.