published Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Consumer Watch: Choose best viewing plan for your family and income


by Ellen Phillips

According to The Week magazine, thus far in 2014, 10 percent of cable customers vow to rid themselves of this service by canceling their subscriptions. However, if you’re not quite ready to cut the cord completely, let’s talk about the best plan for your own family and its income, beginning with cable service, what you get, and for whom it’s best.

• Comcast “gives” a subscriber from 60 to 200-plus channels, along with streaming service to your personal computer, phone, or tablet. Along with this, you’ll receive lots of instantly available content for kids. Additionally, sports fans get access to live streams from ESPN and other sports networks. Comcast is best for busy moms, channel surfers, and sports fanatics.

• DirectTV is a satellite alternative to cable with 190-plus HD channels and an exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket. And, if your viewing audience is very diverse, the Genie DVR plays four shows in four different rooms at the same time. DirectTV is best for football fans and TV junkies who have a long list of shows to tape.

• EPB Fiber Optics video offerings is called Fi TV instead of cable. The greatest difference between Fi TV and the other companies, other than being a local offering, is it delivers with a 100 percent fiber optic network to the home. Not only does Fi TV offer free installation, but it also gives the customer his or her first set top box absolutely free, too. Offering more than 400 channels, EPB also offers the most HD channels available in the Chattanooga viewing area. Moreover, subscribers enjoy the most included movie channels, with several EPIX networks exclusive to EPB Fiber Optics. And as a former secondary school teacher, I particularly like its partnership with Hamilton County Schools and U.S. Education TV that gives middle and high students their own channel in which they can upload their own sports and educational programming. This plan is best for (obviously) sports fans, educators and students, travelers, and those who are security obsessive.

• TimeWarner Cable supplements up to 300-plus channels with 15,000 on-demand films and shows. If you travel a lot, streaming is totally easy with its 200,000 nationwide “hotspots.” And if you’re security conscious, for $34 monthly, just access the IntelligentHome security system. This cable plan is best for travelers who wish easy access to anywhere entertainment.

Many folks in the area have used Charter; however, their phone representative flatly refused to supply info unless I traveled to their office in person — not an option after my recent back surgery — or gleaned whatever info I could from their ads, also not an option given the specific information I needed and had received from the other companies.

Video streaming

Video streaming services can add on big money so it’s important to know the cost and what you get.

• Amazon Instant Video costs $79 annually, and with its Amazon Prime membership, offers free two-day shipping plus movies, previous TV arson and exclusive shows. Shipping perks can be shared by up to four members in the household.

• Hulu Plus is $96 yearly but your benefits exceed Amazon. You get movies, previous seasons of classics and popular network/cable shows along with a great Netflix perk — recommendations and customized content lists for up to five users under one account.

• Netflix costs the same as Hulu Plus but offers current season episodes for network shows, including ABC, NBC, FOX, the CW, Univision and more (movies, too).

Many episodes show up the day after it aired, but others don’t appear for a week, a month, or even more.

Tax Tip: Let’s say you mentor a kid across town as part of a program with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters or any tax-exempt charitable organization. Perhaps you drive 20 miles every week to meet him at his apartment. You buy reading and math workbooks to complete together and, every month, you take him to the museum, the zoo or to a children’s music concert. You have kids of your own and, sometimes, you have to pay a babysitter to watch your own children while you mentor. Don’t cheat yourself with Uncle Sam!

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer books. Email her at consumer watch@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
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