Diary of a cable TV cord cutter: Day 1

The first rocky day in CNET editor David Katzmaier's chronicle of ending his subscription to cable TV service.

I'm trading in my Verizon Fios service to save money, but the transition will be painful. David Katzmaier/CNET

As the credits rolled over the DVR recording of the latest episode of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" yesterday, I picked up the phone and dialed customer service at Verizon.

"Yes, I'd like to modify my plan to remove the television portion and subscribe to the least-expensive Internet and phone bundle you have," I told the representative.

She cheerfully complied, and didn't even try to convince me to simply downgrade my current TV subscription--which included pretty much every available HD channel on Fios, the Home Media DVR, and a second box--to something more basic. It wouldn't have mattered, though. I'd done the math, and with a basic subscription that excluded HBO and Showtime but kept a DVR (which my wife and I agreed was a necessity), the savings wouldn't help my budget enough.

But when she confirmed that my new monthly bill would be $80 plus taxes and fees, down from an average of $179 this year, well, that mattered. It would enable me to afford my car payments.

Why I cut cable TV
Unlike many Americans, I can't truly claim financial hardship as the reason why I decided to get rid of my subscription television service--by which I mean Verizon's Fios TV, not technically cable, in case you're counting. The main reason was because my wife, Elizabeth, and I wanted a new car.

Is a new(er) minivan worth cutting cable? We'll find out.

Our faithful, paid-off 2000 Mazda MPV was showing its age, and a family friend was getting rid of his 2004 Toyota Sienna. The Mazda had made me a minivan convert, and ever since I drove our first child home from the hospital in my father-in-law's 2009, I'd loved Siennas. The '04 was a sweet blue XLE with leather and power doors, in basically perfect condition, and my wife and I could get it for a grand below Blue Book. We'd still have to make payments, however.

We looked over our budget and found a few places to cut corners, like meals out, but we were still well short. The only place with room for the necessary cut, it turned out, was our Verizon bill.

Aside from the price, we had no complaints with Fios TV. In the year-and-a-half since we moved to our suburban New York home, our TV service has been flawless. Hardware and software reliability was essentially perfect, the massive library of on-demand HD videos--many free--loaded every time, and I could watch DVR'd Mets and Knicks games in the furnished basement while she watched "What Happens" and skipped commercials upstairs. It was TV Nirvana, and we watch a lot of TV.

What I loved most, however, was the picture quality. I'd moved from Time Warner Cable to Dish Network before I got access to Fios, and I've experienced my share of DirecTV at work, not to mention Cablevision and Comcast elsewhere. Across channels, FIOS really does look better than any of the others, especially on my 50-inch plasma TV.

Nonetheless we both wanted that car, and rather than go further into debt, we decided to cut the cable.

Preparing for life after cable

 

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