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June 5th 2013 11:00 am

More people are ditching home Internet than cable TV

With the rise in streaming services over the past few years, a lot has been said about the practice of cord cutting—ditching your paid cable TV service and relying on a digital antenna and streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle) for all your content. Those who have done it will talk about all the money they're saving, and how cord-cutting is the future. We've even done a showcase on it: gdgt.com­/showcase­/cut­-the­-cord­-get­-tv­-without­-cabl...

However, only 0.4% of households have actually taken the step. This might be because it's still fairly early (Netflix, for example, only started instant streaming in 2009). And the Internet can only offer so much—the sports offerings aren't very strong (for example, NFL Sunday Ticket is still a DirecTV exclusive).

What more people are doing, though, instead of getting rid of their cable TV, is that they're actually getting rid of their home Internet service. 1% of households, in fact—which may still seem like a small number, but it's more than twice as big as the number of cable cord cutters. These people choose to rely on free WiFi offered by places like libraries and coffee shops, they use the Internet at work, or most significantly, they rely on their smartphone data plan. Smartphone penetration is now past the 50% mark in the United States, and it's only going to increase as companies eliminate sales of featurephones and voice-only plans. (adage.com­/article­/digital­/a­-majority­-u­-s­-mobile­-us...)

Using your smartphone for music or video streaming is a proposition that can get real expensive real fast, but if you're just using the Internet for Facebook and Twitter, email, and light web surfing, then essentially paying twice for an Internet connection seems a bit silly and wasteful.

It's unlikely anyone would drop both; unless, of course, they don't watch much TV in the first place. But with cable+Internet bills topping $100, and data plan prices going up as well (both AT&T and Verizon famously raised their prices last year, www.wired.com­/gadgetlab­/2012­/01­/att­-data­-plan­-chan...), it seems like something has to give.

Whether you were on a tight budget, or just wanted to cut some costs, what would you give up? Have you already cut the cable cord? Could you live without home Internet?



(photo by Alyssa & Colin, CC BY-SA 2.0 www.flickr.com­/photos­/23818635@N08­/8147897349­/in­/p...)

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26 replies

I'm astonished that more people are getting rid of internet than cable services. I personally would not have cable tv if it weren't for my roommate -- I lived without cable tv for four years and can't wait to go back. Something about not subscribing to heaps of uninteresting advertising-subsidized content just takes a load off my mind.

On the other hand, I can't imagine not having internet at home. I'd much rather pick something to watch off of Netflix or play Xbox or surf the web (talk about heaps of uninteresting content :P) than sit through TV commercials. My smartphone stays on Wifi when I'm at home so I don't run my data plan up, and I don't mind paying extra for a higher, steadier connection. But that's just what works for me.
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I've been sans cable for 3+ years. I have thought about dropping my home internet a few times and just relying on my grandfathered unlimited Verizon data stream but, haven't pulled that cord yet. I don't know why I haven't.

A quick comparison this morning at home;
Time Warner Roadrunner Cable (home) - 35.98 Mbps download and 0.96 Mbps upload with a 36ms ping
Verizon 4G LTE on Samsung Galaxy Nexus - 1.6 Mbps download and 1.11 Mbps upload with 38 ms ping

If these results continue to be the same then I wouldn't be able to cut the home internet and stream my entertainment.
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I think one big concern with making that step is total bandwidth and ping. I don't think you could comfortable distribute that 4G signal to 2 or 3 devices and have an experience comparable to home internet, yet. Also if you game, I would not feel comfortable trusting my phone.
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I would have pulled the internet plug already as well to use my unlimited data plan (verizon LTE is much faster than my cable internet anyway), but then the rest of the house would be without internet when I am not home, so that doesn't really work. Then in the end keeping Verizon was gonna be too expensive anyway
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I have both cable, and possibly the slowest fiber internet on the planet, but both of those are provided free to me (for 10 more months, I got a promotion). After the free-period, I'll be done with cable, and trying to upgrade my home internet.

However, my girlfriend lives without cable or internet in her place. One of the few people I know that do. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to this.

  1. The cat gets tons more attention
  2. She has time to write, and paint, and read.
  3. Of course no monthly bill

  1. I have no option to work remotely from her place
  2. Entertainment options are limited
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In order to keep my internet, I have to bundle my cable tv services. It's actually cheaper to get both than just the internet. That's why the numbers of people actually cutting the cords aren't high and that's why people, like me, still absolutely despise companies like Comcast.
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It's really not that much cheaper once you consider all fees associated with a TV subscription. Take your average household family of 4, they likely have 2 TVs if not 4. If they're not using a DVR service they're likely paying $6.99-9.99 per STB for each TV set. If they have a DVR that cost jumps significantly. So just from STB they're spending $14 - $20 for 2 TVs or $28-$40 for 4 TVs. At most your internet cost will go up $10-15 if you unbundle cable from it, sometimes the promotional prices are still fairly reasonable. So you either push or come out at with $10-20 savings, if not more.
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actually, when i had my apartment they were going to charge me $75 a month for just 30mbps internet, but if i got basic cable and 30mbps i could get both for $60 combined. i didnt even want cable but got it just for the discount.
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Also, if you're only paying for one service instead of two, even if the separate cost is more than if it was part of a bundle, you're still saving money by not paying for the extra service.

For example:

Cable = $50
Internet = $50
As a discounted bundle = $80

If you ditch just the cable and pay $50 for Internet, that's still $30 you're not paying.

Just because something is a great deal doesn't mean you have to buy it in the first place.
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I'd agree with everyone here that it's almost impossible to get by without home broadband, especially if you do any amount of streaming or multiplayer gaming. On the other hand, I just came across this article from USA Today (www.usatoday.com­/story­/tech­/personal­/2013­/06­/04­/mo...), which says that spending on mobile data is now higher than home internet, and that by 2017, 87% of the population will have mobile internet access, while 85% of homes will have broadband. While the article doesn't say anything about overlap, it's probably safe to assume that at least some of the 15% of homes without broadband will be inhabited by people using mobile internet instead. However, it's probably also safe to assume that most of those people won't be using their mobile accounts for streaming.
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I haven't had TV service since 1998, but I did finally connect an OTA antenna 2 years ago to make life easier as a football fan. However, the only time I ever use that now are for NFL and NBA Playoffs because I signed up for NFL Game Rewind last year and will do it again this year. For the movies and TV shows I have wanted to watch since, I am just streaming where available or buying DVDs. Granted, it kind of stinks not being able to watch Person of Interest or Clone Wars for several months after a season ends, but it is worth the inconvenience to me since those are the only things I would use the TV service for anyway.

As far as internet goes, now that I don't have time for multiplayer games anymore, I am less concerned with making sure I have home internet as long as I have access of some kind. I would never want to rely on having to go to coffee shops / the library / the office to get access, though. I could switch from cable to cellular with no problem assuming the price was comparable and we could still stream Netflix and Game Rewind without hitting a data cap. Oh, right, nevermind, I guess I need home internet. ;)
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"Kris" / Engadget: You guys are totally falling for the oldest trick in the cable TV book! I should know...I worked for Time Warner Cable for 5 years. Want to know what is really going on? Call your cable TV company and tell them you want to cancel all TV service and just keep your Internet. They will do EVERYTHING to keep you on at least SOME KIND of TV package...up to even offering you the basic broadcast channels for FREE. They are padding the numbers right now for shareholders and to hide the true popularity of cord cutting. I will guarantee that .4% figure should be more like 5%...but the cable companies are giving out so much free basic TV they keep the numbers down...in appearance, anyway. I mean, who is going to turn down free TV?
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We're not falling for anything. My reality is that most people I know still keep their cable... and most people I know watch some sort of live sports. There's a connection there, in that online sports offerings still aren't up to snuff with what you can get with cable.

If someone keeps their cable subscription because the cable company offered them free broadcast TV... well, then they're a fool. It's free anyway, all you need is an antenna, and I think people are starting to wise up to that fact.
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It may be free if you live in a city, but I live in a valley in the mountains of NC. If I put a antenna up on my roof, I get one channel...PBS. My only options are cable or satellite. Personally, I prefer paying for Netflix, Amazon (since I use Prime for shipping anyway) and Hulu+ for my video entertainment. For the few shows I can't get from those services, I buy them on Amazon through my Roku. I still end up saving about $20 per month and I only have to deal with commercials in a limited way on Hulu.

Also, Charter's DVR interface is extremely frustrating compared to the Roku.
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With the economic challenges facing us today, I'm surprised more people don't stop paying for internet......twice.
It's my belief, that most computer savvy/dependent people are carrying smart phones w/ data plans (a.k.a. mobile broadband hot-spots) and are learning what tethering is.
If your internet was cable...that's like hiring a different cable provider for every TV in your house. Nobody does that. They buy their cable one time, from one provider, and watch it on whatever TV they want.
I'm surprised there was no mention of people ditching home 'land-line' phone service (a product required for the second time you buy internet) and replacing it with the cell phone service they're already paying for.
Was the fact that, cable providers are also in the internet business and are pulling customers away from traditional internet providers, ever factored into this equation?
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Wireless, more convenient
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Its also very limited, slower, less reliable and more expensive.
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But incredibly easy to get! As an ex-pat, I'd need to place roughly $265 as insurance to get a landline and DSL. Also, it would take around 2 weeks while they set me up with the internet.

Alternatively, I got a 3G router and a data-only SIM and had internet instantly and without a ridiculous insurance deposit.

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Surprised by this. Would've figured it was the other way around with all the streaming providers these days.
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Never wanted cable. Ever. My parents didn't get it until I moved out. When I lived with other people they HAD to have it. I can't stand paying for commercials. Hulu commercials are especially irritating but they have what I want that Netflix doesn't.

I am all for using my cell phone, but not enough to replace my internet entirely.
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Hulu in Japan does not have commercials.... :( miss Hulu Japan....
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I cut the cable TV cord a little over a year ago and have no regrets. I built an HTPC with a refurbished HP 8000 ultra slim PC, bought a Roku for my bedroom, and subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime. The only thing I have trouble getting access to is sports, but I've learned to live with it. For the Dodgers, I enjoy watching baseball live rather than on TV so I just go to more games (cheap anyway). For the Lakers, even though they have their own Time Warner network now, because they are the Lakers they still show a shit ton of games on free over the air channels. And for the NFL, as long as there is no team in L.A. I refuse to pay for anything regarding the NFL, Roger Goodell insists the NFL doesn't need me, so I don't need them. And for college sports I cheat a little bit, I use my mother in laws Time Warner credentials to watch the PAC 12 network online. As far as cutting the broadband cord, my job doesn't allow me to do that even if I wanted to. Being a computer tech for a school district I VPN in to my office all the time, and I need the high speed connection for this to work properly.
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We consume a lot of streaming media in our home. I have 4 Roku players and a Chromecast as well. We are using Plex, Netflix, and Amazon. We were paying over $120 for cable and internet. We not just pay for internet at around $60. We use digital antennas for any local stuff.

While I i hate not getting to watch shows when they air or have to be completely still when I use an antenna, it saving us money. I have considered switching to a cell service through Wal-Mart to save more but their phone options do not satisfy my needs.

I am hoping soon that cable companies will switch to either a usage model, or allow you to have apps like hbo go for abc, cbs, etc. that i can just pay for. They can even keep commercials in them as well.
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100Mb symmetrical (1Gb service available in my area in Q2 2014) internet, 150+ HD channels of TV, and home phone with unlimited calling for $50 a month. Mobile phone with 250 minutes (unlimited to same network) unlimited wifi hotspot access (they are everywhere) plus 2.5Gb of data, and a tablet with 3Gb of LTE data $50 for the couple. Also keep in mind we run LTE-A nationwide here. South Korea, just move here it's better.
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Well, in here (small country in Eastern Europe) I get internet for 23€ (about $31.50), Internet speed is 60mbps down/30mbps up, no cable TV in that pack since I don't have any TV. Unfortunately netflix and other services don't work in Eastern EU area. But with extra 3 eur per month could get internet speed as 100mbps down, 50mbps up or for 26 eur speed 60/30 and 80 digital TV channels and there are no bandwidth limits for internet. Well I hope internet speeds go cheaper and faster over there too. Since we don't even get the channels you get from our TV bundles, channels where they air latest episodes of series, then it is really common in here to just pirate TV series, but at least it seems that people are going to cinemas more than last years to watch movies there. DVD-rentals aren't popular here, so it is more like watch it in cinema and if it is not airing there again then again pirating comes into topic... Quite same with PC games, if there are some region limitations for selling, then piraccy is the way to get them in here... it is not good, and most of you don't even know something about regional limitations because everything is available for you from the start and most of the times cheaper because they do conversion like $1 = 1€ in steam, even tho it is more like 1 USD = 0.73 EUR, at least conversion like 1:0.80 would be ok in Steam but not 1:1... so yea I don't even wonder why they pirate so much in here.
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We cut the cable three years ago, living on Hulu Plus, Netflix, internet stuffs, and TPB ever since, no looking back. The PS3 and associated media server do the trick quite nicely and we needn't deal with the nipple tweaking, cable package slinging jerkoffs who want to shove 98% trash down our throats for $98 a month.
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