If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cord but don’t know where to start, this step-by-step guide will help you cancel cable and switch to streaming live TV.
With so many cord-cutting options, the process can be complicated and overwhelming.
How to Cut the Cable TV Cord in 7 Steps
But when you’re just getting started with streaming TV, you don’t need to spend days and weeks researching the best way to cut the cable TV cord.
That’s my job!
Since 2016, I’ve helped thousands of people make the switch from cable to streaming.
This article features a simple 7-step plan that I developed for people who are new to streaming and want the best of cable TV at a cheaper monthly price.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Review Your Cable TV Bill
- Get Quotes for Internet Service
- Set a Streaming TV Budget
- Buy an Entry-Level Streaming Device
- Test Out a Live TV Streaming Service
- Cancel Cable TV Service
- Continue to Comparison Shop
1. Review Your Cable TV Bill
The first step to cutting the cord is to review your last bill from your cable TV provider. Check your bill to see if you’re locked in a contract and when that contract ends.
If you’re not tied to a contract, skip ahead to the next step.
But if you do have a contract, you want to determine if you’ll owe an early termination fee for dropping cable.
Your bill should include a website where you can read the terms and conditions.
If you can’t get confirmation in the fine print, call or live chat with your cable TV provider and ask the following questions:
- I’m thinking about canceling cable TV service. Will I owe an early termination fee?
- If so, how much is the early termination fee?
- Can I avoid paying an early termination fee if I keep internet service?
That last question is key. Some pay-TV providers are allowing customers to drop cable without penalty if they switch to an internet-only plan.
However, you may be forced to sign a new contract for the best deal on internet service.
2. Get Quotes for Internet Service
All live TV streaming services require a high-speed internet connection, so cutting the cord makes the most sense for people who are already paying for internet access.
To help you pick an internet plan that will meet the demands of live TV streaming, there are three main factors to consider:
- Download Speed
- Data Caps
If your only choice for internet service is through your cable provider, call them to see how much an internet-only plan will cost.
But if your local phone company also provides internet plans, you’ll want to check their prices too.
When I polled my YouTube community about the cost of internet service, the majority of the nearly 300 people who responded said they pay $50 to $75 a month.
You can lower that price by purchasing your own modem and router instead of renting equipment.
To stream live TV without lag or buffering, you’ll need an internet plan that provides enough speed.
For a typical household, I recommend buying an internet plan with download speeds ranging from 50 to 100 Mbps and preferably 200 Mbps. It’s possible to stream with a 25 Mbps plan, but service may not be as reliable.
With an internet plan that has download speeds of 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps, a handful of devices can connect to the network at the same time.
With the rise of streaming, some internet service providers have added data caps to their plans that can result in extra fees.
Since streaming TV uses data, this could be an issue for heavy users and large households.
If the internet service providers in your area have data caps, you may be able to pay an extra $25 to $50 a month for unlimited data.
However, internet providers insist that most customers are not affected by data caps.
IMPORTANT: If you already have internet service, don’t make any changes to your existing service at this point. For this step, you’re only getting quotes for an internet-only plan!
3. Set a Streaming TV Budget
Setting a streaming TV budget is the third step to cutting the cable TV cord.
After you’ve determined the cost of an internet-only plan, you can subtract that amount from your current cable TV and internet bundle.
That will help you figure out the potential monthly savings from switching to streaming.
Example: $150 Cable & Internet Bundle – $60 Quoted Price for Internet Service = $90 Left for Streaming
Some live TV streaming services advertise that they’re about half the price of cable, but it varies.
The more expensive streaming plans offer well-rounded channel lineups that include local broadcast TV, the most popular sports networks and major cable news channels.
I’ll share my favorite live TV streaming service for beginners later in this guide.
4. Buy an Entry-Level Streaming Device
Live TV streaming services don’t have monthly equipment fees, but you may need to purchase a streaming media player for your TV set.
Roku devices plug into your TV and connect to the internet to allow you to stream. Each device comes with a remote so that you can navigate all of your streaming apps.
If you’re intimidated by this part of the process, don’t be.
When you hook up the Roku and turn on your TV set, step-by-step instructions will appear on the screen.
KEY POINT: If you own a fairly new smart TV, you don’t need to buy a separate streaming device. Popular live TV streaming services should be pre-installed or available for download.
However, I like having a Roku anyway for its simple menus and access to free content that you won’t get elsewhere.
5. Test Out a Live TV Streaming Service
The next step is to try out a live TV streaming service while you’re still paying for cable TV. This is only a test!
There are a handful of options, but I recommend that you start with YouTube TV.
YouTube TV Fast Facts
- 85+ cable channels
- Local ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS
- Unlimited cloud DVR
- Up to 3 streams at once
- Simple navigation
YouTube TV is one of the more expensive options, but it’s also the most cable-like of the major live TV streaming services.
You can access the YouTube TV app from select smart TVs and compatible devices.
YouTube TV typically offers a one-week free trial. By the end of that time, you should know if live TV streaming is a suitable cable alternative.
How to Test YouTube TV
During your free trial, compare YouTube TV’s channel lineup to your cable TV provider.
Go through your cable TV live guide and write down all of your must-have channels and then repeat the process using YouTube TV’s live guide.
You also want to use your trial period to evaluate YouTube TV’s user experience and performance. Here are some questions to answer:
- How long does it take to change channels?
- Is there any lag or buffering?
- Have there been any error messages?
You can get YouTube TV’s free trial offer directly from its website. After you sign up, set a reminder for when your free trial ends in case you don’t want to keep the service.
You must enter payment information to start the trial, but you won’t be billed if you cancel before the trial expires.
YouTube TV Alternatives
If there are no major issues by the end of your trial, consider sticking with YouTube TV for at least a month or two while you adjust to streaming.
But if YouTube TV doesn’t check all of the boxes, look into these alternatives:
Most of these live TV streaming services offer free trials, typically for a week. If you want to extend your testing period, you can try multiple services to see which one you prefer.
6. Cancel Cable TV Service
After you’ve tested out YouTube TV and perhaps other live TV streaming services, you can contact your cable TV provider to cancel.
I recommend that you cancel by phone and call early in the day for a shorter wait time.
During the phone call, you may be able to negotiate with customer service for a lower price on an internet-only plan with your cable company.
If you have a competing offer from a phone company, this is the time to mention it.
Once you’ve dropped cable TV from your plan, make sure that you return any rental equipment to your provider to avoid paying additional fees.
Congratulations! You’ve officially cut the cable TV cord and switched to streaming.
7. Continue to Comparison Shop
If you like everything about cable TV except the price, the combination of YouTube TV and an affordable streaming device is a great way to start streaming live TV.
However, you can save money by periodically comparing streaming plans and deals.
Streaming services beat cable TV on price, but they’re also more consumer-friendly. Since live TV streaming services have no contracts, you can cancel at any time.
That gives you the flexibility to switch streaming providers or pause your subscription whenever you want.
Here’s an example:
Based on my viewing habits, I rotate through the major live TV streaming services several times a year.
But I suggest that first-time streamers master YouTube TV with an affordable streaming media player to start.
It’s a one-size-fits-all plan, but it works for most people because it’s so simple.
If you want to research other cord-cutting strategies, I have a separate guide: 4 Ways to Cut the Cord and Stream TV on Any Budget.
And for more ways to save on streaming TV, check out my YouTube channel.