What Happened When I Cancelled My Home Internet — And Why I Never Resubscribed
At first, it felt worse than withdrawing from caffeine or nicotine. Worse than having a power outage. Worse than having no hot water and having to take an ice cold shower in the middle of January.
I cancelled it because it was expensive. Yeah, I know — they advertise cheap internet services for $40 a month, but then they add modem fees, taxes, random fees for all sorts of other things, and before you know it, it’s $80 a month.
But wait! If you sign up for the “double play” package and get cable TV with it, it’s only $100 a month for both!
But wait! The competitor offers the same package for only $80! But wait. There’s a monopoly, so the competitor doesn’t serve your area.
At first, I did it because I had no choice. I needed to cut back on all unnecessary spending. But after the initial withdrawal period, I found myself perfectly content without having internet (or TV), and over a year later, I still haven’t resubscribed.
People like to gloat about how they cancelled their cable TV services and “survived” on Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and the like.
But without internet, you can’t have streaming services, so I went all out and eliminated all forms of technology — minus my phone, which I now go hours at a time without checking — from my home. And it was wonderful.
Now is probably a good time to mention that I’m:
- a web developer;
- a “millennial”;
- someone who makes money online; and
- addicted to technology…
all of which seem to be contraindications to living a tech-free life at home.
So how do I do it?
I’m not living in the Stone Age — I have an iPhone and I use it if I need to pay bills, research something, write an article, etc. For the first year or so, I just went without internet altogether. I didn’t have a computer. I didn’t watch movies or TV. I didn’t have any background noise at home. Once I got past the initial shock of not having anything to do, I realized that there are plenty of other things to do. Like taking some time to sit down and enjoy the quiet. Like not getting tension headaches from staring at a screen all day and night. Like cooking actual meals instead of googling new takeout spots. If I really needed to do something online, to be honest, I just went to Starbucks and used a 15-year-old laptop that I borrowed from a family member. I would make a list of things I had to get done and sit at Starbucks (enjoying the unlimited free refills) until I was done. And that was it. No more internet until I had legitimate tasks to accomplish.
The thing to remember is that almost everything we “need” to do online can be automated. Bill pay? Automate it. Blog posts? Write them all in one session and schedule them. Come on. If we stop dillydallying and maximize every minute of time spent in front of a screen, we can get a lot done in one day and then not touch a computer for weeks at a time. And it can be glorious.
FYI: Without WiFi, people will stop coming to your home.
The conversations usually go something like this:
“What’s your WiFi password?”
“I don’t have WiFi.”
“Oh. So, like, you have it wired to your computer?”
“I don’t have a computer.”
“Oh, really? Damn. Okay, no worries. So where’s the TV remote?”
“I don’t have a TV remote.”
“Oh… hmm. Wow. Okay.”
Yeah, so there’s, like, nothing to do. I get it.
I was loving it. And then, one day, my phone broke.
Like, broke broke. Like, “no service” broke. I couldn’t make or receive calls. Couldn’t text. It was 1:00 AM when I noticed. I panicked. I thought I was over this whole “internet” thing.
Hey, I don’t even use my phone. Who cares if it doesn’t work?
I CARE. I CARE. I HAVE SNAPCHAT STREAKS TO MAINTAIN. I drove to Starbucks in the middle of the night, parked in the parking lot, got onto their free WiFi, sent the snaps, and sent the obligatory “my phone doesn’t work and I don’t have WiFi but I’m alive so don’t worry about me” text. And then I went home, shaking my head the whole way.
I thought I was over it.
I realized that living a tech-free life doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor.
It turns out that the entire time, there had been a free WiFi hotspot in the restaurant adjacent to my apartment building. Recognizing that there might be times when I kind of-maybe-a little bit-sort of need the internet, I called my dad, who actually subscribes to the cable company that provides the hotspot, and asked for his password. Instant WiFi¹.
But I had grown so accustomed to life without home internet that I never really used it.
A year and a half after cancelling my home internet, and a few months after discovering the hotspot, I decided to start working exclusively from home. I run a few small businesses (web design, online courses, selling curriculum), and I teach English online. My mom asked me how I would do it without internet.
I changed the subject. I assured her that I would finally get WiFi at home. I didn’t.
I guess I’ve reached a happy medium. I caved in and got a used laptop so I could code and teach from home. I grew accustomed to coding offline, but now I’ll use the hotspot if I need to. I still don’t use the internet unless I’m working, though.
Once you get past the initial withdrawal and the shock of not spending every waking hour “connected” to the entire world, you find a new sense of comfort. You start to notice when the sun sets. You wake up and actually get out of bed. You begin to hear the sounds of nature — even in a big city. You recognize the sounds of the first drops of rain before a big storm. You become hyper aware of the real world — the one that’s physically surrounding you.
I don’t need to be online.
And I still don’t watch TV.
¹ Update on December 20, 2018: I’ve received some feedback about the use of the hotspot and how it appears that I just switched from using home WiFi to free WiFi. I should have clarified in this piece that I discovered the hotspot about a year into the “no internet at home” thing, so I made a brief revision above. As I re-read this piece (which has unexpectedly gotten 23K views in the past 2 days), I realize that I was pretty vague about the timeline. For me, going over a year without having internet at home was a great experience. I didn’t intend for this piece to come across as “I have less internet than you!” or to suggest that I never used the internet at all — my intention was to convey that we don’t need to be connected 24/7, and for me, not having WiFi at home was a nice way to get away from my addiction to screen time.