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Your Guide to Cable TV Cord-Cutting

View original post on Tom’s Guide website here.

by MARSHALL HONOROF

For decades, cable television was the best way to get quality shows geared toward specialized audiences. Today, that’s what streaming services do, while cable is more like a lumbering dinosaur, slowly laying waste to both consumers’ wallets and their sense of good taste. Cable TV still has some great shows, but you no longer need to pay through the nose to get them — not when you can cut the cord.

Here’s what you’ll need to know about life after cable TV. Tom’s Guide will tell you what kind of hardware you’ll need, where you can find your favorite shows and roughly how much you should expect to spend.

Editors’ Note: If you’re looking for a cable TV replacement service, check out our comparison between the new YouTube TV and Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue.

Hardware

Once you ship your cable box back to its Machiavellian overlords, you’ll need a way to funnel streaming content directly to your TV. The good news is that this process is both easy and inexpensive, and you may even own the necessary components already.

HD Antenna

The first thing you may want to consider is an HD antenna. This doesn’t provide a way to watch streaming videos, but if you want to watch live TV, it’s the cheapest and simplest solution. You may remember having rabbit ears on your hand-me-down TV as a kid — an HD antenna is basically the modern-day version of that. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and watch as the free channels roll in.

This process is how you get local broadcast stations and, as such, is ideal for news and sports. You can get a good HD antenna for less than $40, and like with a regular antenna, there are no subscription fees. However, your channel selection depends a lot on where you live, as well as your line of sight to the broadcast location.

A nonamplified antenna picks up signals across a range of about 20 miles and is ideal for people in urban areas, who tend to live close to broadcast towers. The Mohu ReLeaf is a good choice for city dwellers, and costs about $40. Suburbanites and rural citizens may prefer amplified antennas, which pick up signals over a range of about 50 miles, but also cost more. Our top pick here was the $40 Terk Trinity.

Streaming Devices

If you want to take advantage of streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth — you’ll need a way to display them on your TV. If you have a recent TV from a major manufacturer, you may not need to get anything at all. Smart TVs usually have these apps built in, and almost every high-end TV sold within the last two years or so has smart capabilities.

If not, setting up your TV for streaming can still be a simple and inexpensive process. The market is positively glutted with set-top boxes, streaming sticks, game consoles and other devices. Tom’s Guide has compiled a list of the best devices to fit various budgets and streaming preferences.

In general terms, your choices boil down to devices from Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple, plus game consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Roku Ultra is our top pick in this category, as it offers thousands of channels, 4K resolution and an inventive interface.

Amazon and Google also produce a 4K players: the 2015 Fire TV and the Chromecast Ultra, respectively. An Apple TV is a good choice for consumers who already own a lot of Apple devices, while if you plan to do a lot of gaming, a PS4 or an Xbox One is the way to go. Streaming devices range in price from $35 to $400.

Finally, if you have a laptop or don’t mind moving your desktop to the living room, you can simply plug your computer into your TV via HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA or DVI cable (depending on which ports you possess). Grab a wireless mouse and keyboard, and voilà: You have access to almost every streaming music and video service on Earth.

Once you’ve picked up the appropriate device, all that’s left is to pick the services that provide the shows you want to watch.

Streaming Services

While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($99 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.

Cable-Replacement Services

The most expensive, but also most comprehensive, streaming services are known as cable replacements. This includes services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, as well as the new YouTube TV.

Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don’t have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.

However, you may not be saving much money. While Sling TV starts at $20 per month, the costs of adding extra stations like Epix, HBO and Univision can pile up pretty fast. Just to add HBO and the Hollywood Extra package (which includes TCM, Epix and others) raises the monthly cost to $40. PlayStation Vue starts at $40 per month, and can go up to $70, depending on your region. DirecTV Now ranges from $35 per month to $70 per month.

Streaming Subscriptions

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are the best-known subscription-based services, and for good reason. They have excellent selections of TV shows and movies, both modern and classic, and the services are quite inexpensive. Each one costs between $8 and $12 per month, depending on what kind of options you need. Even if you subscribe to all three, this will represent a substantial price break over cable.

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Tom’s Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)

Recent cord-cutters will probably want to keep an eye on Hulu, since network and cable shows often show up on the service just a day or so after airing on TV. On the other hand, if you want a rich backlog of classic shows (and ambitious original programming), Netflix or Amazon is probably the way to go.

MORE: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Streaming Showdown

If there’s one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there’s a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.

You should also keep an eye on the trend of TV networks offering their own streaming subscription channels. CBS All Access, for example, is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of live CBS TV, on-demand CBS programming and next-day episodes for new CBS shows.

Sports

One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.

MORE: How to Watch NFL Games Online

If you’re a die-hard sports fan in general, a cable subscription is probably worthwhile for that content alone. But if you follow only one or two teams in one or two sports, you can probably get away with paying $15 to $20 per month — much less than traditional paid TV.

To learn more about streaming sports services, visit your sport of choice’s website (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, etc.) and click on its streaming section. It will likely be toward the top of the page on one of the toolbars.

Premium Channels

By cutting the cord, you’re also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies.

The good news is that premium channels are starting to cut out the middleman. The three aforementioned networks all exist in stand-alone formats. HBO Now costs $15 per month, Showtime Anytime costs $11 per month and Starz costs $9 per month.

Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.

All three apps are widely available, so you should be covered whether you use a smart TV, streaming player, game console, mobile device or computer.

What to Stream

You need not fear running out of things to watch. If you sat through every episode of everything on our list of the best shows to binge watch list, it would take you 38 days, 3 hours and 15 minutes. And that’s if you don’t break to eat or sleep. Add to that some essential, newer shows you can find online (Empire, Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Vikings, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Peppa Pig) and you’re looking at 48 days, 8 hours and 59 minutes of TV shows alone.

Foreign TV

While foreign-TV streams make for a huge topic on their own, it’s worth pointing out that cutting the cord opens the door to a whole world of TV from other countries. Offering entire cable channels for individual linguistic niches would be unthinkable, but there are a ton of streaming channels dedicated to just that.

For starters, anime fans should check out Crunchyroll. DramaFever brings Korean dramas and sitcoms to Western audiences, while YuppTV broadcasts a variety of news, sports, music and serials in Hindi. Those who prefer programs in English can check out Acorn TV, which streams British TV to expats and Anglophiles all around the world.

These channels are available on most streaming devices, but not every service is available on every device. (Acorn TV, for example, isn’t available as a Chromecast app.) Your best bet is to check the manufacturer’s website for your streaming device and see if the channel is supported before dropping the money on a subscription to it.

Other Services

There are thousands of niche channels, from local live news stations to camera feeds that show nothing but goats. (Really.) Two services worth checking out are Plex and Crackle.

Plex is a fantastic service, which allows you to make a media library on your computer, then stream it to your TV, mobile device or other computer anywhere in the world. Plex has become one of the most comprehensive media servers around, letting users record TV from HD antennas and store their media servers in the cloud. (For reference, a monthly subscription costs $5, a yearly subscription costs $40 and a lifetime subscription costs $150.)

Crackle is not the only free streaming-video service out there, but it is one of the only ones that don’t rely on public domain or cheap content. Sony owns Crackle, and as such, you can find tons of cool movies, newish anime, beloved sitcoms (Seinfeld, All in the Family, Mad About You) and even a few funny original shows (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, SuperMansion, Sports Jeopardy!). If you remember the days of mid-’90s afternoon cable, Crackle is like coming home after school and binging on TV that’s so bad it’s good.

Beyond that, there’s a whole world of streaming content to explore. No, you can’t cut the cord and continue to watch every single one of your favorite shows in real time — at least not yet. But you’ll never again be shackled to an expensive service that broadcasts mostly junk, and that’s worth the price of a few prime-time dramas.

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Point Broadband Begins Massive Upgrade in Decatur, Miller, and Seminole Counties

West Point, GA – Point Broadband, a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP), based in West Point, Georgia announced today that they’ve started upgrading existing, in-home, customer hardware in Decatur, Miller, and Seminole counties. Earlier this year, Point Broadband purchased Turner Broadband, and made a commitment to upgrade the network, which will provide fast and reliable internet service to the existing Turner Broadband customers.

Point Broadband has already replaced and installed new transmission equipment to stabilize the existing Turner Broadband network. With that process complete, Point Broadband can now focus on replacing modems and equipment in each customer’s home or business. “Today marked the beginning of a massive customer transition to the latest WISP technology,” said Point Broadband’s Chief Operating Officer Jason Gauntt. He continued, “we understand the challenges these customers have faced for many years, and we are dedicated to a smooth transition of service.”

This customer transition will occur in stages, with the first in-home equipment swaps occurring in the area off of Industrial Boulevard near the Decatur County airport. The entire network upgrade is scheduled for completion in late May 2017.

Please contact Point Broadband Customer Support at 844-407-6468 if you have any questions regarding your existing Turner Broadband service, and to schedule your equipment replacement appointment.

The first customer Installations will occur in the area off Industrial Boulevard near the Decatur County airport.

About Point Broadband

Point Broadband is headquartered in West Point, Georgia, a small town on the border of Georgia and Alabama. We are a proud subsidiary of ITC Capital Partners, LLC. ITC has a century long history of providing innovative communication solutions to its customers, with a focus on serving the communities where its customers live. ITC has been successful building, owning and operating wireless networks and broadband businesses over many years.

BROADBAND INTERNET HELPS RURAL AREAS CONNECT—ONLINE AND IN REAL LIFE

BY

Article originally published in Newsweek.

Being able to connect to the internet is crucial for many rural Americans. It allows them to buy goods and services that may not be available locally; market their own goods and services to a much larger area; connect remotely with health services that previously required several hours’ worth of driving; and even telecommute.

Academic studies have found that broadband access led to more new businesses in rural areas, and that high levels of broadband adoption were associated with increased median household incomes and lower unemployment levels for rural residents.

My own research into what broadband can (and can’t) do for rural areas, has revealed another potential benefit of rural broadband: increased levels of civic engagement. Several large cities are installing broadband service in hopes of encouraging people to vote in local elections, join local organizations and trust their neighbors more. But the impacts for rural towns are not often discussed.

Our recent research suggests that, at least in rural areas, it is not enough to simply provide a high-speed network. Rural citizens are already typically more engaged in their communities than their urban counterparts. Boosting their involvement from its existing level is not as simple as setting up an antenna nearby or stringing a new wire past their home. They actually have to use the internet and explore its opportunities. It is this last step that is the crucial component of a more engaged rural citizenry.

Rural (vs. urban) civic engagement

Rural residents typically vote more often than their urban counterparts. They also are more likely to volunteer, exchange favors with neighbors and work with community members to fix a local problem. In the academic research community, this is called “civic engagement.”

Smaller towns may be more conducive to citizen participation because people are more aware of what their neighbors are doing. Or it could be because rural residents believe they have a larger stake in their local community.

As the digital age evolves, it seems feasible that people might be influenced by what they see happening online—whether from news-oriented sites, local community websites or their own social media feeds. For example, seeing multiple stories about proposed legislation could lead to concerned citizens contacting a local public official. Alternatively, people could be influenced by their social network’s participation in local organizations—or simply be reminded that it is voting day. Internet use has already been shown to boost civic activities for the general population; our interest was whether that was true for rural residents in particular.

Does broadband matter?

In our study, we wanted to know whether it was just the availability of high-speed internet service that helped people who live in rural areas get more involved in their communities—or whether they needed to actually use the internet before stepping up in person.

Our first analysis looked at state-level data on rural broadband access and adoption to identify potential relationships between connectivity and rural civic engagement. We used 19 different measures of engagement, such as the percentage of residents who voted in local elections, participation in local community groups and how often they talked with or exchanged favors with their neighbors.

In general, people living in places with high rates of access to broadband service were no more or less likely to be involved in their communities. Similarly, living in an area with very poor broadband availability didn’t seem to affect community involvement.

However, a clear and consistent pattern emerged when it comes to broadband use: States with high percentages of rural residents who subscribed to broadband internet service showed higher levels of civic activity. For instance, residents of states like Massachusetts and Connecticut (with nearly 80 percent of their rural households having a home connection) were more likely to boycott a company, join a civic or sports organization, or discuss politics with family or friends.

Interestingly, we also saw signs that some measures of engagement might suffer as rural broadband adoption rises—for example, time spent talking to friends in the “real world” may be reduced.

Looking at individual homes

A state-level analysis is not enough to really draw significant conclusions. There are too many variations across the population, like education level, income, race and age, all of which could influence how involved people are in their communities.

But when we used Current Population Survey data from the National Bureau of Economic Research to look at individual households, we found the same trend was true. Again, people had similar levels of community involvement regardless of their broadband service availability.

But people living in communities with high levels of broadband adoption had significantly higher levels of engagement for about half of the 19 measures, including boycotting a company, joining a civic or local organization, or discussing politics with family or friends. These remained true even after we accounted for the influence of other household characteristics—such as age, income, race or the presence of children—that have also been shown to affect civic engagement.

The fact that access didn’t have much of an effect suggests that encouraging people to actively use broadband is more important for getting them to be civically engaged. Increasing broadband adoption is not easy; however, recent federal policy efforts have begun to focus more attention to this issue.

A changing policy landscape

Rural communities’ access to broadband internet service is changing rapidly. More and more people are using mobile internet services on their smartphones. Wireless internet access on mobile phones is nearly universal in both rural and urban areas, although most mobile connections aren’t fast enough to meet the official FCC definition of broadband.

This increasing reliance on mobile connections is changing how people use the internet itself. There is some evidence that mobile connections are particularly important for civic engagement among demographics that are likely to be heavily dependent on them, such as lower income or nonwhite populations. How this trend might translate to rural communities remains to be seen.

Most of our federal broadband policy has been focused on building broadband infrastructure. Recently, however, several federal programs have shifted toward getting people to actually adopt (use) the technology. The updated Lifeline program provides a monthly $9.25 subsidy that low-income consumers can use for a broadband connection. However, the program’s future is still up in the air.

The new ConnectHome initiative brings broadband access, technical assistance and digital literacy training to public housing residents across the nation. Our research suggests that adoption-oriented policies like these may have some meaningful spillovers for rural areas—namely, improved levels of civic engagement.

Those working in the field of digital inclusion note that encouraging effective use of broadband requires more than just reducing the service price. People need what might be called a “support system” when they start using new technology: friends, family members, a helpful librarian or a formal class in an encouraging environment. Incorporating this assistance into efforts to boost not just internet access but internet use will be vital to addressing the persistent digital divide—and can also lead to more civic engagement across rural America.

Brian Whitacre is professor and Extension Economist, Oklahoma State University.

Point Broadband introduced as new company for rural internet

By: Powell Cobb

The Post Searchlight Original Article here.

Decatur County residents subscribed to Turner Broadband have grown more and more concerned over the past year with failing internet service and connection issues.

Owner Shane Turner spoke to the Decatur County Board of Commissioners Tuesday and introduced Jason Gaunt, the new COO of a company that is taking over Turner Broadband to provide fast and reliable internet service to customers around the county.

Point Broadband, recently formed through ITC Capital Partners, LLC in West Point, Georgia, has plans to launch services across three states starting as early as Feb. 1 in Cuthbert, Gauntt said. ITC Capital Partners has 130 years of experience in the telecommunications field, and both Gauntt and Turner are confident the services to be offered will be competitive and affordable.

“It sounds like it is going to be something pretty good for the Turner Broadband network and Decatur County,” Turner said.

According to Gauntt, 93 percent of Georgia has access to 10 megabit or higher connection speeds. It just so happens Decatur County is part of the other 7 percent.

“With the population that resides in this county, the existing customer base and the access to certain other infrastructure, it’s a very compelling story for us to go in and take a lot harder look, which we have done,” Gauntt said.

By Friday, Gauntt and Turner are expected to have a contract solidifying the merger. Also on the to-do list is a contract with Decatur County that will spell out the stipulations for Point Broadband to use county towers to mount its equipment on.

Additional equipment and upgrades to the current Turner Broadband equipment are in the works, Gauntt said.

“Hopefully we get the agreement tied down with Turner,” Gauntt said. “We want to stabilize the existing customers that are on the network today, and we are going to replace all the equipment that is on towers serving customers today with new, next-generational equipment to offer a new, more reliable service.”

Gauntt also alluded to the possibility of offering telephone and cable services down the road so customers would not have to rely on two or more providers at their homes.

“We are that confident,” Gauntt said.

The rough price range for service is between $60-$70 with connection speeds of five, 10 or 15 megabits. Commercial packages will also be offered that will cost more, but provide guaranteed service without a data cap.

Point Broadband is conducting studies across the county and compiling data to form heat maps, which show coverage points that will indicate where service will be.

Gauntt said he expected Point Broadband to be offering internet service to Decatur County within the next four months.
“Shane and his staff have done all they can,” Gauntt said. “It’s time now for us to come in and help him. A new face.”

As for new jobs, Gauntt said the success of the company will determine how many positions are created. If Point Broadband can return to the 3,000 customers Turner Broadband once had, then up to five new jobs could be made, he said.

Point Broadband selects Telrad LTE for Multi-Million Dollar, Multi-State Deployment

Leveraging high-power LTE technology to help rural customers access high-speed connectivity with options of ‘cutting the cord’ from traditional phone, satellite and cable services

Lod, Israel – December 21, 2016 —Telrad Networks, a global provider of TD-LTE broadband solutions, today announced that Point Broadband, a subsidiary of ITC Capital Partners, LLC and located in West Point, Georgia, has signed a multi-million dollar contract with Telrad Networks. Point Broadband will deploy Telrad LTE technology for their multi-state operation, which offers wireless broadband Internet services to underserved residents and businesses in rural and suburban areas.

Point Broadband’s initial deployments will cover areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, with plans to expand into several additional markets. The Internet Service Provider offers rural cities and towns, who have limited or no Internet service, high speed wireless broadband connectivity that meets the standard requirements of any modern day Internet user. Point Broadband has embraced the concept of ‘cutting the cord’, meaning that with reliable Internet, customers can use VoIP and entertainment streaming, enabling them to discontinue expensive landline phone, cable or satellite TV services.

Using a combination of the 3.65 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency-bands, Point Broadband is leveraging licensed and semi-licensed bandwidth to develop the most dependable and uninterrupted Internet service.

Telrad technology enables Point Broadband to roll out a reliable, fast Internet service. Powered by Telrad’s flagship BreezeCOMPACT base station, the network offers key differentiating features which influenced Point Broadband in choosing Telrad’s standards-based LTE solution, including its affordable and scalable EPC, the advanced software-defined radio (SDR) base station capability, which allows for software-only upgrades, and the ability to overcome non-line-of-sight challenges.

“Telrad Networks is a key partner for our ISP business,” commented Todd Holt, chief executive officer of Point Broadband. “Their state-of-the-art solution supports our aggressive roadmap and business goals. With Telrad’s high-powered coverage, high capacity bandwidth and consistent connectivity, we are able to offer our customers the reliable, robust internet service they deserve.”

“We are honored to be selected by the Point Broadband team as the LTE solution provider for their large Internet service operation,” stated Chris Daniels, vice president and regional GM of North America for Telrad. “Our LTE solution was designed specifically for fixed broadband wireless networks such as this one, combining the power of LTE standards-based technology with flexibility and technical excellence. Telrad’s fixed-focused LTE improves operational efficiency and creates greater business value for our customers. We are very pleased to see our North American footprint growing with high quality organizations like Point Broadband, as more and more operators are leveraging the benefits of our LTE offering for fixed broadband.“

Point Broadband takes a very local approach with their business, offering a percentage of profits from a city or town to be donated back into the community.

Telrad solutions, operating in the sub-6 GHz bands, offer reliable fixed wireless broadband connectivity, with cost-optimized configurations, lower total cost of ownership, and NLOS capabilities. With maximum coverage and capacity, operators maintain more efficient, cost-effective networks that deliver an optimal user experience.

About Point Broadband

Point Broadband is headquartered in West Point, Georgia, a small town on the border of Georgia and Alabama. We are a proud subsidiary of ITC Capital Partners, LLC. ITC has a century long history of providing innovative communication solutions to its customers, with a focus on serving the communities where its customers live. ITC has been successful building, owning and operating wireless networks and broadband businesses over many years.

We want to be more than just your Internet provider. We want to help customers connect friends and family, help businesses connect with more customers, and just simply make the world a smaller place. With no monthly usage caps and no contracts, our customers have the flexibility to connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time. (point-broadband.com)

About Telrad Networks
Telrad Networks is a global provider of innovative LTE broadband solutions, boasting over 300 4G deployments in 100 countries. Telrad stands at the forefront of the technology evolution of next-generation TD-LTE solutions in the sub-6 GHz market. Since 1951, the company has been a recognized pioneer in the telecom industry, facilitating the connectivity needs of millions of end-users through operators, ISPs and enterprises around the world.  (www.telrad.com)

New internet provider serves Randolph Co. (Georgia)

By Amanda Hoskins, Reporter

Original WALB article can be found here.

RANDOLPH CO., GA (WALB) – Friday, February 10th 2017

A new internet provider is targeting rural areas of South Georgia.

Point Broadband is now available in Randolph County.

Folks at the company’s headquarters have an ongoing relationship with the power company in the area.

When they learned about the need for internet there, they wanted to help.

Residents say they are happy to see another option for internet.

The company has served roughly 100 people since it opened last week.

“A lot of these rural areas have been left behind. It gives us the opportunity to be able to offer something that is not only wanted, but needed in this area,” said director of installation Sonny Taylor.

The company uses a special aerial technology that allows them to get to even the most remote locations.

If you want to learn more, the office is on the square in Cuthbert.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved