Category: ISP

Cord Cutting Part 2

Cord Cutting Part 2:  How Much Speed Do You Need?


Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).

Equipment Required

You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service.   Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box).   Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients.   Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku.   With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere). 

How Much Speed Do You Need?

If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work.  However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video.  With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction).  I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed.  You certainly can if you like.  I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company.  It works!   Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings:  if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.)   The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter. 

Packages

It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered.  I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed.  Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel.  She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels.  In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting.  While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.”   If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package.  That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups.    Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package.  The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis.  On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.

Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much.  Internet is the only thing that matters.  You will be getting your TV elsewhere.

Conclusion

Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already).   Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you.  You may just want to rent some movies from time to time.   Be a streamer!    Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience.   A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels.   With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month.   If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on.   You are not locked down.  You have choices.   Welcome to 2019!

Snip, snip.

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ATT E-Mail Account Support Scam

I’ve dealt with this a couple of times now so I wanted to bring it to your attention again. 

The AT&T support “scam” is not new to me. I am going to use quotation marks around that word because I can’t say whether it was true fraud or just deceptive business practices. The story goes something like this. A local internet customer (either with Frontier or now the cable company) has an old @att.net, @sbcglobal.net, or @snet.net e-mail address. They have problems with the account. These e-mails were provided through a partnership of ATT and Yahoo in the past. Frontier did not take over the e-mail accounts and legitimately, they are not servicing them. So, the customer such as calls ATT for support after searching for the phone number on the internet.  I have to stop right there and say that they may not have truly reached ATT.  Therefore, “ATT” doesn’t really want to deal with it so they recommend an outside firm that charges anywhere from $200 to $800 for support with the ATT e-mail account and perhaps other computer issues. In my opinion, the ATT employee that made this referral may have been doing this unofficially, without the blessing of ATT. Either way, it is shady to me. The calls may be routed to India. The customer gives them access to their computer.

If it were me, I would want a professional to examine my computer to see if there were any traces of access that “ATT” or the other firm still had to my computer. I would back up my data and then I would do a “clean install” of Windows or mac OS for security purposes to truly eliminate all threats. This procedure takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

Saving on Services

Most “Mac-like” Windows Laptops

I had this conversation with a client lately.  We were trying to come up with Windows based alternatives to the Mac Book Air.  While there may be others worth of mention, here is my list, in no particular order.  

Microsoft Surface 2 Laptop (currently available at a bargain holiday price)

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon

Dell XPS 13

And if you want an alternative to the $2700 15 inch Mac Book Pro,  check out the Dell XPS 15  ($1500-ish models are worthy alternatives).

Saving on Services

For a couple of years, I’ve told you that it is possible to save big on your home communications package (ie. with the cable company) if you know how to do it.  If you just have one service with them or signed a new agreement 2 months ago — there is not much hope I can offer you at the moment.  However, I have been at peace with my cable company (Comcast) since 2014 by making some sacrifices and making 2 year agreements.   The package I have with Comcast is called Internet Pro Plus.  I get a very fast Internet package, digital economy TV (which includes all local channels, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg, A+E, USA, History channel, Food Network, and others), plus HBO.   My TV package does not include regional sports networks, ESPN or Fox Sports.  Home phone does not matter in my household, although we do pay for that with a separate provider at $40 per year (WOW!!!).   I do not pay a modem rental fee with Comcast.  I have my own modem and router.  With 3 TV’s, I pay a total, including taxes of $112.xx per month.   If only 1 or 2 TV’s were involved, the price would be less.   If your bill makes smoke come out of your ears, there may be something you can do about it.

I have a real client example of serious savings.   I recently met with a client who was receiving TV, phone, and Internet from Cox (generally a fine company in my opinion).  However, their bill almost made me fall over.  It was about $323 a month.  Unbelievable!! That’s a car payment.   While my best success has always been negotiating with Comcast, I suggest we give it a try.   I was able to get them savings of $36 per month.   That comes out to about $432 per year.   They were thrilled. 

If you think I may be able to help you in this area, let me know about your current package. 

The old phone company

Today’s topic should give you some food for thought – Can you trust the local phone company?  Are they still relevant as an internet provider?

This article signals to me that Connecticut’s local phone company is “on the ropes.” How long can they keep it up?

http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20170918/PRINTEDITION/309149914/loss-of-landline-customers-gives-frontier-early-headaches-in-ct

I would like to share a couple of anecdotes.  I have one customer who was promised 6 mbps (megabits per second) by the phone company and is barely getting 1. At times their service is so bad, they have no connection at all.   Another client is being promised 12 mbps, but may only get 8 or 9 on a good day.  They also have no other hope of wired internet service internet service in their neighborhood.  Ma Bell customer #3 is stuck with with 7 mbps of internet speed and the cable company is nowhere to be found on their street.   As a point of comparison, you need to know that typical cable internet speeds are 50 mbps and higher.  The vast majority of my customers have cable internet.

The speeds of 6 or higher that I have mentioned, if consistent, are fine for basic Google searching, e-mailing, and a low res video here or there.   However, these slow speeds really hamper the playback of high quality video streams on services like You Tube, Hulu, and Netflix.  Furthermore, major software updates can be a real time warp. 

I worry about the local phone company’s neglect of copper phone lines.  It seems like they are committed to their fiber optic areas, but some neighborhoods will never be upgraded to these high speed lines.   Wireless may be the only option for old phone lines that are beyond repair.

ATT DSL to UVerse transition

Just wanted to give you a heads up that if you are an AT&T DSL customer — you may be getting a notice from them in the very near future.

 

I’m getting wind that letters are being sent out to customers in Connecticut about transition from DSL internet to U-Verse internet.

 

This is not a great cause for concern  — its only the technology behind your internet that is changing.  You may notice a slight speed improvement as well.    I had alerted you to this change several months ago and while I don’t have a phase in date for each community in CT — the transition is coming.     It actually makes a lot of sense — in areas where they offer U-Verse (the next generation of ATT phone, TV, and internet)  — why should they offer two products that do the same thing?

 

ATT sends a lot of junk mail  — but I guess you’ll have to open every envelope now and I will too.

 

Essentially the letter is going to say something like this:

 

Your ATT DSL service is being transitioned to ATT U-Verse internet service.   You will get a new modem in the mail in X # of days.  You do not have to pay for this modem and you can keep your current price for another year.

 

I think those last two details are great.   Technically they do not have to give you the modem for free because you are not under contract with them.   I don’t think you absolutely need to call ATT to find out when your transition is going to happen, but if you receive the letter they will provide this number for you to cal  1-877.377.1686.

Exploring Third-Party Firmware for Consumer Routers – Your Best Wi-Fi Router Bets for Use With DD-WRT | DSLReports.com, ISP Information

Exploring Third-Party Firmware for Consumer Routers – Your Best Wi-Fi Router Bets for Use With DD-WRT | DSLReports.com, ISP Information.

 

If you are looking for a highly customizable wireless router for your internet connection — one of the models described in this article would serve you well.