Roll Your Own Bundle

by Josh on October 27, 2010 · 10 comments

in Journal,Living Room

If you’ve ever dreamed of ditching your cable, dish, or phone company, the latest episode of The Handyguys Podcast offers a great primer on how to save money and keep great service by cutting the cable.

Like my fellow DIY Blog Squad-ers, the Handyguys, I’ve also found that my best value in home media and telephony was to pass up the phone and cable company packages and roll my own bundle.

Instead of cable or dish TV, I have a Netflix membership and use a Roku device to stream content to my TV.  I also get local TV stations over the air using an antenna in my attic.  Instead of phone service through the local phone company or cable bundle, I have an Ooma Telo VOIP device which offers nearly-free home phone service.  Instead of an XM or Sirius subscription for the house, I stream internet radio and Pandora stations with a Squeezebox Radio.  And instead of the boom-and-bust cycle of low introductory rates and punitive standard rates for high speed internet through the phone or cable company, I get my internet through a municipal wifi service administered through a local ISP.

DIY media bundle

Here’s my DIY media/service “bundle” by the numbers:

  • $24/mo – 6.0 Mbps municipal wifi internet
  • $9/mo – 1-disc-at-a-time Netflix membership (+$99 device purchase for Roku)
  • $3/mo – taxes on free Ooma local and long-distance phone service (+$199 device purchase)
  • $0/mo – streaming internet radio through  Squeezebox (after device purchases)

So my total ongoing monthly cost for internet, video, audio, and home phone is $36.  In comparison, the standard monthly rate just for stand-alone 1.5 Mbps (1/4 my speed) DSL internet through my local phone company is $40.  Although I have purchased some service-specific devices, my monthly expense savings defray those upfront costs.  For example, the Ooma phone is the newest part of my bundle and it will take me about 8 months to make up the $199 device cost with the monthly savings from cancelling my service with the local phone company.  After that, I’m money ahead on my home phone.

Your results may vary, of course, based on your own media preferences and the services available in your area. However, I’ve found some tremendous value from my DIY media/service bundle.  And money saved here means there is more left in my pocket for other priorities like DIY projects around the house.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Reuben October 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

How has your experience been with USI wireless? I jumped on the USI bandwagon when it was first made available, but I was frustrated with the reliability of the connection and went back to Comcast within about 6 months. I’ve heard it has become much more reliable since I left, but I’m still skeptical based on my experiences.

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Reuben October 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

I’ve also been thinking about the antenna in the attic thing. How many channels do you pick up?

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mike @HA October 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

We’ve been going without cable too. I use Boxee which is free software to search for and stream TV of the internet and play movies through netflix, hulu, and others. We currently have our antenna in the basement but I plan on moving it to the attic in the future. I was surprised at how many channels we get over the air, off the top of my head I’d say we get 15-20.

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Bunny @ 86n' It October 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I’m hitting my palm on my forehead over here about the antenna IN the attic. Doh! Why didn’t I think of that!
I’m going to look into our municipal internet too.

Thank you so much for this post!

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Josh October 27, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Reuben, I’ve been a USI Wireless subscriber for 3 years and I’ve experienced my share of frustrations in that time. After a service call from a tech that accurately positioned my directional wifi antenna several months ago, my connection (which was always fast enough) went from spotty to solid. Bear in mind, the node I connect through is just across the alley, so my circumstances are nearly ideal.

Another option, which is brand new to the neighborhood is wimax/4G service through clear.com. The prices aren’t as cheap as USI Wireless, but they’re competitive with Qwest and Comcast, no bundle required.

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Josh October 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Bunny & Reuben, re: the TV antenna in the attic, it works fine, especially when I aimed it in the right direction. AntennaWeb.org is a great resource for calculating what strength of antenna to buy and what direction to aim it.

I can tune in all the major Twin Cities stations (2,4,5,9,11,23,29,45)as well as a shopping channel, some Spanish-broadcast channels, and several religious channels.

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Josh October 27, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Mike, do you have a dedicated home theater pc for Boxee, or do you connect a laptop for occasional use? I’ve looked at Boxee a couple times, but without a htpc it didn’t seem like a great fit for me.

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beth Haiken October 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

This is totally intriguing but – does any of it work in rural areas? I’ve contacted Sprint, Verizon and Comcast and been told there’s no coverage or service, so I may be stuck with ATT DSL and a land line. But I love the IDEA of it!

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Josh October 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Beth, your options will be narrower in a rural area, but if you can get a fast DSL (5+ Mbps) through ATT it might still work. You’ll just need to compare your current costs for internet and land line phone to the cost of fast stand-alone DSL + the cost of services like Ooma and Netflix I mentioned above. Good luck!

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Jacob March 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I’m always checking on your blog to see what fun things you are up to. Recently my dad purchased a squeezebox and it got me thinking about your “bundle”. Regarding your wifi antenna, is that something that USI provided or did you purchase it yourself? And with the Ooma, I know that in Minneapolis we have our water meter read through the phone line, how is yours set up?
Thanks for your time. I’m very intrigued!

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