Monday, March 31, 2008

Cut The Cable And Improve Your Picture

A couple of years ago, when I had free cable in my loft, I visited a neighbor who was watching the Fox "news" channel. I told him that I didn't receive that channel, and he asked why. I told him I didn't believe a damn thing they said.

Flash forward a couple years to my life in a single family detached home, where I must pay the local cable monopoly or satellite company at least $40 for the privilege of watching head-on commercials on CNN, MSNBC and the like, plus another $5-10 a month for HDTV programming.

Now, my household is undergoing a bold experiment. In order to save money on monthly bills, we have decided to cancel cable television. We were spending about $60 a month in order to get the proverbial "57 channels and nothing on". When we translated the monthly cost to an annual cost, we got $720/year. If we looked at what kind of pre-tax income it took to pay for that, it was like giving myself a raise of $1000 a year!

As it turns out, I get a better picture over the air than I would with "digital cable". Both cable and satellite providers compress their signals, and lately they have been doing so even more, to squeeze in more channels. On the other hand, over their air digital HDTV uses far less compression.

It turns out that Comcast is downgrading their HDTV signal pretty heavily as you can see here or read a summary here. Honestly, you don't need to read the technical mumbo jumbo too much, just look at the last couple pictures and read the Comments section to get the idea.

I am just astonished by the quality of the digital signal I am receiving over a $30 antenna. There really is no way to tell that I do not have cable or satellite, except for the fact that the signal is perfect. Unlike the old days of over the air reception, you either get the channel or you don't, there is never any fuzz, snow, or distortion, just HDTV with 5.1 Dolby Surround.

In addition to all of the major networks, I am getting 4 different public television channels (read: commercial free), as well as a local weather channel that is far more useful than the mind numbing drivel on the Weather Channel.

Total Monthly Cost = $0.00

If that wasn't good enough, I was able to convert my old, non-digital TV with converter box subsidized by Uncle Sam. With the $600 a year we were throwing away on cable, we have been renting DVD's of our favorite shows and movies and still saving a bundle.

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