Cutting the Cord: Switching from Comcast/Xfinity to Frontier Fiber & YouTube TV

In this latest edition of my series auditing my mother’s cable bill, we’ve decided to make the switch away from Comcast/Xfinity and opt for Frontier fiber optic paired up with YouTube TV. This decision was driven by the desire to save money and the availability of competitive services in the area. You can see the full video here.

Frontier’s offering is a better deal compared to Comcast. They don’t charge any rental fees even for the modem, no term contract, free installation and they even provided a free Eero Wi-Fi extender. The basic plan we chose is faster than even the highest tier Comcast plan on the upstream: 500 megabits up with the same speed downstream. The total cost comes to just under $150 a month, including YouTube TV and their unlimited telephone service. This is significantly lower than the best deal Comcast could provide, which was $186.20 a month after taxes and required a term commitment.

However, the transition wasn’t entirely smooth. I placed the order for service online and there was no option to port her number back over from Comcast. When the tech showed up they had assigned her a new phone number and couldn’t port the existing one over unless we opened up a new order.

As of this writing the old account is still active and they haven’t yet closed it out. I have heard similar issues from others – if there’s any kind of hiccup it’s very hard to get a resolution quickly without multiple contacts.

The Frontier fiber optic service comes with an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) and a router. The ONT is a more robust device than what my Dad got from them at his place, with multiple Ethernet ports and a coax connection for MOCA. The router provided works fine, connecting all devices in the house via WiFi without any issues. In fact I didn’t even need to use the EERO to get her all of her Roku’s attached.

Overall the switch from Comcast/Xfinity to Frontier fiber optic and YouTube TV has proven to be a cost-effective decision for my Mom. Despite some customer service issues, the service quality and reliability of the Frontier fiber optic service have been satisfactory. The next project will be to explore the possibility of cutting the cord further with over-the-air TV and looking for a less expensive TV provider. Because YouTube TV has no term commitment we can leave it at any time.

I’ll cover more about YouTube TV in my next video where I’ll do a full review. Stay tuned!

Comcast Gigabit Pro / x6 Now at 10 Gigabits per Second!

In my latest video I provide an update on the Comcast Gigabit Pro / x6 service I had installed here at the house back in 2020. Comcast quietly updated the service tier to a whopping 10 gigabits of symmetrical bandwidth!

This service, which I’ve been using for about two and a half years, is a “metro ethernet” fiber optic connection that has been steadily increasing in speed. Initially, it offered a 2 gigabits symmetrical, but it has since been increased to 3, 6, and now 10 gigabits per second.

The speed increases have been a response to competition in the area, with other providers offering similar performance tiers. Recently Frontier began selling a 5 gigabit symmetrical product, prompting Comcast to respond with their speed upgrade here.

But the full potential of this connection is difficult to realize due to hardware and peering limitations. The bandwidth provided is the amount available into Comcast’s network, but peering arrangements with other networks can limit the speed that can be achieved when connecting to different servers on the internet. For example my YouTube video uploads run at about the same speed they did when my service offered only two gigabits of service.

Local hardware limitations are another factor. A household that is mostly Wifi for example will never be able to take advantage of the 10 gigabit allocation. In my house the best I can muster is about a gigabit wirelessly when I’m in close to the access point. I also noticed that my Macbook Pro when docked through a single thunderbolt connection can only get about 4 gigabits upstream due to the bandwidth consumed by my two 4k 60hz monitors.

My Windows PCs also had a weird quirk where I could only max out at 6.6 gigabits per second. It turns out both had their third PCI Express slot running at only X2 speeds as the default BIOS setting was to share bandwidth with two SATA ports. Switching the slot to X4 and disabling those SATA ports opened the floodgates back up. You can see more in this Short.

Despite these limitations, the service has been incredibly reliable, a significant improvement over the previous coax service. The upload speed has been a game-changer, reducing video upload times from over an hour to about 45 seconds to a minute. This speed has allowed me to switch to 4K uploads and buys me a little more time to work on my videos ahead of my self-imposed deadlines.

Comcast’s Gigabit Pro / x6 service offers impressive speed and reliability at a very pricey $320 a month. While it may not fully reach the 10 gigabits per second due to hardware and peering limitations, it’s a significant improvement over their coax services and a testament to the benefits of competition in my area.

Xfinity Stream App Overview – Saves Money on Cable Box Rental Fees

I am continuing my adventure into saving my mother money on her monthly cable bill. In my latest video we take a look at the Xfinity Stream app which allows cable TV subscribers to access their subscription channels without a cable box rental.

Xfinity Stream right now is available on Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV. Oddly the app looks and feels a bit different on each platform. All versions of the app allow for watching live television from a subscription plan, streaming and on demand content, and recordings from the Xfinity cloud DVR that’s part of some service plans.

My preferred platform for Xfinity steam right now is Roku. Comcast began their “Partner Device” program on Roku first so the app is the most mature on that platform. My Mom has been using it for several weeks now and has no complaints.

The biggest advantage in using Xfinity Stream is that you can get rid of your expensive cable rental boxes. In my Mom’s case returning those boxes resulted in $720 in annual savings just on that component alone. As I noted in a previous videos in the series, one of her rental boxes triggered a secondary DVR charge resulting in $60 a month in unnecessary rental fees!

For many Comcast remains the only game in town for Internet and TV service. Thankfully some of the competitive pressure being applied to the company in many markets across the US is forcing them to offer cost saving options for consumers.

Auditing Mom’s Cable Bill

I’m continuing my saga this week in trying to save my Mom some money on her cable bill. This week’s video digs into the rest of her bill to see what other charges Comcast is hitting us with.

In an update to last week’s video about rental fees, I found that her bill was even worse than I initially thought. A $10 “Premium DVR” charge was not immediately reversible because Comcast oversold my mother on two DVR boxes. Because she had two DVR boxes the second box triggered the charge. It wasn’t enough that they were already charging her $10 for each box. So this one box alone was costing her $20 monthly and she never even used it!

What’s even crazier is that although Comcast did not swap out any of her equipment, they steadily increased the cost year over year as equipment fees sit outside the contract rate.

What a world they live in where old equipment appreciates in value!

But they did finally send us some boxes to send their boxes back. Very inefficiently, mind you, as everything could have fit into a single box. But they make so much money shipping costs are not a concern.

Comcast’s boxes on their way back to where they came from

Unfortunately it looks like the boxes were the low hanging fruit in this effort to bring cost down. The rest of Comcast’s bill is a rat’s nest of interlocking services. Pull one out and the cost goes up!

In addition to cable box fees Mom was being hit with the “Broadcast TV Fee” and the “Regional Sports Fee” which also sit outside her contracted rate. The Broadcast TV fee is largely unavoidable and comes as a result of local broadcasters charging Comcast to carry their networks. This makes broadcasters more money than advertising these days. I may eventually put an antenna up on her roof as over the air TV signals remain free.

The “Regional Sports Fee” is a similar fee that regional sports networks charge Comcast to carry their networks. Mom has this on her bill even though she doesn’t watch sports. Why? It’s because of the cable package that she signed up for requires her to subscribe to these sports channels to get the other ones she wants. In the video you’ll see that we can’t get her news channels without sports which brings that fee along.

The best price I could get her requires another yearlong commitment from Comcast. While the service fee is locked in for that year, they have zero risk in this relationship because most of their costs are put into those other fees outside of the contracted rate.

But Comcast is not the only game in town any longer. Frontier’s fiber optic service recently came to her neighborhood and another ISP may soon follow. Replicating her current Comcast services with a Frontier and YouTube TV combo will save her at least $550 a year.

It’s shameful how Comcast abuses their monopolistic position and swindles senior citizens selling them services they don’t need or use. Comcast will need to pivot quickly as consumers now have choices. If traffic on my YouTube channel is any indication those consumers are eager to exercise their market power.

Xfinity / Comcast Rips off My Mom!

Check your cable bills! I checked my Mom’s bill the other day and what I found is the subject of my latest video.

The worst part is that the cable boxes she’s paying for are old digital to analog adapters that she’s had for the better part of the decade. Techs even came out at some point and hooked these things up, with RF connections, to her HD televisions!

Initially these adapters were around $3 a piece but Comcast has slowly increased the monthly cost on them over the years. When she changed her plan a few years ago they sent her an additional HD box for one of her televisions but never suggested or offered to take the older boxes off the plan.

A Comcast Digital adapter my mother was being charged $10 a month for

Comcast’s customer service was not very helpful. They work extremely hard to direct everyone to the website first – in fact this weekend I couldn’t even talk to an agent unless I went back to their website to request a call. When I did they sent me back to the website and use their equipment return page to initiate things. The problem is that only the two HD boxes showed up – not the other three adapters!

To rectify things I ended up using their Twitter support and got the ball rolling there. They sent us some return boxes and labels and I’ll be getting those back to Comcast this week. My hope is that they’ll take everything off the bill as those three adapters are still not showing up on her online account.

Thankfully Comcast offers customers a simple option for avoiding box rental fees by using a “partner device.” The best and most affordable option at the moment are Roku devices. Apple TVs also work pretty well too. I set up Mom up with a few Rokus are on her TVs this weekend.

I was able to save my mother $720 a year by removing the boxes and another DVR service add-on they slipped in that she didn’t need or use. All of this stuff sits outside of the contract she was on for service so Comcast can raise those rates whenever they want.

If you have loved ones that are a little challenged when it comes to technology definitely give their bill a close look. My video also provides a checklist of what you need to have ready to help.

It’s so frustrating that monopolies behave in this way. It’s especially unfortunate that because I’ve found Comcast’s network to be reliable and consistent in its performance. If they focused on making customers happy vs. ripping them off perhaps they’d be better positioned now that their business is getting significantly more competitive.