On one of the Talking Head news shows they stated that the prevelence of “cord cutters” was rising with the younger group and this didn’t bode well for the traditional Cable Companies.
I’m here to say that “cord cutting” isn’t new. Not by a long shot. Some history and a bit about “why?” follows.
First up, I bought a house somewhere around 28? years ago. When I moved in, both the power and telco were fairly neatly “lead dressed” in that they came off the pole almost along the property line to the corner of the house. Straight run, about 5 feet in from the fence. The cable company, however, had decided to take a wire directly over the middle of the back yard from that same pole, substantially to the far corner of the house. So I had this absolutely ugly cable that was drooped right over the center of my yard, on a diagonal.
Frankly, it bugged me.
Want to plant a tree? Where’s the cable…
Want to set up a BBQ with a nice heat plume? Where’s the cable…
Want to just sit in the yard and look at the sky, stars, sunrise, whatever? There’s that damn cable…
So one day I just got sick of it. Dikes in hand, up a ladder, SNIP! at the house. Over to the pole, up the ladder, SNIP! about 10 feet off the ground.
That stump of a cable hung there for about 2 years. Eventually they realized I was not going to change my mind and removed it. I’ve had a very nice yard with a nice clear overhead ever since.
Along the way I installed one of the first DirecTV offerings. Back when you bought your own reciever. I got the Sony model (that I loved – until it was forced from my hands by DirecTV stating it would not be able to recieve broadcasts anymore… they sent me a ‘free’ replacement). For a couple of years I had The Dish installed in one of the bedrooms. (When DirecTV would not give a bulk discount for more than 2 recievers… so I just went with the competition for #3…) All in all, I’ve been quite happy with both satellite providers.
BTW, all trademarks used are the property of their respective owners and are put here for educational reference direct quotes only.
So in the mail I get Yet Another Nag Pleading To Buy Cable Again… I look through it. It actually looks like it might make sense. Nice package of both cable TV and WiFi. All the channels I tend to watch are in the package. For $90 / month I get 220+ channels ( I presume the “+” means they can’t quite count…or are nore sure they were sober when they did the counting…) a “Free Z1 DVR Service” (with in small type “included for 12 months”), and HBO & Streampix (again with small “included for 12 months”)… or I can add “unlimited nationwide talk and text” for another $20 / month (though it isn’t clear on what system… and it might just be over WiFi?). I notice under price some more small text “per month FOR 2 YEARS with a 2-year term agreement.” (Bold and all caps theirs).
Now I’m noticing that the agreement is for 2 years and the HBO / Streampix and DVR are all for 12 months. Hmmmm… I think. There’s a giant block of fine print at the bottom of the page. Finding my glasses I go hunting…
Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Limited to new residential customers. Requires subscription to the following offers:
There then follows a list of no less than 4 things. One is the HBO / Streampix, another is the DVR, something called “Preferred XF Triple Play with Digital Preferred TV, Performance Internet and Unlimited® Voice Service and Z1 DVR service”.
Now at this point I’m starting to remember why I’ve just round filed these things for the last quarter century. So I’m contractually obliged to 2 years, and after one year I’m going to get some kind of an “uplift” on those “free” services whos price has not been mentioned so far…
But moving on…
Two-year contract required. Early termination fee applies. Includes standard installation fee on up to four outlets, Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, including regulatory recovery fees,Broadcast TV fee (up to $3.50 / month), Regional Sports Fee (up to $1.00 / month) and other applicable charges extra,and subject to change during and after the promotion. After 12 months, regular monthly charge of $19.95 a month for DVR service, HBO® is $19.99 and Streampix $4.99. After applicable promotional period, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular charges apply (pricing subject to change). TV and internet service limited to a single outlet.
OK, so if I don’t keep everything in the bundle, I’m going to be screwed to whatever degree they like with “subject to change” pricing. Got it. And I’m on the hook for about $45 / month for the HBO, Streampix and DVR. So now I’m up to about $135 / month (not including whichever of all those fees, caveats and all get ladled on) and all that (including the installtion to up to 4 outlets) gets me ONE OUTLET THAT WORKS. Oh, and it isn’t clear to me if the $3.50 and $1.00 are included in the price quoted, or will be tacked on as they are “included” in what the package requires.
At this point we are over what I pay for DirecTV with a bunch of stuff added in ( I’m not sure exactly, but at least HBO is in there, though I’ll likely be taking it out as the daughter wanted it and she is now living on her own.)
But Wait! There’s More!
Skipping over a bit of ‘may not be combined’ and ‘not available in all areas’ and ‘required to recieve’ packages… It turns out that what I might be buying might not be what is in the “package” anyway.
Not all programming available in all areas. On Demand selections subject to charge indicated at time of purchase. INTERNET: Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. VOICE: $29.95 Activation Fee may apply. Service (including 911/emergency services) may not function after an extended power outage. Text messaging requires XFINITY Internet subscription. Standard data rate charges apply, check with your carrier.
Bold and caps theirs. So I might not get at all what is being offered, the service can be crappy anb I just have to take it, and it doesn’t have a big enough battery in the system to handle power fails. I get to sign up for more things (prices not stated) and get to pay data rates to my telco for using their “free” unlimited text?! Oh, and I may get to cough up another $30 to use the voice feature. Skipping over the requirements to get their promotional debit card or Samsung Galaxy tablet…
Early termination fees apply.
So you can get out of the contract, but for an unspecified pound of flesh.
Inside the front cover are some more ‘fine print’ weasle words:
Not all Android™ devices are compatible with XFINITY apps.
On the page touting sports features with “Stream thousands of live games online and through the XFINITY TV Go app” we find out:
Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. Not all programming services available in all areas. Availability of programming and features varies depending on level of service.
APPS: Standard data rates apply. Check with your carrier. Not all Android™ devices are compatible with the XFINITY apps. Not all apps available with Google Play Store. Call for restrictions and complete details,
So it might not work, and it isn’t clear where to get it anyway, and if you can get it, and it does work, maybe not in your area; but you will be paying ‘standard data rate’ anyway…
They have also scattered all the caveats and restrictions through all the pages. A little here, a little there. Makes it damn hard to figure out just what is being said, and I’m certain nearly nobody is going to read ALL the pages. Just mostly figure each is a clone of the other. But they are not. On page 6:
Additional charge may apply to Streampix® depending on level of service. Ability to watch Streampix® content on TV not available in all areas.
Page 10 has:
Not all features compatible with Macintosh systems. […] Hotspots available in seleted locations only. Requires compatible WiFi-enabled laptop or mobile device. Data charges apply.
Page 14, talking about phone service, has this gem:
Money Back Guarantee applies to one month’s recurring service and standard installation charges up to $500.
But at least we’re starting to get a clue how much ‘standard installtion charges’ might be.
And there are more bits, scattered onto other pages.
But at this point I’ve been oh so fully reminded just WHY I was a cutter long before it was trendy. No idea what the service might be, things that don’t work, prices that get jacked up after you are in the pen, you can’t get out without paying a heafty bit of “stupid tax”, and so much more.
With DirecTV, I’ve always had decent service. You can change what you buy at any time (and I have). Old plans have been “grandfathered” so I didn’t get hit with an uplift charge as “my plan” went away (it does uplift if you change to another plan, but frankly, I’ve never seen much price disparity. More what ‘freebee’ channels were in a promotional package). Oh, and when you buy a channel, you get it. Within minutes. They know what they are selling, you get what you buy, and the price has always been known. Somehow I kind of like that.
Only real downsides have been that in Florida the torrential rains can cause signal loss. Oh, and AT&T is trying to “do a deal” to buy them. My experience with AT&T has been “less than stellar” so if that deal happens, I expect that I’ll fairly quickly be moving over to Dishtv… I still have the antenna installed and the reciever. Just a phone call away…
Now I think I’m going out to lay in the hammock under my tree in the middle of the back yard and look up at a clear blue sky while sipping something cool… and tossing the Cable Company brochure in the ’round file’. Likely for the next 1/4 century as there is little evidence that they have changed their behaviours in any way. Oh, then when I come back in, I think I’ll cruise Netflix for some movies or series to watch with dinner tonight. I REALLY like Netflix. Dirt cheap and I get to choose what I want from a very large smorgas board… Zero installation costs, too… But now, a bit of clear sky gazing is calling my name.