A couple of months ago I decided to do something I never thought I would do. I cut the cord. Sort of.
In December I decided to cancel my cable. The bill was getting too high and I have been watching less and less traditional TV. Many of the shows I watch over the past few years have ended or I lost interest in them (looking at you The Walking Dead). Many of the shows I continued to watch I found I could watch the next day on Hulu, of which I was a subscriber. I also found many new shows that rivaled the quality of network and cable shows, even premium cable shows, on Hulu and Netflix. So, I made the decision to cut the cord.
Currently, I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon (a bonus of my Prime shipping subscription) and HBO Now. The only show that I currently watch but cannot get on these services is AMC’s Better Call Saul. Well, that was the case until this week. Charter, the cable company in my area, is offering their version of the Sling TV service called Charter Spectrum Stream. For $20 a month you get some popular cable channels (TBS, FX, ESPN, and AMC among others) plus either HBO or Showtime. So for $5 more a month I can get HBO plus some other cable channels including AMC for Better Call Saul. I can then cancel HBO Now. One of the other upsides to the service is that you get the local channels (even the alternate HD local channels that no one ever watches). This was great for me since, even with an antenna, I couldn’t get any local channels over the air (not entirely true. If I touched a co-ax cable to the window frame and grounding the signal, I could get 3-4 local channels. Trust me, it works).
This is almost TV as I want it to be. I am paying for the channels I watch the most and can watch my shows whenever I want without the added cost of a DVR. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve over the next few years as more and more people cut the cord and opt to watch TV in non-traditional ways. The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to watch Cardinals baseball this summer (without using MLB at Bat and a DNS routing service). I think sports will be the last hope that traditional cable and satellite subscriptions have. Once the various leagues wake up to the potential of offering sports without a cable subscription, I will be set. But I’m not holding my breath.
I’ve written before about my experiences with Charter. It hasn’t gotten any better. Recently we were having problems with our Charter Cable. We called and were able to get an appointment for someone to come out about 4 days later, which is actually quite amazing as Charter is known for making appointments a month out. The problem we were having is the cable box was losing the digital signal about every 5 minutes and cause the screen to go black and digitize for a few seconds. The cable guy came out, did his tests, and concluded the signal was too strong. Now, I’m not a technician, but this makes no sense to me because the problem was not happening anywhere else in the house and the two other boxes (one that was identical to the problem box) were fine. Well, he puts some splitter thing that lowers the signal on to the cable and then puts the old box back in says that should fix it. Surprise, it didn’t, but it didn’t happen again until after he left. We call Charter back and they wouldn’t send someone back out the same day when their first technician didn’t fix the problem to begin with. The next day they can have someone come out is the following Wednesday. This is 8 days without being able to watch anything on that TV because the box is bad.
I was off for a few days last week so I decided to head to the Charter office to exchange boxes myself, still keeping the Wednesday appointment in case the box switch didn’t work. So, now I’m driving out of my way to fix a problem with their equipment myself. Awesome. I get to the office and there is quite a line. Most of the people in front of me are there to complain about billing. The lady that was working was extremely rude to the customers with billing questions. She even told one guy that the previous Charter employee he talked to lied to him! Wow. Nice way to salvage the reputation of your failing company, tell customers that the employees lie to customers. I don’t believe the previous Charter person did lie, because it was about a package that I had seen advertised quite often, yet the lady in the office refused to believe the price and called the customer and other employees liars. I really can’t believe this company. Finally, it’s my turn in line and the lady is just as rude to me as the other customers. I get my box and take it home.
I hook it up and follow the directions on the sheet they gave me to reset the box so it knows what channels to get. I got 3 channels. I call Charter. They send a signal to reset. I still get 3 channels. 2 hours later I call back, the lady sends a signal and tells me I will have to wait until my Wednesday appointment. I tell them this is unacceptable because after going to replace their equipment because they didn’t send one on the technician’s truck before, I deserve someone out that day. She says they can have someone out the next day. I ask to talk to her supervisor so she puts me on hold. She comes back about 10 minutes later and asks for some information, like where the box is, the serial number on the box, etc. She finds out, by asking this, that the new box wasn’t put into the system under our account. So, dubmass bitchy lady at the office didn’t even do her job right. Then again, neither did the first Charter person I talked to. You’d think that would be a standard question they would ask to make sure the equipment is in the system, especially if it’s obvious you’re not getting a signal to your box.
Charter is a completely useless company. Rumor has it they will be filing for bankruptcy soon. As if that’s hard to believe.
I’m really fed up with Charter Communications. I’ve heard the horror stories of Comcast and even my experiences with Mediacom haven’t been that great, but Charter really gets under my skin. The past few days my 5mbit internet connection has been going really really slow. Painfully slow. I’ve run several speed tests on several different computers (a Windows Vista box, an Ubuntu box and my MacBook) and each time the speed registers at less than 1mbit. So, I’m paying over $40 per month for service that is only delivering less than 20% of what I’m supposed to be receiving? (Not to mention the fact that I’ve never gotten my whole 5mbit connection and most times it’s as if i pay for 5mbit but they only deliver 3). That doesn’t sound to fair to me. I’ve checked all the cable connections in the house to see if there might be a loose cable somewhere and haven’t found anything. So what do I do? If it doesn’t clear up on it’s own over the next couple days I will have to call and deal with an hour of a recorded voice telling me to power-cycle my modem, restart my computer, disconnect my router, stuff I’ve already done, then I’ll have to deal with the technician who will have me do the exact same things the recorded voice told me to do before they finally accept that it’s their problem and schedule an appointment to come look at it. Of course, I won’t be expecting to see an actual technician for at least 3 weeks after I set up the appointment, because that’s how Charter operates. It’s no surprise they’ve gotten a failing grade and thousands of complaints from the Better Business Bureau. So, you may be asking, why don’t I switch? The answer is simple; the Sherman Anti-Trust Act apparently doesn’t protect my city from giving a monopoly to Charter. There are no other cable companies or internet service providers (unless I want dial-up). The only high-speed net access is through Charter. I can’t wait for the day that AT&T comes into St. Peters and starts offering video and internet services. That will be a great day in the lives of many Charter Communications customers.