Cable Companies Are Scum, Part MCMXLIV

Early this year, I switched from DSL to a cable modem. My local provider, Charter Cable, had cut its rates and better yet, dropped their requirement that internet users also have their cable TV service. Until this month, I had no complaints.

Then I get the bill for September. It’s $10 higher, no explaination. So I call Charter. Apparently they have suddenly re-instated a $10 extortion fee if you don’t have their TV serrvice (I switched to satellite in 1997, and I will never have cable TV again). Customer service agreed to drop the fee for the first month, but said they couldn’t do anything about the succeeding months. I explained that I switched from DSL to Charter specifically because Charter had dropped the additional fee, and that the next month I saw that fee on a bill, I would cut them off entirely.

I was transferred from there to the retention department, where the rep first tried to sell me on a 10-times slower speed service for the same rate I’ve been paying since January. I refused flat-out. She then said she would give me a $10 service credit every month for the next six months at my current service level. I agreed, but told her that “we’ll have another talk in six months.”

I will never pay an extortion fee to a cable company for not agreeing to a bundle with their crappy TV service (ditto for monopoly phone companies). If I can’t get the $10 waved again at the end of six months, I’ll tell Charter to go piss up a rope. This kind of arbitrary Mickey-Mouse fee nonsense is exactly why I haven’t had cable TV for nearly seven years, and reminds me of the fact that cable companies are peopled by the lowest forms of life.

I suspect this fee is going to go away anyway sometime next year, accompanied by considerable rate cuts. Once the wireless broadband network (scroll to third item) gets a foothold, the old monopoly cable and telco companies are going to be forced to cut their rates substantially. My guess would be that Charter’s double-game with the $10 extortion fee is their attempt to make a few extra bucks before they have to compete with wireless broadband.

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31 Responses to “Cable Companies Are Scum, Part MCMXLIV”

  1. leelu Says:

    …in the case of cable companies, you *don’t* get what you pay for.

    Cable delenda est.

  2. brett Says:

    Anyone know what protocol those networks are using? Wi-Max? Anything would be an improvement. I’ve been impressed with the speed of the cable network, but it’s retardedly expensive – $56 a month, here. I was just reading about a $80/month 100-megabit service in Sweden. That’s only 30x what we get here for 50% more money. I’d still take it over DSL, though — way too slow.

  3. Katie Says:

    I’m having a very similar problem with the evil folks at Time Warner Cable. My travails are here.

  4. Brian J. Says:

    Blame your municipal governments, who traded a perpetual monopoly on the service in exchange for the cable companies laying the cable.

    Fortunately, I live in one of the few communities where I can choose my cable company. Until, of course, Charter buys out its smaller competitor.

  5. RTO Trainer Says:

    Its only going to get worse as cable becomes more and more closely related to telco.

    TelCo is the root of all that is evil.

  6. John Says:

    Would you like some cheese with that wine?

    What kind of bandwidth? Is it constant? Any outages during the month?

    I realize that it’s principle at issue. A deal is a deal.

    But, ten dollars a month! That’s one trip to Starbucks, if you’re buying.

    I’m in the northwest suburbs and I’d gladly give ten bucks not to experience the outages I have in the last 2 1/2 weeks.

  7. David Blue Says:

    MCMXLIV is confusing. MMCXLIV would be fine: (two thousands, one hundred, ten before fifty meaning forty, one before five meaning four; total two thousand, one hundred and forty four).

  8. Jody Says:

    Brett:

    To my understanding (not working at Verizon, but doing wireless research), Verizon has deployed a 1xEVDO network.

  9. Will Allen Says:

    I am worse than ignorant on these matters, but someone in the industry I ran into recently told me about a new broadband wireless protocol (is it called the above-mentioned Wi-Max?) in which the transmission range is 27 miles! Is this really true? If so, the the land-line companies, and perhaps the cable companies, are sunk if keep pouring capital into maintaining that infrastructure.

  10. velocette Says:

    I’ve had the opposite experience with DSL vs cable.
    I used to live in a place where DSL wasn’t possible. I got time-warner RR when it first became available in my neighborhood. For a few months I had a blessed T1 all to myself. The install guy couldn’t hook up my linux box but the bandwidth was there, as promised, the day they hooked it up. I had a few outages over the next few months as the local cable cable company sorted things out, but since then I’ve been out of access for maybe an hour each month.
    Then I moved. DSL and RR were available at the new place. I had RR hooked up with zero problems, none, and I had a linux box. The cable modem is basically an internet gateway with a DHCP server as far as linux is concerned.
    At about the same time that I moved the company I work for offered to pay my monthly bandwidth cost. The deal was, try Verizon DSL first, and if that didn’t work out, try RR.
    The DSL was a joke. They shipped me the DSL modem. The connection didn’t work, but I ran some diagnostics from my end that showed the connection was good, but the software on Verizon’s end was bad. Basically I had bandwidth all the way from my wall outlet to Verizon, and then it stopped. I called, complained, and after a week or so they had it fixed.
    Then I tried to set up the user account. Verizon wants you to do it all from a cdrom they supply. The cdrom only supported various windows and apple distributions, not linux. I screwed around with it for awhile and got to work to the point where the bandwidth was there (slower download speed than RR, however) but I could not setup the master account without using MSIE. Period. I unplugged the DSL stuff, hooked RR back up, and UPS’d the DSL stuff back to horizon. The hell with it.
    I’ve left out of this story the hours spent on hold waiting for Verizon support, being put on hold and disconnected when my call was redirected to some teenage support person eight thousand miles away from me, etc.
    To be fair I realize that other people have had other experiences with DSL vs. cable modem. I’ve heard that DSL is more of a pain to get to setup, but after you’ve managed that it works very dependably. I also know that, versus RR, Verizon’s upload speeds are higher than RR, making it a better choice if you run a server from your home computer. Whatever.
    At least I managed to convince the IT people at work that they should reimburse me for the RR connection.

  11. Deacon Blues Says:

    I’ve got sattellite here in East Tennessee, (Dish Network) and it sucks. It’s almost twice as much as my old cable and I don’t get near as many channels ( I do get 13 home shopping channels. Whoopie)and I can’t get the local stations. I moved way out in the Boonies and there is no cable. I was told that the cable company owns the rights to the local stations so I’m sol, even though there is no cable where I live and the cable company has no plans to run it in the forseable future.

  12. Alsadius Says:

    Whoa, $50/month for broadband? WTF? I pay $25/month(Canadian!), and not because I have any kind of special deal, that’s just the going rate. Modem rental is another $8-9, but most of them waive that for like the first six months, and given that I move every four months, I’m always in the cheap part of the deal – being a university student does have its advantages at times. But why in god’s name do you have to pay 2-3x as much as me for the same thing?

    Oh, and to make this clear – I’ve never had a service outage that wasn’t caused by me, I’ve never had any problems with customer service, and this is true across the three different providers I’ve used a significant amount of – 2 DSL and one cable. So why do you guys have these kinds of problems?

  13. Crusader Says:

    I’ve got Time Warner RR, and Dish Network, and here in Charlotte, I pay the same for RR as the folks who have TW cable. I would not have DSL for the simple reason I refuse to give my local phone company the time of day. We have 3 cell phones, so we did away with our landline phone. I enjoyed the silence on the phone when I told the Concord Telephone rep that I was canceling our phone. She didn’t know what to say, and I have found many people in our area doing the same thing to be rid of CTC.

  14. shell Says:

    While on the phone with the phone/DSL company to correct a $65 overcharge, I asked if they could get the name changed on my account, something I’ve tried to do for the past year since my divorce. I was informed that I would be charged $10.80 to do that. My name hadn’t been changed yet because I’d never sent authorization for that charge–which I could hardly do since they didn’t bother to tell me it existed!

  15. Addison Says:

    Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.

    I found out something interesting about 2 years ago with Time-Warner cable. I was cut off erroneously during a audit, and then I was told that the deal I signed up for (Cable modem and basic cable) never was offered. Fine, I said, Filter the basic cable, I’ll turn DirectTV back on. Woah, said the guy who’d turned off the cable, you don’t want to do that. Bad picture! Thunderstorms! unsightly dish! hard to set up! The horrors of insomnia! I pointed out to my balcony to the dish still pointed and getting 98% signal, and said “no problem, just need to make one phone call and it’s back on”.

    At which point he found a way to get me my cablemodem for the same price, with basic cable (No, not as good as DTV, but if I’m getting it.. and it was good enough – in fact, both with TW and now with Charter, the “analog” feeds are _better_ than the digital cable for most channels!).

    So I was happy, til bill time came. And I was billed incorrectly. And the next month, as well. So I called TW’s customer service, and during the course of a long argument about what my deal was (with it in writing in my hand), I got the rep to _read to me_ the notes in my account – including the one notated for what the deal was, and what it was to cost. “Woah! Stop! Right there, _read that again_”. She did. “So what’s the problem, that’s it right there”.

    And I kid you not – she said “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t honor that.”. What? He’s a Time Warner guy? He’s in sales? And you can’t honor it? “No sir, we can’t honor the contracts that the local reps set up”.

    (Short answer: I called the “local” number instead of the 800 one, got a friendly woman who knew about the promotion he signed me up for, and fixed it)

    But TW has a call center – where the reps have _specifically_ been instructed _not to honor_ contracts that were set up _by TW salespeople_. Now, I can believe there are reasons for this – but the fact it took me over an hour to get that admission… (and thus I need to call my local rep, not the 800 number).

    I’d suspect your billing is a similar sort of situation. Somebody made a change, it went “global” and now nobody can figure out – or are not allowed to – how to except people from it.

    (And we’ll not discuss the “help desk” that charter “runs”)

  16. Katie Says:

    That’s pretty much exactly what happened to me. I’m seriously considering telling them to take the cable modem and shove it and go see what Verizon Wireless can offer me.

  17. Deacon Blues Says:

    Before I moved to the Boonies I had Charter Cable and dial-up internet service. When I moved I new there was no cable so I asked the Charter rep. if I could have just the dial-up transfered to my new address. “No problem” I was told. I didn’t get a bill for 3 months so I went to the office on my lunch hour to find out why. I was told they had just converted to a new billing company and I must have been left off but I wouldn’t be back charged for the past time. I still didn’t get a bill so I called and found out that I still wasn’t in their billing system. That was over a year ago and I still haven’t got a bill but I do have internet service. I have visited their office twice and called 3 times. If they don’t care if they get me in the billing program I’ll continue to enjoy free service.

  18. denise Says:

    David Blue:

    Why is MCMXLIV confusing. Isn’t it 1,944? Or am I confused?

  19. Timbeaux Says:

    I found a way around the monopoly telephone companies, if you’re interested, although it requires using the cable monopoly. Vonage provides telephone service through your broadband connection, unlimited calling anywhere in the US or Canada for $30, without all the nickle&dime fees. You can also take it with you on trips and vacations, just plug the box in to any broadband connection like the ones most nice hotels offer now, and all your incoming calls are still local no matter where you are (I plan to take it with me to Jamaica next spring). Great if you are moving away from home for a long period too, you can keep a local number for home even when you’re a 1000 miles away. The only downside is that you have to dial 10 digits for every call, no big deal.

    FYI, I’m not selling for them, I’m just a happy consumer. Saves me $30/month on the phone bill, well worth hassling with the cable guys on occaision. http://www.vonage.com

  20. David Blue Says:

    Denise, you aren’t confused and neither was Simon. I was. I misread the X as being in front of the M (against the rules) rather than as it is in front of the L, which is fine. Sorry.

    Always turn off the machine when your eyes start to play tricks on you. Which I will now do.

  21. Mr. Lion Says:

    Cable is evil. DSL, regardless of provider, is vastly superior if you’re in the remote vicinity of the telco, whichever it may be.

    I use XO for my personal stuff, and have no complaints of yet. (yet being 5+ years) 2Mbit SDSL is your friend.

  22. Andy Clarkson Says:

    Amen brother. We went satellite for the same reasons 4 years ago. The whole industry needs to be un-regulated, not just de-regulated.

  23. McGehee Says:

    Hm. Where I live, Charter is in competition with the cable TV company originally started by the municipal government for in city limits. One way or another the boundary line between the two systems got abolished, so if we wanted we could switch cable companies.

    Theoretically, at least.

    But I’ve had no significant trouble with Charter other than a major hardware outage at their end that hasn’t been repeated.

    Well, much…

  24. brett Says:

    Well shit, if I could get 2mb DSL, I probably would do it – would be nice to have dedicated bandwidth. But that runs ~$100 a month here. Too much. It bites.

    I thought EV-DO was a 3G mobile network. checked it out.. it is. But there is WiMax coverage available now, at least here in Portland:

    http://www.verilan.com/wirelessbroadband/coverage/coverage.shtml

    but it’s $45 for 512k. No thanks — why would I do that when cable is $55 for 3mb?

  25. Sarah Brabazon-Biggar Says:

    Cox charges us the no-cable-tv penalty too. Oh well, there’s no going back now; 8000kbp/s is like digital crack. Especially for a bittorrent fiend like myself.

  26. CiT Says:

    That is too bad. I’m very happy with my Comcast account.

    I moved from one house to another, (and was assured there would be no xfer charge) when I got the bill there was a $79 xfer charge.

    One call, and I received a letter with a correction and a discount of $10 & $15 for my Internet/Cable service for six months (respectively).

    I have found Comcast to be responsive and willing to make things right. Unlike Sprint PCS.

    CiT

  27. CiT Says:

    Whoa! I just noticed that a lot of these posts are cribbing about “Charter”.

    For one thing, as a once reseller of services I can tell you that Charter is the lowest of the low.
    They are the hardest to deal with, and have one of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings out there.

    Additionally they would not exist if it wasn’t for misguided legislation.

    Charter customers, have someone not in the charter footprint buy the service you want, use their address for billing, and aim your dish accordingly!

    Of course, I never said that.

    CiT

  28. Dean's World Says:

    There Is A Cable Company Hell (Joe Gandelman)

    Isn’t it wonderful that cable companies (like Cox Communications here in San Diego which I use for my TV, internet and residential phone — and soon for my biz phone) offer all these great packages so you can use all their products?

    But wh…

  29. Jim R Says:

    I had “HighSpeed Internet” (their term) from COX cable in CA for about 6 months and got $10 off per month because I already had their TV service.

    I was happy with their price and service until my bandwidth seemed to be getting lower. Then I noticed a promotion in one of their email ads that was offering “HigherSpeed Internet” for $10 more than I was paying and called to ask what was the “HighSpeed Internet” I originally bought.

    They explained this new “HighSpeed Internet” was faster. I said if they were offering a “HigherSpeed Internet” on the same cable, wouldn’t they have to lower the bandwidth, or at least set a lower priority for the available bandwidth, to my service if enough “HigherSpeed” customers were online and asking for their “Guaranteed” bandwidth.

    Well after a few days the answer came back “no” without any technical explanation as to why.

    I dropped them like a led balloon and tried CWNET.COM dial-up with a software “DSL” add-on that blocks bandwidth sucking high res pics (lets you set the graphics (pics) res downloaded), aggressively stops popup bandwidth suckers, and I believe(though they don’t say for the same reasons COX wouldn’t I think) gives bandwidth priority to my “Software DSL” connection at their end.

    All for $15 per month instead of $40. I see little difference so far(about 3 months) from what COX was sucking away from me.

  30. Jim R Says:

    By the way, with a V.92 modem you can still receive incoming calls and make outgoing calls on your telephone while connected to your internet service.

  31. Celeste Says:

    Heh. Reminds me of every time I had to rent a car before I turned 25. I’d go the rental place, pick out the car, they’d give me the rates, we’d start filling out the paperwork, and then, after I’d agreed to everything, they’d say “oh, wait, you’re under 25 years old. We have to charge you an extra 10 dollars a day in order to rent the vehicle.” I’d respond with “that’s not what I agreed to. I won’t pay it. You can just cancel my order.” Backpedaling ensues… As a result, I _never_ paid a surcharge for renting a car under age.

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