Well, we went and did it. As of today, the Verizon FiOS TV service we’d been mostly enjoying for almost three years is suspended. We’re not replacing it with cable or satellite television, either. The normal TV service is effectively turned off.
I’m scared and nervous and excited all at once. It’s been nearly seven years since I didn’t have a reliable 100+ channel TV service, and back then I was literally eating pancakes for dinner most evenings (and for lunch, when I could afford it, I was having McDonalds).
I say “suspended” because it’s not actually canceled just yet. I suspect we’ll go through with canceling it, but in the meantime we have two (or possibly nine) months to decide without being charged for the service (or the DVRs, or the multitude of taxes…). I was prepared for a termination fee upwards of $200, but I got another option when I called to make the change.
Calling the TV company
When making any changes to your TV (or phone, or Internet) service, always call instead of clicking around online. I have a near phobia of talking to strangers on the phone, but I force myself to do this, because the results are always better. Kelly recently wrote about how persistence pays off, and I have no doubt it’s all true, but I also find that being polite and patient can work wonders.
So I called Verizon and described the situation: “we’re interested in turning off the TV service for at least six months as an experiment to see if we can live without it”. I made an initial call to get a price estimate and check out all the options, since we still wanted to keep the home phone and Internet service. I called back later and was pleasantly surprised to talk to someone who mentioned that if we simply suspend the TV service instead of shutting it off, we can avoid the early termination fee. (I’m sure the business objective here is “more than 0% of the TV suspenders will simply forget they didn’t cancel, and we can start charging them again”. The gentleman I spoke to wasn’t sure if the suspension was good for two or for nine months, so I set a reminder on my calendar to call back and check in 48 days.)
We’ll avoid the fee even if we still do decide to turn it off before the suspension is over, because they’ll only penalize you with the early termination fee within the first four months of the start of a new contract, which we started almost four months ago.
NOTE: Anything in the previous two paragraphs might turn out to be false. I trust Verizon’s Billing Department as far as my dog can spit. Furthermore, I will not be surprised to come home later and find that the Internet and phone were shut off, and that Verizon has lost all record of me ever being a customer. They’ve done that to me before, and it’s one of the reasons I had a black mark on my credit report for years and years.
This isn’t to say that we’ll be without TV. I’m finally happy with the way I’ve got a computer hooked into the TV, and between:
- Hulu Desktop App (currently $0, though that is going to change)
- Boxee (primarily for the British shows I download, currently $0)
- the gobs of TV shows available on iTunes (reasonably priced a la carte programming, finally!), and
- streaming Netflix through the Xbox ($8.95 a month),
I honestly don’t think we’ll be missing any of the shows we currently enjoy.
By the way, have you heard of Boxee? I’ve been experimenting with it for months, and next month it’ll finally be in Beta. Here’s an intro video:
That’s what the alpha Boxee looks like. The beta screenshots are quite different, but it looks even more usable.
Yesterday, I also hooked up an over-the-air tuner to the computer, in case we need to watch live TV for some emergency reason like a tornado or what-have-you. I suspect our plan of “watch almost nothing live” wouldn’t work well for people who enjoy watching sporting events, but even so, there have been occasions when an event is big enough that Boxee will carry it live. In a pinch, we could always watch something in a browser window, though that’s not very elegant.
How much are we saving, then?
Remarkably, this will save us about $100 a month (although it remains to be seen how much we’ll spend through iTunes). That’s a stupid amount of money just for TV service, and I’m hoping our experiment works out, because I’m looking forward to saving that money for a long time hence.
What else will change?
I also suspect that this will change our watching habits somewhat. Currently, we’re not a family who sits down in order to watch anything at all that we can find. We’re not channel-flippers. We have a list of shows we like, and we don’t watch things we don’t like. Of course, you have to give new shows a fair audition (four episodes maximum, I’d say), and sometimes my wife will want something on in the background while she’s working at the house, which I suspect will largely be filled with Netflix offerings.
But I think that we might gradually tend toward even more careful viewing. I suppose we’ll have to: there will no longer be an on-screen guide of “what’s on now”. We’ll have to think harder about what we want to watch. Or we might decide in a few months that no, in fact, this is not for us, please give us our TV back. I will, as always, keep you updated.
Incidentally, two nights ago we watched some TV shows without skipping commercials for old time’s sake. It was just as maddening as I remember.
Updated June 20, 2014 and originally published December 11, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.