Updated September 30, 2019

How to Cut the Cord

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There are ways to watch tv without cable or satellite. What is the best alternative to cable? Keep reading for the top streaming service options.

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In this article, we guide you on the basics of cord-cutting. Read on to find out if you should quit cable TV, and how you can do it.

Should I Cut the Cord?

First, ask yourself if it's worth cutting your cable service. It doesn't make sense to quit cable only to pay more for internet and stream TV.

Do you already have home internet service?
If you already have internet, it makes a lot of sense to cut the cord. Streaming services are cheaper than cable, and more flexible on monthly fees too.

However, if you don't already have an internet service, it may be cheaper to continue your cable subscription. Signing up for a new internet and streaming TV service will likely cost you more per month than just cable.

Also, bear in mind that you'll need fast and limitless internet connection for streaming TV. Mobile hotspot or satellite internet will be too slow and have limited data.

Are you already spending at least $50 per month on cable TV?
The average price of streaming TV is between $40 to $45 per month (although it can go up to $75 too). If you already only spend that much on cable TV, then there probably aren't enough reasons to switch.

There are cheaper streaming TV options (like Sling TV). However, you'll probably get fewer channels than what you have now.

Are you tech-savvy?
While streaming TV is cheaper than cable, it does come with a few drawbacks. For one, you'll need to be comfortable with new technology.

This includes smart TVs, streaming devices, and smartphone apps. If all this tech is confusing for you, then cable TV is the simpler choice.

Watching sports
Cutting the cord doesn't mean you need to miss out. Check out our guide for the best ways to watch sports without cable.

Are you just tired of cable?
Cable TV has obvious downside: being locked in a contract, pricy equipment fees, and haggling with customer service, for example.

If you'd rather not deal with that, streaming TV is a great alternative.

Cord-Cutting: The Basics

Once you've decided to cut the cord, you'll need a few basic things. Here's what you should have:

Internet Service
Having an internet connection is the most important part of cutting the cord. For streaming, you'll need a fast connection, preferably one with no data cap.

Streaming services use about 2-3 GB per hour, which can really eat up your data allowance if you're not careful.

If you're on a limited internet plan like satellite or DSL, we don't recommend cutting the cord. These type of internet connections have slower speeds and strict data limits. It's not enough for streaming video.

Your connection should be at least 15 Mbps (megabits per second) for each streaming device. For example, if you have 4 TVs in your home, you'd want a connection with speeds of at least 60 - 100 Mbps.

If your internet options are limited, we recommend sticking with your cable company for now. Without good internet, there really aren't any good alternatives to cable.

Another thing that's important is a Wi-Fi router. You'll need Wi-Fi in your home so your smart devices can connect to the internet from any part of the house.

Looking for an internet service provider? Read our reviews to see if these providers are right for you.

Streaming Services
Just like cable TV, you'll need to subscribe to an online TV provider. These can be on-demand video (like Netflix) or a bundle of live TV channels, just like cable TV.

The difference is that over-the-top TV services are cheaper than cable and have no contract. There's no equipment to install either, so you save on installation and equipment rental fees.

Does Roku offer 4K streaming?
Some Roku streaming devices and smart TVs offer 4K ultra-HD content. You can browse the selections by pressing the HOME button on your remote and looking for 4K UHD Content Available in the Streaming Channels section.

Streaming Devices
After you've subscribed to a streaming service, you'll need a streaming device to watch it on TV, such as the Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, or Google Chromecast.

These devices plug into your TV's HDMI port. They then connect to the internet (through your Wi-Fi) and stream content on your TV.

Smart TVs are TVs which can connect to the internet without a streaming device. They usually come pre-installed with streaming apps and services. All you need is an account to access them.

If the app doesn't come pre-installed, you can usually download them via the store page of your smart TV too.

Not all smart TVs will have the app you need, especially if it's a few years old. Before buying one, make sure to check if it's compatible with your streaming service!

To be clear, you don't need a smart TV to cut the cord. All you need is a way for your TV to stream content. This can be from a digital streaming device or even your gaming console, like the Xbox or PS4.

The great thing about digital streaming devices is that you'll only need to pay for them once. Unlike your cable box, there are no equipment rental fees or installation fees to worry about.

Watch TV for free
Even without cable, you may be able to get several HD-quality channels with an over-the-air antenna. Local networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS broadcast their channels for free—you just need to be able to receive them.

Most modern TVs have an input for your antenna's coaxial cable. Simply plug in your antenna, tune for channels, and start watching. If you want, you can buy a separate DVR to record programs, too.

Choosing a Streaming Service Provider

If you've already got a fast internet connection, then it's time to choose a streaming service provider.

First, you'll need to know what's out there. Providers like Netflix and Hulu offer on-demand videos. "On-demand" means you can choose what programs you want to watch, when you want to watch them.

Other providers offer live TV streaming service. These are like your traditional cable channels. Examples include Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV Now, FuboTV, and many others.

On-demand services are different from live TV. They usually offer a library of episodic TV shows and films. You won't find things such as live sports or news.

Nevertheless, whether on-demand or live TV, each provider offers different content and channels. Your first step is to find out what they offer. This lets you rule out the ones that don't have the content you want.

To know more, read our reviews of these online TV providers:

A good idea is to list out your most-watched channels or favorite shows. Then, visit the sites of each provider and check to see if they offer them.

After you've narrowed down the providers based on content, compare the following:

  • Price: It's important to have a budget before choosing a provider. Monthly fees can range from as little as $8/month to over $70/month. Add-ons can easily pile on top of that too.

  • DVR: DVR capabilities are different for each provider. DIRECTV Now, for example, offers just 20 hours of recording. On the other hand, YouTube TV lets you record as much as you want (and they'll keep them for 9 months). Others give you a basic DVR function with the option to upgrade.

  • Ad-Skipping: Some services have ads in them, and you'll have to pay extra to get rid of them. Other providers might not let you skip their ads at all.

  • Simultaneous Streams: Most over-the-top providers limit the number of streams you can have at the same time. You'll have to pay if you want additional streams.

  • Out-of-Home Viewing: Some services have restrictions on out-of-home viewing. Hulu, for example, only allows streaming on your mobile phone when traveling. Sling TV, on the other hand, allows streaming regardless of where you are.

  • Video Quality: Most providers stream at 720p, but some providers offer higher resolutions and frames per second. Netflix, for example, has Ultra HD 4K streaming. Bear in mind, however, that video quality depends on your device and network speeds too.

Once you've compared all these features, you'll be able to select the best streaming TV provider for you.

Looking to cut costs even more? Make sure to check out this list of free streaming services similar to Netflix from DollarSanity.

Still Stuck? Here are Some Other Topics to Read

Watching TV without Cable
Here are some more articles on cutting the cord.

Internet and VPN
Here are articles on internet and VPNs, and how they help you cut the cord.

Best VPN: Top Comparison List - Most streaming TV services are limited to the US. With a VPN service, however, you can still access them even when you're out of the country. Here's an explanation of VPNs and how they work.

Verizon Fios Review: Is It Good? - Verizon Fios is one of the fastest internet providers in the country, offering 940/880 Mbps fiber connections. Read this review to see why Verizon Fios is great for cord-cutters.

Average Internet Bill May Surprise You - Read on to find some interesting statistics about the internet in the US.

Bottom Line

Cutting the cord could save you hundreds of dollars per year compared to cable TV. However, it's important to realize that it comes with its own problems too.

For one, you'll need a good internet connection with fast speeds and limitless data. You'll also need a streaming device to stream your content on.

If you already have a good internet connection and cable TV, it makes sense to cut the cord and subscribe to streaming TV instead. But if you live in an area with a poor internet connection, it's better to stick with cable.

Having a good internet connection is key. If you have that, it's simply a matter of comparing the costs of the service and the content you want.

Write to Khairie A at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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