My Not-So-Glorious Cable & Internet Battle

Having cable is a hot topic in the personal finance community.  There is one camp that consists of people who have been able to cut the cord and slash their cable, ditching traditional cable, and subscribing to a streaming service like Netflix.   And the other camp, which I find myself in, have been unable to cut the cord because they like their traditional package and live sports too much!  Well, last month, my cable contract expired and my rates were set to jump.  I was torn in both directions and this was the closest I have ever come to cutting the cord.   I wanted to share this experience with all of you…check out my last battle with my cable and internet provider.

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The situation

My cable and internet provider was AT&T.  I had a nice deal with them before the rates hiked.  For $99.99 before fees, taxes, and whatever expense they typically throw into the bundle, I received 200+ channels via AT&T Uverse and internet with maximum download speeds of 25 MBps.   I was happy….I was able to watch all of my favorite sports teams, my wife had all of her favorite channels and was not shy about recording all of her shows, and the internet was more than enough for our needs. Plus, I was supporting a stock in my portfolio and one that I have been watching/considering adding to my position recently thanks to Lanny’s last stock watch list.  We also have a Roku that allows us to enjoy the benefits of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and potentially Hulu, Sling TV, or any of the other alternatives to cable that exist out there.   We were very, very, happy with our last package.

Then….the promotion period was up and we had to re-negotiate another deal because our services were set to increase to $170 per month!  Are you kidding me??  Like every person, I prepared for battle and called their customer service line to re-negotiate.  I played good cop the first time and then began threatening to cancel if they couldn’t strike a better deal.  AT&T recently acquired Direct TV and they were aggressively pushing that service on us versus the traditional cable.  But we were not having that because of my long-standing bias against satellite TV that seems to go out at the worst possible time and the fact that our landlord would not let AT&T install another satellite on our house.   Looks like it was AT&T Uverse or bust.  I called multiple times pleading my case and asking them to honor my last deal or else I was leaving.   The lowest price I could negotiate was $139/month for the same services and the message was loud and clear…you are free to take your cable and internet services elsewhere.

Have you ever noticed that when you begin searching for a new service or product (such as a banks, cars, insurance, and credit cards), it seems like you are bombarded with advertisements and offers in the mail?  How the heck do they know that you are looking for a new service at that moment in time??  The day after my AT&T defeat, I went to retrieve my mail and wedged in my door was a bright pink letter from the other cable provider in my area, Cox Communication.   A local sales rep happened to be walking up and down my street that morning offering a great deal on services.   For $99.99/month over the next two years, I would receive the following: Cable with over 200+ channels (same as AT&T), Internet with maximum speeds of 50 MBps (double what I currently had), free DVR service, a free home phone line, and free HBO over the two-year period.  I called the sales rep and told him I was considering the switch.  At first I tried to remove the phone line to lower the cost, but that would have blown the bundle apart and increased my monthly cost.   In an effort to convince me, I was also offer $200 in prepaid gift cards!  With the consideration of the gift cards, this reduced my monthly costs by another $8/month.  Sold.  Just like that, I ditched AT&T and dealt with the fun process of changing cable and internet providers (sarcasm).

Analysis of my not-so-glorious battle

Why was this a not-so-glorious battle?  Didn’t I get significantly greater services and fees for the same price of my last package?  Of course.  Heck, if I am going to pay the money, I couldn’t be happier that I am getting all the benefits of this new package Cox Communications offered me since the services are far superior compared to what I had with AT&T.   I’m just disappointed that one of two scenarios didn’t happen.  The first scenario, I was not able to reduce the costs with AT&T and have one of those epic phone conversations where I threatened to leave and they offered to cut my bill by X% to keep me as a loyal customer.  Nope, instead, I was shown the door.  Loyalty meant nothing to them.  The other scenario, that Lanny scenario, is where he was able to find a significantly cheaper internet option with a different company like when he switched from AT&T to WOW! Internet.  I know what you all are thinking…don’t you both live in the same city? Why couldn’t you get the deal as well?  Because of old laws, Wow! is not offered in my Zip code and the only other cable competitor in the area was Cox Communications.    Since neither scenario happened, I am stuck paying the high price.   But at least I am receiving significantly better services.

In my last article, I wrote about how I learned a life lesson about challenging financial norms and how confronting what you have been taught your life can significantly benefit you financially.  Cutting the cord seems to be one of those norms that many have begun challenging and it is one of the easiest expenses to cut out of your monthly budget.  However, for me, the financial benefits of cutting the cord do not yet outweigh the services I am losing because of sports.  This is a norm that I am not ready to grab by the horn.   Maybe in another two years, when I begin this battle again, the market will develop a solution and find a way to stream live sports cheaply.  Over the last year we have seen NFL games streamed on Yahoo and Twitter, so we are working towards that solution.  But until then, and I project the journey there will take some time, I will not be cutting the cord.   Well Cox, you have me for two years!  Let’s do this!

Have you cut the cord yet?  Or are you still using traditional cable like me?  What would you have done if you were in my shoes?  Have you found a way to affordably stream sports online that may allow me to cut the cord in the future?

Bert

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27 thoughts on “My Not-So-Glorious Cable & Internet Battle

  1. We are in the “keep the cable” camp. It is a package with internet and the landline, it allows to record episodes and keep them for later, I like to watch the news.

    I am sure a viable alternative without cable does exist. Just too lazy to figure it out. I estimate the savings would be 20 EUR per month. That is a nice amount. Not big enough to miss some of the channels the kids and the wife likes.

    • Sounds like we are in the same camp/mindset here. Some expenses are worth it if it results in happiness! 20 EUR is a nice amount, but it isn’t going to be the make or break it amount with financial freedom.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Bert

      • We are in the “other” camp, not only because of the financial reason, but the commercial one too: advertisements. We both sincerely hate watching them, the please of watching a show or series is severely diminished in our minds when interrupted by frequent and annoying commercials. Just a thought.

  2. Sounds very familiar. We are, like amber tree above, in the ‘keep the cable camp’. But we’re thinking about it and willing to cut it, but are not convinced by the alternatives out there.

    Like the US, in the Netherlands a lot has to do with where you live. And all comes in total packages, so if you want to ditch one element (internet, television or phone), the price can even go higher. It’s ridiculous, but also a bit funny it’s the seem everywhere. You can notice a lot of big companies offering these services are a bit behind on the transitions the consumers are going through. Still hoping for better alternatives, and then we might make the big switch.

    • Divnomics,

      I wish some of the alternatives out there would have made this a tougher decision that it was. The whole bundling for great discounts baffles me. It doesn’t make sense that you remove one product and the price goes up. Counter intuitive, but then again, a lot of things in the cable/internet/phone industry are like that.

      Agree about the large companies. They always seem a step or two behind the new entrants that are addressing the weaknesses created by the products they offer. I’m sure big cable didn’t anticipate the rise of Netflix/Hulu as quickly as they did.

      Bert.

  3. Bert,

    If I lived by myself, I would have no TV and would read by candlelight. Unfortunately the real world dictates that I have 1000 Direct TV channels, Netflix, Hulu, and data plans that would make your head spin.

    MDP

    • MDP,

      haha I’m sure we would make a lot of different choices on our own. Heck, I am on a family cell phone plan with all my siblings and my mom that I would love to ditch; but right now that would be too complicated based on the other moving parts involved.

      Bert

  4. The VPN services that route your IP address through other geographic areas so local teams don’t get blacked out cost like $6/month. Then you can buy the league pass/at bat or whatever package for the season and you’re done. It should cost less than the cable and phone portions of your bill on an annualized basis.

    There’s also radio, but that really only works for baseball I think.

    • Didn’t even think of checking this one out. Could definitely see how you would be able to save without trading off services. You may have to go through a couple of extra loops for this; however, it would be worth it for some really savings/dollars. I would have no problem putting up with that!

      Bert

  5. We cut the cord totally in 2009 and haven’t looked back. The only service we have is ATT DSL which has been $32 a month for the last three years. We also have home phone service with Ooma which is $4 a month unlimited calling. I think everyone can relate to those “battle” calls with ATT, TimeWarner, Cox, Comcast, Qwest (I’m going old school) and more. All we need is basic Internet service and we’re just fine. It’s a battle once a year to re-negotiate our terms but so far it has worked out well. If the time comes where the price jumps too much then “bye bye” and we’ll sign up with another provider. The problem with home Internet is that the companies have to make up for all their losses with phone service. Think about how much cel phone service has come down in price the last 20 years. More minutes, more text, more data, less money each month. They have to make up that somehow so the home Internet users get screwed. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Divhut,

      Very good points Keith. The cost to acquire new clients is not cheap. Heck, I received $200 from Cox to sign up. You know they aren’t just taking that as a loss. Heck no, they are adding all the discounts to the price of other products that you are required to pay. Luckily, the industry seems to favor new customers versus old, so if you decide to leave besides the price is too high than some other company will offer you a great deal to list you as a customer.

      Nice move with the different phone service. There are a lot of great internet based products out there that are better than a traditional landline. And yes, Qwest is an OLD SCHOOL reference right there haha.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Bert

  6. We cut the cord maybe three years ago now. It was sort of an accident and before any knowledge of FI. I wanted to ugrade our TV to a smart tv and at the same time replace my ps3 with a ps4. So I sold all the stuff I had first.

    But then spent a couple of weeks looking at tvs. Then I suggested to my wife let’s try three months with no tv. She was dead against it. But now she wouldnt have a TV in the house now. We hate it when visiting friends and the TV is on in the back ground.

    We hadn’t an expensive package it was about €40pm. But the big benefit isn’t the money it’s the space you get back inside you head to think for yourself.

    • Simon,

      Isn’t it funny how challenging the norm, just going for it, and trying something that is uncomfortable to you can open your eyes and realize that you can do it! I want more of those types of moments and can’t wait to find the next norm to challenge. Look at how much it has saved you!

      Bert

  7. We have TV through the satellite, though we have reduced the amount of channels that we’re subscribed to. We may eventually cut the chord, but the way entertainment is divided in Australia still, we’ll be keeping it for a while.

    It’s concerning that AT&T is offering much less value – doesn’t that mean they’re more likely to lose more customers too?

    Tristan

    • Tristan,

      If it doesn’t make sense, then why would you cut the cord?? What’s funny is that I found out a few weeks ago (after this battle went down) that AT&T discontinued their AT&T Uverse product all together. It then made sense to me why their discounts on this product evaporated and they wouldn’t give me a good deal. For them now, it is Direct TV or bust. If you don’t want Direct TV…here is the door!

      Bert

  8. It may not be worth it Bert. I have just internet from TWC and it is $70/month. Even if I ditched my DirectTV (which I plan to do once my contact is up). I still need internet. Best just to keep swithing between the two and get the whole bundle.
    Later.

    • DFG,

      It is nuts. The internet price on their own with one of these major companies is insane. They make it hard to have just one product unless you have a cheaper company offering the singular service. What blows my mind is that Lanny has a company in his area offering $25/month internet and I can’t get this service because of an old FCC rule. That is the kind of service I was looking for and I think that would be the product that would tip the scale in your favor and allow you to ditch the cord!

      Bert

  9. I cut the cord last year after paying $150/mo for the triple play. I got a Roku, $40/mo TWS internet and $5/mo Ooma for home phone in case the cell doesn’t work. I don’t watch live sports, so that’s where we differ – that’s very difficult content to get on streaming services.

    But everything else is there, many channels now have live feeds (like ABC, Travel channel, FX, Bravo) and the ones that don’t you can watch the shows pre-recorded (CBS in Plex, ABC, NBC). If they’re not available on in-TV apps, almost all shows are now streaming on the network websites. If your computer has a mirror screen function, you can watch.

    It felt so good to return my equipment to TWC and save over $1,000/yr. That’s like buying $30,000 worth of TGT! “Why are you cancelling?” “Too expensive.” “We’ll give you triple play for $69.99” “Including all taxes and fees?” “No, that’s extra.” “No thank you.”

    • Those are some HUGE savings for you compared to the triple play. Nice job on pushing your costs down significantly. I bet your savings rate is thanking you! The cancelling call is one of my favorite phone calls. All I want to ask is where was that offer before I made my decision? Why does it take that long for them to honor/respect a customer? Doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

      Thanks for sharing your story here BigAl!

      Bert

  10. We had cable years ago, ran about $70 for the full package. We don’t watch much in the way of live sports so cutting the cord was super easy, and I’m glad we did. If we were running $100/month, that’s something like $30k invested you need in order to pay for that, not worth it to me. Monetary reasons aside, also we were just watching too much tv 😛

    • Not watching a lot of sports makes the decision to cut the cord WAY, WAY easier. I love how you and Big Al showed the amount that would be needed to invest to cover that annual expense. Just goes to show how expensive these packages can be.

      Bert

      • Sorry BigAl! Didn’t see you had already made the same point 🙂

        If sports is the only thing holding you back, are there any ways of just getting ESPN or whatever channel shows the sports you follow (forgive the naivety, beyond UFC I don’t watch any sports).

  11. We cut the cord at the beginning of 2015 and haven’t looked back. We were paying about $180 for a bundle package from Time Warner. We cut out phone and TV, but of course we still needed Internet…how else would I keep up with all of these awesome blogs, lol!! Now our Internet bill is $70/month.

    I guess it was easy for us to cut the cord because we still pick up tons of channels over the air, though they aren’t in HD (ESPN 1 & 2, Disney, HGTV, MTV, AMC, etc.)

    I don’t know what the future holds for these cable companies, but I can’t see investing in any of them for the long term. Cord-cutting is spreading among the consumer.

    • TOL,

      hahaha you can’t cut out the internet! I can imagine you could still keep up with the blogs, but your cell phone bill would be through the roof with all of the data expenses. I would trade off HD TV services for “regular” channels if it meant that I was able to save a boat load of money along the way. The cable companies will evolve over time and find new ways to deliver their product via streaming. Not sure how yet, but I doubt the major players just let this new trend take them over. But then again, who would have thought Netflix would have caught on and put companies like Blockbuster out of business?

      Bert

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