Internet while on vacation in the Dominican Republic, without paying Bell/Rogers/Telus a fortune

For connected Canadians venturing out of the country, one question is whether to forego Internet access while away and get caught up on emails etc. upon their return, or pay the outrageous data and voice roaming fees imposed by the big Canadian carriers. A lot of people just leave their cell phone at home so they can't accidentally rack up a huge roaming bill.
The new mobile companies like WIND and Mobilicity have better rates than the big companies, especially for travel to the US, but it's still prohibitively expensive for anything other than extremely light usage.


Shaw Direct's Local Television Satellite Solution - Free TV

It hasn't been publicized very well, but Shaw Direct has an interesting offer for people looking for a way to receive local TV without having to deal with antennas or living in places where there is very little available over the air.


MLB and NHL without a satellite/cable subscription

A new (short) NHL season is almost upon us now that the lockout is over, and since it's looking like Zazeen's new IPTV service won't have Rogers Sportsnet when they launch later this month, that means I'll only get nationally televised NHL games via CBC and TSN. Sportsnet has the regional broadcast rights for Ottawa Senators games, so they're the only TV station that can carry them.

I was in a similar bind for the MLB playoffs last fall but managed to find a way to watch all of the MLB games on my PS3 in HD over the Internet without the normal blackout restrictions, and it didn't end up costing me very much either. I expect/hope that a similar approach will work for NHL games this season. Read on if that sort of thing interests you.


HDTV for free - your grandfather's TV antenna is still useful!

In an earlier article I promised to go into some detail on what we're doing for TV in our household since we cancelled our satellite subscription last spring. We're currently getting our TV from a combination of sources:

  • local Ottawa stations that we receive for free via an antenna
  • Netflix
  • Hulu Plus

In this article I'll go into some detail on the first item - receiving digital TV signals with an antenna, but first you'll have to endure a rant about the annual price increases that finally motivated us to do something about our satellite bill.


Zazeen - shaking up the Canadian TV landscape

Zazeen finally made their IPTV product available for public signup. Though it's still just in its beta-testing stage and likely will be for several more months, it marks the beginning of a new kind of TV distribution system for Canadians. Zazeen's offering is delivered via your home Internet connection rather than a satellite or closed coax/fibre network feed.


Breaking free of Bell & Rogers

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them how much (actually how little) we pay per month to stay entertained and connected with the rest of the world. They know I'm a gadget freak and a heavy user of my cell phone, TV, and Internet connection, so they expect that I'd be paying a lot more than they are for my service. Here's a rundown of our typical monthly expenses:


Living without satellite TV

My wife and I "cut the cord" and cancelled our Bell Satellite TV account in the spring of 2012. Our kids had both been away at university for the past two years, and we figured the two of us would see if we could live without satellite TV. Cost was one of the main factors in our decision - the annual price hikes from Bell had put our monthly satellite bill at close to $80, and that was without any receiver rental charges or premium channels like HBO! We had the middle-of-the-pack channel package; we had to take that package since we wanted sports channels like TSN and Sportsnet, plus "lifestyle" networks like Food, HGTV, and TLC. The lack of channel bundling options from Bell and the other TV distributors is quite frustrating, and I'm convinced that they all have a team of statisticians that try to figure out how to bundle channels to extract the most revenue from their customers. How else can you explain the almost complete lack of a-la-carte channel packages in most of Canada and the annual shuffling of channel lineups and programming tiers?

About this blog

As a fan of technology who's tried a lot of the computer / Internet / TV gadgets out there, I often get asked what sort of technology I use at home and how well it works. I've been meaning for some time to put some of this stuff down in writing since I end up sending the same info to several different friends.

That's the plan for this blog - to discuss what I'm using at home for TV & Internet and perhaps some of the other gadgets we have in our smart home. Oh yeah... there will be some ranting from time to time too! Hopefully others will find this useful.