How to replace cable TV with internet offerings?
January 5, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

How to replace cable TV with internet offerings? My agency works with low-income households. I want to write up a simple, informational hand-out about how to replace cable television with free internet offerings in order to help folks trim their expenses. I've gathered a few resources, but I wonder if there is available a clear overview of how one might do this.

Useful information includes hardware requirements (for example, is there a standard cable to connect a computer to a television?) and online resources.

My story is that I don't have cable or a television, however I do occasionally watch Letterman or Stewart or Netflix on my MacBook Pro. Thanks in advance!
posted by partner to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Peruse this thread from December.

Good luck! Sounds like a good project.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do this, using a combination of rabbit ears, bittorrent, hulu.com, netflix (though the xbox), and PlayOn streaming, with a side of hooking up the computer directly to the tv for some particularly difficult use-cases.

The short version is, it's still very patchy, and you have to be reasonably technically competent to navigate it well. I've lost track of the number of times I've explained "use input 4 for DVDs and Blu-Rays, input 6 for netflix, TV for over-the-air" etc.
posted by Oktober at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2010


No offense intended, but perhaps you should rethink the scope of your project and inform people how to get their television entertainment needs met for free over the air and internet access via cheap dial up connections. Broadband internet connections are not exactly cheap and well out of the scope of what I would deem affordable for low-income households.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2010


Partner, what is considered "low income" here? Most of the solutions I know of are at least somewhat hardware intensive, which can still be a savings if you have the hardware already and would have broadband internet already, you save on the cable bill, but otherwise it ain't cheap.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:30 AM on January 5, 2010


So you're going to tell them to save money by canceling their cable TV and getting High Speed Internet Access**?
Huh?

A better alternative might be to contact both the cable TV providers and the internet providers in your area and see if they have any low cost plans that might allow your clients/customers to have both.

In my area, Brighthouse has what they call "Limited Basic Cable", which basically gets you about 10-15 channels, including PBS and the local affiliates. It's less than $20 a month.

Verizon DSL costs $19.99 a month here. It's not flamethrower fast, but you can get around the interwebs just fine.

That's *both* for $40 a month, give or take, as opposed to upgrading one and doing without the other.

Get the exact terminology from each provider that the customer should use, the current prices and hand that out.

**Which is what you're going to need to be able to successfully stream TV shows and movies.
posted by willmize at 11:59 AM on January 5, 2010


An S-Video cable will work with most (modernish) TVs, and many computers have S-Video output ports.

casttv.com is a great source of free TV shows. I have no idea if they're legal or not, though. Hulu.com is ok for the more mainstream shows.

Honestly, I would just tell them to get netflix - for as little as 8.99/mo you can get as many DVDs as you want (in reality it's limited by the shipping time). You can also watch many shows/movies streaming from their site for free. If they get a roku ($80), they can stream netflix shows directly to their TVs. But I wouldn't recommend that to someone who is struggling to pay for cable.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2010


I don't have highspeed internet or cable, and I stream TV shows just fine.

I'm part of a neighborhood co-op that shares a wireless hub.

Frankly, that's probably the best money-saving method I can think of where media's concerned. Families tend to get segmented and to try to pay for internet per-household, and that's how the big companies gouge them - by coercing them into paying for a whole package, and then milking them for it as long as possible. Seriously, the biggest obstacle to overcome is often that media companies like to make the internet something you have to pay a premium for unless you get cable television as well. If they get together with one or two other households and agree to share a high-speed wireless connection and split the cost, they get all the internet they'll ever really need at a much lower cost, and they can dodge the unfair tactics of predatory pricing safely and legally.

That's the best advice I can think of to give them: share a wireless hub with neighbors.
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 PM on January 5, 2010


Low income households aren't going to want to dedicate a PC to watching TV or buy a separate online enabled box to do it.

I think a guide on how to setup free OTA broadcasts would be more useful, any maybe supplement it with a list of online TV sites like Hulu.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2010


Let Clark Howard's GUIDE TO FREE TV AND MOVIES ONLINE answer your questions. Sometimes I can't stand his radio show, but his website is very useful.
posted by wrnealis at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


willmize: “Verizon DSL costs $19.99 a month here. It's not flamethrower fast, but you can get around the interwebs just fine.”

See, it never stops surprising me how differently-priced things are in various places.

Here in Colorado (in downtown Denver, not out in the country) I would have to pay $50 a month for internet alone. It goes up to $80 if I get TV, so everybody just gets that. You may think $20 isn't much, and it probably isn't, but $50-$80 can be a lot for a struggling family.

I really think sharing wireless is essential in these situations.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 PM on January 5, 2010


You might also suggest that people simply rely on free broadcast TV. I lived the first 28 years of my life without cable or satellite and I didn't feel deprived. I could do without satellite now but I'm not the one paying for it so it's not my choice.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2010


This seems like replacing one expense with another. Suggesting someone uses the Internet to replace cable TV assumes they have access to a connection powerful enough to accommodate this (and a computer).

This is the advice I would give: Cancel the cable. Over-the-air broadcast is more than enough. Craigslist seems to have some decent offerings for digital-to-analog converter boxes.

If you still need entertainment the public library is the place to go. Some have better DVD selections than Blockbuster. They also have these archaic things called "books" which are quite entertaining as well. (No snark intended, I swear.)
posted by geekchic at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2010


Even if the connection is free or low-cost, a true low-income household is going to have an older computer, if any. Streaming video, in particular Hulu, is downright painful if not totally impossible on an older machine.
posted by sageleaf at 12:36 PM on January 5, 2010


This seems like replacing one expense with another. Suggesting someone uses the Internet to replace cable TV assumes they have access to a connection powerful enough to accommodate this (and a computer).

Yes, this. I mean, this sounds really close to "let them eat cake" unless you have data that the particular folks you're working with have a) computers, and b) access to high-speed internet for significantly less than what they pay for cable TV right now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:38 PM on January 5, 2010


Also what sageleaf said about the computer hardware to which the clients have access. (Which goes for all the ideas of people sharing wireless hubs, etc.)

And the other thing is that maybe they like the particular programming that's on cable and not available through the Internet. Like sports, for example, which is why we have cable.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2010


Depending on how you are positioning this, if they are already cable subscribers and have high speed internet, the upcoming boxee box is supposed to be "under $200", which would pay for itself in probably 3-4 months of canceled cable. In low income houses, it's usually the initial investment that is the hurdle, I'd imagine, though.
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2010


Also as above, your best bet for cheap TV is going to be rabbit ears (and a converter box if it's an older TV).
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2010


See this article in NYT.
posted by stinker at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2010


torquemaniac -- No offense taken. You're right, and these suggestions are made in our financial fitness classes. We're on the south Oregon coast, hidden from the broadcast towers behind the coast range, so rabbitears reception is bad. Many thrifty people do not have internet, but it seems cable is now more common than hardwired telephones. I think it is too bad that people think they can't live without television. But, so it is. A friend pointed to me out that in most places the poor don't drive cars, either

craven_morhead -- For our discussion, let's say that low income households are those who qualify for food stamps. In many of the cases we see, people have cable and internet, usually in a package. I'd like to show people how to get good home entertainment without paying for both.
posted by partner at 4:56 PM on January 5, 2010


So you're going to tell them to save money by canceling their cable TV and getting High Speed Internet Access**?
Huh?


Works for us! (we get our internet thru our landline provider.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:37 PM on January 5, 2010


antennaweb.com was very useful to us in getting our antennas set up.

we found two on craigslist and made a little array in the corner of a room.
we have a fancy tv but refuse to pay for cable.

we get PBS, Fox, ABC, CBS, etc and several extra digital channels that are local stuff.

the rates for internet can vary dramatically from location to location. for example, Verizon does not have DSL in my area, only Fios, which is considerably more expensive. However, I can get Comcast High Speed Internet for like $20 or $30 a month - but i think it has a limit. If someone is streaming TV, they can EASILY go over 100G a month. I say this from experience and a Babylon 5 marathon via Hulu.

Otherwise, Netflix is relatively cheap. Also, my local library has TONS of dvds of TV and movies. They have not just entire seasons, but the ENTIRE runs of many shows from Seinfeld and Sex and the City to Matlock, CSI, Battlestar Galactica (old and new), all kinds of PBS stuff, both science stuff and Masterpiece Theatre stuff. And that's free! (late charges and taxes not withstanding).

The internet thing is a good idea - but they need to make sure they have an unlimited plan or they will end up with a $500 bill one month and be really screwed.
posted by sio42 at 6:03 AM on January 6, 2010


I think it is too bad that people think they can't live without television.

Judging people's entertainment and information choices is not really a good way to be helping them. You're skating awfully close to the "deserving poor" model of Victorian England here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 AM on January 6, 2010


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