Saturday 25 June 2016

Lower Your Telephone & Cable Bills

I love how technology makes our lives easier, helps us stay connected, and entertains us. I also love using it to cut bills down. Often when I say this people begin to scratch their heads and comment on how large their monthly telco bill is. While I can't make it all go away, here are some tips on how to make that bill shrink a bit. The two options that can quickly lower cost are VOIP and video streaming.

Goodbye Bell, Hello VOIP:

VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has been around for a long time, and it's available for home use. VOIP uses your internet connection to let you make and receive calls on your existing telephone handsets.  You just pick up the phone and there is a dial tone, no magic hocus pocus to make a call. Expect to get many calling features included with a VOIP service at no additional cost. In addition VOIP usually offers better long distance and international rates that are available from traditional providers like Bell. 

My current favorites are Fongo ($59 for adapter and $4.95/month) or Ooma  ($129.99 for the appliance and $3.98/month for service) Both are good alternatives to a traditional landline, and can save you hundreds of dollars a year. I have heard that an Obi200 device ($50 for the adapter) paired with Google Voice ($35 for number port) will give you phone service with no ongoing cost, however this only works in the US and isn't available in Canada. (Yet)

Video Streaming:

TV is changing, and it's future is in apps. Video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Shomi have been around for a while now and offer some great content, but what if you want to see shows that Nexflix doesn't carry, or current network programs? (Personally I need to see Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead or I go into withdrawal)

Enter Kodi. Kodi is an open source home theater platform that can let you watch almost every television show or movie out there using your internet connection, and there is no monthly subscription fee. That's right, I just said it was free. Even better, all the commercials have been edited out already, so you don't have to fast-forward through anything.  

You do need a device to run Kodi, but it doesn't have to break the bank. I like using the Amazon FireTV, but they can be tricky to get depending where you live. (Amazon doesn't currently ship them to Canada). Other alternatives are readily available, like the Matricom G-Box Q Quad Core, or the NVIDIA Shield. (The shield is a little pricey although worth it by all accounts). All options support streaming in 4K video. I like that I can take it with me when I travel, many a rainy day in a hotel with the kids has been saved by being able to spin up their favorite shows when we needed to.

There are many "how to" guides out there for configuring Kodi and getting access to both saved and live television shows and movies. You're going to want to install a couple of add-ons to Kodi once you have it. I recommend TV Addons and Exodus. Google can also be a great resource for helping you get going quickly. Many people decide to "cut the cord" and cancel their cable subscriptions once they become comfortable with Kodi. 

Go Digital:

If you like the idea of cord-cutting but still want to watch local news and programming a digital TV antenna is a great option. A digital antenna will let you pick up local news and programming, and the picture quality is actually better than what you are probably used to as it doesn't use compression. There is a large variety of antenna options available for under $100.

It's all about choice:

The number of options to replace your traditional telephone and television services is increasing all the time. If it seems too daunting to take on yourself there are companies out there that can help, just google "Cord cutting" and check out their fees and services. Personally I don't mind shelling out $100 for something that has no monthly subscription fee associated with it, I'm quickly saving money this way...which I'll use to buy the next tech gadget.

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