Cutting the Internet Cord

On Monday, we cancelled our internet service.

Yes, you read that right. We didn’t downgrade or change providers. We cancelled the service altogether, boxed up the equipment, and sent it back to the fiery abyss from which it came. No, not Hell…Comcast. Though it may seem a bit impulsive, I assure you, it was far from a rash decision on our part.

We started playing around with the idea of cancelling our home internet service last year and then again in January, when our bill went up. What started as $19.99/month quickly became $74.19/month after only a year. Though our town is not that small, our pool of home internet providers is. We have two options – AT&T or Comcast. We’ve tried both in the four years that we’ve lived here and neither provides what we are looking for, a basic internet connection at a reasonable price, without the inclusion of services we don’t want or need.

At first, Angie and I tossed around the idea of making February our test month. We were simply going to unplug everything and give this new echelon of cord-cutting a try; but we chickened out, citing about a half-dozen excuses as to why we just couldn’t do it.

  • I work remotely and the internet is my primary connection to work,
  • The free wi-fi printer our friend so generously gave us won’t work without it,
  • Public wi-fi isn’t safe for online banking,
  • I need the internet for this blog and to download books and to post pictures of our cat to Instagram,
  • We won’t be able to follow along with our stretching routine on the TV without access to YouTube, and most importantly
  • We’re right in the middle of a Netflix marathon of Grey’s Anatomy, for heaven’s sake!

The Universe was having none of our whining though, and in the midst of our indecision, she upped the ante. Our internet service only stayed at $74 for one single solitary month. The next bill we got was for $98!

That’s $24 short of being $1200 a year!

For the internet. Not cable TV. Not phone service. Just the internet. And the basic Performance tier of 25 Mbps, at that. Not even super high speed.

I may be taking a time-out from micromanaging our money right now, but I haven’t lost my mind. Do you know what we can do with $1,200 a year?!? I just finished reading Meet the Frugalwoods and oddly enough there’s a section in it that talks about spending $75/month on cable vs. investing $75/month in an index fund. In the example, foregoing cable for 30 years can net you around $91,000. And that’s just one option. With an extra $98/month, we might just see Alaska sooner than expected.

When I called Comcast to cancel, they asked if they could transfer me to the “Loyal Customer Department”. My answer was no. If they have a department dedicated to keeping customers, perhaps a proactive approach might be in order here. As customers, we should not have to call and beg not to be ripped off by our service providers. And yes, I call it a rip-off. When I can walk out my front door and have access to the same service for free, what else would you call it?

Home internet is convenient, I’ll grant you that, but it is not worth overpaying for.

So, what about those “problems” I mentioned above? Well, the first thing that we did after scheduling our internet cancellation was to upgrade our cell phone plan to one with unlimited data and 12 GB of hotspot per line. Though this increased our monthly bill by $35, we are still saving $63/month over what Comcast wanted to charge. This alone should be enough to sustain all our video viewing, working, and cat-posting activities; but in case it’s not, we also purchased a cheap $23 DVD player. Instead of streaming, we’re going “old-school” for entertainment.

  • Netflix still offers DVD plans and Redbox sends out discounts all the time.
  • The public library and our apartment office both offer free DVD rentals.
  • We have a TV antenna. There’s always the option to watch a show at the time that it airs. I know, there are those pesky commercials, but seriously…how much TV do we need to be watching in the first place?

And for working and blogging:

  • There are no less than 30 free wi-fi hotspots within walking distance of our apartment, including Walmart, Panera, Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, and our apartment’s clubhouse; and the library is 2 miles away. Also, we have a BearExtender outdoor wi-fi receiver that we use when camping. I tested it on the patio last week and it pulls in 12 of those 30+ signals with 4 bars or more of signal strength. The quality isn’t always the best, but then again, neither was Comcast, and it wasn’t free.
  • I have Microsoft Outlook on my phone, so I’m never without access to my work email.
  • I rarely have to print anything for work, but if I do, I can just save it to my SD card and pop it right into the “wireless” printer.

Easy peasy, right? I have to laugh at this point. Anything can sound great on paper. It’s when you put it into practice that you truly understand what it’s like to live without something that has been a part of your normal daily routine all your adult life. Neither Angie nor I can remember a time when we didn’t have home internet (not counting the 3 months we lived in our camper). When you turn on the computer and realize that it’s not connected to the greater world, there’s an immediate sense of loss. It’s silly, but it’s true.

Day one without home internet brought to light just how many of our daily routines involve technology. Spoiler alert – it was a lot! By the end of the day, we had worked out a few kinks, but we used nearly 2 GB of hotspot data in the process (which is not something we want to do every day!). I’m sure we’ll encounter other challenges along the way. I know there are going to be days that I don’t want to fight with the open wi-fi or leave the house to find a better connection, but we have to keep reminding ourselves why we are doing this – to put our money where our values are. (And because, let’s face it, we love a good challenge!)

If you’re wondering (as we were) why our bill went up so much, here’s what we were told. Our promotion had expired. A year ago, the Loyal Customer Department told me the cheapest option was to have Performance Internet with the TV Starter Pack (about 10 channels). I adamantly stated that I did not want cable TV but they sent the box anyway. It has sat in our closet for a year. Now, that “cheaper” option is increasing in price to accommodate 20 new channels (that we don’t watch anyway) and an increase in internet speed (that we didn’t ask for). 

Why We Still Use [Some] Plastics

As we were browsing YouTube to find a few new exercise videos, we happened across about a million other interesting videos we wanted to watch – like a whole collection of ones on food and sustainability from CBC Marketplace. So, instead of ogling Tiny Houses, we’ve been watching things like “Food Waste: How much food do supermarkets throw away” and “Why buying plastic free groceries is so hard” during our lunch breaks this week. The videos have been enlightening, but more importantly, they have served as a great reminder to get back on track with some of our own lapsed sustainability efforts – like remembering to bring our cloth bags to the store and reducing the amount of single-use plastic we purchase.

I’d love to be able to purchase zero plastic but sadly, a lot of our store-bought produce comes in a clamshell or overwrap and 100% of the produce on the clearance rack is bagged in plastic mesh. I hate it but I hate the alternative even more. Yes, we could (and often do) purchases loose apples, oranges, peppers, and other produce using our own reusable mesh bags but our first choice is always going to be the plastic bag of 6 apples on the clearance rack for 99 cents that is 2 steps away from becoming food waste. To us, saving the food trumps avoiding the plastic. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still feel bad about it. I mean, there’s absolutely no way to reuse or recycle those plastic mesh bags. Or is there?

Enter YouTube for the save! I’m definitely going to try some of these this week.

In addition, I also found that some communities allow these mesh bags to be placed in the recycling bin. Though they aren’t usually labeled with recycling symbols, the bags are generally made from polyethylene plastics No. 1, 2 and 4 or polypropylene plastic No. 5, which are recyclable materials.

Along with the mesh bags, we also use some plastic in our kitchen. If you came to our kitchen, you’d probably be in shock at the number of plastic lunch meat containers that we actually have in the cabinet. See?

And that doesn’t include the ones you can’t see.

We do not eat lunch meat. Neither does my mom, but one of her work friends feeds her dog deli chicken and saves the containers. A few years ago, she brought us an entire garbage bag full of them. We saved them for a while and then last April, we purged our kitchen of plastic and sent them to recycling (they are labeled as No. 5 plastic). A month later, she brought us another bag of them. This time, we decided to use them as freezer cups. We’ve been using this same set of containers in the freezer almost a year now. They work great for sauces, homemade veggie broth, and portioning servings of desserts (cakes and cookies freeze very well, by the way). As the containers break, we do take them to recycling but only after extending their life many, many times over.

Then, there are the Glad containers.

We bought these divided plates several years ago when we were travelling more often. They made it easy to take meals with us, saving us money on dining out. When we decluttered the kitchen a few months ago, we thought about donating them to Goodwill as part of our continued “plastic purge”. But…for as much as I’d like to believe that someone would scoop them up and use them every day, there’s a chance that no one would want them, or Goodwill would deem them unfit for resale. Do you know what happens to items that Goodwill can’t sell? They throw them away. Yes, there are some stores that attempt to recycle what they can, but the fact remains – somewhere between 25-65% of all donations end up in the landfill anyway. I can’t, in good conscience, leave the fate of the plates in the hands of a stranger. I bought them. I’m responsible for them. I will continue to use them until they wear out and then I will recycle them. They are also No. 5 plastics.

Oh, and the Ziploc bags.

We stopped purchasing these things about a year ago but sometimes, we still end up with one. Our apartment manager loves to fill them with candy and leave them on the door for holidays. It’s a thoughtful gesture but it leaves us with a bag that can’t be recycled. So, we wash and reuse them…until they are beyond dead. These two have been around for about 4 months now.

The best course of action is to never buy plastic in the first place, but until manufacturers drastically change their packaging, this is unrealistic for most of us. We’re inevitably going to end up with something made of plastic in our grocery cart – whether it’s a milk jug or a mesh bag. The second-best course of action then is to repurpose those single-use plastics. From pot scrubbers to freezer containers, there are many creative ways to extend their life, even if it’s only a few extra uses. And when their lives really are over, recycle.

Do you have any creative uses for single-use plastic?