We debated the pros and cons of quitting cable. Now here’s how to do it

If you’ve made the decision to kick your cable subscription to the curb, we applaud you. It can be hard to give up the comfort of a familiar technology for a newer option. Here’s what you need to do to make the process relatively painless.

Step One: Check Your Internet

Loading signal on cellphoneIf you’re going to cut the cord with cable, it’s crucial to first ensure that your internet connection is capable of providing the streaming options you prefer. Many major streaming services recommend you have a minimum downstream speed of 5Mbps, but all things considered, that is really slow. (Mbps stands for Megabits per second. Bits are tiny units of data, with a megabit representing a million of them. Basically, the higher the number of Mbps, the faster your online experience should be.) If your household will have more than one Internet user at a time—and remember cell phones count too—a more realistic minimum speed should be around 25 Mbps. The easiest way to determine your internet speed is to navigate to www.speedtest.net. You merely click “go” and it measures your connection while you watch. 

If your connection rates are too low, several things can happen: your shows might suffer from “lag,” with pauses and buffering interruptions. They could appear at a lower quality, with a really fuzzy picture, or even worse, they might fail to load at all. If you find that your connection rates can’t compensate for your internet usage, it may be time for an upgrade in your gear, as most modern routers and modems should easily get you the rate you require.

Step Two: Get an HD Antenna

Antennas on a tabletMany people don’t want to “cut the cord” because they think they would lose their local channels. Au contraire, mon frère! Like the rabbit ears of old, HD antennas are easy to install and can provide you with your free local channels, and maybe a few others, depending on where you live and the nearest broadcast station. A standard HD antenna will run about $40, although higher-quality ones will have broader ranges and better capabilities. Either way, you should be able to still get your local sports and 6 o’clock news. (Some antennas even offer DVR options, which is pretty cool.)

Step Three: Select Your Streaming Device

If you have a relatively new TV, odds are it’s a “smart TV,” meaning the streaming capability is built-in. Depending on the model you have, this could be sufficient, but most people prefer to get a streaming device to help streamline the process and provide better quality. It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has its own streaming devices, but the biggest names (and most reliable options) boil down to devices from Roku, Google, Amazon, and Apple. If you already have a lot of one type of device (like Apple laptops or phones) then we recommend you stick with the same, as they are often designed to easily interface together.

Some of these devices will come with their own subscriptions for streaming services, but they are largely designed as a home base if you will, where you can download apps and keep all your streaming options in one place.

Step Four: Subscribe to Services

Here’s where you need to be careful as if you opt for too many subscription services you won’t save any money at all by quitting cable. We recommend finding the balance between cost and variety. Write a list of the shows you can’t live without, and try to find one service that offers as many as possible, and then go from there. 

Streaming optionsMost people start with Netflix because it’s still one of the largest and most varied providers. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared to some of the premium channel options, which offer some more high-end entertainment but less depth and range. Disney +, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are all similar options with different offerings, so this is where it all comes down to preference.

Finally, if you are really worried about giving up what you already have, you can choose to get a cable replacement service like Sling TV or Hulu + Live TV. These are basically the exact same thing as cable—aka live TV—but your shows come via the internet instead of a physical cable line. These services are fantastic, but they could end up costing as much or more than what you’re already paying, so be sure to do your homework to make sure it’s worth it.

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