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TV

It bugs me whenever I see articles online that are like, "How To: Completely replace cable TV using just the Internet!" because step one is always "Compromise what you want."

I mean, for a lot of people, it's probably a viable alternative, like if the only thing you want to watch is episodes of The Daily Show the morning after they air. But I've tried it before when I was dirt broke and absolutely could not afford it and I was miserable. I guess I liked seeing new episodes when they aired, watching live TV, and not having to think about what's on and occasionally stumbling on something I ended up liking without knowing to look for it.


Not sure if it has anything to do with when I was a kid or not. My father didn't want to pay for cable, but at least then we still got network channels (some places I've lived as an adult, I couldn't even get that). One day I visited my grandmother and aunt and they showed me Nickelodeon and I was like "WHAT WONDER IS THIS??" One of my friends in elementary school invited a bunch of us to his house one day, and his folks actually had satellite and we saw Dragonball Z on an actual Japanese channel before it even got dubbed for America. I really wanted cable back then, but we wouldn't get it until after my parents split up.

Back in that dark period when I was so broke and couldn't afford TV and desperately wanted to find an Internet-only alternative, I found a site that promised LIVE TV over the Internet. But instead of the channels I was familiar with, it was an odd assortment of various free channels like C-SPAN and this Korean channel that only ever showed a pond with ducks swimming.


Anyway, I have cable now, but for a while I've been thinking of switching to something cheaper. The first service I had was just a local cable company... the one that Comcast refers you to since they don't directly service this area. It was nice and cheap, and it's that old technology that's easy to split throughout your home so you wouldn't need to pay extra for each additional room. AND it worked great with Windows Media Center. I thought it was great except for the limited number of HD channels.

The service I currently have is AT&T U-verse, which seemed nice, but it's on the expensive side. The cheapest plan didn't have all the channels I wanted, so I went for the second-cheapest. HD was $10 extra a month, but they had all the channels I wanted and more. The thing is that, like satellite TV, they scramble the signal in a special way so a cable splitter won't actually work. That way they ensure they can charge you extra for each room you want to add TV service to... Although I read that, with U-verse, you can actually pay a flat fee of around $100 to turn an Xbox 360 into a set top box and avoid an extra monthly fee. I never got around to trying it, though...

It's also odd in that it depends entirely on the Internet connection. If the router is unplugged, the TV signal dies. And while it works great 90% of the time, when it goes on the fritz, it's super annoying. You know when you have to reset your router when the Internet isn't quite working right anymore? You have to do that both with the router and with the set top box, and usually it takes me hours to get it back working again... I couldn't be happier with the service when it was working, but...

Anyway, my options were to look at satellite or going back to the first company. While the first company would've been a good choice for the price, the prospect of going back to non-HD channels was off-putting. I had sworn off satellite for a while because of the non-split issue, and how it's not easily compatible with Windows Media Center, but I figured it was no different from the service I currently had anyway. And I checked and it turned out DirecTV actually offers a Windows Media Center DVR set top box now!


So I'm giving DirecTV a chance again. I remember being pleased with their service before. I'm not a fan of the complicated games they have for their pricing, but in the end I'll be saving money. I don't have to pay an extra $10 fee for HD... though I do need to pay an extra $10 for the special Media Center box. Still, the normal price is $15 less than what I'm currently paying. And there's special discounts for the first 24 months, so the first year I'll actually save $40 a month. Saving $480 in the first year! That's not too bad. And the second year I should still be saving $25 a month.

The pricing was such a pain in the neck, though. First they tell you it's only $X/month! But only for the first year, after a "rebate." Actually, two rebates. It's easy enough, but you have to apply these rebates yourself by logging in to your account. One discount is $10 a month if you sign up for their e-mail newsletter/spam. The other discount is only if you sign up for automatic bill pay, which I usually hate.

And like I said, there's an extra monthly fee for certain receiver models. That's all fine print they don't especially advertise...

Looking at the summary, it still seemed like the cost was $13 more per month than I expected. Turns out it's because they include the "free" Showtime trial. It's free just for the first three months, then you have to opt-out to avoid being charged for it. I thought I'd save myself the trouble by opting out at the start, but YOU CANNOT DO THAT. Because it's "FREE". I wanted to tear my hair out, but it's STILL cheaper than my current service...


I really do wish this Internet TV thing was viable for me. For now, it's just not the same. I totally get it works great for some people, but I just cannot stand it the way it is right now. I just wish I didn't have to deal with these gimmicky pricing schemes, extra charges for extra rooms, this unsplittable signal and incompatibility with Media Center (I love just building my own Media Center machines). I wish it were simpler and cheaper. I feel like it shouldn't cost more than $30/month for basic service... as a normal price, not a one-year special with rebate.

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