We’re feeling dishy again at the Little Bitty

I stood in line at the Time Warner Cable office with a pile of equipment in my arms.

When it came my turn, I stepped to the window and dropped to the counter two DVRs, one phone modem and two remotes with a slight grunt. Yes, I said to the guy on the other side, the last man in America is here to finally turn off his land line.

He did not smile.

Please leave on my high-speed Internet, I quickly added. Do not turn off my WiFi.

Why, he wanted to know, was I leaving the bosom of cable TV after nearly a dozen years?

“To save money,” I said, honestly.

The man looked at the latest bill I handed him, punched in my account numbers, and told me that canceling two-thirds of my bundle would save me approximately $165 a month. He said for just 10 bucks a month, I could keep just the local channels.

I did not offer that already that afternoon, two very nice technicians from DirecTV had set us back up at the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood.

Backyard corner.

Backyard corner.

My first experience with the satellite dish came when I lived out in the rural dairy farmland of Madison County for four years, on a road where cable had not laid out its lines. It worked fine on the roof of the trailer home I rented from my sister Frannie after my divorce. In fact, when I moved back into the city after buying this house with ny dear wife Karen, we had a DirecTV technician come and hook it up here, too.

But soon after came a big thunderstorm. Karen and I huddled in the living room in the wee hours with beloved rescue mutt Lissa, who was petrified of thunder and lightning. And sure enough, a bolt struck that dish on our roof, tripping every circuit breaker in the panel. The boom was ear-splitting, and the flash was spontaneous. We were terrified. When I flipped them back on, the receivers had been fried.

We switched to Time Warner Cable the next day.

Then came the Internet and land line in the bundle, but the price kept climbing.

I called both DirecTV and the Dish Network, asking about the channels we like to watch, sports and entertainment. I need to have my New York Mets and Maryland Terps available. HBO is free the first three months. We’ll huddle to decide whether or not to keep it after that. The deal is amazing for the first year, great for the next two year, way cheaper than cable after that.

The DVR can record five programs at once, not merely two like the cable’s DVR, and the storage is 10 times larger. The tech guy couldn’t give me an hour number, but said it’s just been expanded. My Google search shows me that when the Genie was introduced in 2012, the capacity was 200 hours of HD programming. Also, we can now watch recorded shows on both TVs instead of just the living room TV.

And best of all, the technicians put the dish on a pole in our backyard instead of on the roof. It’s out of the way, out of site from the curb, certainly not the highest point for lightning attraction, and — important in Syracuse — easily reached for snow-clearing come winter.

Looking good in the living room.

Looking good in the living room.

The pictures look great on both wide screens, better than cable, I’d say.

Neatly done.

Neatly done.

The cable work looks fine on the outside of the Little Bitty. They buried the wire from the pole alongside the fence and porch up to the house.

And for a shameless selfish pitch, if this convinces you to switch from cable to DirecTV, send me an email. I’ll get you a code they gave me for referral and make some money toward my future bills. However, that’s not why I wrote this post.

Do you still have a land phone line, and if so, why do you keep it? Do you have cable or satellite TV, and if so, are you satisfied and why? Has your house or yard ever been struck by lightning, and if so, what happened?

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88 thoughts on “We’re feeling dishy again at the Little Bitty

  1. We still have a landline. I like using it when I make calls from home. We have Verizon FiOS for TV and Internet. We’re happy with it. We don’t have HBO, Showtime, etc. (although we do get special deals offering it every so often). We can record and watch the DVR on our living room and bedroom TVs. We could record more than 2 shows at a time if we wanted to upgrade.

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  2. I think that was a smart move, Mark! I live in an apartment full of college girls, so no landline necessary πŸ™‚ We had cable last year, because one of our roommate’s dad was concerned that we didn’t have the news. When she moved out, the cable left with her (bye bye college football!) . Now we just use Netflix πŸ™‚

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  3. no landline, but i am at the mercy of horrible service comcast as of now. always looking for alternatives and my bill is way higher than i think it should be. my daughters are creating alternative ways of viewing all kinds of tv and media and i intend to learn from them. great post and great move!

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    • Yes, keep trying and learning, Beth. I finally ran out of patience with the cable company when their introductory ads offered their new expanded DVR service at a bundle price that was $160 a month less than what I was paying. And their customer service rep, though very pleasant, said the best he could do was bring me down $20 a month if I dropped HBO.

      So I comparison shopped the two dish companies for the channels that Karen and I both watch the most, and decided we don’t need the landline, and took the leap of faith. There are some local wrinkles I’ll miss, such as the 24-hour news and some sports programming, but the big difference in cost does not make up for it.

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  4. We’ve been stealing American satellite technology for years up here in Canada. Our main satellite provider is Bell – an offshoot of Ma Bell – and they have the best but are expensive, arrogant and ignorant to deal with. If you have lots of money and wish to bow down to them, they might deign to bestow satellite upon your household for a kings ransom. Soooo, we pop across the border, get the equipment and use black market tech to boost American satellites. Scrambling is a problem but black market cracking programs are quickly available.

    I rent so I basically take what is offered and that’s usually cable. It is solid (seldom affected by weather, power outages, etc) but with only a small offering compared to satellite. And they play games too. The previous place I lived there was a cable distribution box in the back corner of our yard. The whole neighborhood was hooked to it. My land lord was an ex-installer and he decided to see what was available. Our “basic” cable was only about 20 channels and the ads for new customers were touting 50 channels. He went out one night, opened the box and reconnected our feed (the cables are labelled by street number) to an empty port. Suddenly we had all the new channels. Ha! He had the tools to renumber the cable so it looked like it belonged to another house and the seals to reseal the box so it looked undisturbed.

    As kind as we are up here in Canada, we are master cable/signal thieves. I bet half of all cable/satellite is stolen. Personally, I’ve only experienced cable so I can’t really compare the service. Oh, and I haven’t seen lightening strike any place that I live. I have had experience up close and personal with lightening on the road but not at home.

    Fun post Mark.

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    • Well, theft of service is something that you decide you can live with or can’t, Paul. Big bidness deserves it because they’re thieves, or the prices for everybody are so high because half the people are stealing the goods. You know, those moral and business dilemmas. I don’t judge.

      When that lightning hit our house, the boom and crackle and smell and circuit breaker trip was mind-blowing, Paul. You know what I mean about feeling it with all your senses from your big rig experiences.

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      • Oh absolutely – on all accounts. I don’t steal cable and never have but many do. You know when your carrier takes $60 and only gives you 20 channels and yet new customers get 50 channels for the same price and the provider won’t even listen when you ask for the same deal – I look the other way.

        I only have a cell phone. I don’t have much use for a landline.

        Oh yeah, I’ve had my hair stand on end a few times with lightening on the road. The scariest was a lightening storm while I was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It was just as I imaged the River Styx to be – except it was Virginia we were landing on. not Hell. Ha! Bolts were flashing by so close it felt like you could reach out and touch them. They were hitting the water beside the bridge and you could see the ocean boiling.

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      • Yes, when a company treats new customers to a deal better AND less expensive but won’t budge on yours, them’s often fighting words, as they say, Paul.

        When I lived down in Maryland, the lightning storms scared me plenty!

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  5. I like all your questions! We still have a landline. Why? Dunno. Maybe for the house alarm? I’m not sure if the cable or dish companies handle that yet? Anyway, we use Directv because we need to watch out of market NFL games. Yes, we need it, not want it. I’m glad that the installer didn’t want to get up on our roof to place our dish, and it is on the side of our house. I certainly don’t want any encouragement from lightning.

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  6. We are cell phone only here. We have cable and have been making due for a long time with just basic cable. When the TV goes on here, we all seem to be talking over it all the time so I don’t think we need more than that right now. It’s hard to concentrate on the good TV shows when you have kids. Anyway, I can mention the Direct TV to hubby but we also have our internet on cable plan. Does Direct TV do that?

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  7. Hey Mark! (long time no read. been a busy summer. hope you’re doing well) I had Time Warner for YEARS, but got fed up with their crappy customer service. So when a few boys from AT&T U-verse came by my house, I signed up with them. For a couple years I had all the movie channels, but realized I didn’t watch them all that often so I cancelled them. Good thing is, we get a free HBO weekend once every few months so I just record as many movies as I can during that. When we move, in October (Fingers and toes crossed), I’m thinking about cancelling AT&T, too. With school and sports and scouts, who has time for shows? (I can only fit so many S’s into my life! Don’t tell Steve. :)) Glad to see you’re doing well, old friend!

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    • Glad to see you, too, Rachel. I understand your lack of time for the TV, my friend, but I betcha Steve will not take word of any cancellation of AT&T U-verse at the lovely new home well, thinking back to the land line chapter, and knowing how our male minds work. πŸ™‚

      Fingers and toes crossed for your move to happen on time and smoothly! Get ready for Ohio school year with the kiddies in a new location. ❀

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  8. I think we have been through every cable provider. We presently have Direct TV with the little tiny boxes that can record like a gazillion shows at once. We have 2 of those satellite things on our house now – one from Dish, and the other from Direct TV (Dish did not care to come take their satellite thing back). My husband is the only one that really watches real TV – I watch nerdy Forensic Files and other shows on Investigation Discovery and the History channel.
    I have called Direct TV about getting an ala carte line up on our channels – I don’t want 500 channels of shopping and religious stuff, nor do I want channels in Spanish. I asked them if they had channels in German – because I understand German – they thought I was nuts. No ala carte for SD. I have kept them on the phone for hours arguing about this.The kids and I mostly watch Hulu, Netflix and Vudu – for movies. They watch Hulu for South Park (which secretly I get a huge kick out of that show – how do they get away with half the stuff they do?) No land line at our house – I kind of miss it. I wish we could go back to the days when there was one TV and one phone in the house. A TV with antennae, and knobs you had to get up and turn to change the channels. I wish I had a rotary phone, I love the sound it makes, and that curly-cue cord you could twirl in your fingers while talking on the telephone.

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    • I wish we could go back to a lot of the old ways, SD. But once that first leap is taken by society, bye-bye.

      Ala carte pricing is being advertised heavily right now by Verizon FiOS, which is not available in our city neigborhood. I don’t know if it would be cheaper for us anyhow, once Karen and I picked out Home and Garden, Food Network, and my sports channels. We are wildly into Netflix for binge-watching shows we’ve come into late. Hulu, not yet, it would be another expense. South Park, not us, no kids to turn us onto it. πŸ™‚

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      • I like Hulu because they have a lot on foreign films – I like subtitles. Verizon FiOs sounds interesting. Will have to look into that! Thinking of ditching AT&T for good. Actually if I had my choice, I would just get rid of the TVs, the phones, the internet – but with two teenaged boys and me having to pull call – have to have the Internet and the phone. AARGH – I’m stuck.

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  9. Yes, in Florida Lightning strikes are common-stay inside!!! We do have a landline due mostly to Alarm System tied into the local police Dept. and central calling center. We do have an electronic fence not too mention a 30 Ft. Seawall. Here we use Bright House Cable the hubs must have his Espn, Espn, Espn, he loves the Braves games and never misses one! Me, I could really careless about T.V. except the Noon daily news! We do not like a lot of the TV shows, stupid reality shows truly irk me big time. I have better things to do then sit on the couch, remote in hand with a bag of Lays Potato Chips all afternoon! We of course do watch movies a few times a week. We would never have a “Dish” on or around our home-per the Hubs. Seems it’ll work fine for you and YDW Karen at the itty-bitty Eastwood! We have never been hit with lightning (fingers crossed) before and I imagine that was spooky and costly. All electrical outlets inside and outside are regulated with power surge and will automatically turn off with out blowing the circuit main breaker box during storms here. We are underground utilities here as well. What’s the cost per month I think in the area of $120.00, phone, cable-WiFi internet. Most of that expense gets written off in taxes since I work from home and always use the Mac laptop (in home business still has some advantages Terp). That’s all folks. We are soon leaving for the day for some fun time. See YOU tomorrow! The Gatorette.

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  10. The cable industry is a racket at best. I don’t watch TV much anymore, and most of what we like is on Netflix. We need the wi-fi, that’s about it. I don’t have TW, but will check into options with my “provider.” My contract expires in a few months. Congrats on sticking it to the man!

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  11. We gave up direct TV because of the snow and rain outage. Remember I’m disabled, my friend I live with is disabled and her mom is 84. The satellite was on the roof. During one of the bad snow storms we lost signal. Calling direct TV they suggested we go and brush the snow off. We have fios now. We have 6 hubs to record on I’m not sure how many hours I can store but it doesn’t matter I delete my shows. The rising cost is a pain but I am happy over all with the service. Having the dish on a pole will certainly come in handy on those snowy days.

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  12. I still have a landline and will keep it. It’s my business line and I can’t go and change my number plus I hear better on my landline phone than I do on my iphone anyway. I have cable TV; the price gets to me but I have three DVRs and each one records 4 shows (plus watches 1) so if I ever wanted to, I could record 12 shows at one time! Then I can watch them in any room so I’m pretty satisfied. I’ve always worried about weather affecting the reception of the Dish. You’ll have to keep us posted on how that works out.
    Michele at Angels Bark

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  13. We love DirecTV, been customers for almost 12 years total. We tried Dish when we moved to Georgia, as part of a package plan, and it worked great downstairs, but sucked upstairs, specifically on channels we watch at night! so we went back to DirecTV. We do still have a landline, because it doesn’t cost anything extra when we’re already paying for a router.

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  14. We canceled our Cable TV a while ago because the price, even for basic, kept going up and up. We still have our internet through the phone lines and haven’t gone to fiber optic yet. ATT keeps sending us adds to bundle everything but the prices are still pretty high. My son gave me a gift of a converter thingy that will hook the computer up to our TV so we can watch programs. I am happy without TV. I watch some programs on the internet. But I must say the guys who worked on Cable repair service used to be so nice I felt bad when we cancelled because I thought it would possibly have a negative impact on the people who work for the cable company. That was funny about the lightening and the Dish πŸ˜€ but I know it would not be so funny to live through a lightening storm like that.

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  15. I still have my land line bro Mark, mainly because at the moment I need that to open the door downstairs to let visitors in. It only works one time out of 50 now though, because we only have AT&T in this building, and the old DSL, so until all renovation is finished and the new system is set up everything will be iffy. When the new system is set up we will have the ability to choose any system we want — except Dish or Direct TV, because house rules don’t permit anything that protrudes from windows on the building. If you think TW was expensive though, you should check out ATT. Or maybe they are all like that. Hidden charges slipped in every month for my phone and Internet. Cable is one thing that can’t be beat here. Ten big dollars per month just isn’t something to mess around with. I’ll probably switch my Internet to TWC as soon as I can, and then cancel the home phone. The only calls I get on that, other than the calls from the door, are spam calls from people who should check the “Do Not Call” registry before they dial my number, but I can usually make them wish they had. It’s fun to do at the same time. My evil twin takes over and does a real job on them.

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    • You need to keep that inexpensive cable, that’s for sure, sis Angie. What a bargain! If you can get a good deal on the Internet, too, that’s the way to go. AT&T is my cell carrier, and they bundled with DirecTV and saved me some money. far, so good. Knock on wood.

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    • Seriously…this is our history with Comcast ! When I’ve tried to drop movie channels, land lines, etc. They make us an offer (we can’t refuse) ! We do have a Roku device, and my children are cable-free, streaming some stuff through the internet..I think that might be our future. ☺ Thanks, Mark. Will have to go read all the advice in your comments.

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  16. We have never had cable and still have a landline – the unique construction of this house makes for bad cell phone reception. And I’m told the $$$ I’ll save from pulling the plug on the landline (and keeping WiFi) is peanuts. We are not sports fans (except for SU basketball) and watch TV series and movies via Netflix. When I was a kid we didn’t watch TV all summer – I’ve been trying to do the same! πŸ˜ƒ

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    • Your stucco would make for tough cell reception, Maggie, I agree. My eccentric sports interests, with the Mets and Maryland, puts me on the dish or cable. I could go without if push comes to shove, but hope I don’t have to miss my teams. 😦 I like your summer strategy, though. Good strong stock, you are.

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  17. We’ve had DirectTV for years and all I know is that we watch a lot of baseball on a lot of channels :D. And our smartTV brings us to YouTube, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc. My men tool around on this system with ease while I comment on my favorite blogs, LOL.

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  18. I might look into Dish. We switched from Cox to AT&T Iverse a few years ago. Cox service got worse and worse. Uverse has better features but it started hitching on a daily basis. We have had folks out 3 times now. I think their end is the problem. To be honest, with Netflix, Hulu and now HBO being on demand, I don’t see the need for cable any more. I don’t find myself watching that much tv these days either.

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  19. I kept a landline as long as there were kids in the house. After they flew the nest I got rid of land lines. We’ve had dish and TW and AT&T. No matter who we’ve been with the bills shot up even though our service did not. We cut that cable cord earlier this year and I have to say, I haven’t missed it. We sure were paying a lot for something we seldom used. I love the savings MBM!!!

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  20. Good for you for taking the plunge! We still have a land line which is basically only used by my mother-in-law and the endless number of telemarketers. Why we have kept it, I don’t know. We also have just regular cable, the most basic – which is fine with us. I do wish I had DVR to tape shows w/o having to watch commercials.

    I am sure you will be happy with your new arrangement, especially as you huddle up in the winter months watching everything you want!

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    • You and Mr. B and like us, Mrs. B. Set in your ways. It took theh HUGE bill to get me to change our plan. Hey, come on, cancel that land line and treat yourself to that DVR so you can go commercial-less! ❀

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  21. No cable. No satellite dish. No TV.
    Came back from holiday about 6 years ago and turned on the TV which began to crackle, fizz and hum so I turned it off before it reached the next stage which was likely to be a firework display followed by a big bang. I never got round to getting it replaced or fixed and I’ve not looked back.

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  22. Interesting article, Mark!
    My husband has worked in the cable tv industry for almost 25 years. He was let go during a ‘right sizing’ 2 years ago. He took a year off and then went to work for a contractor for 6 months. He came home almost every day telling me how much he hated the industry, that the internet/wifi were the only viable services and that everything is too overpriced. After a round at the cardiologist office and GI guy, I convinced him to quit the high-stress, low-rewarding industry. He did! This is the happiest I’ve seen him in years. Our next step is to change from cable to DTV πŸ™‚

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  23. Oh, you hit a sore spot with this one, Mark! I still have a landline. I keep it for–wait for it–emergencies. Meaning if a terrorist attack hits and all cell towers go out, I still am connected. To what, I’m not sure. Oh, and it’s a great place to direct all junk calls–the home phone. I never answer it:). As for cable, I negotiated a “better” rate months ago and my bill is still high. Stay tuned. Pun intended:). Good for you for biting the bullet and saving yourself some greenbacks!

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    • Yes, you will be safer come the Zombie Apocalypse, Kay. πŸ˜‰ Seriously, though, I know that line of thinking well. There was a sense of comfort in having that cord in the wall and friendly, familiar dial tone, for sure. I think if they’d kept the true bell ringing phone instead of going for the cheap chirpers, we’d all still have them, right?

      There were years where they’d negotiate down with me, the cable bundlers, but when that stopped, I felt the highway robbery just could not go on any longer. I’m here to tell you that the satellite TV service and picture is so much better than it was a dozen years ago. Nudge-nudge. πŸ˜‰

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