Just about my entire adult life, until I moved to Rome, like most people I had cable TV. I had Comcast and, like most people, complained it was too expensive. I gradually upgraded my cable package until I had basically every channel they offered.

I added their internet service because the bundle made it cheaper. I even ended up adding their home service, which I never even bothered to set up, because the bundle price was cheaper with the phone service than without. My cable bill has insane.

Of course, I didn’t stop there. Streaming services were starting to take hold.

I got a Netflix account. It seemed like a good idea. They had content not available on cable and you could watch as much as you wanted for one price. I added Amazon Prime. I can’t remember if it was for the two-day shipping or the video content. Their video content was a good deal. Some came free with the subscription and some was pay to watch. It was a good deal. You only paid for what you watched.

My significant other would ridicule me for what I paid for cable. She said there was plenty of entertainment on the internet. She didn’t have cable anymore. When I moved to Rome, she made it clear that wasn’t going to change. I went through withdrawal.

After a while I started looking into streaming services again.

I tried several, like Sling and Hulu, but they each seemed to have some channels I liked but not others. Finally, I found YouTube TV, which seemed like basic cable. I had a good selection of channels, including just about all of the ones I wanted. I was happy.

Of course I still had the same complaint people have had for decades, all these channels and there’s nothing good on. The Bruce Springsteen song, “57 Channels and Nothing ON” comes to mind. I had to add HBO to my YouTube TV account. That gave me a bigger movie selection. It came with seven HBOs. The channel creep begins.

The streaming services really get you. They will offer something you want to watch that is only available on that service. CBS All Access, which is now Paramount+, came next. They offered the new Star Trek series. I had to be able to see that, and they offered other content.

Roku came next. It is just a device that allows you to have all of your streaming services in one place. You can search Netflix, then Amazon, without having to log out of one and into the other. Handy, and the device is inexpensive.

When I bought a new TV, the Roku was built in. Even easier. Roku even offers a ton of free programing, none of which I’ve ever actually watched.

It becomes a blur after that.

We added HBOMax because they were offering something we wanted to watch. I can’t remember what. Hulu joined the party for the same reason. None of these are very expensive per month. I added Fox Now so I could watch the reboot of “Cosmos,” the old Carl Sagan show being hosted now by Neil deGrasse Tyson. At some point I added Peacock. I don’t remember when, or why, but I did. Of course, AppleTV joined the list at some point. I can’t leave out the MLB package I bought so I can watch my beloved Mets, or my music streaming services.

These services aren’t expensive individually and we do have lots of options. We probably get our money’s worth out of each, probably. But the Bruce Springsteen song keeps coming to my mind nonetheless.

When you add the cost of all of these, plus the cost of internet, are we paying less than I was for cable? Yes I am, for now at least.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: 57 channels and nothing on.

Vinny Olsziewski has a 40-year career as a disability rights advocate, working with local, state and national organizations and encouraging participation by people with disabilities in the political process.


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