Business/Economy, Exclusives, Featured, Municipal Broadband, Sherrie Peif

Cutting the cord: The costs behind municipal broadband

DENVER — Cutting cable providers loose in favor of high-speed internet and streaming services is fast becoming a tempting proposition, and with many local communities beginning to offer high-speed municipal broadband, it appears even more appealing.

But municipal broadband services are proving they are not necessarily any cheaper than their private competition. In Longmont, for instance, other than those who signed on to the service in its initial three-month offering, 1 Gig service runs about $70 a month, the same cost as Comcast or Century Link.

Additionally, 1 Gig of Internet service combined with television costs about $200 a month in most places around Colorado, but with communities such as Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins, and Centennial offering municipal broadband for around $70 a month, many are opting to “cut the cord,” taking advantage of what they perceive as a reduced rate over Internet giants Comcast and Century Link.

With all the options available to stream movies and even live stream television, consumers believe their days of paying for the high cost of internet and television services are over.

However, others such as consumer technology expert Kim Komando, say it doesn’t take long for the cost to add up.

Komando said in a blog on her Website that it can be tempting to indulge in every streaming service available to replace the loss of cable, and she urges consumers to do their homework first.

“More and more streaming services for on-demand content are coming online, as are options for watching live TV,” Komando said. “All that can add up and soon your TV-watching bill could surpass your cable costs.”

To start, to get the basic network channels such as ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. an HD antenna, ranging from $60-$130 is needed. In most cases, the antenna’s work for anyone in Colorado within a 60-70 mile distance from Denver, and a digital video recorder (DVR) ranges from $80-$400, depending on the capabilities.

However, anyone outside the 60-70 mile radius of the HD towers can only get basic channels through subscriptions to the networks themselves. Those charges can range from delayed for free to $50 a month for live streaming without commercials.

And then there are the other subscription channels such as HBO, Netflix and others, which not only require a special television, Roku or Apple TV box costing anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more, but another $10 to $40 per month in subscription costs, and not all channels offer live streaming.

Sporting events are another issue. Channels such as Altitude TV, which is home to the Denver Nuggets and Avalanche along with several college teams, do not come for free. In fact, they don’t come at all unless you have a major tv provider such as Xfinity or Dish Network. Likewise, ROOT Sports is home to the Colorado Rockies and also unavailable for free over the air. Additionally, while live streaming packages can be purchased from the NHL, NBA and MBA, most cannot broadcast local teams because of contractual blackout restrictions.

Services that were once billed by one provider, can now be a patchwork of bills with different billing dates to keep track of.

In the end, according to Komando, cutting the cord and going “a-la-carte” for services can be just as expensive — if not more — as sticking to one provider.

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