Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time Warner Cable Is Really Bad

It started innocuously enough. Some friendly billboards around town, announcing that Time Warner would be taking over cable systems in LA and promising to wow us with their service. A fat envelope in the mail, full of pictures smiling, diverse people enjoying their cable. A coupon that offered five dollars off the first Time Warner cable bill.

That was the first betrayal, incidentally. I enclosed the coupon along with my check, which I perhaps foolishly wrote for five dollars below the amount owed (the coupon didn't say you weren't supposed to do that). The next month I saw that I had a balance of five dollars on my account. They ignored their own coupon. Maybe they didn't recognize it as theirs; after all, the coupon helpfully did not say anywhere on it what company it was for, perhaps in hopes that those who received it would themselves forget.

I didn't ask for a coupon, but to give me a coupon and ignore it seemed to be starting our friendly new service provider/customer relationship on a dubious note.

Then there is the service. For the past several weeks our picture quality has been comparable to if we were watching TV via antenna, and getting really awful reception. How is this possible? Aren't they using the same infrastructure? Did they come in and hit all of Adelphia's broadcasting equipment with a hammer?

They also took Turner Classic Movies, one of Stephanie's favorite channels, and put it in their Digital Cable tier so we don't get it anymore. Now we get the Golf Channel instead. But they apparently didn't update whatever listing TiVo uses, so TiVo keeps trying to record old movies and ending up with golf. (I've never wanted digital cable since it's more expensive and I hate cable boxes. Also, I hate how much longer it takes to flip channels. I guess that's less of a factor when you're using a DVR, but that brings me to another point--I like the TiVo interface, I fear the half-assed digital cable DVRs cable companies provide, and besides, I want to support TiVo as company. Time Warner Cable has given me no reason to believe they would provide a good DVR, seeing as they've provided nothing else that's good.)

Now, we're no great fans of Adelphia. A series of account snafus early on led to our cable getting cut off, our account being assigned to the wrong apartment, and at least a couple of trips to the Adelphia building to straighten it all out. Not to mention a sleazebag cable guy who hit on Stephanie while installing our cable (and presumably filling out the forms wrong, leading to all the other problems). So reception has to be pretty bad to make us think that Adelphia as a company was good. And satellite TV has always seemed like a hassle. Again, we'd have to find room for a new set-top box, deal with a new DVR or possibly have to buy a new TiVo, and have a stupid dish put on our balcony. Mainly, it's bothersome just to have to upset the status quo.

But for all my objections, Time Warner Cable has managed to make me seriously consider it with their aggressively hostile, abusive service. I want to punch the company in the face, and taking up with a competitor is the free-market way to do that.

So it's gratifying to see Ken Levine mention that 10,000 people have done what I've been so far too busy or lazy to do, and thrown that punch at this fucking terrible cable company. The situation is really totally unacceptable. Cable service just has to be adequate enough that you don't think about it--the very fact that I am talking about this means that Time Warner has failed. I haven't gotten the call that Levine mentions about the price going up, but I wouldn't be surprised. They seem to be pretty good about covering all the bases of things you could possibly hate about a cable company.

Last night's Friday Night Lights was nigh-unwatchable through layers upon layers of interference. It was more like a brilliantly written radio play. Tonight, oddly, the picture is crystal clear, like a violent husband who is unexpectedly gentle just when you're getting up the nerve to leave him.

More details (from an actual news provider) here.



Simon said...

Adelphia was absolutely god awful, so I really thought time warner was gonna be a step up. Instead everything works worse than it did under Adelphia and they want to raise our bills.

It's ridiculous that we keep letting cable companies set up these monopolies in every city. It just leads to terrible service and bad prices. In Berkeley I'm stuck with comcast, which is fairly good but incredibly expensive, and then in LA I'm stuck with Time Warner. I shouldn't have to move to change cable companies.

Steve said...

We dumped our cable for Dish Network a few months ago, and have been very happy with it. More channels for less money, with DVRs in two rooms. And the customer service has been great.

Don't go with DirecTV though. They were even worse than Time Warner.

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