Home Internet: Can We Do Without It?

library DVDs

When someone from our internet service provider called to remind us that our monthly rate would soon be going up, and asking if we wanted to sign up for a 24-month contract in exchange for a slightly lower price, I said no. That call prompted several family discussions about how much internet we actually needed, and if perhaps we could cancel it entirely.

For years I have negotiated better prices on our home internet, often with astonishing discounts of up to half the listed price. But I think they now have a note on our account, saying something like: “No more good discounts for this address!”

If we do nothing, our internet will jump to $80 a month, or $960 a year. But there’s no way we’re going to be tied up with a 24-month contract. There’s really only two choices for internet in our area (only one has a decent speed), and both companies are pretty snaky to deal with. You always want to get something in print about your price, and then you have to watch for tacked-on extra charges. I’ve had to go in several times over the past few years, armed with my printout of the price we were promised, and straighten out the bill. Truthfully, I’m tired of the whole stinking company that knows they’re really the only one people can subscribe to if they want decently speedy internet.

That brings our family to the thought that perhaps we could ditch this company entirely. There is free wifi everywhere now – the hardware store down the street, the public library, the mall, the coffee house, doctor’s office, even at our church. Our prepaid phones give us a bit of internet/data, enough to do e-mail and a bit of web browsing, but not enough to do any Netflix. Maybe the free DVDs at the library could take the place of watching Netflix and Hulu.

So I stopped in our local library, and within ten minutes was able to check out a variety of DVDs:
Flip-Flop (remodeling and selling houses)
Alcatraz
Room 222 (high school back in the 1970s)
Amish Mafia
Time Warp (Discovery science)
Astronaut Wives Club (1960s wives of the early US astronauts)
Perry Mason (old-school courtroom drama)

We haven’t decided yet whether to pull the plug on our internet provider or not, but we might just get bold and try it.

 

 

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A Budget You Can Live With: Internet (2017)

One item on your home budget that straddles the line between a “want” and a “need” is internet. You can, in some situations, get by without it. Maybe you can use the computers at work for personal use during lunch or before/after your shift ends. Maybe you live a block from a public library, and you can get a free hour or two of internet. Or maybe you have a neighbor that gives you the password to their network and says they don’t mind if you use it. Given that internet service is easily $50 – $80 a month, you could save close to a thousand dollars a year by not having it.

Having said that, most of us need at least some internet access at home. Several days ago, I got a brochure in the mail from Comcast, listing the prices for internet/phone/tv service. Here’s a snapshot:

2017-01-26-comcast-xfinity-internet-prices

They advise you to save money by “bundling” – also buying TV and phone service through them, but generally after your initial 6-month good deal, the price quietly jumps up. My solution? Only subscribe to what you really need. In our case, we don’t need their phone or tv services, despite never-ending pleas from Comcast.

So once or twice a year, I walk into the local Comcast office and talk to a live person . First, I let them know that their internet service works well most of the time. Then I go on to tell them (politely) that we live simply, don’t need all the bells and whistles, and will not spend more than $40 a month on internet service, and what kind of deal can we make? Amazingly, this has worked for about four years now. The customer service rep looks through the special deals they have, and matches me up with something that we haven’t already used. If they can’t find any advertised deal, they shove a paper at me to sign saying I threatened to quit, so they are giving me a special price. It generally covers six to twelve months, at which time I return to them to talk again.

Then I ask them to print me a confirmation of the monthly price, and how long it will last. Yes, they have tried to up the price on me half-way through the agreed-upon time, at which time I walked in with my printed confirmation sheet, and they corrected it. We have Blast internet – listed at $79.95 a month – for $39.99 a month. Several years ago, I was actually able to negotiate the price down to $29.99 a month!

So that takes care of home internet. What about that data on your cell phone, a.k.a., internet on the go? Two suggestions: 1) have a cell phone that has unlimited calling and texting, but NO data, or 2) turn off the data manually on your phone, and only turn it on when you really need it. By doing this, I maintain a cell phone bill of about $22 a month. If I’m at the store and need to check a price online, I use the store’s free wifi signal instead of data. The majority of stores, doctor’s offices, hospital, and public buildings now have free wifi, so make use of it.

One more thought on internet service at home: don’t rent the equipment from Comcast or AT&T. As you can see from the price chart above, Comcast will charge you $10 a month for the modem, and $10 a month the wireless device, adding $20 a month to your bill. That’s $240 a year. We bought both devices at Best Buy years ago for less than $200, and avoid the rental equipment fee.

So take a close look at your internet bills – the home one and the cell phone one – and see if you can get buy on less internet, or negotiate a better deal. Talk to your service providers. The worst they can say is no, and they might just reduce your bill.