Tech View: Cutting The Cord For Cable Not Always The Best Idea

Tech View: Cutting The Cord For Cable Not Always The Best Idea

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When Netflix recently announced it was cutting unbundled subscriptions, many viewers were concerned. After all, Netflix has quite encouraged, if not outright supported, subscription splitting in the past. In fact, this exchange of subscriptions inspired, if not created, the concept of "cutting the cord". With other vendors sure to follow, will cord cutting be a thing of the past?

What exactly is cord cutting? It's just a metaphor for canceling your cable TV subscription. The cable is the rope. For techies, cable can also be fiber or satellite TV, but for the purposes of this column, we'll call them all cable.

With the advent of high-speed internet, apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling and many more are readily available. These apps are technically high quality (not to mention content quality, that's another part of the job) and in some cases better than cable.

Ever since cable came to Hawaii over 40 years ago, regardless of provider, people have complained about the cost, regardless of provider. For this reason, many people have seen these alternative services as a way to save money. This was especially true when the subscription section in question was expanded.

With the gateway subscription split, can people still save money by cutting the cord? As always, the answer is, “It depends. Sure, the app's services seem cheaper, especially with the "first month free" offer. And if you continue with one or two subscriptions, it will be cheaper.

But many, if not most, families see a mix of content that requires multiple services. For example, if you need local channels and events like University of Hawaii sports, other live sports, reality shows, and the latest movies, a traditional cable plan may be cheaper.

You also need to consider the convenience of cable. A box, a plain old TV and that's it. All of the alternative services require a smart TV or device like Apple TV or Roku, which adds to the complexity of watching TV.

Also, not all so-called smart TVs support all apps, so be careful when looking for a smart TV. Almost all apps work on Apple TV and Roku.

For cord cutters, an often overlooked option is over-the-air or OTA streaming. All local stations broadcast a clear high definition signal over the air. As always, especially in Hawaii with our mountains and valleys, the ability to receive a signal varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. But unlike the old days, if you get a signal, it's high quality and anecdotally consistent. Many people claim to receive OTA channels with old-fashioned bunny ears.

In fact, there are about 60 OTA channels available on Oahu. All major local stations have alternative channels, some up to five.

There's a downside to everything, of course, and with OTA the downside is that there's no built-in registration method. So you have to buy a third-party DVR, some of which are subscription-based, because they store your recordings in the cloud.

Probably the easiest way for most people to find out if they can cut the cord is to keep a diary of everything they watch over the course of a month. Then find the services that support that content and do the math. If that seems too expensive, find out if you can do without it and do the math again. Then compare it to your cable bill.


John Agsalud is an IT expert with over 25 years of experience in information technology in Hawaii and around the world. He can be contacted at

Ditch the Cable - SNL

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