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Is It Time to Ditch Your Cable?

If you've read any of my previous articles, you know I'm not a big fan of cable. So my short, biased answer to the question at the top of this article is yes. The more convoluted answer is "Probably, if you're willing to test out some hardware."

Luckily, even though there still isn't a "plug and play" system that fits 100 percent of our needs, the cable-free landscape is improving almost daily.

These changes in the landscape are due in part to the increased interest in mobile technology. Total OEM revenue from mobile devices is set to top $565 billion by 2015, with consumers flocking to smartphones, notebooks, and tablet PCs. The main factor in this growth is broadband access. Silicon Image Inc. expects its mobile HD technology (MHL) to be incorporated into 200 million mobile devices by the end of 2012. That's a lot of high-definition streaming, from mobile devices to TVs.

In addition to increased access to streaming via mobile devices, content is now readily available online, though I've found a subscription to a DVD rental or streaming service becomes useful. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all charge about $8 a month for unlimited streaming. They have limited libraries, but you can supplement their content by going directly to the networks' Websites, where recent episodes are available for free and usually within 24 hours of airing.

Not having had TV since 2007, I've gone through each new content distribution trend, and I am excited to see the technology getting closer to my ideal scenario month after month. More and more people are abandoning cable, and eight of the nine largest cable providers lost subscribers last quarter.

This trend is making the content providers nervous. Hulu, for example, was having a great run -- new shows were posted sometimes within hours of being shown on TV. Then the networks got scared. Even though Hulu generates advertising revenue from commercials, some content providers abandoned the platform. Even Starz is pulling out of Netflix, and there is talk of waiting 60 days before releasing new DVDs for rentals.

At first glance, this seems like a step backwards, but we can't forget that "pull" is more important than "push" in winning these technology battles. When consumers pull a technology (like mobile streaming) into the market, it has stronger staying power than when companies try to push a technology (like 3D TV).

In addition to the increased mobile access and the nearly limitless content, let's not forget the cost savings. If you want all 200 channels, Comcast will charge you $85 a month. Then there is the DVR, which can cost up to $500 for the box in addition to a $20 monthly service fee. The total cost of a cable subscription for one year is potentially $1,760, and over the course of five years, you're looking at saving roughly $7,000. The average person spends $720 a year on Internet service, which means you can basically get cable for half the price you're paying now.

Our own Joanne Itow recently hooked up an old laptop to her TV. That simple first step is saving her $80 a month. Four months later, the only thing she misses is the remote control -- something she'll soon rectify when she finds the perfect Smart DTV.

So join the party, and ditch your cable.

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