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Issue #826: May 21-27, 2023

Geek Note: I decided to take this week’s question out of order from my queue for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I personally invited the person to write-in with the question, so it seems only right that I answer it as quickly as possible.  Second, the issue itself –the advantages and disadvantages of changing Internet service providers – is a very hot topic in my neck of the woods, as a new high-speed provider moves in with apparently superior speed and pricing but lacking some of the bundle options of the existing provider.  Eventually everyone will be forced to deal with a similar situation, as technology is not going to stop its relentless forward march, so this will be relevant to everyone sooner or later.  There has been a lively discussion taking place on a local social media board for the last few weeks, but nobody really knows who to believe, or the knowledge level and skillset of the various posters.  Hopefully, this will help.

 Q: I currently use Cox as my internet provider and have bundled my internet, phone and TV cable. It’s a bit costly and I am now given the option to turn to Live Oak Fiber to be my Internet provider. However, doing so will mean that I will lose my phone, cable TV, and my email address. I would like to retain my email address and some TV service providers. I would appreciate your thoughts on what options may come into play on this issue.

 – Herb B.
Niceville, Florida

A: Thanks for taking the time to write-in, Herb.  Rather than be just another voice in the conversation on social media, I went straight to the source at Live Oak Fiber for clarification.  In addition to the knowledge and information that I have to offer personally, I had a long conversation with Kimber McCafferty, the Marketing Director at Live Oak, who graciously answered all my questions, and gave me a lot of good information to pass along.  Much of it isn’t relevant to I.G.T.M., but I’ll be bringing it into our social media discussions.

Now then, while you may be comfortable with your bundling, it’s my opinion that such bundles are an anachronism – a relic from another time.  Most people have a cell phone these days, which makes a landline a redundant expense.  Whether or not it’s part of a bundle, getting rid of the landline means money that’s now available for other entertainment options.  Having said all that, Live Oak says they will be offering an add-on telephone service by the end of this year.  No cost information was yet available at the time I spoke to Kimber.

Your cable TV is another relic.  We members of the older crowd rely on a provider to deliver a bank of channels that can be tuned with a set-top box, because that’s what we’re used to.  However, that’s not the most cost-effective way to purchase entertainment – usually by a large margin.  Most people only watch a small percentage of the bundled channels they pay for and it’s likely that you can purchase a few streaming services to get what you want at a monthly cost far below a package deal.  All of the content you watch on cable or satellite is available for watching online, much of it for free.  If you really need a more organized setup, there are numerous services that act a lot like a cable company, but deliver the content through a Smart TV, or a streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV.  They charge a monthly fee, but it’s generally far less than traditional cable.

Of all the things you mentioned, your e-mail address is probably the hardest sell.  Yes, you will have to get a new one if you change providers, and making the change every place that has your current address is non-trivial.  But many providers, including your current one, do not even provide e-mail addresses to new customers anymore.  Why?  Because that too is a thing of the past, and there are better ways now.

There are plenty of free e-mail services available online, and once you’re using one, you never again need to worry about having to lose your e-mail address if you change providers.  Also, the rewards of changing your e-mail can make the difficulty seem more bearable.  For instance, the amount of SPAM you receive will instantly drop to zero.  Some services, such as Gmail offer far more than just an e-mail interface.  With a Gmail account comes a shareable online calendar, a suite of office tools, 15 gigabytes of cloud storage, and more than I can possibly list here. 

What used to be strictly an Internet connection (Web surfing, e-mail, etc.) has been transformed into a true data pipeline through which you can receive all the digital information the world has to offer.  (Hint: What used to be broadcast TV is now digital.)  I hope you’re getting the idea.  Space limits me from continuing in this column, but feel free to send-in your questions if you want me to discuss this issue more.

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