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Learning to Love the Cable Guy 291

Posted by Zonk
from the big-hug dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times and C|Net are reporting on new good will gestures from big cable companies. As service monopolies increasingly became the norm, quality of service began to decline across the board. Now, though, with a number of alternatives cropping up, cable companies are beginning to realize the need to ensure customers say with the often imposing service companies." From the article: "[As] service has improved slowly as satellite providers, upstart phone carriers and cell phone companies have provided attractive alternatives. And now that cable and phone companies are starting to sell similar bundles of phone, broadband Internet and television products--known in the industry as a triple play--they risk losing subscribers forever if they do not keep them happy."
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Learning to Love the Cable Guy

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  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:35PM (#15991491) Journal
    I have a pretty spiffy DLP TV, and all I use it for is watching DVDs. I haven't bought any cable or satellite service because nobody will just sell me the channels I want, without insisting on bundling in all the bible-thumpers and home shopping network crap. It feels like getting spammed, and it just pisses me off.

    I'm convinced that IPTV is the future, and that's mainly because the cable vendors SUCK.

    -jcr
    • by Smidge204 (605297) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:41PM (#15991514) Journal
      Perhaps you should write a letter to the local cable TV service and tell them that. After all, if they really are concerned with making customers happy, your request does not sound like that big a burden to their system.

      And frankly, I'd like that option too.

      Since Verizon has been adding cable TV to their FioS service, it is looking like a much better alternative to Cablevision/Optimum Online. Verison's phone and internet is already available on FioS in my area, and as soon as TV is there I'm probably going to switch. Hooray for competition!
      =Smidge=
    • by Sporkinum (655143) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:47PM (#15991532)
      I program out the channels I don't watch. Works kinda like adblock.
      • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:00PM (#15991578) Journal
        I program out the channels I don't watch. Works kinda like adblock.

        You're still paying for them, though.

        -jcr
        • by samkass (174571) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:06PM (#15991607) Homepage Journal
          I program out the channels I don't watch. Works kinda like adblock.

          You're still paying for them, though.


          Probably not. The cable service probably would cost exactly the same with or without them. In fact, not including them might lose the cable companies some ad revenue and increase costs.
        • by Elminst (53259) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:19PM (#15991656) Homepage
          You do know the cable company is the middleman giving you TV, right?
          The cable co is given a package of channels from the provider; the studios.
          The studio says, if you want this "cool" channel, you have to take these "sucky" channels too.
          If the cable co doesn't give you the sucky channels, the studio yanks their contract, and you don't get any channels.

          So I assume from your post you'd be happy with an a-la-carte cable? Fine. You pay $5 and up for each of the channels you want (a common price point in most arguments). Pick your favorite 11 channels. Congrats. You are now paying MORE than I am with my 200 channels, non a la carte. But you have what YOU want, right?
          • by thrillseeker (518224) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:54PM (#15991796)
            So I assume from your post you'd be happy with an a-la-carte cable? Fine. You pay $5 and up for each of the channels you want (a common price point in most arguments). Pick your favorite 11 channels. Congrats. You are now paying MORE than I am with my 200 channels, non a la carte. But you have what YOU want, right?

            It's a common and completely arbitrary price point designed to advance a specific agenda, and even if it's accurate, it's an average. The problem is the cable companies have so long enjoyed monopoly status that they have no idea how to behave in a real market. In a real market that $5 price point may become $10 for the ESPN channels and $0.10 for the Pass-The-Loot channels - they may even pay you to watch it. Of course. with proper IPTV the cable companies will become what they deserve to be - providers of bandwidth - and the only people who matter in this arguement - the customers - will get everything better, cheaper and faster. But, first the FCC has to pull their collective head out and begin trying to enforce actual markets, without monopoly status, in all their domain.
            • The problem is the cable companies have so long enjoyed monopoly status that they have no idea how to behave in a real market. In a real market that $5 price point may become $10 for the ESPN channels and $0.10 for the Pass-The-Loot channels - they may even pay you to watch it.

              What an awesome idea! A TV channel crammed with so many ads and really cheap content that they pay you to watch it. If you could get $1/month by adding it to your station subscription, why wouldn't you? Maybe the stipulation would
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:07PM (#15991833)
            > Pick your favorite 11 channels.

            I don't have 11 favorite channels. I have two. (There were three before TechTV bit the dust.)

            A la carte would be a nice option for people like me.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MerrickStar (981213)
            Long ago I lived in an area that had a company called WanTV (pronounced with emphasis on want.) I don't know whatever became of this company as I moved away, but it provided, at a reasonable price (often cheaper than other cable companies) non-packaged channels. You selected which channels you wanted and those were the ones you got. It seems to me that if you rated the cost of a channel based on their popularity, you could design a pretty effective business model. In turn, if studios started to shoot you do
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SydShamino (547793)
            The studio says, if you want this "cool" channel, you have to take these "sucky" channels too.

            Exactly. Moreover, this might or might not be legal.

            A year or two ago, when Dish Network and Viacom talks broke down, Dish Network pulled all the Viacom channels. [slashdot.org] They eventually settled, but one of Echostar / Dish Network's biggest bargaining chips was a pending lawsuit claiming that Viacom was engaged in monopolistic trade practices. Namely, as the sole provider of products such as Comedy Central, Viacom has a
        • by jeaton (44965) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:20PM (#15991662)
          In the case of the shopping channels, most often you're not only not paying for them, the channel creator actually pays the cable company to carry the station. This is why the even the lowest tier offered by the cable company includes all of the shopping channels.

          In addition, often times the content providers write into the cable companies contracts bundling requirements. For example, if a given tier includes ESPN, then it must also include ABC Family (not necessarily true for those exact two channels, but the idea is true). So in those cases, your cable company is contractually forbidden from selling you just one of the channels.

          This comes up all of the time, and the situation hasn't changed.
        • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @10:09PM (#15991977) Homepage Journal
          I program out the channels I don't watch. Works kinda like adblock.

          You're still paying for them, though.


          I very highly doubt that. I have C-Band satellite (the huge dish type) without a paid subscription except for Comedy Central, SciFi and Cartoon Network.

          Despite not having a subscription to the religious or shopping networks, I can get them, even if all my subscriptions lapes, they still come through. That type of channels are unencrypted, meaning that I don't have to buy a subscription to watch them. I doubt that the cable systems are giving those networks any money.
    • by truthsearch (249536) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:49PM (#15991542) Homepage Journal
      I know one person whose sole source of television content is iTunes. It's exactly the video-on-demand we've all wanted for years. Pay for only the exact shows you want to see, and get a discount for buying a whole season. When enough content enters the on-demand services cable companies will likely see a massive drop in customers.
      • by jcr (53032)
        I know one person whose sole source of television content is iTunes.

        The iTMS is about 30% or so of what I watch. The rest of it is movies either from local retailers or Amazon.

        -jcr
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        iTunes and Blockbuster.com are what I use, and it keeps me pretty entertained. I do have a Xbox and Xbox 360 as well, though, and of course World of Warcraft.
    • by JPriest (547211) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:07PM (#15991612) Homepage
      There have been some conflicting studies on this (search: cable la carte), but the cable companies say the end result is that it would end up costing you more money to select only the things you want. For example, cable companies get paid to carry the home shopping channel and if you drop it you will end up paying more for the other chans. Part of the problem also spawns from the fact that many channels are still analog and it would be pretty much impossible to exclude or include just some of the analog channels.


      The cable companies _could_ make everything digital only over night but they risk bricking millions of TV's that have just analog tuners and no cable card support. I suspect that once analog channels go the way of the Dodo bird, a la cart programming will be a possibility, but at that point the broadcast flag could also become possible.

      • by rhizome (115711)
        For example, cable companies get paid to carry the home shopping channel and if you drop it you will end up paying more for the other chans.

        And the cable company making more money off of certain customers is a bad idea why? Look at what you wrote and tell me there's not something else going on, because if the alternative is more revenue then there's no economic benefit for the cable companies not to offer a la carte. Surely you're not suggesting they're holding it back as a favor to their customers' wallets
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by aussie_a (778472)
        Part of the problem also spawns from the fact that many channels are still analog and it would be pretty much impossible to exclude or include just some of the analog channels.

        Bullshit. Australian cable companies have done this from year dot (I believe about 1997?). If they can do it (and they've only recently switched to digital) why can't America? Isn't Australia suppose to be less advanced then America?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grym (725290)

        For example, cable companies get paid to carry the home shopping channel and if you drop it you will end up paying more for the other chans.

        Alright, then give customers a corresponding credit onto their bills for every shopping/infomercial channel I take--problem solved.

        But that wasn't really the problem was it?

        -Grym

    • buying cable or satellite a channel at a time might seem like a good idea, but its like buying an album on itunes 1 song at a time .99 cents sounds great till you see that the album is now 14 dollars rather than the $9 it costs at Best Buy. I have seen two implimentations of "ala-carte" programming in both cases less than 1/3rd of the channels included in the standard" digital tier ended up costing quite a bit more than just taking them all and not watching the channels you dont like.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mad_Rain (674268)
        I have seen two implimentations of "ala-carte" programming in both cases less than 1/3rd of the channels included in the standard" digital tier ended up costing quite a bit more than just taking them all and not watching the channels you dont like.

        I'd rather pay more for things that I want and enjoy than continue to support mediocrity. Hell, that might be the only way to get rid of Fox News.

        I'd also like for the cable channels to see what would happen to their demographics if they moved to a more free-
    • I continue to read these comments about choosing which channels you pay for...and this weekend it hit me: nobody would have any channels that they liked if people only payed for the ones they wanted. There are far more people interested in ESPN than there are techies who like SciFi.
    • by syousef (465911)
      You're missing out big time. If you followed the same logic in other areas of your life, you wouldn't have a post box, an email address or any Internet access for that matter.

      If you have the time for tele, instead of shunning it work out if the best package you can get is worth it to you. If your cable provider allows, block the channels you don't like. If it's legal get a PVR and only tape what you actually want to watch.

      There's some amazing stuff on the cable doco channels where I live and best of all bec
    • by Simulant (528590)
      My sole source of TV & movies has been alt.binaries.multimedia, alt.binaries.movies, and alt.binaries.movies.divx for going on about 4 years now.

      Many thanks to all the posters for a commercial free viewing experience.

      No... I don't feel guilty.
    • by Ucklak (755284)
      If it takes 5 sports channels to pay for 1 discovery channel, then I'm in. I'll just shut off the sports channels (as I do) as well as the spanish channels, bible channels, shopping channels, and the PPV channels.

      You're only getting spammed if you have to flip through the channels and every modern TV/Tuner can edit channels.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AndersOSU (873247)
      Personally I think that a la carte programming is a terrible idea, and here's why:

      Slashdoters have bemoaned the quality of "popular" programming like survivor, Dr. Phil, and Friends for time immemorial. If a la carte programming were to become the norm it is my opinion that the more esoteric channels would either be more expensive, or unavailable. Basically eliminating bundling would also eliminate indirect subsidies for a lot of less popular, but wholly worthwhile channels.

      If I had to guess if the free m
  • Cox cable [cox.com] in Hampton Roads has lost me as a customer forever. The inability to provide a reliable broadband connection just screwed the deal. I liked the speed, but over a 6 month span, 50% uptime just didn't make it. VerizonDSL, while slower, is vastly more reliable.
    As soon as feasible, dropping the cable TV and going to satellite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by whoever57 (658626)

      Cox cable in Hampton Roads has lost me as a customer forever. The inability to provide a reliable broadband connection just screwed the deal.

      Did Cox attempt to do anything to fix it? About 6 months after I moved house, my cable Internet connection (Comcast) became very unreliable. I had moved less than one mile, so it was clearly a local problem (the cable Internet was rock solid at the old house). The cable company sent someone out and he found that the original installer had put a curve in the cable wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by russ1337 (938915)
        I'm with Charter Cable in the DFW area in Texas. Up to now they've been great, but lately my BF2 and CS:S pings to a Dallas server are getting bad. During the day they are 30ms, and at night around 275 which is getting me kicked for lag. Plus my connection speed is only about 3/4 what i'm paying for. I'm about to phone up with a complaint, but wanted to document my problems properly before I did. I just know I'll need about 1 hr free while they make me go through all the BS of checking all my settings etc..
        • I called our cable company, Insight over a lag issue and was given the BS run-arround and said flat out NO, your problem, fix it! they said they wouldnt help unless I plaid ball with their BS so I hung up and called back. I got the same rep so in stead of just jumping in, I said "I am a private network consultant calling on Mr. (my last name)s behalf, here is the problem..." she sent a sync signall to the modem and it fixed it.
      • Did Cox attempt to do anything to fix it? About 6 months after I moved house, my cable Internet connection (Comcast) became very unreliable.

        Daily calls to the help desk, elevated to the supervisor, elevated to his supervisor. One time, I had a fleet of trucks outside. Everything from the box at the curb, all the way to my monitor, was replaced. I had the private cellphone number to at least two service techs.And yes, it was the neighborhood, and not my specific house.
        The problem appeared to be a repeate
        • Damn preview/submit buttons...too close to each other!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Osty (16825)

          During the winter, it was so bad and so regular, I could predict the signal dropoff time to within 1/2 hour, based on the outside temp.

          Soudns almost exactly like a problem I had with Comcast when I first moved into my house. The previous owners used a dish for TV, and since the house is just out of DSL range I have to assume they used dialup for an internet connection. That's relevant because when I moved in I switched everything over to cable (cable TV, cable internet, screw the phone line). During

          • During the night, the cable internet connection (but not TV!) would go out as it cooled down. After 8 tech visits, three cable modems, and four months a tech finally thought to check the line at the street.

            Precisely. I had a tech visit almost weekly. One evening, I'm on the phone with the helpdesk guy, and I told him "The signal will drop offline sometime in the next 20 minutes." And about 15 mins later...poof, no connection. After 6 months of me doing their troubleshooting, I gave up and went to Verizon.
      • I can't speak for the grandparent, but I have VerizonDSL right now and I would personally like to murder them. I'm not very knowledgable on the subject of wires, but we have friends and family who work on the lines in our area, and they openly admit that the wires themselves are ancient, and decades past the date they should have been replaced, but Verizon doesn't want to invest in that because within another decade they'll be replacing it with Fiber Optic Cable, so in the meantime, we're prone to random ou
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shadowbearer (554144)
        Oh, yeah.

        I had a similar experience here a few years ago when I moved in and [my] local cable company came to hook things up. Turns out that one of their local competitors had done some really shoddy wiring - using sub-spec connectors and hard bends (the coax was visibly crimped at two points where it didn't need to be) and after they pulled new cable thru it actually exceeded the promised specs [ "oh, we need to have the office slow this down some" - they never did]

        If the cable installer d
    • As soon as feasible, dropping the cable TV and going to satellite.

      Drop it now, it's good. I've had Dish Network for a couple years now and haven't had any problems with it. During bad storms (common in teh summer as I'm in FL) the signal can get lost, but that's the only time there's an issue.
  • by georgeha (43752) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:42PM (#15991517) Homepage
    and the quality off cable is not great, even digital cable ( I hate having them have to reset the cable box to get the digital cables). It will take a lot for me to stay on cable when I can save a bit by switching.

    A shame cable's fixed costs are so much higher than sucking a signal down from the sky, I don't see how they'll compete on price.
  • Screw cable (Score:5, Informative)

    by spectral (158121) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:42PM (#15991518)
    Perhaps when the local cable company decides to stop having arbitrary, confusing, and most importantly secretive policies about what I'm allowed to do with their service and what I'm not allowed to do, I'll believe this, but they don't want me on their network since I actually use it.

    Case in point: recently they upgraded my service from 10mbit / 2mbit to 15mbit / 2mbit. To do this, they had an unannounced, planned outage for 6 hours starting at midnight on a Friday night. I called and had to talk to someone before I could even verify that my service was interrupted, the person said that it was their policy to not announce these things since security systems might rely on the cable connection, and they wouldn't want potential thiefs to know when to strike. Oh, and even if they DID announce them, no one would listen (if it was on a web page) and they might not have the $(cable_company)'s email account so they couldn't use that either. Great, so now I can't find another way to protect my home (if my security system uses the cable internet / phone service), way to go guys.

    The worse one though: If I use "more than my reasonable amount" of upstream bandwidth, I'll have said bandwidth capped to 20kbyte/s. I've had this happen to me, I called and they said they'd reply to this issue within 24-48 hours. 117 hours later (and three phone calls from me counting the first) they called me back and said that they sell "burst, not stream". They couldn't explain that any better, but said that long connections were against the rules and that games like World of Warcraft (I asked specifically) were ways to get capped. I apparently need to take a break every so often or else I'll have my connection throttled?

    A friend has it happen to him, he actually got numbers out of the person. Outgoing connections (wtf?) can't last more than 20 minutes or else risk being capped, so he set his bittorrenting (probably not at all legal either ;)) to account for this. Every 20 minutes it'd take a 10 minute break. Yep, capped again within two days.

    Screw cable, when they pull crap like this.. Now if only DSL here in America (Fairfield County, Connecticut especially..) didn't suck.
    • Re:Screw cable (Score:4, Informative)

      by guruevi (827432) <evi@smok[ ]cube.be ['ing' in gap]> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:20PM (#15991663) Homepage
      I would have your contract with them checked and maybe even run it through a lawyer. I am looking into sattelite myself because I can't get DSL or Cable here and in those contracts it states exactly when I would get capped (after x-amount of Gbytes/hour for x-amount of continuous hours) and to what rate it would get capped to (64kbit/s). I calculated it and it would mean that I can stream constantly (24/7) 256 kb/s down while my line is actually 10M bursting. If I put this in an ever-adapting rate-limiting script I can actually get continuous broadband.
    • by nxtw (866177)
      Sounds like your cable company sucks. Here we can get higher latency/slightly jittery std cable (5/384) at $45/mo, or business cable (7/1) at $80/mo at a residence location.

      or we can get low-latency (ping times 17ms to some locations) DSL at $28 for the highest tier (6/768).

      Neither have transfer limits/quotas/throttling. I haven't checked but I believe there are competing DSL carriers on many exchanges as well. They are reliable in my area, and usually send out a technician the next day if you have a pro
    • Burstable = Maximum limit you can download and upload within the cap assuming the rest of the internet is congestion free.

      Stream = Whatever the cable company considers acceptable given the rest of the obstacles on the internet from point A (your connection) to point B (destination).

      FYI I've worked for TimeWarner Austin over 2 years. Feel free to ask me anything ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by spectral (158121)
        I understand the difference (at least, I think I do.. software engineer dealing with network programming, and went through ccna training at my high school but didn't bother with the test), but their "security team" sure as hell doesn't seem to.

        World of Warcraft is relatively low bandwidth, I've seen my friend's bandwidth charts when him and his wife were both raiding at the same time. Didn't go very high at all. I can't imagine that duration the connection has been open matters more than the amount of da
  • by darkonc (47285) <`stephen_samuel' `at' `bcgreen.com'> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:51PM (#15991549) Homepage Journal
    This is pretty much proof that having an effective monopoly is bad for customer service. As long as they thought that they had their customer base by the short and curleys they did whatever they wanted -- but now that the possibility of competition is cropping up, they're starting to play nice.

    I think that the same can be extrapolated for Microsoft, don't you?

    • Maybe some cable companies are talking about providing better service and maybe a few are actually doing it.

      Meanwhile, my dad is still on dialup even though he can get competing broadband from his phone company and his cable company. The problem is how to decide, because he can't figure out which he loathes more. If either shows glimmers of decent service he'll probably sign up.
      • by darkonc (47285)
        Adam Smith's Open Market [bcgreen.com] consisted of many small businesses. Heavy market concentration and massive economies of scale -- while good for big business wasn't part of his vision. Supposedly (I'm not a Smith scholar), he considered big business to be no better than big government. Personally, I consider big business worse than big government, since big government at least has some modicum of public mediation built into it in the form of elections. A big-business monopoly or cartel, on the other hand, only an
        • Adam Smith's Open Market [bcgreen.com] consisted of many small businesses. Heavy market concentration and massive economies of scale -- while good for big business wasn't part of his vision

          The problem is, many small businesses can't string cable/phone/power lines to your house. In this case, economies of scale DO come into play. Or, we could play the game of 'monthly dig up the front yard while some new small business strings a cable to my neighbor'.
          One power line, one phone line, one coax line.
  • Cable blows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:55PM (#15991561) Homepage
    Ever do a comparison between cable and satellite? The quality is like night and day. Comcast and Adelphia both have lots of pixelation and the first 80 channels are still analog feeds. They are grainy as hell and one with Adelphia had permanent ghosting from the local UHF channel. Flipping through channels on cable takes longer for the picture to fill in compared to satellite. My parents had a cable modem and it was fine for a few years and then they had tons of disconnects and signal problems. The final straw was the bill increasing $10 in one month. I got them DSL and called to cancel the cable modem. I told them going up $10 was my reason for cancelling. The guy told me it was because we were now on the "silver" plan. I told him it was the same thing as before but under a new name and just cost $10 more. Then he tried telling me their cost for ESPN went up 500%. Well make an ESPN package then, when was the last time you watched a major sporting event on ESPN? Never. Ooops sorry for the rant :)
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      That really depends on who the providers are. I hardly ever remember my cable going out, yet people I talk to with satellite often have it lose signal, even with just cloud cover. Plus, sometimes having the first 80 channels in analog is a nice thing. Because you can split the cable and record stuff on your old VCR while watching something else, without getting a PVR. Oh, and analog often looks better than digital (cable or satellite) due to the compression. As long as there isn't any interfering broad
    • I have. I dropped Dish network a couple of months after I started because they didn't carry local channels in HD. The cost to purchase and install an antenna (on a 30 foot pole -- that's what I get for living in a tree-lined area) far exceeded the cancellation charges Dish charged.

      Comcast's video quality is pretty terrible, but at least I get marginally high-definition content without having a gigantic antenna on top of my home.
  • When you set up appointments for our cable guy to come fix something, the company will only narrow down "when will he appear" to one day. Can you imagine a dentist working that way? "Come any time during the day for a tooth cleaning". Yeah right. Is the service this abominably bad, where they even refuse to make timely appointments, elsewhere?
    • by Osty (16825)

      When you set up appointments for our cable guy to come fix something, the company will only narrow down "when will he appear" to one day. Can you imagine a dentist working that way? "Come any time during the day for a tooth cleaning". Yeah right. Is the service this abominably bad, where they even refuse to make timely appointments, elsewhere?

      Most companies will narrow it down to a 4 hour window. They can't be 100% exact because the tech has other appointments during the day and there's no way to know

      • by DragonPup (302885)
        I dispatch for Comcast out of the Metro Boston area. We do 2 hour time frames. 4 if we need to force something in that we don't have quota open for(ie, no dial tones, no pictures, no block syncs).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by netnomad (824114)
      When I moved into this house, I made an appointment with Rogers (up here in Canada) to come and do an install at the house. As is their advertised policy they gave me a "three hour window" and said they would be there. I took the day off work. I sat here. They didn't show. Three hours after the window and still no cable installer.

      I called them. Politely. They said they were coming.

      An hour later I called them again, slightly irritated. They said they were coming.

      A half hour later I called them and let
    • by Buddy_DoQ (922706)
      If they insist on giving you the run-around in this regard, just tell them in no uncertain terms that they will come at: (insert best time for you,) or you'll switch to satellite, and will recommend the same for your friends and family. They tend to see it your way after that, it's worked for me in the past.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pixelite (20946)
      i work for a cable company as a service tech, and i can assure you that we have set time frames, within a two hour time frame, for appointments. During the summer, we also have all day appointments to accomodate our customers that need service sooner than we have available appointments. i think that is a reasonable way of handling service calls considering houw busy we get in the summer
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fimbulvetr (598306)
      And if you ran a cable company, your techs would be right on time. Even if they spent the last 30 minutes re-running a cable for a customer they didn't anticipate doing it for. Somehow, they would still arrive on time.

      Or maybe you'll allot a 2hr time period to every service call. That way, techs that got done in 10 minutes have a 210 minute window for downtime. In which case they can drive back to your office with mileage being low on a truck, and gas being $3/gallon. Or maybe he can just take a break, you
    • by nxtw (866177)
      TWC gave me a 2 hour window -- 4 to 6 pm -- last time I had to deal with them. 3 hours before that window started, they called and asked if they could come early. So they did.
  • Service Providers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by selex (551564) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:29PM (#15991690)

    I had Verizon for years, but I pretty much had to have them. There are 2 local cable companies in my area, but neither had 2-way cable going to my house. So it was get the phone and the cable service, or just get DSL from Verizon who already supplied my phoneline. Now there are numerous other ISP with DSL, but you need to get a Verizon line, because they are all subcontracted for the fibers. So I told everyone to just forget the alternative and just go with Verizon. You only had to call Verizon, not the Cable company and then Verizon. It ended up being cheaper anyhow. Then the cable companies got moving (and so did I), and now I have 2-way cable and no phone. Its more then Verizon DSL, but now Verizon doesn't offer DSL in my area. I don't have the outages I used to have with DSL, and the cable company is there that day to fix the line if there is a problem. The cable company is one of the oldest anywhere, but its small and has good customer service.

    So what has been bothering me about this whole thing? I want the service, and I don't care what the infrastructure looks like. I want to connect to the internet really fast. So I don't care if its DSL or Cable. I always thought there was a better way to deal with the infrastructure, but all I could ever come up with was government run telecommunication lines, kind of like the national roadways. A system not owned by a company, and one which any service provider could use. The problem being this smacks of communism/socialism, and even beyond the political ideals we all know what the roadways look like. I don't know what a pothole looks like on the internet, but its probably got Paris Hilton in it. The government, without another competitor, will probably take forever to fix the problems, and never completely fix it right which returns me to the previous problem.

    So what are we left with? I guess I'll stick with my 2-way cable until something better comes along, because at least its better then dial-up. One day everything will be wireless and million little bits will be whizzing by my head, and give me a tumor.

    Selex

  • If television and communication companies want to keep their customers, here is what I think they need to reflect on.

    1) I am sick and tired of poor quality television on cable. If I understand how it works, analog would be a better quality picture than digital. When digital loses some info, it really messes up the screen. This happens to much and makes me yearn for yesteryear's age of television.

    2) Two tier pricing system based on the customer's income. The rising cost of these packages needs to be offset f
    • by nxtw (866177)

      1) I am sick and tired of poor quality television on cable. If I understand how it works, analog would be a better quality picture than digital. When digital loses some info, it really messes up the screen. This happens to much and makes me yearn for yesteryear's age of television.

      Digital television looks worse than a strong analog signal simply because of the low bitrate compression they use. I don't have issues with signal quality on my connection, and analog TV looks better than the digital channels unl

  • I might have picked up cable for IP service, but Comcast would only sell IP service as an extra along with TV service, so I got DSL instead. My broadcast reception totally sucks, and I might have gotten cable to remedy that... but my local TV news is a travesty and I can't bear to watch it anyway. I might have picked up cable to get just the SciFi channel and a maybe a couple others, but the cable company didn't want to sell me only the channels I'm interested in and the packages were too expensive.

    The only
  • The sight of burly installers in dainty slip-ons might induce snickers.

    Um... What was this writer thinking the cable companies were going to do to attract business?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:33PM (#15991891)
    monopolies don't care about customers and charge whatever the hell they want, and companies that have to compete at some level will exhibit concern about what their customers want. The only variation on this theme would be a heavily-regulated monopoly (ala the old Bell System) that has enforced service standards. This is hardly news.

    Too bad that the FCC doesn't understand something so basic to any economy. Somebody in law enforcement really should take a look at the Commissioners' bank records for the past few years.
  • by edashofy (265252) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @09:39PM (#15991908)
    I've recently investigated the possibility of building my own MythTV (or similar)-based PVR machine. My requirements are pretty simple:

    1. Onscreen guide with no ads showing only the channels I actually receive
    2. Ability to record as much video as the hard drives in the box will hold
    3. Multiple tuners so I can watch and record a couple different channels simultaneously.

    I would also optionally like the ability to record HDTV content in the anticipation that someday I will have an HDTV.

    I do not want to do a single illegal thing with my DVR. I want to do timeshifting of programs. That's all. I promise I will not even copy them to my computer or share them with friends. This is a purely selfish project.

    I can get a dual-tuner DVR from my cable company for $SMALLNUM per month, but they've recently put ads on my non-DVR box's guide, won't show me just the channels I get (instead of channels I don't get, which are an ad for those channels), have limited storage capabilities, and a maximum of two tuners.

    Unfortunately, it's 100% impossible to build such a box - at least, not cost effectively. In my area, they've basically cut analog cable service down to channels 2-13, plus eight bible stations, five home shopping stations, and ten foreign language stations. So, if you want to watch, say, Mythbusters, you MUST subscribe to digital cable. You have no choice.

    I could get a decoder card that can decode a digital cable signal, which may or may not work, depending on whether my cable company has decided to encrypt the signal. If I'm extraordinarily lucky, I will be able to decode basic cable, but I will not be able to ever decode a premium channel like HBO. Even if I'm lucky, my cable company could (without notice) decide to encrypt the channels at any moment.

    But but but, you say, CableCARD is coming, and that will let you get three CableCARDs for your three tuner boards and then build your ultimate DVR! Ah, if this were true. Sadly, it looks like you won't be able to install CableCARDs in anything the Cable company doesn't sell or authorize. Oops.

    The only reasonable option is to rent one cable box per tuner. For a three tuner system, I'd need three digital cable boxes. Even if I were willing to pay the exorbitant monthly fee, then I will only be able to record HDTV from a small number of channels and not premium channels. And then only if I get the cable box that already has a DVR built in, because that's the one with the firewire port on it.

    As much as it sucks, the DVR from the cable company gives me a two-tuner DVR that can tape all my premium channels, even HDTV programs, directly off the digital signal (i.e., I don't even believe it's turned into analog as it would be in a MythTV setup) with a single box. This is just plainly unacceptable.

    If anyone has a good alternative for me or will point out something I'm missing, PLEASE let me know.
  • or did Youtube just get Slashdotted?

FORTRAN rots the brain. -- John McQuillin

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