Many of you wrote about your cable experiences -- none of them good -- in response to last week's column on alternatives to cable TV. You posed questions that need answers. So, this week it's Cable, Part II.
First, your Internet service. If you're on dial-up, you cannot stream movies and TV shows -- the connection is simply too slow. That means you have to subscribe to a high-speed Internet service and buy a router to beam the Internet connection throughout your house. Sure, you can turn to your local cable provider, but there are alternatives.
I use Clear -- it's not perfect, but I've been satisfied so far. I ordered the service over the phone and the next day received a router that plugs into any outlet. It is strong enough to provide a signal on three floors (I put it in a central location on the first floor) and it provides Internet to a computer, laptop, iPad, Xbox 360 and of course, the Roku box for the TV. Cost? $100 for the modem/router and $50 a month for "unlimited download speed" service. A $35 monthly plan is also available with slower speeds that the company claims is sufficient to stream Netflix -- it's worth a try.
Once you have a satisfactory Internet service, you can add a streaming media box like Roku or Apple TV. The Roku is available online at www.roku.com/roku-products, Best Buy and Radio Shack. If you visit the Roku site, you can see the apps or channels that are available, including Netflix and Hulu Plus. You can install the Roku yourself -- no "engineer" necessary. Along with the device, you'll also receive a remote control to navigate from one Channel to another.
Some of you asked about closed captioning support on a Roku. The current generation of devices, the Roku 2 line, support it as long as the movie or TV show you've selected offers closed captioning. On the play menu screen, you should see an option labeled "audio and subtitles" if it is available. Select "audio and subtitles" and click OK. Use the directional arrows to select "English" under Subtitles and click OK and then play your show.
Many of you asked about sports on a Roku. No ESPN. You can subscribe to NBA, MLB and NHL to watch live games; scores, stats, recap videos, and other information are free. For Brigham Young University fans, BYUTV is free and available from the Roku Channel Store once you've installed the device. The good news is that Roku continues to make new deals with media companies, so it's worthwhile to periodically check the Channel Store.
You also wanted to know whether or not you'd get your favorite cable station channels like HGTV, Discovery and the History Channel on Hulu Plus and Netflix. No to HGTV, but selections from science and history channels are available. New shows are constantly added to both services, so take the time to browse listings.
This brings me to an important point: Making the switch from cable to Internet TV can be tougher on some. If you can let go of certain channels, you will find plenty of interesting entertainment. There is no one-to-one alternative.
But you don't have to give up broadcast channels. The Mohu Leaf is available from gomohu.com for $36 and includes free shipping. The Leaf gives you channels such as ABC, Fox and PBS. No Internet connection is required, but the channels you'll get -- including HD -- depend on how close you are to a tower, and as a reader asked, where your TV is located.
He wanted to know if his TV reception would be as good if he placed the Leaf on an interior wall as an exterior wall -- no. However, Mohu also offers extension cables: $16 for a 10-foot digital cable and $28 for a 25-foot one, which could work if you can't move the TV. I'd also fiddle around with placement on the wall, just a foot or two can make a big difference.
Before buying a Leaf, check the programs broadcast in your area. Titan TV offers a TV Guide-style listing once you've confirmed your location on the site. Try it here: http://ww1.titantv.com/.
And here's my favorite question. JoAnn in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote, "Why can't you just tell the cable service, 'Look, I just want basic cable plus the History Channel, The Discovery Channel (add your favorites here) and I don't want all that other garbage that comes with the package.' Surely, they could custom-tailor a package to individual tastes!"
The a la carte model that JoAnn refers to has sparked controversy over the years. But the consensus is that unbundling cable channels would cost most consumers far more -- and cable is expensive enough as it is.
Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org.