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Fire the Phone Company

NOVEMBER 2014

Pay as Much per Year as You Now Pay per Month for Home Entertainment and Telephone

A couple of years ago, I put an end to paying exorbitant fees for my home entertainment and telephone. Whenever I sell a house and the buyers ask me about the utilities, I share this concept, and this blog page so they don’t have to try and remember my explanation. All the services and products mentioned here come with free tech support, so if you need help getting started, please call those service providers or manufacturers.

To a be connected these days is really expensive. I remember when we had the telephone company supplying our home phone, DSL internet, and also our TV and movie channels. We were paying way over $100 every month, and that was without premium live channels like HBO, STARZ, ESPN, and the like. I found a way to stop the bleeding, and now I’m sharing it with you. Here’s how to fire your phone company; continue to have a home phone line if you want one; get faster internet than DSL; have seemingly unlimited of movies to watch; and also get digital quality live TV channels. And for all this, you’ll be paying about as much per year as you may have been paying every single month. And there’s no catch, except you won’t get those premium live channels which you may not have cared much about anyway.

If you’re still using a “land line” for anything at all (some folks like to use them with a phone card to call internationally without running up their cell phone minutes), you need to replace the telephone company. If you have DSL internet now, please know that it is coming in on your phone wire. In order to fire the phone company, you need to eliminate the need for anything coming in on that phone wire. Imagine not having that monthly bill!

ALL YOU NEED IS CABLE INTERNET COMING INTO YOUR HOUSE. Shop around to get the best deal. That might be from your local cable company or from another provider like Earthlink or DSL Extreme (DSL is just the name of the company; I use their cable internet plan, not their DSL plan). YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY INTO ANY CABLE TV PLAN; ONLY GET CABLE INTERNET.

After you get your cable internet installed, if the installation didn’t include a wireless router, get one and connect the cable modem’s output to the router’s Internet input. Now you have home Wi-fi (wireless internet) and plenty of jacks in which to plug all your devices that use hardwired internet connections. Your new wireless router comes with instructions and technical support for setting it up. It’s easy.

By now, many have already gotten rid of the phone company because their cell phones are all they need to make phone calls. Many of us still like to have a home phone line because we don’t want to pay for so many minutes on our cell phones just to makes calls from home. Or, maybe you have an international phone-card that lets you call other countries cheaply. You certainly don’t want to pay for an international plan for your cell phone.

Home Phone Without the Phone Line!

mjpSo, let’s get the home phone to work off your cable internet and get unlimited calls within the U.S. for $30 a year (and no extraneous taxes). You can do this with a device called a MagicJack Plus. It looks like a square cube, a little bigger than an ice cube. It has 3 jacks. One plugs into a USB power source; another plugs into one of the jacks on your router, and the other is a regular telephone jack where you can plug your home telephone. If you want it to power up all the phones in your house, you can simply plug a telephone wire from the MagicJack to one of the phone jacks on a wall in your house. Then, all the regular telephones plugged in to wall jacks all over your house work just like before. The MagicJack converts one of your Internet lines into a phone line, without the need for any phone company.

When I bought my MagicJack Plus at Walmart it was $60 and included one year of service, worth $30. So it’s like paying $30 for the hardware and $30 for year of unlimited domestic calls. It seems like when I was using the phone company, I was paying about half that (around $15/month) for various taxes. I don’t know what those taxes were even for; I just know they’re not for me! You won’t need to pay those anymore. You can even travel with a MagicJack and plug it into the internet anywhere in the world and call the U.S. with no additional fee. On a side note, if you know somebody that lives in a foreign country, and you want to let them call you in the U.S., then you can give them a MagicJack Plus and pay the $30 per year for them. Then it’s free for them to call you.

m6121Okay, so I pay $50 a month for cable internet which is now 50 megabytes per second, and I pay $30 a year for a home phone. So $80/year is taking care of my phone and Internet. Another quick side note. I was paying $59.95/month for the cable internet, but here’s how I saved $9.95/month: I bought my own cable modem instead of leasing the one from the cable company. I got a beautiful Motorola modem at Costco for 60 bucks. It’s better than the leased modem, and in 6 months it paid for itself!

Don’t miss out on free digital live-television broadcasts. A few years back, the federal government mandated television stations to switch over to digital broadcast. Most people today have cable or U-Verse or something like that, and are completely unaware that local and network channels are still coming over the air, FREE. You probably already have a TV antenna on your house. If not, you can get one and pick up all the digital TV stations in your area. And you won’t get the old, poor quality picture we used to receive with a ghosted image and snow. All those channels are now crystal clear, high definition broadcasts, and they’re all still free.

Now let’s talk about premium movie channels.

If you have a new flat-screen TV, you may have noticed that you can switch to a menu to see all sorts of colorful icons for alternative channels, like Hulu and lots more. You have to pay for most of these, but there are some that are free, like Crackle and Popcorn Flix. If you don’t have a TV that’s new enough to see these icons, you can get a newer Blu-ray player for about $50 at Costco. They don’t make DVD players anymore (the Blu-ray players also play DVDs). The new players have the icons I mentioned (which, incidentally, also include Amazon and Netflix). Your TV and/or your Blu-ray player can access these when you connect them to your router. (There is an ethernet/network jack in the back of your newer TV or Blue-ray player.) You may have to be creative getting the wire from your router to the TV. (You could also use wireless Internet, but the wire offers higher performance.)

Now let’s see what you can get for free from those new little icons. There’s one called Crackle. that has “on demand” movies. On-demand means you can watch a selected movie anytime, unlike live channels where you have to wait to see a scheduled broadcast. It has a lot of really great movies to choose from. Here’s the only catch. About every 15 minutes, there’s a commercial interruption. But the commercials are shorter than the ones you normally see on regular TV. Popcornflix is a similar on-demand movie supply with different movies. So there are two free on-demand premium movie sources.

If you want to actually pay for lots more movies without commercials, you can open up a Netflix account. With Netflix, you can have three people share one account. So if three people share the yearly cost, it’s really cheap. Netflix has a really outstanding selection of on-demand movies with no commercials!

If you want even more movies, you can subscribe to Amazon Prime. If you’re like me, you like to buy things online as long as the shipping is cheap. I joined Amazon Prime so I can get free 2-day shipping on many of the items for sale on Amazon. With your Amazon Prime membership, you can select the Amazon Instant Video icon on your TV and there’s a ton of free of movies, It is similar to Netflix and offers a different selection of movies. The movies flagged as Amazon Prime are free, and others are pay per view. I very seldom pay to watch a movie on Amazon because there’s such a good selection of free ones, including TV series. I pay $99 a year for Amazon Prime.

Subscribing to Netflix and Amazon Prime might sound extravagant, but when you’re not spending $100-$200 per month for home communications, phone, and entertainment, you can afford to splurge a little once a year.

See Jim’s Movie Picks for some personal movie recommendations. This is actually my list of “chick flicks.”

So, this is how to reduce your annual communications and home entertainment costs to about what you were paying each month. And if you don’t want Netflix or Amazon, it’s even cheaper.

A Word About TV Audio Quality

Now that you’re able to watch more movies than you ever did before in your life, here’s a fairly cheap way to get home theater quality sound without the home theater system price tag. Your newer TV has a stereo audio output jack (it looks like a headphone jack, the same as on your computer). Simply connect a high quality computer speaker system up to your TV! In the audio setup menu on your TV, disable the built-in speaker and select external speakers. If you get good computer speakers, you’ll be very happy with a sound experience that rivals a home theater system. I use an Altec-Lansing computer speaker system that includes a sub-woofer. These are around $100. JBL (James B. Lansing) is also one of the best.