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Who plays nicer with Apple: Comcast or WOW?

9 days until our move, and we'd like to hit the ground running. I can't imagine the family will be too excited about going without TV or internet or phone for a few days while I sort things out, so I suppose it's time to make one of the most important decisions a new homeowner will face.

Who will be our cable provider?

We've been Comcast customers for years. Here in Chicago, they've had good service offerings, and have usually managed to keep us around by sweetening their deal just enough to make switching seem like a chore. But when you're moving, everything is a chore! May as well weigh our options.

We need to cover three services here: TV, Internet, and Phone. I'm currently paying Comcast about $150 for a single TV, with HBO (I bring my own TiVo so I'm not currently paying for DVR service), 20 Mbps internet (which seems to top out around 14 Mbps in the city over wifi), and unlimited nationwide home phone.

In the suburbs, we'd like to add a second TV. DVR and HBO have to stay in the mix (we're watching Game of Thrones, but only rarely on Sunday nights when it's actually on), and the internet and phone service has to be comparable to what we currently have. 

(You'll note that AT&T isn't discussed here. UVerse isn't available in our suburb, and their comparably priced DSL offering is at 2-3 Mbps, which won't get it done for AppleTV streaming purposes. For that matter, Verizon FiOS isn't available in the Chicago area, either.)

1. Staying With Comcast (TV/Phone/Internet)

Pros: The devil you know.

Cons: Costs will increase with 2nd TV, onscreen UI is legendarily awful.

If we stay with Comcast, we can keep our TiVo Series 3 in use, and avoid paying DVR charges for TV #1. However, TV #2 would be using Comcast's UI, which appears to have been designed on a Sega Genesis.

Phone and internet would presumably remain unchanged. I say "presumably", because Comcast has been awfully cagey with me about what my per month charges will be, post-move. Still, we've been relatively happy with both services.

We'd be adding a second TV box, which will have a rental fee. We're currently paying about $155 (although that number has risen steadily in recent months), and I'm assuming that the additional box will cost us about $10/month.

Comcast Xfinity has a new iOS app, which I hear is very nice. I say "I hear", because I can't use it with my TiVo... and my old TiVo doesn't work all that great with it's own iOS app, either.

We do have a phone call scheduled with Comcast's "customer loyalty division", which I'll discuss a bit below, and which could affect these numbers.

Estimated cost per month: $165

2. Switching to WOW! Ultra TV (TV/Phone/Internet)

Pros: The UltraTV system, built on Moxi tech, is pretty great. 6 tuner, whole-home DVR. 

Cons: Channel lineup has some unexpected holes. 

We've had a few discussions with the folks at WOW! (Wide Open West), and they're rightfully pretty stoked about their UltraTV offering. It's not cheap, but it really does appear to be the "One Box" solution TiVo pretended they had with the Premiere: The primary box acts as the cable controller AND a wi-fi cable modem, and it distributes recordings to boxes connected to each TV. 

The UltraTV system gives you a 6 tuner whole-home DVR - you can record up to 6 shows at once, and then watch them from any TV in your home. It also (I'm told) allows you to access video stored on computers in your network - so I could stream movies, for instance, without the need to jailbreak the AppleTV, or even switch inputs. It does Netflix, because everything does Netflix. And the UI looks nice - similar to the AppleTV, in fact.

At the same time, the price is competitive. A setup comparable to what we've had with Comcast (again, 2 TVs, internet, unlimited phone) is going to run $130 for 15 Mbps, or $150 for 30 Mbps, equipment rental included. 

No contracts are required, so this option has the serious advantage of being a plausible "trial run" for the new house. 

I'm going to assume that taxes and fees are similar to the ~$15 we're paying with Comcast. (Obviously, we'll have to check into that.) As for the channels - the usual suspects are all here, but some strange holes, too. No NFL Network, which means no RedZone in the fall. (Half of why we're moving to the suburbs is to play pool and watch RedZone in the fall!) Bravo in SD only. Quite a few channels relegated to the "Signature" tier, which we aren't interested in. 

Estimated cost per month: $145 (15 Mbps)

NEXT POST: What about DirecTV? I could still use the above providers for phone and internet (at elevated prices), while getting the (frankly incredible) DirecTV channel lineup and UI - and its awesome, awesome integration with iOS. Stay tuned.


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