The rooftop TV antenna is all but extinct now, replaced by buried cable wires and fancy satellite dishes. That poses a problem for someone who doesn’t care about watching premium cable shows like Game of Thrones or Mad Men. If you’re just looking to get a clear picture for watching the old staples like 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, or sporting events that come on broadcast network channels, your best bet is to find a program that offers the best basic cable channels.

Cable Companies Must Offer Basic Cable

According to the FCC, “Cable systems generally are required to offer a ‘basic tier’ of programming which must be included for all subscribers before they purchase any additional programming.” This means cable companies are required to offer a package that includes only the basic cable channels. Since these packages are generally pretty cheap – in some cases under $20 a month – they won’t be widely advertised. In fact, they might not even be advertised on the company’s website.

Cable companies don’t like selling basic packages because there’s little room for upgrades; they generally like to make people think that the cheapest option is something that includes a few premium channels. This isn’t the case, so make sure if all you want is basic cable channels that you call your local provider and ask them directly.

Limited Basic Cable vs. Expanded Basic Cable

There is a difference between the limited basic cable channels and the expanded basic cable channels and the price can go up if you’re looking for the latter. The limited basic cable package usually includes all the broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and local government channels. The expanded basic cable package is when you start adding in things like MTV, ESPN, FOX News, CNN and the like.

Today, no matter what type of cable you want, some companies will require you to rent or purchase a set-top box that will act as the middle-man between a cable provider and your television.

Just remember that basic cable is still an option and it’s usually pretty cheap. You just have to make sure that if you need equipment that you’re not overpaying for it and that you’re not bound to a contract you can’t afford for a long period of time. Basic cable channels are out there, and they’re cheap. You just have to do a little bit of digging and a little bit of asking to get them.

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