Q: I would like to get rid of the telephone line coming into my house. What options do we have, considering that we receive TV over-the-air, use a wireless router and an Apple TV device for Internet video and have DSL Internet service on our phone line?
Bob Kinghorn, Minneapolis
A: Many people are tempted to buy telephone, TV and Internet services from one provider to get bundled discounts. But because you rely on over-the-air TV broadcasts, you can base your telephone and Internet choices on the merits of those two services.
Wired telephones, while extremely reliable, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. They lack mobility and in most cases they charge you for long-distance calls. Cellphones are now reliable enough to be a good alternative, and you don’t have to pay for long-distance.
Internet service brings another set of considerations. If you want to continue using DSL Internet service, you’ll have to keep your telephone land line for data-only service. If you want to get rid of the phone line, you can get a cable modem (from Comcast in your case) or use a cellular data service. For any Internet service, you’ll want to get a download speed of at least 5 megabits (5 million bits) a second, the minimum required for watching streaming Internet video.
For wireless service you’ll also need a way to convert the cellular signal into a Wi-Fi signal that your Apple TV or computer can receive. You can either buy a dedicated device such as the MiFi (see tinyurl.com/pqqdh2j) or a smartphone that can act as a Wi-Fi hot spot.
But because of its pricing, cellular data service is not for everyone. Unlike the telephone and cable companies, which offer flat-rate monthly prices for unlimited Internet service, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile offer metered data plans (Sprint still offers unlimited data as long as you use only its network — which is a real issue with a mobile smartphone). If you go over your monthly data allotment, there are financial penalties, so it’s important to determine how much data you’re likely to use in a month and buy the appropriate data plan. (I used up my entry-level 2-gigabyte Verizon Wireless data plan by watching four hours of Netflix streaming video.)
Q: I love our 60-inch plasma smart TV but my husband has trouble hearing it. It isn’t a matter of loudness as much as his being able to hear clearly. What would you recommend?
Monika RaglAND, Safford, Ariz.
A: Digital TVs allow you to change the relative loudness of high and low sound frequencies, which may make the TV more audible for your husband. Alternatively, there are special earphones for digital TVs that allow the user to make sound adjustments without altering what other people in the room hear. (See “audio options” at tinyurl.com/ngzal26.)
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