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There's trouble brewing for the cable and satellite industries. There's an increasing resistance to higher fees just for the privilege of watching TV. Here are some average charges for television services: Basic cable/satellite is $36, plus $10 for premium channels. Digital cable is $46; personal video recorder access adds $10. The typical household now spends almost $600 a year just on television service. What most of them don't realize is that TV can be free.

I began pondering the benefits of free after I fired AT&T last week. Yep, fired ‘em. For 25 years I'd refused to change long-distance carriers. I'd been an AT&T customer for most of my life. Still, when the bill reached almost $40 a month in long-distance service, I figured I had nothing to lose. So, last month I decided to give one of those 10-10 services a try. For one month I made all my calls with VarTec instead of AT&T. A funny thing happened. I saved money.

When the bills came, two things were immediately obvious. First, 142 minutes of long distance with AT&T cost me $31 (with my discount), while that exact same 142 minutes cost me $8 with VarTec.

Simple math would tell you that I could save almost $23 a month. Right? Wrong.

It was then that I discovered that because I hadn't spent enough money with AT&T that month, I was being charged an additional “monthly usage minimum fee” of $4.35. I was being charged more because I'd used their service less? Go figure.

When I complained, I was told I could change to a lower per minute plan, but that I'd now have to pay a $4.95 monthly charge in addition to the toll charges. I asked the customer service person why I'd trade their $4.95 charge for their other gouging fee of $4.35 when I was getting all the long distance I wanted for 7 cents a minute anyway with VarTec. His response was, “Would you like me to terminate your service?”

Boy, was that an easy answer!

As I enjoyed the empowerment of having fired AT&T, I wondered if there were other ways to get technology at lower costs — or even free. After a little thinking, I came upon an old idea that's sure to be the next “killer application.” I'm going into business. Check out my commercial:

“Free TV? Sounds impossible doesn't it? Are you tired of paying $40 a month for cable or satellite service? Want to eliminate those high fees for 50 channels of television you never watch? Want to get rid of all those set-top boxes and multiple remote controls? Would you like to be able to see your favorite TV programs on all your TV sets, all without paying extra fees to Time Warner, Cox or DirecTV?

“I can show you how to receive all the TV signals where you live — absolutely free. Never pay a cable or satellite bill again. No fees. No hassle. No more cable interruptions. No more rain or snow outs.

“This secret lies in a special device that will allow you to pick up invisible TV signals in the air around you. Just like your satellite dish receives its signals from space, this device scoops out the TV programs that are everywhere in the air around you. ‘Sure’ you say, ‘but what about digital?’

No problem. My technology is fully digital compatible. You'll be able to get both today's analog TV stations and the hot new digital TV stations that are on the air now. Watch HDTV, digital TV or analog TV in your home, all without paying a monthly fee.

Don't continue to pay for something that's free. Just send $29.95 and I'll forward complete, detailed plans for the technology you need to bypass cable and satellite companies. Never pay a monthly fee again. Free TV. Be really free!”