Tech Cable shut down in residential areas

Residents were met with stickers on the coaxial ports in their rooms when moving in this year, informing them of the decision to sunset access to physical cable TV and a QR code linking alternatives. // Photo by Connor White, Student Publications

Campus residents will no longer have access to physical cable television services provided by Housing and Residence Life (HRL). 

Residents looking to plug in a coaxial cable into the wall for the cable network are now met with a sticker on the wall port announcing the sunset of cable services and a QR code directing them to a website with more information.

“Due to increasing cost and declining use, cable TV service will no longer be available in the residence halls,” announces the website linked in the QR code.

The decision to discontinue cable TV services came ahead of the cable contract renewal date, according to Kate Curnow, a spokesperson from Housing and Residence Life. 

“Anytime a contract is up for renewal, we’re going to assess whether or not that service is still valuable to students.”

“The contract cost us close to half a million dollars and would require ongoing infrastructure upgrades to continue with the service over time,” Curnow said. “That was a real cost-benefit analysis for us when that resource could be better spent.”

The cable television contract was owned by Housing and Residence Life, meaning that other departments that used the cable TV services now must work with the Office of Information Technology to find solutions on their own.

Dining halls, notably, are not affected by this transition. 

“The sunset of GT Cable barely had any impact on Tech Dining. Most of our TV’s either show Cheddar U — which is a different service — or are used for digital menus and communication screens,” said Tech Dining Director Ryan Greene. 

“The very few TV’s that had GT Cable are using Apogee [the streaming alternative to cable] until things are reassessed by administration.”

Curnow cited pre-pandemic data from Stream2 supporting the decision, reporting that only about 5% of residents utilized the cable service. 

“It wasn’t that we were looking for things to chop,” Curnow said.

Curnow said that the funds could now be diverted to other initiatives, like well-being programs or community building programs — things that are much more valuable to a student’s individual well-being. 

“We could be spending that money on building the capacity of our teams to meet those needs … much better than TV services [could],” Curnow said.

Curnow admitted that students were not consulted in the decision-making process that ultimately resulted in the sunset of cable services. Curnow listed a few reasons for this.

“Because we never had requests for services related to cable, because it was never a service that we saw students using and because it was such a huge cost expenditure, we didn’t do a ton of student surveying that we might do if we were making a potentially more impactful [decision].”

Curnow added that even since the shutdown of services, the Institute has not seen any complaints through official channels like phone calls or even through informal channels like Reddit. 

Curnow attributed this to the plethora of alternatives available to students, including but not limited to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu,

HBOMax and others. Curnow also noted that the Office of Information Technology created a Knowledge Base article for reference with ways to stream television channels directly to televisions. The TV and Streaming page on the Housing website, located at housing.gatech.edu/resident-resources/amenties/TV-streaming included those, as well as some student discounts for streaming services. 

Students can still purchase an external cable subscription to access cable television, but they will need to use their computer or Smart TV capabilities in order to stream cable-specific channels, not by plugging in a coaxial cable.

“Whenever we assess a service like this, [our reaction was that] we could definitely spend this on better things for our residents, for sure,” Curnow said.