This month we hit our sixth lunarversary of life without cable and Comcast.
I first started on this effort to get rid of Comcast because I discovered that they were drastically reducing the speed for streaming videos from Hulu and Netflix. The throttling of our bandwidth continued to affect my work as a web developer, and Sig’s abilities to VPN into his office for his telecommute days. We were accruing losses from lack of production because of Comcast’s meddling with our bandwidth.
Glasnost’s ISP Shaping Internet Test Page helped me hammer in the last nail into our decision to kill Comcast as our internet service provider and as our cable TV company. Glasnost tests work by measuring and comparing the performance of different application flows between your host and Glasnost servers. The tests can detect traffic shaping in both upstream and downstream directions separately. The tests can also detect whether application flows are shaped based on their port numbers or their packets’ payload. It’s a fairly handy tool for the homeowner.
On Sig’s side of things, the switch was fairly painless. He was never a big TV watcher, and prefers movies over TV shows.
Selecting an ISP: Qwest CentryLink
In the end, we went with Qwest, but not before doing extensive research on their broadband service in our area and definitely not before reviewing their customer service policies. Ten years ago we were very disappointed with Qwest’s customer service and lack of bandwidth.
At first the switch over was rocky, for the first week we ended up with a faulty DSL modem. In the third week, the switchboard near our neighborhood went down for three days. Both times I complained about Qwest on Twitter and Facebook. Unexpectedly, for both instances, I got a response from Qwest. When our modem turned out to be faulty, we got it replaced within 24 hours. When the switchboard went down, I got a call from local manager (yes a real person) explaining the events that transpired. After those two events, our broadband has been stable and our bandwidth issues solved. Our up and download speeds are fast enough for both games and work. Only about once a month do I need to restart the modem, when our connection seems slow.
Today I use social networks to keep tabs on Qwest, not only for outages but also their business endeavors. The latest news entails the CentryLink and Qwest merger — now officially completed at the beginning of this month. Yes, this means that our beloved Qwest Field will become CentryLink Field at some point.
Typically customer service suffers from big mergers, because efficiency and cost savings are important objectives for most mergers, even though there is a larger group of customers to serve. The press releases say that Qwest and CenturyLink will continue to operate independently, just under one name. My concern of course is customer service and will be keeping tabs on my local service. I’ve been burned by Qwest, before they revamped their customer service department and I would hate to have a repeat from ten years ago.
What to Watch: Netflix & Hulu
I love streaming TV and movies to my computer and both Netflix and Hulu are perfect for that. Today’s tech makes it stupid-easy to hook up your PC to a flat panel TV. Even my new laptop has an HDMI out and software for streaming video. We’re not really concerned about getting the latest episodes of popular shows. If we were, we could probably purchase new shows through iTunes.
For news, we mostly go through NPR’s streaming radio and read up on local news via Google News and Seattle Times Online. Some news stations also stream their headliners online. I could subscribe to AP news RSS Feeds and get real-time news hits with desktop widgets, but I’m not that desperate for word from the outside.
Other types of media content, like sports, we seem to be fine without. We’re not big sports fans and typically find baseball and basketball boring. Though we don’t dislike soccer or football, it just isn’t big in our lives. If we wanted to watch sports, I think we’re more likely to attend a live match at the stadium.
Side Effects of a No Cable Life
We watch a lot less crap. I’m serious! With cable TV in the house, you just watch whatever is on. Without it, you tend to actively search for things to watch, and eventually the quality of what you watch goes up. We actually enjoy more of our time watching a show or movie as a result. Now perhaps the lack of cable TV created a need to read more reviews, but now we’re being far pickier than before instead of consuming whatever is being fed to us. I personally don’t feel like I’m wasting my time on shows that turn out to be stupid or uninteresting.
I’m less likely to buy things I don’t need now. I’m easily persuaded by commercials sometimes and, without cable TV I’m seeing less commercials; and consequently buying less.
We also have more time to do more rewarding activities. Sig is writing and game designing a lot more, and has created some quality products now for sale. He’s been quite happy with his Advanced Feats Series. For myself, I’ve been improving my writing skills and focusing on expanding my skills in desktop publishing and graphics design. We’ve also taken up podcasting, were I enjoy producing and sound engineering, while Sig takes pleasure in hosting and talking to guests.
Life without Cable is Better
We both think that the quality of our lives is better without cable TV. To say by how much, I can’t really say. I can say that if we do watch something, the quality of what we watch is better. We also have a better service than before. Overall, life is good without cable and Comcast.