Oh, the actual technical side, run by geeks and techs, usually works. And cable TV has expanded its capabilities over the years. But my god, is the business side managed by mismanagement.
Our cable costs have regularly gone up since we first got cable in Laurium up in the U.P. From time to time, we've gotten expansions in our channels. But Charter is very good at the left hand of god giveth and the right hand of god taketh away. As more and more TVs are digital, their expansion of digital and HD channels has expanded, and they keep encroaching on the non-digital bandwidth.
Since we got the HDTV in February 2012, we've lost local HD channels 8.1 (WOOD-TV8 NBC), 13.1 WZZM-TV13 ABC), 13.3 (WZZM Weather), plus G4Tech TV, Big Ten Network, Oxygen, C-SPAN 2 & 3, and more. So much for Basic Plus Expanded service.
The less I have to actually deal with the cable company, the better. The techies pretty much deliver the 24/7 operation.
Alas, it's zero hour day of reckoning upheaval time. Charter is finally going all digital. We've been so happy to use cable-ready cable box free TV since about 1986, when the cable in Laurium expanded and got WGN back when they broadcast all the Cubbies and home games only in daylight -- requiring us to get a VCR and a 13" Sony Trinitron color TV to go with it.
Now we need to get boxes.
Here's where it gets stupid. You can get two free boxes! Have to figure out which ones. Looks like we can get an HDMI box. Good, because the Sony has HDMI inputs and I think the tiny kitchen TV does, too.
Then, service level. Gone are the old labels, now we've got TV Select, TV Silver and TV Gold. Running through the messy website, looks like TV Select is essentially the same as Basic Plus Expanded. If we moved up to TV Silver, we could add BBC America and HBO. Something about a free DVR, but that might be with the Triple Play -- TV, Internet and phone. No way in hell with the latter two.
So... call the 800-, er, 877- number to talk to someone. Charter in your area is going 100% digital! The chirpy recording goes. Yeah, I know that -- that's why I'm calling. How many set boxes do you need. What, huh? Oh crap, I muttered my comment aloud and that voice is hooked up to a helpful voice activated menu system. Hang up, try again. Eventually I shouted, I need to talk to someone! We'll connect you to the next available operator. Finally.
I explained that I had two issues. Set boxes and service levels. How many set boxes do you need? Okay, you ran over my comment that we can take those two things in whatever order you want. Need the HDMI cable version. Does it come with a cable? I confused Kendra until I pointed out the HDMI Blu-Ray players don't necessarily come with cables. And the answer is two. And what will they cost after the first year? $6.99. Apiece? Yes. Per month? Yes. Please note that the free box offers in the letter they sent and the website talk up the FREE (for the first 12 months *), with no info about that pesky little asterisk. That's $13.98 a month, $167.76 a year they don't want to talk about. Bastard.
Took several tries to scope out the service plans. Bottom line, Basic Plus Expanded is $68.49/month, TV Select is $59.95/month for about the same service. No brainer, right? No... because the free for a year asterisk boxes don't apply to TV Select. This after the damned letter from Charter went on and on about the TWO FREE CABLE BOXES and the new tier levels. No brainer = keep Basic Plus Expanded.
And people wonder why we have a cellphone plan so old that the code number doesn't even appear in the Verizon sales screens...
Money grubbing bastards hope you just swallow the more expensive plans and either like it or not notice.
The only good news? The pair of Sony RM-V310 remotes we got the other year are programmable and I've already found the webpage of code numbers, so I am hoping to code the new boxes with our existing 7-way remotes. Most cable company remotes suck. The Time-Warner remotes at my folks house in Greensboro NC have been dreadful -- including silk screened markings that wear off. Genius.
UPDATE: No sooner had I crossposted to Facebook, when the next post I'd gotten was this NPR story about the Comcast service call from Hell. You can't write this stuff.