Purcell: Dreams can come true - Finally cutting the cord
I’m so unhappy with my cable TV and internet services that I’m going to do what I’ve long dreamed of doing: Cancel my subscription!
I’m not alone in my unhappiness.
Consumer Reports says cable providers “have consistently rated below average among services we cover.”
A 2014 Consumer Reports survey of 81,848 customers “found almost universally low ratings for value ... especially for TV and internet.”
What’s worse, the costs of those services keep going up!
In 2014, reported the Mintel Group, home cable TV and internet services’ average cost was $154 monthly — or $1,848 yearly, more than that year’s average household spent on clothing, furniture or electricity.
Consumer Reports says cable prices have risen faster than inflation, despite some competition from fiber-optic and satellite providers.
BGR reports cable giant Comcast boosted fees for 2019, which means “some plans under Comcast’s Triple Play Package branding ... will cost as much as $215 a month ($2,580 over the course of a year) once the promotional offer ends.”
Ah, the old “promotional offer” tactic! Big cable likes locking us into long-term contracts with discount packages that keep our monthly bills down for a while. But when those discounts expire, our bills soar. This recently happened to me — again.
I was paying about $155 a month - at least I think I was. I’d need a busload of Harvard lawyers and CPAs to understand all the charges.
When my bill shot well past $200 a month, I called the cable provider. A customer service rep essentially told me to “either sign on for another two years or Vinny the Cable Guy will introduce your kneecaps to a Louisville Slugger.”
Cable providers weren’t always so universally disliked.
Consumer Reports says the “industry began in the late 1940s as ‘community antenna television,’ or CATV,” capturing good reception of over-the-air TV broadcasts and distributing the signals where reception was poor. “Since then cable has evolved from a small, localized service into a gigantic industry ... .”
That industry’s big providers have gobbled up smaller ones, limiting competition — which enables them to get away with poor service and increasing costs.
Free-market advocacy organization capitalism.com says another reason competition is so limited is big cable providers’ powerful lobbyists have persuaded legislators to create laws and regulations that “limit market entry for smaller, more affordable competitors.”
A quick search of broadbandnow.com shows the limited options in my ZIP code: a giant cable company and a giant fiber optic company. They’re the only viable options, because while satellite services are available, too, big trees around my house likely would interfere with reception.
So what am I going to do? What thousands of other agitated cable customers are finally doing. I’m cutting the cable cord!
Since the only customers big cable and big fiber treat well are new customers, I’ll cancel cable and subscribe to fiber-optic internet service for about $40 a month.
I’ll get a digital TV antenna to watch local channels - no fees! And I’ll subscribe to a no-contract internet streaming service to watch other channels - for another $40 a month.
I was an English major, but even I can tell that $80 a month is a lot less than the $200-plus that a cable behemoth demands for essentially the same channels.
I’ve been dreaming of this moment for years, and it’s finally at hand — the moment when I tell that cable behemoth to go pound salt!
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.