How to know if 'cutting the cord' is right for you

Part one in a two-part series on eliminating a home subscription to cable TV.

After the last Observer issue hit the streets, I received feedback that readers wanted more details on how to explore if cutting the cable TV cord was possible for them. Here is first in a two-part series on the process.

The first tier of cutting the cord is to determine if you can receive your traditional network channels like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and PBS for free.

To find this out, visit the Federal Communications Commission website at fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps and input your street address (or just zip code). The results will show if you can or cannot receive the channels, as well as their signal strength.

Assuming you can receive many/all of these channels, before you buy “bunny ears on steroids” (i.e., an amplified indoor antenna that is aesthetically pleasing compared to the bunny ears of yesteryear), you need to figure out if your TV has an internal “digital tuner” capable of receiving Over-The-Air (OTA) programming. If not, then as long as you have an available input connection on your TV, you can attach an external digital tuner box. If you don’t have an available input connection or can’t decipher the results from the FCC website, send an email to my editor at tara@wbvobserver.com and she will forward it to me so I can help you troubleshoot.

The amplified antenna and digital tuner box listed below is used by yours truly; my TV is not equipped with a digital tuner, hence the two-item list. You should be able to find equivalent models at local stores too:

  • ViewTV AT-163 ATSC Digital TV Converter Box and Media Player ($30 at Amazon.com);

  • Fxexblin Indoor HDTV Antenna, 50 Mile Range ($19 at Amazon.com).

Depending on your situation, there are two ways to connect the above. If your TV is equipped with a digital tuner, just connect the antenna to the TV. If not then connect the antenna to the digital tuner box and then connect the box to the TV. In either scenario, your antenna instructions should guide you through connecting the enclosed AC adapter to amplify the signal.

If you want to explore the other tiers of cutting the cord that I will cover in the second part of the series in a future WBVO issue, research the following:

  • Do you have internet? Internet will be necessary for these other tiers.

  • List channels you watch regularly. Be truthful; “channel surfing to find something to watch” doesn’t count.

  • Google each channel on your list to determine if they are offered “a la carte” or within a “streaming package."

  • Do you have a SmartTV?

  • Do you have an available “HDMI” connection on your TV?

Stay tuned for part two of the cutting the cord series!

Tak Sato

Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and co-founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 9, Issue 14, Posted 9:55 AM, 07.18.2017