The plan in a nutshell was to eliminate our expensive cable TV package and replace it with a cheaper a la carte solution. In August, I contacted Comcast and told them to cancel my cable TV and telephone service in the middle of September. The Internet service was to remain in place as this would provide the foundation of our new multimedia-telecom solution. Cable TV was replaced with a combination of Netflix and Hulu.com. MajicJack's IP telephony system became my phone service.
How We Did It
As I mentioned, I gave myself about 30 days lead time to set up a Netflix account and to order and install a MajicJack. While this was certainly a good idea and the right way to go about it, true to form, I waited around until the last minute with my finger up my nose and then had to scramble to get everything done. Even still, with crunch time upon us, I was able to swap out the old services and set up the new ones with remarkable ease.
Netflix - Setting up a Netflix account was a no brainer. I went to the Netflix website and in very short order, I had myself an account and a short list of movies in the queue to be sent to us. I opted for the $8.99 a month plan. This allows us to receive one DVD at at time which we can exchange as often as we want. We also gain access to a large library of movies and programs that we can watch instantly over the Internet. It was this instant access that I was primarily interested in. The DVD is really just a throw in for me. I needed to be able to provide Benjamin with "Caillou On Demand." And believe me, when he wants to watch it, it's a demand.
My biggest concern was bandwidth and available PC power. My high end gaming PC is upstairs in my office safely tucked away from Ben's little fingers. That meant that the older laptop was going to have to suffice for streaming this online content in the parlor, at least until I invest in something bigger. Would it be powerful enough to pull the load? The answer was a resounding "yes." Our old Dell Latitude D610 laptop (1.7GHz processor with 1GB of RAM) has been more than adequate for streaming cartoons and movies. I plunk Ben on the couch with a pillow, prop the laptop up in front of him, and he sits there very contentedly watching his favorite shows. Now, when he wants to watch Caillou, he says, "Watch Caillou on puter, Dada?"The first DVD arrived Monday and I watched it last night. One of the real strengths to this service is that you don't have to pay return postage -- you receive a postage paid envelope that you simply drop the DVD into and send it off. Frankly, for $9 a month, I don't know how they make a profit after paying all that postage.
MajicJack - This was the bigger unknown to me. I had read enough reviews to know that it did work, at least for the majority of people. However, there were a number of reviews from people who said it was poor quality or just unworkable.
The device arrived by mail (http://www.majicjack.com/) and claimed to be very simple to install. And it was. I plugged it into a USB port on the front of my computer and my Windows XP operating system immediately picked up on it and configured it. A window popped up and informed me that I would need to answer a number of questions in order to complete the installation and activate the service. The first few questions were marketing offers. "Do you want to buy additional MajicJacks?" "Would you like to sign up for additional years of longdistance service?" I didn't even know if the thing would work yet, so I wasn't about to hand over more money.
Once I pushed through these offers, I found one that was of more interest to me. I had been reluctant to discard my old phone number since it had been in the family for over 40 years. MajicJack isn't able to port your number over to its service, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for $10 a year, I could choose a "vanity" number. I probably shouldn't have, but I elected to spend the $10 to pick up an easily remembered phone number.
I completed the process, submitted my data, and, after one minor glitch, I was up and running. For whatever reason, I didn't get a dial tone immediately. However, I unplugged the MajicJack from my USB port, plugged it back in and voila! Dial tone. I promptly ordered a celebratory pizza. Just kidding. I called Janet's cell phone, and then my mom. Janet didn't answer, but my Mom said that the call was very clear.
We've been using the MajicJack for three days now. All the calls have been clear and crackle free. Frankly, I think we're already at the point where we don't even think about it. I still have to look into the voice mail, call waiting, and other services that MajicJack provides. Also, at the moment, the caller ID isn't showing up on our phone's panel so I'll need to look into that as well. Hopefully, the caller ID won't be a problem. One big plus is that not only does MajicJack support 911 services, but it also provides 411 for free. That's huge in my book. Comcast would charge $2 per use of their information service.
I think the next step is simply logistical. Regretably, my wide-screen LCD TV doesn't have a VGA port to allow me to plug into a computer. So, at the moment, I'm either watching movies sitting at my desk in my office or we're flopped on the couch with a laptop on our knee. Neither of those works well for a family movie time. Someone did tell Janet that we could connect our Wii game station to Netflix and thereby stream movies to the TV. That is something definitely worth looking into, though I'd prefer not to have to rely on a wireless connection that much.
I plan on arranging a comfortable corner with a family computer where we can gather around a good size monitor and watch shows together. The PC will need to be secured to prevent toddler's hands from banging away at the keyboard or from trying to load peanut butter sandwiches into the DVD drive. (That would be bad.) I guess that's Phase II of the master plan.
The Final Tally
OK, so here is the bottom line. The numbers in my June post are accurate. I've traded a $165 dollar Comcast cable TV, telephone, and Internet package for a collection of similar services that now cost me only $65 a month. With the Internet that we retain from Comcast, we also have "basic cable." That gives us NBC, CBS, and ABC, as well as about a dozen other channels. Those provide us with news, sports, and local broadcasting. Everything else comes from the Interwebs.
Current Monthly Costs
$165 (Comcast bundle: TV, phone, Internet)
New Monthly Costs
+ $52 + tax Comcast Internet & Basic TV
+ $3.33 MajicJack per month (Paid $40 up front for the device and 1 year of service)
+ $9 NetFlicks (1 DVD & online content)
+ $0 Hulu and other online TV providers
~$64 Total Monthly Costs
Savings: $100 each month