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Introduction To Cord Cutting

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In the few years since the major economic downturn, many thousands have found alternatives to traditional cable and satellite TV services to cut the cost to watch TV.  Using a combination of over the air broadcast, Internet streaming and Free to air satellite, watching TV can cost a fraction that people typically pay to watch TV.  

Over The Air: The days of fuzzy, ghosty, snowy pictures pulled in with antennas have mostly passed into history.  Since converting to digital high definition programming can be plucked from the air for free, and without the compression the required by cable and satellite companies, picture and sound quality of over the air TV now is better than what cable or Satellite provides.  In most cities a regular set top antenna is all that is required to pull in the local TV stations.  

For Americans digital high definition from local TV stations has been around for several years now, however for Canadians, digital high definition over the air television only began on August 31st 2011 when TV stations in most major cities shut down analog transmitters for good.  In smaller centres and rural areas will remain analog for another few years.  Many Canadians who live in densely populated areas along the border with the United States have a lot of TV channels to choose from available with just an antenna.  Other major cities will have CTV and Global.  CBC English and French are available just everywhere the other two networks are available with a few exceptions where the CBC choose not to convert transmitters to digital and shut down stations entirely.  One down side is that getting PVR functionality can be tricky.  TiVo is the most popular option for recording over the air digital TV despite the subscription fees.

Internet Streaming: The popularity of online video brought down with faster broadband connections was the catalyst that got the cut the cord movement moving a few years ago.  Sources of mainstream TV programming and feature films from Netflix and Hulu moved from the computer screen to the family room TV at a price equivalent to a couple of video on demand movies each month.  
Most use their video game systems to put online video on the TV screens.  Most BluRay players have the ability to connect to the Internet to show content from NetFlix and other online video providers.  There are also dedicated set top boxes such as Roku and Boxee that put online video on TV.  When it comes to replacing a cable or satellite carrier with the Internet Americans have an advantage.  Canadians only have YouTube and Netflix to choose from. Those South of the border have Hulu and FanCast and other online services to get favorite TV shows, which remain unavailable in Canada.  Even the services available to Canadians are a shadow of the versions that exist Stateside.  Many movies and a lot of TV shows are not available on Netflix in Canada, because the Canadian online streaming rights belong to another company.   

Free To Air Satellite:  Another alternative source comes by satellite but not from one of the mainstream satellite TV providers.  There are hundreds of free unencrypted channels available with a dish slightly different than the pizza size dishes typically bolted on rooftops.  Free to air satellite TV available with a small dish has mostly foreign language and religious programming that not typically carried on traditional cable and satellite TV services.  Going to a larger C band dish opens up a lot more English language programming, including a good many American broadcast network affilates.  
The initial cost can be high especially for an FTA system, a few hundred dollars to get a basic FTA system.  Upgrading to get C Band compatibility, and high definition and personal video recording capabilities adds to the cost of an FTA satellite system.

The most flexible option for those looking to replace their current cable or satellite TV provider with free or low cost alternatives is using an older PC with tuner cards for digital OTA and FTA satellite as well an Internet connecting to access online streaming services.  A PC based solution brings all these programming sources into one box and streamlines recording and playing back tv shows.  

Forgoing cable or satellite TV service may sound daunting, but millions have already done it, pulling in local signals with digital television broadcast technology is both freely available and provides picture and sound quality that is superior than what cable and satellite companies provides.  Premium programming and most recent movies are available on demand with online services that provide a month’s worth of entertainment for the same cost as a couple of video on demand movies.  For the super specialized programming that very seldom gets a place in the 500 channel world that cable or satellite TV offers, other satellites are beaming these channels for free.  The alternatives to cable and satellite TV are proving to be real alternatives.


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