Tag Archives: Time-Warner Cable

TVstuff: The Time-Warner Bundle of Joy

Today, a week and a half after initial installation, all Time-Warner systems appear to be go. Here’s the timeline as best I can recall it:

  1. Monday, 29 December. The technician arrives at precisely 10:30am, slightly outside of the 8-10am appointment window. On the bright side, he is able to use one of the existing DirecTV coaxial cables I ran when I set up our entertainment closet. ((As a bonus, we’ve still got the DirecTV receiver connected to a single tuner, which gives us DirecTV service until 21 January, and there’s a free HBO weekend beginning on the 18th.)) This means no additional holes in the house and a very rapid hookup; he’s in and out in roughly half an hour.
  2. Wednesday, 31 December. The Time-Warner/Viacom debacle comes to light and I call Time-Warner Northeast Ohio to let them know that I am not at all happy about it. Thankfully, the two companies decided to play nice at the last minute.
  3. Thursday, 01 January. I notice that several channels, including most of the local Cleveland channels have video but no audio. I plan to call Time-Warner for service, but forget. I am also not thrilled to discover that our cable package does not include Noggin, BBC America, or most of the OnDemand features that the customer service representative pitched me when I made the initial installation appointment. Apparently in her eagerness to save me a few bucks on the television/digital phone/high-speed Internet bundle she eliminated the “Digital Basic” tier that includes the aforementioned features and channels.
  4. Tuesday, 06 January. The technician arrives a few minutes before 9:00am, well within the 8-10am appointment window. Unfortunately, he spends over an hour trying to get the phone jack in my office (which was there when we took ownership of the International House of Johnson, but never worked) connected to the rest of the house. Eventually, he installs a new jack and gets the phones up and running. While observing the technician’s frustration, determination and ultimate triumph, I completely forget to mention the audio issue on the television.
  5. Tuesday, 06 January. Twenty minutes after the technician leaves, I’m on the phone with Time-Warner Cable technical support. My attempts to set up voice mail are unsuccessful, as following the instructions left by the technician results in only a busy signal. ((Apparently, despite the advent of call waiting and voice mail, there is still such a thing as a busy signal. I almost didn’t recognize it at first.)) While on hold, I remember that I also need to get the audio issue resolved, so I cycle through the first 100 or so channels on the television and find that seven channels have no audio and in one case the audio is severely distorted. The person I eventually talk to resets both the voice mail service and the cable box, but only the voice mail issue is resolved. I make an appointment for Thursday morning to have a technician check the audio problem locally.
  6. Tuesday, 06 January. While verifying that we have long-distance service, I discover that dialing a “1” before the area code does not seem to work. I can hear the phone dialing, but I do not hear it ring or connect. Omitting the “1” before dialing long distance appears to  resolve the issue, so I don’t take it up with Time-Warner. I later learn that the calls dialed with the leading “1” were actually going through, but there was apparently no sound for either party.
  7. Tuesday, 06 January. Laura calls me at work in the afternoon to let me know that outgoing calls are working fine, but incoming calls have sound problems. By the time I get home from work in the evening, both this issue and the strange long distance issue appear to have resolved themselves.
  8. Wednesday, 07 January. Caller ID appears on our television when we receive a phone call. This feature, which takes approximately 24 hours from the time of digital phone service installation to be activated, may be the first thing that has worked correctly exactly when I was told it would, exactly as I expected it.
  9. Thursday, 08 January. Two Time-Warner vans converge on the International House of Johnson shortly after 10am, right on time for the 10am-12pm appointment window. After I explain the problem, both technicians immediately sieze upon the fact that SAP ((Secondary Audio Program. This feature allows television networks to broadcast in multiple languages simultaneously. In my experience, the Secondary Audio Program is typically in Spanish and accompanied by a “Simulcast en Español” banner at the beginning of a show.)) is enabled on the cable box. Once SAP is disabled, the audio issue is resolved. ((Apparently several stations simulcast absolute silence on the auxiliary audio channel, while WEWS in Cleveland broadcasts a heavily-distorted version of their primary audio.)) The second technician indicates that occasionally a software update on the cable box will cause SAP to be enabled.

My initial impression of the services is as follows:

  • Internet. Nothing has changed here. We’ve been very happy with our 7-megabit connection, and I think Laura would rather be set upon by wolves than lose it. When she reviewed the promotional material for AT&T’s U-Verse, she determined that we would have to downgrade our Internet speed and immediately ruled it out.
  • Digital Phone. It’s a telephone and it seems to be working like a telephone should (apart from the inital glitches, all of which have been resolved). I’m glad this service required a new cable modem, as the power connection on the old one was a bit dodgy.
  • Television. The downside: DVR storage capacity and time-shift window are both significantly less than what we’re used to. The former is 50 hours vs. 100, the latter is 30 minutes vs. 90. We’ve also lost some channels, but that can be solved with a $5/month upgrade if we so desire. The user interface on the DVR is a bit weird, too. On the plus side, the response time between remote control and DVR seems much better than the DirecTV unit.

TVstuff: Disable the Cable?

“Don’t panic.”

That’s what the Time-Warner Northeast Ohio customer service representative told me this morning. I think she was mistaking the irritation in my voice for fear. I’ve been a Time-Warner Cable television customer for all of 70 hours and already I’ve had to call customer service; this does not bode particularly well for our burgeoning relationship.

At issue: the Viacom debacle. As near as I can figure it, Viacom wants to wring more money out of Time-Warner for channels like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV. Because apparently people still watch MTV. Time-Warner, naturally, doesn’t want to shell out the dough, claiming that they’d have to (surprise!) raise their rates.

This morning, Viacom decided that negotiations weren’t going to cut it, so they resorted to something akin to extortion: a crawl across the bottom of their networks imploring Time-Warner customers to contact their cable provider if they didn’t want to lose shows like SpongeBob Squarepants when the ball drops in Times Square. ((Happy New Year!))

At the International House of Johnson we do occasionally watch SpongeBob Squarepants, but losing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report would be a deal-breaker. We rarely watch anything else on Comedy Central, because 90% of the programming on Comedy Central is crap, but The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are pretty much the only two shows that Laura and I watch together.

The Viacom crawl is, in my opinion, hitting below the belt as far as negotiations are concerned. It’s certainly not unprecedented, but it’s kind of a dirty trick. Viacom is essentially threatening to take their ball and go home if Time-Warner doesn’t play the game to their liking, but their crawl makes Time-Warner out to be the bad guy. According to one source, the price hike Viacom wants is triple the increase from their previous contract with Time-Warner, which translates (per Viacom) to roughly 25 cents per month per Time-Warner Cable subscriber. ((Time-Warner claims that this could set a precedent for other networks to demand higher rates and result in a $30-per-year increase for customers.)) The crawl, quite naturally, fails to mention any of this.

But the crawl is effective. Laura asked me about it first thing this morning, as she’s not at all keen to lose Nickelodeon or Comedy Central, so I thought I’d give Time-Warner a call. The number provided in the crawl was experiencing “technical difficulties”, which I took to mean “a flood of calls from angry parents whose children want to watch SpongeBob tomorrow”.

At this point, I know that Viacom is playing dirty, but I called Time-Warner Northeast Ohio anyway. I was greeted with an automated message assuring me that negotiations to keep the Viacom networks were underway and wouldn’t I please just hang up because that’s all they could tell me.

Unfortunately for Time-Warner, they’re the new kid on the block as far as television providers in the International House of Johnson are concerned, and I was already annoyed to discover that having a digital cable box and subscribing to “extended basic” service is not the same as having “digital basic” service. ((Translation: Our current service plan does not include Noggin (another Viacom network, the one that features all of Kyle’s favorite shows), BBC America or the basic OnDemand features.)) Oh, and their installer was 30 minutes late on Monday.

So I waited on hold for a customer service representative. Poor Barbara got a bit of an earful as I explained that, should the Viacom networks disappear from my lineup, Time-Warner’s reign as the television provider in my house would be a very, very short one. My DirecTV receiver is still active ((In fact, the television was tuned to Noggin on DirecTV when Laura saw the Viacom crawl this morning.)) and my digital phone service has yet to be installed, so it’s just a matter of who I call Monday morning to inform them that their services will no longer be required.

I’m not panicking, I’m just annoyed that—having been a satellite television subscriber for seven years with only two issues that I can recall—I switched to cable and wound up on the phone with customer service after less than three days.

UPDATE: Time-Warner CEO, Glenn Britt has issued a statement. Additionally, Viacom has allegedly threatened to block Time-Warner Cable Internet subscribers from accessing their free online content, such as episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

UPDATE: It certainly appears that Viacom is planning to block Time-Warner Cable Internet subscribers, if the pop-ups on sites like MTV.com are any indication. So, even though I currently put pennies in Viacom’s pocket because I’m still paying for DirecTV, because my Internet access is through Time-Warner I won’t be able to access free content on ComedyCentral.com. (I’ve seen the pop-up myself on that very site.) That’s really playing dirty, Viacom.

FINAL UPDATE (01 January 2009): Well, it looks like Time-Warner Cable and Viacom have reached a “an agreement in principle“, which means 13 million households can spend New Year’s Day in Bikini Bottom after all. As an aside, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was “no cable rate hikes”, you’re probably going to be breaking that one sooner than you expected.