Attention Cord Cutters

Tired of paying high prices for cable or satellite TV? We can help, but there are some things to be aware of. The Phoenix metro area has quite a few broadcast stations available. Your distance from South Mountain, and the type of antenna you have will determine how many stations you can receive. There are 99 channels available in our market according to rabbitears.info. With the small, flat, indoor antennas, you can expect to receive 60-70 channels. The lowest channels, 3 and 5, are the most difficult. I have had success on these with standard rabbit ears. Yes, those ancient antennas still work, as do the roof antennas, if you still have one.

But wait, this is the digital age, why am I discussing broadcast stations? Your standard boxes like Roku, do not work for live TV. If you want live local news, you’ll need an antenna ore a paid streaming service. However, that paid streaming service may not work on a smart TV or Roku. Boxes like the Roku are very inexpensive, but limited to the choices installed. There are quite a few, thousands if you sign up at the Roku Store. I must admit, I do not have, nor have I ever used a Roku. Getting my facts straight as I write this, the new Roku lineup is quite impressive! But it still will not play everything on the Internet. For that you need a computer. Streaming media does not require a powerful processor. If you have an old XP desktop in the closet, chances are it would make an excellent Media-PC. It will likely need a better graphics card with an HDMI out, and a remote control. No, you do not want to keep Windows XP on it. Linux Mint or Lubuntu would be the way to go. Linux is fast, very secure, and FREE! I have another Blog post detailing the many benefits of Linux. Resurrecting that old box with a few new parts and new OS can be an inexpensive way to get everything the Internet has to offer. And no, you do not want to navigate a clunky desktop interface from across the room. For this you will want Kodi. Don’t worry. Kodi is free too. Even my fiance, who knows little about computers, can navigate it. Every weekend she goes to the video add-ons section, selects Food Network or Cooking channel, finds her favorite shows, selects episodes, and streams exactly what she wants to watch… for free. I should point out that we have not cut the cord ourselves. We still pay for DirecTV. The Media-PC just enhances it. I have hundreds of DVD’s and Blu-rays ripped to a hard drive, and I pay for Netflix. I also pay for Amazon Prime for my business, and that comes with Prime Video, a streaming service similar to Netflix. Again, for us it’s all about choices. We can watch what we want, when we want. Want to binge watch Breaking Bad, or Orange is the New Black? No problem. You can play every episode, in order, commercial free.

Let’s jump back to the beginning of this post for a moment, antennas. Another reason you’ll want one is as a backup. Let’s say you’re watching a show on satellite or cable, and a major monsoon storm hits. As the heaviest part of the storm slams your location, forget satellite TV. Blowing dust and heavy rain will temporarily disrupt your service, just as you may want to watch local weather for updates. If the wind takes down a power pole, or two, or twenty, cable could be out for days! This would likely kill your Internet connection too, making a Roku useless. You will also find that there are many more subchannels available on an antenna that cable or satellite does not carry.

But wait, this is about cord cutting. Why would we still have cable TV? One word, bundle. If you cancel your video service, and move your phone to VoIP, you lose the bundle discount on your Internet service. You may find it cheaper to keep basic cable along with your Internet, than Internet alone.

Of course, Irwin Electronics can help you with all of this. We’re here to help you save money. Cable or satellite is easy, and provides a plethora of programming. But it’s expensive, and does not always provide exactly what you want to watch at an instant. We can help fill that gap. Give us a call at (480) 382-4761 and we’ll come to your home, discuss your options, and set everything up. If you’re thinking of buying a big screen TV on a Black Friday deal, we have a guy that specializes in mounting it, and connecting all your Home Theater equipment. Perhaps you would be happy with just Netflix and Hulu built in to your smart TV. We can help connect it to your Internet for you.

What is VoIP? Want to save money?

Are you paying CenturyLink or Cox for home phone service? Cox Telephone Premier is $34.99 per month, plus taxes and fees. CenturyLink starts at $20 per month. That gets you a number for inbound calls, unlimited local calling, and nothing else. Not even caller ID. Need to call Aunt Sally in Kalamazoo? It’ll cost ya!

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials for Vonage, Magic Jack, Ooma, and NetTalk. That’s VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol. Typically this is a hardware device you plug a phone into, and the device connects to your Internet router. Instead of plugging a phone into the device, you can connect direct to a wall jack to power all the phones in your home. If a wall jack is not available near your router, a Wi-Fi adapter may be used to connect wireless to your router. One thing to note, however, the VoIP adapter can be sensitive to voltage on the phone line. Before connecting the adapter to a wall jack, you will want to disconnect the jack at the phone company box, usually located on the side of your house.

The VoIP provider typically offers all the standard features, unlimited long distance, caller ID, voicemail, etc.. These big four are the most well known, and their prices vary. Typically their support is very limited. Your only option is chat, an the responses are canned. When they work, they generally work very well. However, if/when the device fails you may spend hours with tech support to eventually be sent a refurbished device that’s no better than the failed one you have!

I recommend an Obihai adapter. If you look at the history of VoIP, you will find that the technology was founded by two people. The company, based in California‘s Silicon Valley, was founded by Jan Fandrianto and Sam Sin. They created the first analog telephone adapters as Komodo Technology in the 1990s. Cisco bought them in 2000. They decided they did not want to work for Cisco, so they left and formed Sipura Technology in 2002. They enhanced their technology, and were once again purchased by Cisco Systems, in 2005. Again, they did not want to work for Cisco. In 2010 they left and formed Obihai Technology. Virtually all VoIP adapters on the market are versions of Komodo and Sipura. Obihai is the latest and greatest technology available today.

The next advantage of Obihai is you bring your own adapter. You are not tied to any VoIP provider. In fact, you can have four providers, of your choice, on one adapter! Next is the price. The adapters cost about the same, or less, than anything from the big four mentioned above. I assume you want all the features such as voicemail, free text messaging, call history, conference calling, call screening, blocking of unwanted calls, and voice transcription to text of voicemail messages, and of course, caller ID and unlimited calls and long distance, most anywhere in the US or Canada. How does FREE sound? Too good to be true? There must be a catch? Okay, if you want it completely free, Google Voice offers it, but there is no 911. You must pay a fee for E911. However, you can get E911 service for $12 per year. There is one other little catch with Google Voice, you get a new phone number. Porting your current land-line number is possible, but not easy. But if you want unlimited free calling, that’s it.

CallCentric has no monthly charge options, but you pay per call, typically 1.8 cents per minute. If you don’t make a lot of calls, and just want a home phone option, this may be a way to go as well. The advantage with CallCentric is you get to keep your number. PhonePower offers an unlimited plan to Obi customers for $59.99 per year. If you don’t need unlimited, there are many plans offering 120 to 1000 minutes per month for just a few dollars per month. If you’re ever unhappy with one of these providers, just pick another. CallCentric is one of the oldest VoIP providers. While you may have never heard of them, those in the corporate world have. CallCentric has been powering businesses with VoIP service for years. They certainly know what they’re doing, and they do it well.

I recommend Google Voice and CallCentric. Use Google Voice for unlimited free outbound calling and CallCentric to host your current phone number. Their Personal Unlimited plan for your current number is $5.95 per month. Their North America Basic outbound plan is only $1.95 per month. This covers your E911 fee, and gives 120 minutes calling to anywhere in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Using both services also gives a backup should one go down. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, the city was without power for a week. CallCentric remained online until the UPS batteries gave out, then disappeared. Since that time, they have enhanced their infrastructure, but to what extent, I wouldn’t know. Google has a vast, distributed network. It is unlikely that a local event could take down Google, but a nasty virus replicating through the network just might.

If you have the Cox Internet Starter plan, you may need to upgrade. While VoIP takes very little bandwidth, it is highly sensitive to the quality of the service. High latency and Jitter will make your phone unusable. Cox heavily advertises their speed, but never mention quality. An 8 year old child can make a race car go fast, winning the race is another story! While CenturyLink may not be able to match the speed of Cox, I have found their quality of service so far superior, you’d never know. http://speedtest.net/ will show your speed, but dslreports.com has a much more detailed test to grade the quality.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, we would be happy to help set everything up for you. Just give us a call at 480-382-4761 and we can take care of everything. Within two weeks, you can cancel that expensive, feature limited, phone service. Save your hard earned money, block those nuisance calls, get all the features you could want, at an unbelievable price.