3 Steps to Stop Getting Screwed Over by Your Cable Company

Friday, October 02, 2015

This year when my internet and cable bill skyrocketed to $166, I finally found the motivation to drastically change this wallet-draining relationship. It necessitated leaping into unfamiliar tech waters, one I wasn't necessarily comfortable swimming in (despite what my IT degree and web design experience might imply). But I did it, and it decreased my expenses while improving my user experience. Basically, I think it is one of the best practical life decisions I've made this year. So I'm here to tell any tech change-weary gals out there that you, too, can be liberated and I'm sharing my experience with you in great detail to help you if you're looking into taking on this change. If you've had enough of constantly being squeezed by your cable company for cash, here are 3 steps to getting un-screwed:
3 Steps to Stop Getting Screwed Over by Your Cable Company
Step 1: Buy your own modem
Are you still using the modem brought by the technician the day internet and cable were installed in your home? If so, you may have already paid for that modem 20 times over through the monthly rental and servicing fees your cable company charges you. I bought the exact same modem from Amazon for $21.95, roughly the price of 2 months of Time Warner Cable's rental price. It may not come with the same service guarantee as their rental but given the high rental cost, you're better off buying a new one should you have tech issues. When the modem arrived, I installed it rather easily, only needing to call TWC at the tail end to help me configure it. It was relatively painless to install and cut down my bill by over $100 per year. Do watch your bill like a hawk, however, because I later noticed that TWC continued charging me for the rental even though I had already returned it. I called to complain and got a refund, but know that this can happen so watch out that you don't continue being charged. 

Step 2: Call to get a better deal 
The quickest way to do this is to call up the cable company and say that you would like to cut your cable service because the cost is too high. The customer service representative will immediately go into customer retention mode and throw a number of discounts at you just to keep your business. If you are emotionally attached to your DVR (like I was for a long time), you can stop at this step and already get a far better deal than what you would get from being an uncomplaining and loyal customer. By the time I handed over my DVR for good, the customer service representative had offered to reduce my bill by $50 but I was done. As far as I'm concerned, a company that takes advantage of its more loyal customers by jacking up your bill the longer you stay is not one that deserves my business. If you've reached this point, as well, you're ready for the next step. 

Step 3: Cut the cord and join the wonderful world of streaming media
Start by figuring out which streaming device is right for you. The main players right now are AppleTV, Amazon Fire TVGoogle Chromecast and Roku. This article helped me figure out that Roku was the best choice for me because it is impervious to content provider wars. I am both an Apple user and an Amazon Prime subscriber so I wanted to make sure I could easily access both, and Roku offers that flexibility. If you decide to take this route, you'll need to buy a RokuSling TV offers a discounted Roku 3 if you sign up for their service, which I wish I knew prior to buying my own! 

For the un-tech savvy, let me give you a few more hints as I had to do a lot of Googling to find information and would have been happy to find it in one place:

Hint 1: The Roku doesn't come with an HDMI cable. Amazon sells it bundled with the $5 Amazon HDMI cable and it works well. You can also buy this cable separately if you buy your Roku elsewhere.

Hint 2: You will need to fiddle with your TV's input to see the Roku interface for the first time. Hit "Input" on your TV remote (not the cable box remote you've been using all these years). Your cable box is probably set to HDMI 1; your Roku will then be on HDMI 2. When you remove the cable box, your Roku should automatically shift to HDMI 1.

Hint 3: The Roku 3 and HDMI cable are compatible with a 2012 Sony Bravia (I'm throwing that out in case there are other poor souls out there specifically Googling this before making the purchase, because I did).

Hint 4: If you're not interested in a voice-controlled remote control or playing games, save $20 and buy the Roku 2 instead.

Hint 5: If you want to have an idea of what to expect when you call Time Warner Cable to cancel, Peter Shankman live tweeted the worse case scenario in hilarious detail. TWC must have learned from this because my experience was much more painless and took only about 15 minutes, so don't fear. Do note that your service will be cut off within seconds of ending your call.

Hint 6: If you're about to return your cable box but can't remember for the life of you what it came with, take a look at this. Note that the technician may not have given you all these cables (my DVR only came with a power cord and HDMI cable) but this will at least help you figure out which cables in the spaghetti knot hanging off the back of your TV probably need to go back to the cable company.

Hint 7: If you live in New York and are cutting the cord specifically with Time Warner Cable, I highly recommend returning your cable box to the 23rd Street location first thing in the morning. I went at 9am and was in and out in about 5 minutes. I've been to their previous location before for modem return and my recent experience was definitely much quicker and more pleasant.

Hint 8: Now that you've entered the wonderful world of apps, are you at a loss on which ones to subscribe to? Netflix is easy as it's basically reason #1 for entering the world of streaming media. Once you start watching Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Narcos on your TV, you will feel that all this has been worth it. Sling TV is necessary if you're a live news junkie like me with a need to keep CNN on in the background (I know, it's sadistic and I'm not proud of it okay?) and/or if you're a sports fan very much unlike me. Hulu is vital if you love Mindy like I do and need to know how Danny's India trip panned out. If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, you'll have immediate access to Prime Video and Prime Music, which is a wonderful thing. Spotify Premium subscribers are able to play music through their Roku, too.

So, are you ready to get un-screwed? Godspeed and see you on the other side!

You Might Also Like