My recent series of columns about cutting the cable cord to your TV in favour of Internet-based content has generated a lot of responses from readers. Let’s get to the first batch, with more on the way in my next column:
Q: I’ve got an old TV with a 13-inch screen. I used to get CBC and CTV with my rabbit ears, but now I can’t because of the change to digital. Is there something I can do?
A: Not really. If your TV is an old tube-based model as I suspect, you’ll need an adapter or converter box for your rabbit ears to allow the TV to read the digital signals now broadcast exclusively by TV stations in North America. The cheapest converter box I could find on Amazon.ca was $70. At that price, depending on your budget, I’d buy a new TV. If you look for sales, you can find decent TVs up to 32 inches, good enough for many households, for $250 or less at retail stores.
Q: I wish to get rid of my cable, since I only view five channels. My question is, can I have an antenna while residing in a condo? Also, how do I know if my TV is digital? It’s fairly new, but can’t remember when I purchased it.
A: Yes, you can have an antenna in a condo, but its placement will be restricted compared to a house, where you can put an antenna in the attic or on the roof. In my own apartment antenna use is limited by my walls, aluminum blinds and surrounding apartment buildings. As for your TV, if it’s thin and wide, fairly new and not a big, bulky square thing, it’s digital. Just make sure the five channels you want to receive are local TV stations broadcast over the air in the Vancouver area. If any of them are from the States, you’ll want to stick with cable.
Q: Does the Boxee Box not deserve at least an honourable mention? What are your thoughts on this option?
A: I haven’t used the Boxee Box, a small, unusually shaped media streamer made by D-Link, but I have used the now discontinued PC software version of Boxee, which has much the same interface. I liked it, the interface is bold and easy to use on a big screen, and I considered the Boxee Box for my own home setup as a Netflix device. But the price is relatively high (currently $190 at Future Shop) compared to $109 for devices like the Apple TV.
Q: We already subscribe to Netflix and very rarely watch conventional TV. Yet every time I look at dropping cable I end up figuring its hardly worth it. We have a bundle for TV, high speed Internet and basic phone through Shaw which totals $83.89 per month including tax. I suspect I’m on a grandfathered or unadvertised bundle as the ones listed online are a lot more expensive. Going to straight Internet 20 at $55/month sounds good but we still want a land line for work phone call purposes and house alarm monitoring purposes. A phone service at $20/month brings the pre-tax bill to $75 and I think that after taxes it would cost more than we are paying now. The only way I can figure out how to cut cable and save money is to move our phone to a VoiP service, which would mean paying more for wireless house alarm monitoring and purchasing expensive hardware. So for now I think we are sticking with our current setup and getting free cable that we rarely watch.
A: It seems like you’ve thought your needs and budget through very well and have the best of both options: reliability for phone and cable TV when needed with the additional choices through Internet-based entertainment. I’m glad you mentioned VoIP telephone services, which is using the Internet for phone service. That’s a topic for an upcoming column.