How I Broke Up with Comcast (Well…Kinda)

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Circumstances forced me into a relationship with Comcast when I moved here. In Los Angeles, I’d been a loyal DirecTV customer for years. Unfortunately, when I tried to transfer service and have a dish installed in my new place, the DirecTV installer shared his dreadful assessment, “San Francisco sucks for satellite! The building behind you is blocking the signal. Can’t hook you up.” Then he told me I should move back to L.A. because he hates San Francisco. Uh…thanks for the welcome, homie!

Photo cr: Photo cr: Jason Rosenberg, flickr.com How to Cancel Cable | The Girl Next Door is Black

I searched and hoped for other options and came to the sad conclusion that Comcast is my only option for cable here. Internet service options are no better. AT&T was like, “We don’t have cable here yet, but we’ll give you internet for a $200 equipment set up fee!” The hell?. I’ve had financially-vampiric relationships with Time Warner AND Comcast in the past along with shitty service, bait-and-switch package “deals” and calls with customer service so painful they make you want to kick that jerkface who kicked that poor puppy. The worst.

Resigned to my last resort, I grumbled and huffed as I spent two hours – TWO HOURS – on the phone with a Comcast rep trying to get the least wallet-rapey deal on a cable / internet bundle. This fool came at me with $200 a month for a bunch of channels I didn’t want, along with landline service that I had to include to get the best discount even though I said I haven’t had a landline since 200-I don’t remember and then tried to get in my business about splitting bills with roommates and such. Filled with frustration at the foolishness of this whole ordeal, I bit my tongue because I know he’s just doing his job.  My beef is really with his evil overload monopolistic employer. But, dude why are you up in my budget? If I say I don’t want to spend $200 on service I resent ordering to begin with, I don’t want to spend $200, whether I have roommatehomieloverfriends to share in the swindle or not.

Given I’m currently not working, I know the responsible, adult thing to do (sigh) is cut back on some of my non-essential expenses. In my world, television is close to essential. I mean yeah, food, shelter, love, world peace and all that, but it’s TV and I’m a pop culture junkie/former wannabe actress. Cutting cable has always been a last resort to me. For me to even seriously consider cutting off the source of my visual pacifier represents a significant shift in my world. But, homegirl ain’t got no job and Comcast isn’t speaking any my love languages. Ultimately, I decided to put on my big girl bikini, take the plunge and tell Comcast that I needed to take our relationship in a different direction. This relationship is expensive as hell and I can’t even talk to them about it because they know they have the power! It’s wrong.

Photo cr: Steven Depolo, flickr.com

Photo cr: Steven Depolo, flickr.com

I know for some, cutting the cable cord is no big deal. Either they’re not big TV watchers or they have other, higher priority vices or kids who make it impossible for them to even sit through an entire show without distraction. However, if you are thinking of cutting the cord and scared of what life is like on the other side of cable, or if you’ve already cut the cord and want to maximize your viewing options, I’ll share how I did it.

Calling It Quits

I’m sure you heard about the infamously horrendous call from the annals of customer service fuckery between the Comcast customer who tried to cancel his service and a Comcast rep who was like, “But why you trying leave though?” on repeat. I truly wasn’t looking forward to calling and being harassed for trying to save some coin. I did some research before I called. Yes, girl/boy, I RESEARCHED this shit. That’s how serious it is. I learned the following from customers who were able to exit a call with Comcast unscathed:

  • If you want to cut off your service all together, no internet or cable, tell them that you are moving to another country. People swear by this. It’s important that you say you are moving internationally. Down the street or to Kansas doesn’t count. They will insist on following you like some stalker mess.
  • Be kind to the rep.  This should go without saying, in general, but with Comcast’s reputation, I recognize it’s easy to be defensive from the jump, busting out the Vaseline, before you even pick up the phone. Just try to put your stankitude aside and think of the rep who just wants to work, hopefully without headache, and call it a day like the rest of us.
  • Find out in advance if there are “hidden” packages. The package I ended up with, Internet Blast, is one of their cheapest packages and not one they advertise. I got the low down on it from a friend.

I ended up with a cheery rep in Utah whom I charmed with quips and compliments about her disposition. I explained to her that I was recently laid off from my job, knowing that’d score me sympathy points and set the tone for what I am not here for and that’s a $200 package or even its cousin the $150 package. The call took less than 15 minutes and when it ended I didn’t feel like I’d gotten my whole body threaded. I traded in all those channels I don’t care about, as well as HD service and a DVR for a basic basic cable package with high-speed internet, saving myself nearly 60% each month.

Now What to Watch

Cutting the cord has never been easier with all the streaming TV and film options available. Easing my transition is the streaming trio of Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus.

  • Amazon Prime Instant Video isn’t cheap, but I share my account with a few friends (they allow up to 4 people on one account), making the cost more reasonable. It seems like a good deal of their television content you have to purchase, but they have free episodes of entire seasons of some sitcoms and dramas, as well as some free and cheap movies. You can also buy TV shows by the season. Even if you do decide to by a season pass of your favorite show, the one time cost is still likely cheaper than paying Comcast an arm, a leg and a lung.
  • Between Hulu Plus and Netflix there’s plenty of streaming TV content. Netflix is killing their competition with their indie film and documentary selection. I’ve never heard so many people care about whale welfare until the Blackfish documentary blew up on Netflix. As with Amazon, you can share your account with others, though how much sharing you do is up to your personal ethics. Both services are $7.99/month, which is $2 more than the $5.99 “convenience fee” Comcast charges for conveniences I’m sure I never saw. “Comcast” and “convenience” are words that don’t belong anywhere near each other.
  • iTunes is another option and like Amazon isn’t cheap. However, similar to amazon, they offer the option of purchasing entire seasons of currently airing shows, so if you’re a semi-Bravoholic like I am, that’s an option for staying in the loop of those shows if you want to pay the price…which I’ll reiterate is still cheaper than promising a gaggle of goats to Comcast.

How to Watch It

I bought myself a Roku two Christmases ago and it’s on the list of my favorite electronic purchases. It’s relatively inexpensive and need I say, the one time cost is cheaper than giving one of your silver fillings to Comcast. The Roku allows you to watch your favorite streaming apps (they’re called channels) directly on your TV.  Roku has something like  over 500+ channels available including Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Crackle, Plex, YogaGlo, PBS and tons more, many of which are free. Lifetime even has a channel and I discovered that you can watch some of their movies of the week.

Apple TV is another option for streaming channels. It is similar to the Roku, but integrated in Apple’s cult network of products.

Roku 2 Photo cr: Mike Mozart, flickr.com

Roku 2
Photo cr: Mike Mozart, flickr.com

The package I settled on includes a standard definition box. I bid a sad farewell to my HD DVR and in its place received transmission so bad I thought it was the ’80s again. What’s next? The Poltergeist screen of “things are about to get really bad for you”? I’m paying for this box and the channels keep fading out. That’s some nonsense. I remembered a particularly frugal friend of mine swearing by his indoor HD antenna. He let me borrow it once when I bought my first HDTV a few years ago. I thought it was cool that I could get these random channels I’d never heard of like Bounce and stations that end in .1 and .2.

There are many options for HD antennas, both indoor and outdoor. They enable you to watch the broadcast and multicast channels in your area. The signal strength depends on your distance from the station’s broadcast tower. You can check the DTV website to see what channels are available in your area. I purchased this one on Amazon and I have 33 channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.  At least 10 of these channels are in Chinese, Vietnamese or Spanish; there’s even French news and a KPop channel; coming in clear, crisp, beautiful HD. Comcast, I’ll be sending back that standard piece of crap you sent me. What a joke.

AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin High Performance Indoor HDTV Antenna  Photo cr: amazon.com

Amazon Basics Ultra-Thin High Performance Indoor HDTV Antenna. It’s black on one side and white on the other.
Photo cr: amazon.com

It’s been a couple of weeks since I cut the cord and while I do admit to missing the ability to flip channels to find random content to watch, and I keep making phantom DVR movements (what do you mean I can’t rewiiiiinnnnd?!), I am surviving. I haven’t melted into a puddle yet. I’m not going through withdrawals. Eventually, I may want to invest in purchasing my own DVR/Tivo, but that’s a bit of a pricier endeavor. I am even at relative peace with the fact that I’ll not be able to watch my biggest TV addiction, The Real Housewives, in real-time, especially given Beverly Hills (real estate porn) and Atlanta (ROTFL-type shade) return soon. I’ll miss my fairly new habit of nerding out to Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on weekend mornings, but I’ll be okay. I’m happier and less cash poor since I changed the terms of my relationship with Comcast.

Have you gotten rid of your cable? Do you have any tips for surviving life after cable? 

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4 Comments
  • Eliza
    September 1, 2015

    Same! Canceling Time Warner was ridiculous. It took over an hour for me to convince the person that I don’t want a package that includes cable. And in the past year or so I haven’t missed it all. And canceling cable made me really cut down on my tv watching. Now I’m only watching 2-3 shows but it feels so great not to clutter the brain with all the noise on TV.

  • Laura
    September 18, 2014

    Wow, you did it! Kudos!! It’s definitely sounds hard to do, and I’ve come THIS close a few times to do it. But, like you said, there are lots of options, so I think I should start looking into cutting the cable cord. And if Vinh can watch Top Chef, you can still watch Housewives!

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      September 20, 2014

      Thank you! I’m pretty surprised by myself, I feared I’d never break the abusive cable cycle.

      You can do it! You’ll know when you’re ready. 😉

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