Cutting the cord

I recently learned that my friend Nancy Pitkin cancelled her cable TV service and is making due without. Curious about what that’s like, I asked her to share her experience with our readers and she sent the following:

On September 26 we cut the cord – I cancelled our Comcast television subscription. We had basic service for many years and it was working fine. The only thing that changed was that Comcast or Xfinity is now scrambling basic television stations – like ABC, NBS, PBS etc. and requires that you use one of their boxes to unscramble the signal. Since we, like most people, have a cable ready TV, getting their box annoyed me. When I called them to complain, I was told that “people were stealing those TV signals” – like who steals channels 4, 5. 7 etc???

We had many discussions about cancelling Comcast and their response to my annoyance about scrambling was the one that pushed me over the edge. I sweetly told Comcast that since I did not want one of their boxes even if it was small, that I would simply cancel cable. All I had to do was return some equipment that we had for our 3 tv’s that we didn’t use which was theirs, and we would be done. I’m still waiting for my $7.96 refund on my last bill.

Life without television is fine – The internet works fine because we have a dsl line from Verizon which we have had for years and I understand that option is no longer available in Lowell – neither is FIOS.

I get up to the minute news and weather from Twitter, movies from Netflix, both DVD and streaming. We have digital subscriptions to both the Boston Globe and New York Times for news. We listen to NPR on the radio. We also inherited a Roku box and are learning to use that. It has movies, tv shows, games, music and more. Now I have a Pandora account for listening to music through the Roku box. New and current television shows I really want to watch can be down loaded on my lap top or tablet or on the computer attached to the TV.

We are still spending about the same amount of money per month but not to Comcast. We may a upgrade our Amazon account to a Prime one – Amazon seems to have more of the movies we like to watch than Netflix has available through streaming.

So far we don’t miss Comcast and current television at all though we have discussed getting an antenna (remember those?) We’re reading more too which is an added bonus. And sleeping better perhaps because we aren’t watching television.

12 Responses to Cutting the cord

  1. Guy Lefebvre says:

    Dick, What works for me is a good old fashioned set of rabbit ears. I bought a set at Lowes for $29.95. I get the three networks and two news/weather channels out of Portland ME. We’re about 40 miles north of Portland. Someone told me they were receiving close to 20 channels in Lowell with the same setup. The tv must be capable of receiving a digital signal.

  2. Renee Aste says:

    Been without cable since 2000. One TV with digital antenna, though.
    No one should have a TV in the bedroom and cellphones stay downstairs.
    We have the computer in an open space.
    If it wasn’t for PBS Kids 44-4 and PBS’s extra stations it would never be on.

    The only issue is sports. My boys don’t follow sports. They play soccer, but the NewEngland Revolution is played on NBC Sports a cable station.

  3. Mimi says:

    This is a timely and important discussion because this is a trend that will not be reverting. I too watch less and less tv through cable and more and more through my TV device.

    However, I and the entire City of Lowell benefits from the funding we receive from Comcast as a result of the cable contract with the City. Every day, when we watch local access channel 8, 22, 95 and 99, it is through the agreement between the City and our local access organization, LTC. Without that funding, it will be difficult if not impossible to keep an eye on our local government at work; without that funding underrepresented religious and ethnic groups will find it difficult to maintain their community; without that funding we would not have program that work to increase civic participation.

    I too see the future of broadcast and it is not through cable, it is through streaming. So where does this leave local access while a new model emerges?

  4. Steve Albert says:

    With everything going to online (even new televisions have internet access) traditional tv is definitely fading. As for the concern of Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Access LTC itself has done a good job of fading over and you can watch their stream on their website ( )just as you would on cable.

    To discuss the issue of funding we need to look at how PEG access was originally funded. At first it was simply part of the agreement that the cable companies would provide it in as a way of dealing with rights-of-way issues to hang cables all over the place. I’m pretty sure the phone companies have done or still do a similar thing with 911 and things like that. Eventually the cable companies were able to pass the expense onto consumers, but that’s a bit of a tangent right now. Point is the cable companies/internet providers still get to hang lines everywhere so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t still be covering the cost of PEG stations, which should now be properly labeled as PEG media centers.

  5. Laura MacNeil says:

    Dan and I haven’t had TV since we got married 26 years ago. I don’t know what we’d stop doing in order to watch it. We subscribed to Netflix that I mostly use to watch BBC and PBS series. Dan started using Google Play to watch movies and Breaking Bad. But for the most part we read, go to the gym/run and sleep.

  6. Steve Albert says:

    By “PEG” media center, I meant Community media center, the term LTC currently uses.

  7. George DeLuca says:

    Haven’t had a TV subscription in 3 years and don’t miss it at all. Working in media and filmmaking day in and day out, the last thing I want to do is “watch” TV when I get home.

  8. Greg Page says:

    There’s a good option for folks who don’t watch much tv but still want the major sporting events and a few extras. Comcast has an option where you lose the hd, dvr, and most cable channels but keep the cable news, Disney, and a few movie channels, in addition to all the local and network channels.

    switched over to that from the standard cable package and haven’t looked back. Saving close to $900/yr and don’t feel like I had to sacrifice anything

    I always laugh when I hear these “amazing” offers for a gazillion million channels at some incredible “low” rate of like 149/mo. Until someone finds a way to stretch a day beyond 24 hours, I’m not interested.

  9. Marianne says:

    I’m jealous of Nancy! After not having cable for 10+ years we just signed up for it (and are not happy about it!) When we moved to our new house we found out that Comcast internet was the only thing available and that just having internet would be 2X as expensive as having a cable package (including a cable box) plus internet. I think that Comcast sees what is coming and is trying to force cable into homes in order to keep it relevant. If there were any other options for high-speed internet available to us, we absolutely wouldn’t be Comcast customers.

  10. Alex Ruthmann says:

    Hi all…

    I would suggest getting a subscription to – $8/month… We don’t have cable in NYC… we just subscribe to Hulu Plus and Aereo. Aereo streams the local digital channels in Boston to your mobile device or computer, which we then stream to our TV via Apple TV. Yes, we could get rabbit ears, but Aereo also gives us access to 20 hours of digital show storage and recording shows we might miss. Check it out –

  11. ComcastMark says:

    To Nancy Pitkin and readers here:

    I am sorry to hear that you’re no longer a Comcast cable subscriber. If you decide to come back, do not hesitate to contact me. I work for Comcast and I will be happy to help.


    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations