Cutting the cord: summer 2017 edition

The curriculum for the next-to-last session of our “Discover Digital Literacy!” program, currently hosted by Westlake’s senior center, was supposed to be about intermediate-level email usage tips. But our program cohorts’ curiosities were piqued when I mentioned “cutting the cord” in passing.

Just a week earlier, we invited Trina Thomas from Westlake Porter Public Library for a hands-on discovery session to highlight their digital resources and service offerings such as eBooks, eMagazines, and streaming movies, TV shows and music; they are all accessible through “apps” on the tablets we supply. Graduation day for these 12 seniors, ages 62 to 89, is imminent and students discovering WPPL’s free digital service offerings with Trina complemented our program.

After eight weeks of discovering the many ways in which they can benefit from becoming digitally literate, they were not going to let me dangle a juicy topic like cutting the cord without expounding on it, so intermediate email tips will have to wait until the last session.

Just like the music industry had its renaissance when music became available digitally and through the internet, the cable/satellite TV entertainment industry has been changing and adapting to the internet. Premium channels or those that could previously only be enjoyed through cable/satellite TV subscriptions continue to unshackle from those same operators and offer their own streaming subscription options. Some can be subscribed to individually (a la carte) while others are part of a streaming package.

“Streaming” is watching programming through the internet on your devices such as tablets, smartphones, computers, Smart TVs and even traditional TVs. The latter is accomplished through the use of streaming boxes that are available for as low as $40 from Amazon. I call this “making a non-Smart TV, aka a Dumb TV, smarter.”

The latest newcomer to streaming services is “DirectTV Now” offered by AT&T; you do NOT need a satellite TV subscription. You just subscribe to the DirectTV Now streaming service which currently starts at $35/month for a package of channels. “SlingTV” is another streaming service with current offerings starting at $20/month for their basic package that includes 20 channels like ESPN, Food Network, and TNT. Full disclosure: I subscribe to SlingTV at different times of the year because my son loves sports but otherwise rarely watches TV. And while SlingTV and DirectTV Now offer streaming packages, there is a good chance that you can go a la carte and pay for only the channels you want to enjoy, so Google it and do your research to see what is appropriate for your case.

What have been slow to embrace streaming are the traditional network channels. It may still be advisable to seek out a two-pronged approach to cutting the cord where you: (1) stream premium channels a la carte or as part of a streaming package; and (2) receive traditional network channels like ABC, CBS and PBS over the air – using an antenna and a digital tuner box (the latter if your TV does not have a digital tuner). Both can be had for under $75.

Tak Sato

Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder and strategist for the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 9, Issue 13, Posted 9:26 AM, 07.05.2017