Help me cut the Cable

To be clear, Hulu Plus has ads.

A lot of what you do depends on how adverse to spoilers you are. I’d be fine with waiting if it didn’t mean I basically had to avoid the Internet forever. As it is, even with DVR and waiting a day or two before watching some shows, I want to lash out with a shovel at all the people who seem to delight in spoiling showing. I can’t imagine having to wait months or a year before seeing a show on which not knowing what’s going to happen is part of the draw.

Eh, generally you can avoid spoilers by not going into the thread for that show. I don’t read the Walking Dead thread until I’m caught up, for example (we subscribe to that via Zune Marketplace on XBox, but that means we don’t see it until a day after it airs - which is fine).

That works here… but not everywhere.

Our family watches the following channels with alarming regularity:

-Comedy Central
-Animal Planet
-Food Network
-PBS Kids Sprout
-Disney Channel

Are any of those available on outlets other than cable/fios/satellite?

Don’t buy Ooma. It costs $200 and you have to pay a $2-4/month fee for taxes and regulatory fees. If you want google voice integration, you need to pay for “Ooma Premier” service at an additional $10/month.

Instead, buy a $44 Obihai100. It’s fifty bucks, the size of a pack of cigarettes, with no fees of any kind ever, and integrates flawlessly with google voice, both calling and receiving. The voicemail button even lights up. The Obihai is seriously one of the coolest devices I’ve purchased in years. It just works. Flawlessly.

It only has one downside-- no integrated 911 emergency integration. You can get the Obi110 instead, costing $50, and plug your POTS phoneline into the back and it’ll use work for 911, even if you don’t pay for phone service. Alternatively, you can sign up with a secondary paid SIP provider for 911. Or lastly, you can just use your cellphone for 911.

Obihai has my strongest possible recommendation. Seriously. I bought one for everybody I know.

If you’re not worried about staying current, both PBS & Animal Planet/History/Science has a large portion of their whole libraries on Amazon Prime as free instant videos (as an aside I also just noticed they added Troll Hunter, which I’d been meaning to see).

Jupiter, most of the individual shows are available on the various streaming services. Of the shows I can’t get on Hulu, I have season passes on Zune to An Idiot Abroad, Mythbusters, Mad Men, and Dr. Who, and my kid has season passes to Young Justice, iCarly, Victorious, Green Lantern, and Mad… The combined cost of all of the season passes is just a few bucks more than one month of DirecTV was costing us.

Overall I’ve been happy with Ooma – it’s not great (the basic service), but it’s definitely decent. stusser is right that you do still have to pay your USF fees and the like however. Which, interestingly enough, you’re also required by law to do with the OBi110 and other devices (just as you’re required to pay state sales tax on Internet purchases) – Ooma just actually forces you to comply with the law, rather than “allowing” you to comply voluntarily.

That said, the voice quality with Ooma is so-so – about the same as a good cell connection, or, put slightly differently, the same as just about any VoIP connection. My experience has also been that I do sometimes drop calls, particularly international calls – again, I have the same experience with with cell phone, but YMMV.

Anyway, whether you go Ooma or OBi or another VoIP provider (and if I didn’t work in a telecom related field I’d probably have gone with OBi), you probably won’t regret it. Even with the $200 price tag, Ooma paid for itself in just under 5 months, which is pretty fantastic, when you think about it. My USF fees and the like end up around $4/mo., and are charged directly to my credit card. I don’t have the Ooma premier service, so I can’t speak the quality of that offering, but it struck me as a bit of a rip off.

Oh, and since I didn’t include it in my earlier message, the downsides (as I see them) are:

  1. call quality is not as good as traditional voice (probably slightly better than cell, but not perfect by any stretch, particularly with international calls), and
  2. who the hell knows how long Ooma will be around to provide the service (this is a point in favor of the OBi boxes, incidentally, since they are more provider agnostic, from what I understand).


Call quality seems fine on the Obihai. Nobody noticed any problems. I haven’t dropped any calls either, but I really don’t use it all that often.

The Obi is completely provider agnostic, but if Google Voice were to die (or start charging) you’d lose free phonecalls. Google has offered free calls for years now, and promised to continue through the end of 2013, but I suppose they could decide to stop service. I doubt that’ll happen, but it’s possible. If so, you just sign up with another SIP provider.

Well, the upcoming season of Game of Thrones as thrown a monkey in my wrench. My wife needs her Thrones fix (as do I). But I have asked her to come up with a list of programs she regularly watches so I can start mapping out a non-cable game plan. For now, I’m going to reduce our cable package.

Do a gut check. Is your Thrones fix worth $100+ a month? If you step back and be honest about it - probably not. :)

This seems appropriate if a bit out of date now.

Yeah, Game of Thrones was it as far as things I couldn’t watch via legal means. (The Oatmeal’s comic is a bit over the top, though – you’re forced into patience, not piracy.) I actually held off cutting the cable so that we could watch the rest of the first season of GoT.

But I’ll just studiously avoid spoilers and watch it when I can rent it on Blu-ray. Someday HBO will get with the times and offer HBO Go a la carte, or at least realize there’s serious money to be made selling their series on Amazon/iTunes/Zune in a timely fashion.

It’s not HBO’s decision. Time-Warner owns HBO, and they’re trying to protect their lucrative cable TV business.


I tried that for Season 1 and failed. I was totally spoilerized before the damn Blurays were even announced.


Annoyingly, I have an HBO-sponsored opportunity to see the Game of Thrones premiere tonight on a big screen, but I have to take my kid to play rehearsal.

But it would just be frustrating to see the first two hours and then have to wait a year to see the rest. Right? Right?

I cut my cable last tuesday and signed up for a free week of Hulu Plus. $70 a month was just too much. And going below that is kind of pointless because then I’m either cutting out channels I want, or cutting out my DVR, which is so essential it’s pointless to have cable without it.

So cutting it altogether has been interesting. I wrote down the list of shows that were set to record last week before giving back the cable box. I’ve been able to see most of them on my 360 through Hulu Plus, including the Daily Show and Colbert Report, which go up around 3am or so (central), which is pretty cool, since I get home at 5:30am after working the night shift on certain nights, and both shows are ready for me to watch before I go to bed, just like when I had cable.

What’s different is this whole idea of remembering which shows are on which day, and having to actually go seek them out. I had expected that if I just list shows as my favorites, Hulu Plus would find some way of showing me that there was a new episode out. Nope. I have to go seek it out and keep track of which day is which show, etc. Plus they were advertising a new South Park last week when I cut cable, but a new South Park never showed up on Hulu Plus this week. Maybe it goes up a week late?

One nice thing is that Xbox Live has an MSN channel. When I had cable, a lot of times I would record documentaries on PBS or just the PBS Newshour everyday and watch that when I had a few spare minutes. But with that no longer possible, I fire up the MSN channel and watch the NBC nightly news, or the Rachel Maddow show, and it’s pretty nice, plus it’s completely free.

I do miss the old Xbox interface though, where all the MSN stuff was just part of the video interface. You didn’t have to start a whole separate MSN app to get to that stuff. Now, I have to launch MSN, and it takes just as long to load up as the Hulu Plus app, the Netflix app, or Zune. And they all take around 90 seconds to load up. Back when I had cable, I used to spend those 90 seconds watching the PBS Newshour, but that’s no longer possible. Grumble.

Still, once I get used to all this waiting around, and having to watch ads, I have to admit, for going from $70 a month to $8 for Hulu Plus, that’s one hell of a savings. So I’m definitely keeping Hulu Plus for the foreseeable future.

Only thing I watch that Hulu Plus doesn’t have: Survivor, Amazing Race, and 60 Minutes. All CBS Shows that I have to watch on my desktop. Same with NBC’s 30 Rock, which doesn’t stream to the Xbox for some reason.