Going old turkey

We withdrew from TV this morning. I called Verizon and cancelled our FiOS TV service. Kept the Internet, of course: $64.99 for 20Mb symmetrical service. No complaints there. But what I want from Verizon is á la carte — or something close — and they don’t offer that. If it’s HD you want, it’s kind of all-or-nothing.

The interesting thing: after escalating the call to a higher-level customer service person, Verizon offered to drop the rental fee for the DVR/set top box, and to drop the price of Extreme HD (“more than 100 HD channels”) to $47.99. That’s a good deal, actually, if you watch a lot of TV. The problem is, we don’t. And we need to save money. So: off it went.

If my plane beats the snow out of Logan in 40 minutes, I’ll be speaking and hanging out at Ecomm for the next couple of days. When I get back I might rig up something to get OTA (over the air) TV stations on an old laptop. Not sure, though. I kind of like the idea of moving on completely, to see how that feels.

After that I called Dish Network and cranked service at our West Coast place down to the minimum required to keep the account active. After we get out there in April, we’ll see how we feel about killing the old tube there too. The situation there is a bit different because we’ve invested in a nice big Sony flat screen, and we often have guests over.

By the way, credit where due to Verizon. The quality of the video is better than you’re going to get either from cable or satellite, simply because the data rates through fiber are so much higher. If you’re into TV, and it’s available, go for it. In fact, if you’re into Internet, that service can’t be beat either. Unless you live in France of something.

Meanwhile, I can think of a lot better uses for that bandwidth, especially in the long run.


  1. Daryl Kulak’s avatar

    Not sure if you’ve cut your TV watching down to zero or not.

    We made a decision a year ago to kill our TV service but now we watch only streaming Internet video (Hulu, TV.com, SouthParkStudios, Netflix streaming, etc.). We friggin’ love it. The cost is $18/month (Netflix) instead of over $100 for DirecTV. We don’t feel like we’re missing a thing.

    I’ll be very interested to hear how your transition goes, Doc. Good luck with it.

  2. Craig B’s avatar

    I have contemplated going “off-air” completely since all we get now is analog OTA. But we do occasionally like to tune into PBS specials or see special reports without using our bandwidth, since the 3G is limited monthly by Verizon, so I’ll probably do a conversion box. It is very tempting to be free and clear though. Most of what we need to see can be seen online, and often that is how we find it anyway. A friend called and cancelled his Dish account three years ago, and they tried for 15 minutes to talk him out of it, escalating the call to a manager. “What part of ‘Off’ don’t you understand?” was his response to the woman who told him, “Oh, sir, you can’t live without TV!” Amazing…

  3. Mary Hodder’s avatar

    doc, we have a giant flat screen tv, with mac cables sticking out of it.

    we play hulu.com, or itunes, or internet vids, but we haven’t had cable in 10 yrs.

    just put your mac into the screen and yr fine. use yr mac remote to run it from across the room, if you like.

  4. John’s avatar


    is there a place that compares and rates online TV sources like the ones listed above and other sources too?

  5. Adam Fields’s avatar

    We did not subscribe to cable when moving into our new place a few years ago. I don’t miss it.

    Around the same time, we replaced our old TV with a relatively cheap projector, which is a vastly superior experience.

  6. john’s avatar

    We canceled cable in the spring of ’07 and it improved our quality of life tremendously. Netfilx and the internet more than sufficient for our viewing needs.

  7. Bruce Fryer’s avatar

    Try getting a refurb Mac Mini, install Boxee (or get someone to hack an Apple TV). Hook up to flat screen, and through hulu, netflix, etc. you can watch the show you want. Also a little know fact, but you can get basic programming (network feeds plus a couple of others) for $16 a month. They won’t tell you that, but they are required by federal law to have it.

    I like hulu ’cause I can watch Battlestar Galatica which is only offered on premium packages where we are.

  8. Pat Patterson’s avatar

    “[…] we’ve invested in a nice big Sony flat screen, and we often have guests over”

    Surely you can find something more interesting to do with your guests than watch TV!?!?

  9. Peter’s avatar

    We cut our cable TV service about a year ago and never looked back (gave away the TV itself, too, so there’s no temptation). There really are much better ways to use one’s free time.

    If you do want to keep that nice big flatscreen, consider a streaming internet TV service, or something like Netflix, or invest in some high quality DVDs (Criterion, etc.).

  10. rjh’s avatar

    Good choice. If enough people do this and make their reasons clear, perhaps the vendors will change. It is much tougher in this case because Verizon is just an intermediary, and some of the cable channels are also intermediaries. So even once they realize that it is in their best interest to change, they cannot implement the change unilaterally.

  11. gregorylent’s avatar

    i don’t know anybody with a tv. haven’t had one in years. it is merely an advertising box squawking at you in the room. why do that to yourself?

    tv is poision.

  12. Mary Hodder’s avatar


    i agree that watching television, as in show up at some date and time and some place related to a network is a bad experience, and pretty much over.

    but serialized shows have gotten really good.. many with interactive game like elements, some with intricate plots requiring a lot of discussion. many of the shows I watch make we want to keep wikipedia open to see how others have interpreted the storyline, and follow the extensive plots and characters. and i often find myself adding to wikipedia about these serial stories.

    in many ways i think these serials are the most interesting things (not all plot lines but they come and go with some really great stuff) out there in video arts right now. and the fact that the mob participates in wikipedia and other websites for fan fiction or impersonation of characters on twitter is also really interesting and fun.


  13. Mary Hodder’s avatar

    ps. the answer is just to watch from your computer and have complete control, as you feed it to a giant projector or flat screen on the wall.

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar

    The hard thing to miss, Mary — for me at least — is sports. If you want to watch the Celtics or the Red Sox (wearing my Boston hat), you need to watch a cable channel. But, hey — we can go to a pub.

  15. Pingback from » on March 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm

  16. Pauly’s avatar

    MLB is the only reason I don’t cancel my cable. If I were younger I might still enjoy hanging around in bars to watch the occasional baseball game. But I don’t enjoy that nearly as much as I used to. My liver thanks me…

  17. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    Sports are still primarily the domain of the TV. Getting streaming coverage of sporting events (well, legal streams) is still pretty tough. I’ve kept TV for that and a few other programs, but HULU and LIVESTATION are two major substitutions I’ve been using lately to replace some of the content on TV. (I have a mac mini hooked to the tv via the DVI port)

  18. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I dig this: http://raycom.swarmcast.net/

    Anybody know if it’s better than low-def?

  19. Daniel Silverman’s avatar

    They’re on to us. Shows are being delayed by a week before showing up on Hulu, and fewer old episodes are being kept online. Netflix’s new Silverlight viewing client is lower resolution. I guess someone finally realized that we don’t need cable companies (or even broadcast networks) anymore.

  20. can i watch tv programs on my pc’s avatar

    Good decision about cancelling your TV subscription. Nowadays, everything that happens on TV can be found on the Internet. Considering that you can also get TV on PC using specialized software, the need of cable television is useless.

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