The Cord is Cut; or How Time Warner Killed TV

cutting-cable-tvOur family is officially un-cabled. After a year with only basic cable television service, we’ve finally gone all the way.

It started with HBO. Six years ago, Time Warner raised the price for HBO yet again, so I got rid of it. It felt good. Then came four years of fighting them over constantly increasing prices for the rest of cable. Virtually every month, the price would increase, or a new fee would appear or get bigger. One by one, we dropped all the extra packages, ’til we were down to just “standard”.

At that point, the war over data service began. Service would drop or be severely degraded for hours at a time. Their service folks told us repeatedly that everything was fine on their end, and that I must have my router (or, ya know, something) misconfigured. If I wanted a house call, it would cost me dearly. I pointed out to them that not only was I a professional who’d been working with networking equipment since before there was a RoadRunner service, but that I had beta tested their own service for them (paying for the privilege), during which time I helped the techs at their local office learn how to program their own hardware! I had tested everything on my end extensively, and was quite sure it wasn’t my problem, but they weren’t going to help unless I paid them $100!

This phase finally ended when, after months of complaints and long conversations, I finally convinced one of their support guys to walk through everything I’d done on my end with me in a two-hour marathon, before he finally said, “Huh, it sure sounds like everything’s fine on your end, let me just check something real quick.” Turns out, my cable modem was the one I’d originally used with them while beta-testing their service some fourteen years earlier, and just before the trouble started, they had made changes on their end that were incompatible with the old hardware. Their hardware. I replaced it myself the next day, physically making the round trip to their office and installing and configuring it myself. After that, I spent a year trying to get them to refund me for the lost service (early on, I’d written a script that logged whenever my network could contact the cable modem but not any of a list of internet sites, so I could track downtime), and pretty much failed.

Needless to say, my opinion of Time Warner has not been sterling since these travails, but since the government saw fit a) to allow only one TV/data service via cable, and b) to allow Time Warner to sign a monopolistic agreement with Verizon that they would no longer install new service in areas where the other already held a monopoly, we’ve been stuck with them. Between 2010 and 2012, we fought a dozen battles with TW over increasing prices and decreasing services, by the end of which I was just done. I issued them an ultimatum, “fix it, or I’ll cancel cable altogether”. Amazingly, this worked, for a while. They dropped our monthly costs by almost 20 dollars, and refunded me some money (not much, maybe $50, but still). We were happy as clams for about six months, until the bills started increasing again.

So last year, once again, I raised hell with them, made more threats, and when they wouldn’t budge, we cancelled “standard cable”, shaving $30 a month off our bill to compensate for increased prices and fees. I even returned our cable box, relying on the “Clear QAM” signals for the digital channels we wanted, saving another five dollars a month. Once again, everything was great, until…

This last round of disservice started with a new charge, specifically a monthly rental fee for our cable modem. It was annoying, more than expensive, but after it all, it pissed me off pretty good. Then, prices for our data service started going up, while the digital channels we were paying for were replaced with digital signals that only carried standard-def channels in a little box in the middle of the screen, with either black bars or advertising wrapped around the outside. Nine months ago, I called to issue another ultimatum. Unexpectedly, TW actually responded well this time, and offered to reduce our monthly payment by ten dollars, while adding on their “turbo” service (an extra 5 megabits on our data service) for free. I took it, and things were great again (at this point, we really weren’t watching TV at all, anyway).

Things were great until three months ago, that is, when we started getting charged an extra $10 a month for turbo service. It took us a couple of months to notice, and when I called last month, I was told “Oh, well, that was a promotional price that has now ended!”

SB6141So, in a final purging, I found a clearance sale on the best cable modem on TW’s approved list, the SB6141, and bought it. It arrived Wednesday, I installed it and got it registered with TW Thursday, and yesterday, I took the old modem to TW’s office, made sure we wouldn’t be charged rent on it any more, gave everyone in the office an ear full approximating this very rant, and turned off cable TV forever.

We will now pay $17 less per month, until the next battle begins. We are cable TV free, and realize that we haven’t watched any in nearly a year, so it really doesn’t matter (Hulu and Netflix pretty much cover it). Time Warner made this happen. If there were another true broadband service available, we’d have dropped that too.

It’s a hell of a way to run a business…