Modern cable systems are large, with a single network and headend often serving an entire metropolitan area. Most systems use hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) distribution; this means the trunklines that carry the signal from the headend to local neighborhoods are optical fiber to provide greater bandwidth and also extra capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the radio frequency electrical signal carrying all the channels is modulated on a light beam and sent through the fiber. The fiber trunkline goes to several distribution hubs, from which multiple fibers fan out to carry the signal to boxes called optical nodes in local communities. At the optical node, the light beam from the fiber is translated back to an electrical signal and carried by coaxial cable distribution lines on utility poles, from which cables branch out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extenders. These devices carry the signal to customers via passive RF devices called taps.
In the end, the cable industry’s failure to protect the bundle came down largely to greed, Moffett said. Media executives wanted to charge more for certain rights, like making every old episode available to cable subscribers, or granting the rights to watch a show on an iPad outside the home, instead of giving them away for the good of the industry.
You could use a number of approaches when faced with the challenge of "How to find cable TV providers near me?" You could spend hours surfing the internet, going through the process of entering your information into each provider's website to see if they service your area. It would be much more effective, however, if you could narrow the search down to the best cable providers in your area before diving into the shopping phase.
There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).
The commercials are still there—and repetitive to the extreme. Each break may show the same commercials over and over, sometimes the same ad back-to-back, as if they couldn't find any sponsors who believe in streaming. Or perhaps it's to torture you into using regular cable and a DVR (if you get a DVR from Spectrum, the app can be used to program it.)
FilmStruck ($6.99/mo, $10.99/mo., $99/yr.): A cinephile’s paradise, this service offers a range of classic, independent and foreign films from around the world, including (at the higher-tier subscription) most  of what’s been released by the boutique home video company the Criterion Collection. (Lower tier subscriptions include a rotating selection.) FilmStruck, which is developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies, has been adding hundreds of classic titles since February from the Warner Archive, which until recently had its own streaming service. Tons of Old Hollywood favorites like “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “Rebel Without a Cause” are now available on FilmStruck as result. What’s more, its home page is one of the best-curated, best-updated of any streaming site.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.

The main piece of equipment you will need to turn off cable is a streaming device. Luckily, most of us already have one. Many of the TVs sold these days are smart TVs that support various streaming services. Modern Blu-Ray players also tend to have smart features, and if you are a gamer, you can use your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as a streaming device.
◊ To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
The TV industry isn’t suffering financially, however, because it keeps raising prices on the remaining customers. The average pay-TV customer today spends $106.20 a month, up 44 percent from 2011, according to Leichtman Research Group. Since 1980 cable, satellite, and phone companies have generated $1.8 trillion in revenue from selling TV service, according to Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Revenue last year was $116 billion.
Hulu is more than just a place to find some streaming originals and a lot of day-after-air shows. Last year it launched a live TV service—and it quickly became the PCMag Editors' Choice in this arena. Yeah, you pay more, but for that $39.99 you get access to the entire Hulu library we discussed above, plus lots of cable channels, including many local affiliates that stream live (depending on your location).
The growing competition between satellite and fiber TV services in the country has made cable TV an inexpensive choice. This competition not only dropped the price of cable TV services but also significantly increased the number of features available to customers at exactly the same price. Because of this, new features such as HD programming are now available on most cable TV packages. So, be sure to compare the pricing plans and other features offered by a cable TV provider before you make a decision.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable.

For original programming, it started weak, but upped it a notch with Casual, which got the critics interested and earned Hulu its first Golden Globe nomination. Now it's got a real cool factor thanks to the multi-award-winner A Handmaid's Tale. It's also made itself the exclusive place to watch the entire back catalog of classic shows like Star Trek, South Park, Seinfeld, the original CSI, and a bunch of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows. It has a smattering of movies, but really, Hulu is all about the TV shows.
Another plus for Xfinity is it delivers some not-too-shabby equipment. The Xfinity X1 DVR isn’t our first choice for DVR, but it comes close. The X1 can hold about 100 hours of recordings (in HD), and it can record up to six shows at once, which is more than enough for most of us. It also includes some cool features, like a voice-controlled remote and Netflix integration. (Be sure to check out our review of the Xfinity X1.)
We looked closely at the ratings and scores by Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. Each of these groups rate cable companies on customer satisfaction, with some breakout categories like performance, value, communications, billing, and technical support. Companies that score well with these consumer resources are more likely to resolve issues, clearly communicate changes in billing, and consistently provide reliable television service.
The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
Know when special pricing ends. If you're taking advantage of an introductory offer with limited time pricing, set a reminder in your calendar for one month before the offer expires. This way you have plenty of notice to call your provider and negotiate a new deal with them. Failure to do so could result in your bill going up by as much as double when your offer expires.
Adam… there are countless options and opinions out there on what’s “best” but it all boils down to what the readers want and need. The wife and I cut cable completely about 6-7 years ago. We have internet only for $50/mo. We now have a $4 a month (taxes only) VOIP phone (Ooma) for home phone, cut our cell phones down to bare minimum $5/mo. plans and rolled the savings to an amazing 55″ OLED SmarTV television on an open box deal. Between the apps on that, the computer attached by HDMI, the over the air antenna and free apps and web sites, we don’t need any of the devices or subscriptions to have it all… and then some. There’s no need for Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Sling, Philo, Fire Stick or anything. Our motto is keep it simple. We get library access online 24/7 and instead of asking “what’s on TV tonight?” the question is “what do you WANT on TV tonight?” … $54/month total… we’re good!
And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.
Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.
There are also usually "upstream" channels on the cable to send data from the customer box to the cable headend, for advanced features such as requesting pay-per-view shows or movies, cable internet access, and cable telephone service. The "downstream" channels occupy a band of frequencies from approximately 50 MHz to 1 GHz, while the "upstream" channels occupy frequencies of 5 to 42 MHz. Subscribers pay with a monthly fee. Subscribers can choose from several levels of service, with "premium" packages including more channels but costing a higher rate. At the local headend, the feed signals from the individual television channels are received by dish antennas from communication satellites. Additional local channels, such as local broadcast television stations, educational channels from local colleges, and community access channels devoted to local governments (PEG channels) are usually included on the cable service. Commercial advertisements for local business are also inserted in the programming at the headend (the individual channels, which are distributed nationally, also have their own nationally oriented commercials).
Cable companies tend to make bundling TV, phone, and internet easy, which means lots of savings for you. Not only are bundles cheaper than buying the services individually, they’re also convenient because you don’t have to deal with more than one supplier—that cuts out hassle and paperwork. Use our site to compare prices and check for providers offering phone, internet, and cable bundles.
Streaming: If you have a smart TV, media streamer box or stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), or smart Blu-ray Disc player, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access TV program and movie content without an antenna or cable/satellite service. Popular streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Vudu, and YouTube.
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