Friday, November 2, 2007

It’s Bombastic!

So we get this notice in the mail a few days ago from our cable company, Bombast…er, Comcast…and they announce with great fanfare that they’re raising their cable TV rates come this December. Truth be told, we weren’t really surprised to learn of this development—it’s a yearly tradition, sort of like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But…you have to admire these weasels and the P.R. skill with which they drop the rate-raising bombshell. I quote from their colorful brochure:

Look inside for great news regarding your Comcast services!

You see—raising cable television rates is great news!

Thanks for Choosing Comcast!

Choosing Comcast? You’re the only friggin’ game in town! What happened to all this “competition” that deregulation was supposed to bring?

We know that there are a lot of choices available to you, and we want to say thank you for choosing Comcast. We continue to look for ways to improve your service and we’re pleased to say that this year we’ve made some great improvements!

Once again, out of the five or six cable companies in this burg (yes, I’m exaggerating for comic effect), we chose Comcast.

These improvements include 9 new sports channels and 10 new HD channels—and we’ve got 7 new channels coming in December 2007.

Nine new sports channels? Be still, my beating heart!

And there’s more exciting news in the addition of Comcast Digital Voice. It’s the simple and money-saving way for you to call anywhere, anytime!

(sniff) You people are so good to us…

So thanks again for choosing Comcast! We’ll continue to work to bring you the best possible services over the coming years.

What a pile of road apples.

The service we have in our home at the present time is what Comcast calls “Full Basic”: we’re currently paying $49.99 for this. It says that we get channels 2-72—which we do—but what’s not even mentioned in the fine print is that four of those channels (5, 15, 27 and 48) currently offer no programming, and in the new channel lineup they’ve left off channels 31 (currently CNN Headline News) and 57 (The Game Show Network), so the only thing I can interpret from that is that we’re losing those channels as well. And all of this is only going to cost us $51.99.

A recurring mantra in the living room of Rancho Yesteryear is “What the f**k are we paying for?”, because we never…ever…can locate anything to watch on this feeble lineup of stations. (I shouldn’t include my father in this, because he’ll watch the History Channel—channel 67—from dusk to dawn…in fact, we check his pulse hourly to see if he’s still with us.) If we were able to get Turner Classic Movies, I’d be the happiest man in Chatham County—and Comcast does offer it (after years of dragging their feet), on channel 169…but it’s part of their “Digital” package, which costs $64.94 ($67.94 beginning December 1). With the “Digital” package, you have to have the little converter box—and I can just see the ‘rents trying to work that contraption…I’m lucky they can even turn the TV on the first place.

They’ll be adding IFC, Fox Business Channel (groan) and something called Fuse (a channel that plays music videos—sort of like the old MTV, which we need like a moose needs a hat rack) to the “Digital” lineup in December and Discovery HD, TLC HD, Animal Planet HD, and WGSA HD (WGSA is the local CW affiliate) to the “High-Definition” lineup (I can’t find the rates for the “High Definition” service , but I’m guessing it will say “an arm and a leg”)—plus more sports channels than you can shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time, to finish the Groucho-ism). I’m not a sports fan nor do I pretend to be one, which is why I have lobbied consistently for an A La Carte system that will let me choose which channels I know I’ll watch and dump the rest of the chaff.

There is a small silver lining in this dark cloud: Comcast is not raising the rates on their high-speed wireless Internet service. They’ll just continue to keep blocking my Internet traffic, as Salon’s Farhad Manjoo outlines in this article (yes, there is advertising content…but it’s most assuredly worth the hassle.)


Bill Crider said...

Thanks for this post. We got the same letter here in the hinterlands, along with the same shafting. What the world needs is competition in the cable industry.

Pam said...

Time to cut down the tree? Put in the dish? My bro loves his.

We're now in the position of having to pay for cable and broadband at the apartment and the house. The joint in NYC is the original Time Warner. The house has the morphed Adelphia / Time Warner (with which I am not happy), which my bill tells me is digital.

At the house, the television in the living room has the typical cable converter box. But we hooked up the very old (yet cable-ready) television in the bedroom without a cable box. (It's quite a novelty for me to have a TV in the bedroom. It's like being in a hotel!) We get all the channels on that television except premium (which does require the converter and which we didn't order - but are still on the six months "FREE!"). The only difference is there is no user interface - no Guide or Info. You just change the channel without seeing the name of the program emblazoned on the bottom of the screen - like in the old days when you had to leave your chair to change the channel. Our TCM is a lower number, but perhaps it would work for you as well.

The question is, of course, is TCM worth the extra monthly $16.00????

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Time to cut down the tree? Put in the dish? My bro loves his.

It's funny you should mention this...we discussed the subject of Comcast at dinner last night, and my mother's exact words were: "We should have cut down that goddamned tree years ago."

I'd be willing to spend the extra 16 bucks, but it's not going to fly with the other two members on the Rancho Yesteryear committee. They're still trying to figure out why the little light in the refrigerator comes on when you open the door.