Over several months we have made significant changes and cost reductions in our electronic media costs. We have decided to outline our process here. It was not straightforward but the financial benefits are already being realized.
The Starting Scenario
We had been Rogers Cable customers for a couple of decades for TV and internet. We used Vonage for VOIP home phone service and had no physical connection to Bell Canada or its services. In following discussion, internet service speeds are listed in the format (download speed in mbs, upload speed in mbs, bandwidth or usage in GB). The Rogers charges were:
- Internet: (30,5,70) for $61.99/mo.
- TV: VIP package $74.98/mo.
At the time we left Rogers the best bundle pricing we could get was about to jump from $110/mo. to about $140/mo.The packages change regularly but the above are the least services that would provide us today with the level of service we had then (over a year ago). There was also a digital box rental of about $5/mo. For several years we were able to keep combined costs down to $110/mo. or less which was our critical limit, taxes included.
Since 2006 we have been Vonage customers for VOIP phone service. Our current service which includes 500 free minutes in North America per month has a cost of $33.89 with tax.
Recognizing that most of the channels we were paying for we never watched and that the channels we did watch had increasingly uninteresting programming such as survivor shows, zombie and fantasy programming, reality TV. etc., we determined that occasional movies, a few series and news programing were all we wanted the TV for. In our area we can get 4 English channels, CBC, CTV, Global and TVO as digital broadcasts. This required a onetime purchase of an indoor, amplified digital antenna for about $100. Monthly cost is zero. We have a Netflix subscription for $7.99 CDN, tax included (soon to increase to $8.99). Netflix is streaming media which is high bandwidth requiring appropriate internet service levels.
A company, TekSavvy, out of Chatham Ontario was offering an internet package (15,10,300) for $39.99/mo. Purchase of a modem was required and there were some initial start-up fees. The problem was that we had physically removed Bell service from our house years before.
Bell had recently installed fibre to the curb which meant high-speed internet was now available from them via DSL technology. Prior to this we had been in a DSL dead spot. Although Rogers had somewhat comparable pricing to Bell, over the years we had found their service unreliable with annual down periods that extended to days. To use Bell service we planned to move to Bell for internet only, remain with them until reliable service was established and switch to TekSavvy. We contacted Bell and they offered us the TekSavvy service level at a comparable price so we remain with them.
We currently get (15/10/350) internet service from Bell for $56.44/mo. This reflects a recent $5 increase on the service opening up a possible future saving by moving to TekSavvy.
The next issue to solve was serving streaming media to our Sharp LED TV. Some TVs come internet ready but ours does not. We needed to purchase a streaming media device to serve programming and chose the Roku 2XS, now replaced by the Roku 3. We were lucky to find one from WalMart on-line for $79.99 plus tax. Controlled by a simple remote, this device allows you to create a personal “channel” selection of steaming media from the internet. We get our Netflix content from the Roku along with Crackle, a movie source, and a source for a number of streaming music programs. They recently added YouTube. The Roku remote is simple and uses an on-screen keyboard for interaction (you don’t want to do much via this remote). Build your YouTube playlists on your computer and stream them through the Roku to your TV.
Tackling the Phone
We recently experienced 2 Vonage outages that self-corrected eventually. With no live chat from Vonage and no phone service we could not contact them (except by a slow email process). That and the relatively high monthly charge for home phone finally drove us to research alternatives.
We selected a device from Ooma called the Telo that connects to the internet and allows a phone handset or base station to be plugged into it. Setup takes about 15 minutes, giving you a working phone line using VOIP technology for no monthly cost. The Canadian mslp seems to be $149.99 but we bought it at Best Buy for $129.99 plus tax. It includes free unlimited Canada-wide calling. We however wanted free US calling also. They offer a “premier” service for $119.99 a year. The service comes with one free add-on. We selected the service of porting our existing phone number from Vonage to Ooma. We also got 3 months free and the first year at $99.99. We’re not sure how the taxes will enter into the pricing until we see a bill.
Of course all expenses mentioned can be paid through our credit card that offers a 1% cash back on purchases.
Over the years we had built a home phone network serving 6 jacks and having two handsets and a cordless base station attached to it. It plugged into the Vonage adapter and everything worked fine. When we plugged it into the Telo, nothing happened. Ooma’s technical literature and online information is abysmal. An email to support remains unanswered. About a day was spent cleaning up the home phone network and experimenting with different connection configurations. The cleanup involved eliminating unnecessary jacks and wiring, and identifying and tagging remaining circuits (a long overdue process).
Eventually we determined that one or two devices can be plugged directly into the Telo (using a dollar store splitter for two). We never got our home phone network to work with it. We suspect an impedance mismatch but that’s beyond front-line telephone support. We have subsequently ordered an additional device called a Linx. You sync it to the Telo and plug it into any wall plug in the house. Into this device you plug a remote handset, fax machine or whatever. The Linx uses DECT 6.0 wireless technology to connect to the Telo. We currently have a handset plugged into a fax modem on our primary computer that we will plug into the Linx.
We ordered the Linx from Walmart online and recieved it within 3 days. The setup was a breeze. Support may not be the greatest but the Telo and the Linx are very simple to install and the installation, once we adjusted for our anomalous home network, was wonderfully trouble free.
Adding It All Up
Below are setup and installation charges as they were incurred at very points in our current system installation as well as current monthly charges. Taxes are included.
Former monthly charges (estimate because the new Rogers charges were never established):
- Rogers TV and internet: $135.00.
- Vonage: $33.89.
- Total: $168.89.
Equipment and setup as onetime upfront costs:
- Bell installation and setup: $58.22.
- Terk CFDTV1a digital TV antenna: $112.99
- Roku 2XS streaming player: $90.38.
- Ooma Telo: $148.58.
- Ooma Linx: $56.31.
- Total: $466.48
Ongoing monthly charges:
- Bell (15/10/350) internet: $56.44/mo.
- Netflix: $7.99/mo.
- Ooma regulatory and 911 fees: $3.98.
- Ooma premier phone service: $12.00. This figure assumes there will be currency conversion and taxes on the basic $10.00/mo. (US?) charge.
- Total: $80.41.
A precise comparison is difficult because vendors like Rogers are constantly changing the structure and pricing of services and packages. Home phone services from Rogers and Bell are simply way overpriced. The internet service we now get from Bell is a more substantial service in terms of performance than we got from Rogers. In any case, we have cut our monthly costs for internet,phone ands electronic media content by more than half.
Even greater savings may be found but quality of service and support were questionable. We feel we have a technology solution that will suit our needs and budgets for a few years.