• Nikita Patel

Cutting the Cord on Cable

In March, I hosted a class on How to Cut the Cord on Cable where I taught local San Diego Seniors how to stream content using sites like Netflix & Hulu as a way to save money on cable. The idea to teach a class on this topic sparked when I had learned how much my senior members were paying to watch TV, surf the Internet, or even have an email inbox through their ISP. Here are some of my favorite anecdotes:

  • One woman was paying $10 a month to keep her email account with AT&T after she switched to Spectrum. She had assumed that this is what the cost of running an email inbox was - WRONG.

  • A man in his 70s who lives alone was paying $90 for 150 mbps of internet connection in his single family home because the ISP told him that's the level he needed. (That's enough bandwidth to power a small office!)

  • A couple in their 60s who watches T.V. mostly in the evening was paying $150 for a cable bundle that included 200 channels, most of which were not watched since they only watch the news mostly, and a basic internet service.

It came as a pretty big shock when I let them know that our home which houses 4 millennials with over 20 unique connected devices, paid only $55 to receive 50mbps of internet in a ~2,500 square foot home. This is usually how I start each of my cord cutting classes - now held virtually via Zoom and can be accessed through our Facebook Group designed especially for the older adult called Tech Curious.

It surprises me how many of our older adult citizens have been juked by cable companies into plans that don't just don't fit their needs. I hope this guide will help empower more of you to take control & start streaming.

1. Determine your internet speed & how much you're paying for it. If you already have internet as part of a bundle or stand alone service, check your cable bill to see how much you pay and the speed (seen as mbps) you have. Most plans start at 5-10mbps and allow you to perform basic internet functions, although higher speeds are typically marketed on websites. In my opinion, 20-25 mbps is plenty for a home of 1-3 adults. For reference, here's an appended list* from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Bandwidth Speed guide.

General Browsing, Email, Social Media - 1 mbps

Video teleconference in HD - 6 mbps

Streaming an HD Video - 5-8 mbps

Online Gaming & Multiplayer - 3-4 mbps

* table shows speeds based on one device at a time usage and are rough estimates

2. Find the right streaming service for you. Streaming is what you do when you're watching a video someone posted on Facebook or checking out any video on YouTube. It's a way to view content off the internet seamlessly, without having to download a file to your device. There are many services that allow you to stream content nowadays including: YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Here are a few streaming services that I consistently use:

  • Netflix

  • Hulu

  • HGO BO

  • Disney+

Majority of these sites allow you to do a "free trial" for ~7-14 days. You can try things out before canceling your cable or determining which site offers you the best content.

3. Enable Streaming on your devices. Another upside with streaming is that you can watch your favorite content anywhere! You can stream on your cellphone or tablets by downloading the apps or on your laptop by going to the website. To allow streaming on your television, you will either need 1) a Smart Tv that allows you to download the apps you want to watch or 2) insert a streaming device such a Roku or FireStick into an existing HDMI port. Check the back of your TV for an HDMI port - here's what they look like (courtesy of WikiHow):

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