Perusing my cable/Internet bill this month from my local de facto monopoly, I picked my jaw off the floor and found myself on the horns of an ethical dilemma: To be a bandwidth thief, or not to be? That is indeed the question, as the fleetfooted Roadrunner has once again jacked prices through the stratosphere, leaving us folk on terra firma scratching our heads. The deal is, I get the same TV channels, and less bandwidth, but for more money. Genius! Tallying the rest of my monthly bills up against my humble paycheck, I started to get queasy, lightheaded and tired, and then I realized what it was. I've got a full-blown case of Subscription Fatigue.
For me, what seems odd is how the most disposable of "utility" services somehow have the biggest cojones when it comes to raising the rent. I can't easily do without heat, water, electricity and some form of telecommunication, be it wireless or wired. But cable and Internet? Fellas, please. I've been pushed enough, and now I'm ready to smack back at these greedy Guses.
Look at the larger picture. We're now a decade-plus into widespread home Internet usage, and if you recall the early dial-up days—and the stacks of AOL CDs clogging your mailbox—many of us once got Internet access on a minutes-of-use-per-month scheme. The advent of broadband basically doubled prices, but introduced the concepts of always-on access and unlimited use. "Unlimited" has quite an appealing ring to it, and so adoption rates at set prices have skyrocketed.
However, I think we've actually been conned in the process, on a few fronts, and we're all in need of an attitude adjustment. It's worth noting that, like it or not, the broadband revolution was paid for on the backs of taxpayers in the form of billions and billions of dollars of annual tax breaks to the big cable and telcos based in part on the promise of cheap, high-speed Internet (one example sited was the promise of a standard broadband service of 45 Mbps by 2010. Anyone getting that yet? Anyone? Bueller?). The result is that the US does indeed now have the largest broadband market in the world with some 66.2 million subscribers. Yet, defying logic, we also are among the highest-paying customers for some of the slowest speeds. In plain terms, why in Sam Hill are we paying an average of $49 a month for 1.9 Mbps downstream, when in Japan they get 100 Mbps for $55? Add to this the fact that many of us now have pricey data plans on our phones and other portable devices, and we're hitting close to three figures monthly for internet access that is a comparative 98-pound weakling to the rest of the first world (and some of the third world too).
I certainly understand that you have to pay to play, but I think there's an inequity in the formula—theoretically, I'm paying the same to use my "high speed" (snort) connection for a couple hours a day as the kid torrenting 40 gigs of pirated movies a month next door (and the statistics back that up—just 5 percent of users account for about 44 percent of bandwidth usage). They no longer offer a pay-as-you-go option (just like I can't pick what TV channels I want to pay for with cable). So this particular consumer feels like he's paying far too much for the pleasure of bandwidth, and a few times too often at that.
So I'm opting out.
When Time Warner/Roadrunner upped my Internet and cable TV ante, I initially dropped my monthly Internet plan to the lowest they offer, 786kbps for $30, mostly out of some misplaced sense of civic duty. I may dress like a buccaneer, but I'm no pirate, friend. I believe in paying a fair price for good products. But then I sampled my downgraded service and found it pokey, and incapable of playing even web video without stuttering. I promptly unplugged my modem and marched over to my neighbor—a small local eatery—to ask permission to pick up their unlocked network, one of two dozen Wi-Fi network signals my PC picks up. There are broad swathes of my city bathed in free Internet access now anyway, and so after considering all of the above, I'll be canceling my plan outright. That's right—you got greedy, Cable Guys, and now you got bupkus.
While I'm in a thrifty mood, I'm also considering other methods of consolidation. I'm looking into making or buying a standalone DVR—the 150 bucks it'll cost is paid for in about a year of renting Time Warner's craptastic DVR anyway. I'm also cutting my home phone service to boot, and checking out something like T-Mobile's Hotspot at Home, which lets you use your cell phone over your home Wi-Fi network, saving minutes and killing the two proverbial birds with the same stone. All in all, between the clipped phone, Internet and cable rental fees, I figure I'll be saving close to $2,000 a year. That seems fair to me.
So what other miserly schemes am I missing, and has anyone worked out an ideal setup—a combo of hardware and service you can live with? Hit the comments for suggestions.
"So what other miserly schemes am I missing..."
- Stealing toilet paper from work... and using both sides
- Order a small fry from McDonalds and take 100 packs of ketchup, 100 salts, 100 peppers, napkins, sugar stir sticks.
- Take all those pens and other little trinkets you get from the shows and various affairs you go to and sell them on Amazon (not Ebay because they up'd the listing charge)
That's all that sounded funny to me.... for the moment!
Good! I rent the occasional video ($1-3) and find I don't miss the cable.
I got rid of my land-line a few years ago; why pay for two numbers when the cell can always reach me? Better yet, now when I turn the phone off NOTHING rings! :D
I know many people who have gotten together with neighbours and split on one web connection; so long as neither are like your 40GB-a-month-torrenting-kid-next-door you'd never miss the bit of bandwidth your co-internetter is using!
Yea, I watched a program on PBS that informed me about how the telephone industry owes the american people a free information superhighway that they were supposed to pay for with the money that they were saving by not having to pay taxes on services like caller ID and call waiting.
If you live in an apartment building, you could do what I did and create a Meraki mesh network. Popular Science gave a <a href="http://www.popsci.com/popsci/flat/bown/2007/computing/item_28.html
" tareget="_blank">2007 Best of What's New award</a> to Meraki for their ingenious hardware--a series of router/booster boxes that allow you to spread a single Web connection through multiple units in a building.
Basically, you get one person who has a wired Internet connection and you connect one Meraki unit to her router. Then you put more Meraki units at intervals of 600 feet or so throughout the building. We did this in my building, and with 3 units (which cost $50 apiece), we created a mesh network for all 8 apartments. The signal weakens at about three hops from the original connection, but each node works as a booster, so you've got a strong signal up to three hops. After the initial investment, which we split 8 ways, we all just paid the girl with the Internet bill $5 apiece per month and had great service.
The idea behind Meraki is that it’s a way to cheaply spread Internet service through low-income communities such as housing projects, and there are outdoor units as well that can be used for areas where the connection needs to spread from house to house rather than apartment to apartment.
People often ask me about the legality of this scheme and the answer is kind of fuzzy. Certain Internet providers allow you to transmit a single connection anywhere throughout a building, and others forbid you from sharing your connection at all. Best to check the terms of the original user's service agreement if you don't want to be a scofflaw.
I think that it would also help to eat healthier and not as much food, like drinking orange juice instead of coffee. also getting solar panels and stuff like that could possibly cut down your bill (and you please that save the earth side of you). personally I'd rather have the electric company paying me for the sun and wind that hits my grass... or doesn't.
How is the Meraki scheme any different than splitting off a neighbor's cable for free MTV, or tapping into their phone NID to make calls? Or "borrowing" a connection that a nearby cafe provides as a convenience for it's patrons for the short duration of their visits? The legality is not murky, there is no need to read the fine print - a connection shared between households is theft of service. The attitude was raised with was simple: if you can't afford something, learn to live without it. If you really need something, figure out what you need to do to earn it, or what non-essential you have to cut elsewhere. These networks cost a fortune to build, maintain, and upgrade, nothing is free to the ISPs; at the same time ISPs need to show a profit to make shareholders happy and encourage new investors, SOMEONE has to pay for all of this. It's business, not a socialist The days of metered billing is probably not far off, and freeloaders and bittorrenting pirates should shoulder most of the blame when it does.
As for these tiresome old comparisons between speeds and costs in the US vs Asia, ask yourselves A) who had broadband first (I had 1.5MB Road Runner ten years ago, and it's 15MB now for five bucks more than the 1998 price) and B) where is all of the hardware made, and what are the general costs of doing business - labor, materials, etc. - in Asia vs the US, especially given that their populations are much more clustered and urban, less spread out and suburban? A mile of fiber is similar in costs whether a hundred homes are attached to it or ten thousand. I get a little tired of whiners.
I was looking for another article and ran across this piece and even though these comments are from back in Feb. '08 I've got to respond kindly to martymefurst.
Cost's are on the rise! And the jest of this piece echo's where customer's are starting to complain and frankly I salute this guy. Personally I don't care about some ones stock going up in value at my expense. An example is: I went from cable TV to Dish about 4 yrs ago to get away from cable prices to find myself paying more. In addition to that....I discovered I'm paying for channels that need physically another Dish attached to my house.
People are paying more for technology and when it comes to internet service speeds the US is way behind the curve. So, yeah...you bet folks are going to get creative because we're not getting what we're paying for. And people are going to start cutting back.
If you talk to the retention department @ cablevision enough they can extend your double-play / triple-play for another year (then call back again and repeat)
also you can switch to a business account (one caveat: once you port your number to a business account you cant switch back )
I'm moving and at first when i threatened to leave they gave me a $50 credit but when i started berating them for charging me another setup fee they offered me a new promotion and free installation! :)