Would you like to tell your local cable monopoly what do to with its over-charging and tiered pricing packages filled with channels you're forced to pay for but never watch?
First, get your home theater gear - your HDTV or Blu-ray player - connected to the Internet.
Every Blu-ray player and nearly every new HDTV is capable of being connected to the Internet, as can videogame consoles including Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3 and the upcoming Nintendo Wii U.
You also can connect a separate "media streamer" - sort of like a cable box for the Internet, a small box that delivers Internet content to your HDTV.
These media streamers include the best-selling Roku 2 ($50), Apple TV ($99, although there are rumors Apple will introduce a new full HD Apple TV along with the iPad 3 on Wednesday), Western Digital's WD TV Live ($100), Boxee ($168) or, arguably the best of the bunch, Netgear's NeoTV ($50).
Most of these media streamers also allow you to pull content from your home PC - music, photos, your own videos - to your HDTV.
Getting content off the Internet - called "streaming" because the content flows as data to your home theater set-up - is a good thing, a desirable thing, because getting Internet content to your HDTV is the first step on the road to cutting the cable cord.
So what's playing on your connected HDTV, Blu-ray player or media streamer?
What's on the Net?
Netflix, for one thing. Netflix now has fewer Disney movies than it used to, but it has a lot more TV shows. I've heard a lot about but have never seen "Breaking Bad" and plan to catch up, and I'd like to review the last season - nearly 18 months ago! - of "Mad Men" before the new season begins on March 25.
There's also Hulu, the partnership between Disney (ABC), Fox and NBC, which brings you first run shows from more than 350 broadcast and cable sources only a few days after they've originally aired. You can also dial up the NetFlix-like Vudu or CinemaNow or Amazon Prime or YouTube (which is beginning to stream a lot of studio content along with the usual home-made videos) or any of the dozens of niche movie and TV show content sites.
These streaming content sources are either pay-per-view or all-you-can-watch subscription services (usually less than $10/month). But even if you paid for all of them (and you won't have to), it'd still be cheaper than what you're paying for cable or satellite. Better yet, you watch ONLY what you want to watch ONLY when you want to watch it.
Blu-ray players and connected HDTVs all offer varying combinations of all these Internet content sources.
Cord cutting conundrums
There's four problems with cutting the cable cord in favor of Internet-only (or mostly) content.
First, you'll need to hook up an antenna to get local over-the-air programming, such as news.
Second, you won't be able to get live sports shown on cable - just the occasional live sports event broadcast on local TV.
Third, you'll have to wait a day or so (or longer) after the original broadcast to watch it via the Internet, which could crimp your next-morning water cooler chatter about that hot show everyone saw last night.
To solve these three dilemmas, you could keep a "lifeline" basic cable/satellite account.
Fourth, how do you connect your Blu-ray player or TV to the Internet when your cable modem is in a completely different room on the other side of the house - or even upstairs or downstairs?
That's the subject of Part II. Tune in tomorrow.