Last week, we finally cut the cord to our cable service and said goodbye to our digital boxes. Part of our confidence in doing so is the fact that we continue to have high-speed broadband coming into our house, and can use a wide variety of online services for watching movies and shows, and many things in between.
With the widespread proliferation of high-speed Internet in many urbanized areas, it’s a lot easier to find cheap broadband deals than it is to get cable service, which continues to be a relative monopoly in a lot of areas. High Internet speeds means that we can now do things over the Web that were unimaginable only a decade ago. The potential is unlimited and companies are continuing to capitalize on the opportunities by innovating faster, more amazing, and more convenient services.
Here are 9 ways we use our Internet today:
Netflix is our primary source for movies and older seasons of popular shows. For a monthly fee around $8, we can stream video over the Internet directly to a TV, computer, or tablet. Everything is synchronized, so it’s easy to start a show on one TV or device, pause, and finish it somewhere else.
The variety of available material is very good–we can find something that every member of the family can enjoy, from movies to documentaries, crime, drama and sci-fi shows, to children’s cartoons.
For keeping up with the latest shows on most major networks, Hulu is the way to go. The paid version can stream directly to your TV and can pull up a handful of the latest episodes for most popular shows. The only caveat is that episodes are not available the same day they air on television, so patience is required.
Amazon Instant Video
We are just starting to explore this avenue as a very reliable Blockbuster alternative. A little over a year ago, the last Blockbuster in our city closed its doors (10 years ago, there were at least 5 or 10). Since we no longer have cable, we can’t order recently released movies “on demand,” but Amazon fills in this gap nicely.
Instead of paying $30 for movie tickets and almost as much for popcorn, the entire family can enjoy a movie at home for less than $5.
Video calls used to be reserved for businesses with the money to spend on high-end phone equipment, but the success of Skype has forever changed the way we communicate with friends and relatives who live out of town.
Every weekend, we’re able to talk face-to-face with people thousands of miles and states or even continents away. It’s unlike anything we could do by email, phone, or even by sending photos or videos. It’s like inviting friends and family over for a conversation, and it wouldn’t be possible without a high-speed connection.
Blogging & Business
The ability to run a side business from our home is critical to the financial success of our family. We’re finding that the Internet is giving similar opportunities to other families, to the point where many are becoming location-independent and able to relocate at will, or at the very least are able to supplement their family income.
A stable, high-speed connection gives me the ability to run our business from home without any problems. We can share files, upload and download photos and videos, and connect with others.
Having high-speed Internet both at home and at work means that we’re able to access our work computers from home, our home computers from a hotel room states away, or in reality…any computer from any location.
While this can be abused by workaholics, it’s generally positive and convenient. If an emergency comes up at work, I don’t always have to drive in to reference a file or pull something from my desktop. I can sit down at my desk at home and deal with the issue quickly and conveniently.
Since remote access relies on being able to transmit what’s essentially a live “video” of the other computer’s screen, a high speed connection is essential to any kind of useful remote work.
Music is a great backdrop for our work and our life, and a great alternative to having the TV on all day long just to “have something on.” We currently use two services–Pandora and Spotify. Both come in free and paid versions, and we’ve found enough value in both that we have paid for one or the other at various points, but lately rely more on Spotify.
A $10 monthly subscription gives us access to what I would guess is 95% of the modern music library. A few artists continue to boycot the service, but as the model proves attractive to more and more subscribers, they are coming on board.
While we did without home phone for almost 5 years now, and I even forecasted the death of home phone lines, we now live in an area where cell signal reliability is questionable. It’s not unusual for calls to drop, and sometimes the person or call is just too important to risk.
We finally gave in and ordered Vonage, which I would consider the leading provider of voice-over-IP phone services. VOIP is essentially no different than any other phone except it uses the Internet, and not the phone line, to make calls.
Last but not least, we use Dropbox exclusively for cloud storage of all our computer files. Dropbox comes in a limited free version, but our needs greatly exceed the 2 GB of free space it provides, so we opted to pay the monthly subscription fee.
Dropbox meets three needs for our family: 1. Keeping our files in the cloud for web-based access anywhere in the world, 2. Keeping our files perfectly synchronized between all family computers and devices and 3. Keeping a current (and past) backup of all files.
I was a Google Drive user for almost a year, but the performance and reliability of Dropbox is unmatched.
Value of High-Speed
It’s very unusual to hear about dial-up Internet these days, so the typical choices are really high-speed Internet through the cable providers (with various speed levels based on price), or Internet through the phone lines. The latter varies in speed based on the quality and type of phone line, and in some areas is coming close to the performance of cable.
Is it worth paying for Internet? Yes, without a doubt. Is it worth paying for high speed? While even high-quality streaming services don’t use up as much bandwidth as the cable company will have us think, I have noticed a difference when multiple people in the house are online, and especially for bandwidth-intensive applications like Dropbox.
If you’re on lower speeds, don’t panic! Most of the above programs will automatically throttle or can be set to throttle their bandwidth use so they don’t eat up your line, but your performance will suffer.
With the increasingly lower cost of high-speed Internet today, I think it’s worth the price. How about you?