My Valentine’s Day break-up with Comcast

- Headline in last Wednesday's New York Post

2020? Try February of 2011.

That’s when my Comcast bill — for cable TV and high-speed Internet — went to $203 and I said enough! I canceled cable, sold my three flat-screen TVs and started watching everything on my iPad.

I now pay Comcast $69.95 a month for Internet, and my ComEd bill has been cut significantly now that I don’t have television sets sucking up electricity. My monthly usage went from a 12-month high of 914 kilowatts to last month’s all-time low of 243.

What I found is that there’s an app for nearly all of my favorite shows, and that I don’t mind watching them on a smaller screen (even after once owning a 65-inch flat-screen) – especially now that the iPad has a retina display screen.

Cord-cutting, really, was a cinch, and I now pay only $7.99 a month — thank you, Hulu Plus! — for programming.

I know that dumping cable hasn’t been as easy for others, especially ESPN addicts and families. CNET editor David Katzmaier wrote 16 months ago about going a month without cable, then deciding to go back to Verizon. He wrote: “I’ve reconnected, and committed to the pipe for another two years, I can’t help but feel that I should have done more, kept at it longer, or found a way to make it work. On the other hand, I’m infinitely relieved that my wife and I can eliminate TV as a source of stress in our household.”

My Comcast separation has been stress-free. It happened this way:

In February of 2011 — shortly after I went on a gadget-buying spree and bought an Apple TV, Roku and Boxee Box — Comcast raised its rates (again!) and pushed my cable/Internet bill above the $200 mark. I called customer service and canceled the cable portion. (Our break-up was on Valentine’s Day, Comcast told me last week when I checked to confirm the date.) There was no attempt to keep me as a customer; all the rep did was tell me that my high-speed Internet charge would go from about $45 to $65 without TV in the package. (The rate’s gone up since.)

Electric usage from my latest ComEd bill

I continued to get the ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations at no charge. I used Hulu Plus on the Roku player to watch “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show,” and other programs. When the Comcast’s Xfinity iPad app launched, I discovered that I could watch nearly all of my favorite premium subscription channel shows (including “Eastbound and Down,” “Shameless,” and “Dexter”) for free on the iPad. As more and more tablet apps were released (NBC Nightly News, Team Coco, 60 Minutes, PBS and others), I found myself watching most shows from the iPad — or at least keeping one eye on them — while I checked Twitter, Facebook, email and websites from my MacBook Air. My bedroom and office TV sets were rarely used; my living room television was the only one I was watching, and that wasn’t very often.

A few months ago I decided it was time to leave Evanston after 12 years and explore other parts of the country. What should I take with me? Definitely not the dust-collecting TVs, I decided. I recently put the three flat-screens on Craigslist — along with the Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, 3D Blu-Ray player and 3D glasses — and they sold quickly. One buyer was so happy with my $475 price that he agreed to patch the holes cut in the walls to hang the TVs for a deep discount. When that job’s complete, the condo goes up for sale. Anyone want a beautiful one-bedroom place with a box fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows and a Starbucks around the corner?


Hulu Plus: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, American Dad, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live

XFINITY: Real Time with Bill Maher, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Dexter, Parks and Recreation, Community, The Office, Saturday Night Live, Conan, Girls, Weeds, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Family Guy Late Show with David Letterman; Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

ABC Player: Modern Family, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Middle

NBC app: 30 Rock

NBC Nightly News; CBS News; 60 Minutes; Rock Center: For news programming.

I asked my Facebook friends and subscribers how they watch TV these days. Here are some of their comments (read all 60 here):



  1. J. Heasly said:

    How are you able to watch Real Time with Bill Maher without premium cable? I didn’t think the Xfinity app would give you access if it’s not part of your cable package (at least my Xfinity app won’t).

  2. Jim said:

    I watched it on Saturday on the app. I don’t know if it’s because I still have their Internet service, or if they’re letting me watch Showtime/HBO shows by mistake.

  3. Look, after about two, maybe three, years of these stories, can we stop? We get it. If you do not watch live sports, traditional CATV channel spew is probably not worth it.

  4. How much did you watch TV before? That seems like quite a drop in electricity, and TVs don’t use that much electricity compared to other household appliances:

    Did you have several TVs going all day long before?

    TVs and other electronics do suck down phantom power when not in use, and perhaps that’s a bit part of your drop (3 TVs + cable boxes + set top boxes). This is why my entertainment center is on a power strip that is set to off. Cable boxes in particular use quite a bit of power.

    I’ve been cable TV free for a few years, but I still enjoy watching movies on my HDTV with surround sound. For most other video, I use my iPad too.

  5. D Johnston said:

    These articles are helpful as the technology and media offerings change constantly. I enjoy basic, very basic, cable which has been grandfathered. It is less than $15/month and provides a smattering of channels without the problem of reception. It is connected into Windows Media Center which acts as a DVR and I can watch what I have recorded remotely on other devices like my phone and (soon) iPad.

    Add in Netflix for $20 and whatever is interesting on the web and that is all I have time for. I might try out Hulu Plus but, really, the programming is not very good right now so it’s time to go hiking instead.

    I am pretty sure I can take my phone hiking anyway. Oh the horrors.

  6. Jim said:

    Patrick — I had the Comcast DVR, and I TiVo, along with the Apple TV, Roku, Boxee and, for a while, Google TV.

  7. D, you kinda prove my point. Media consumption options are changing so fast — and must interface with such a wonderful diversity in taste, habits, and disposable income — that there is not much more to be said about the topic.

    The stories I WOULD like to see are — what in the world are states and localities doing with the windfall of tax revenue $200 CATV bill produce? Are we setting up for a replay of gas taxes — where eventually efficiency gains in broadband use produce a drop in govt revenue and a scramble to replace the tax regime? Or do states and localities have a subtle but real incentive to collude with providers to inflate broadband bills, the better to piggyback on with higher ad valorem collections?

  8. John said:

    The lack of live sports is the major downside. I’ve kinda lost interest in my Phoenix Suns this year because I haven’t watched a single game. I wonder how widespread that lose of enthusiasm is. I wonder if it has had an effect on ticket sales and other sports revenues.

  9. Tom Mihalek said:

    I dumped CommunistCast when my bill hit $93. Why would I want to pay to watch an endless stream of garbage and tons of commercials? They are a monopoly in Philly. I now pay $11 bucks a month to those bastards and get all the good shows I want from internet TV. Fuck Brian Roberts and that fat bastard David Cohen.

  10. Bill Lee said:

    Ah, not plugged in to local cable.

    Now you can spend 6 months in Sydney (“Tomorrow’s news today” was ad slogan of the Sydney Morning Herald) and six months in Amsterdam. And still cover the U.S. press scene with a time-difference advantage.

    Eternal summer as you swap hemispheres.