Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wither Cable

On Thursday night, while I was out catching a rare set from the Mekons, Alma tells me the cable went out. Well, not out-out. We had sound, but no picture. My first thought was that it was something the kids did. My second was that it was something, well, something she did. But when I tried the TV the next morning, I discovered that yes, indeed, something weird was up.

I get on the phone with Comcast, from whom we purchase a frugal $10-a-month basic "antenna" service plan. They seem perplexed at the problem, and the only over the phone solution they offer is to turn the TV off and turn it on again. I explain to them that, well, the TV has been off. Off all night, in fact, and that the problem still persists. So they offer to send someone out, with the soonest they could be at our house the following Monday. But then they threaten to stick us with the tab should the problem be on our end. I tell them I won't be backed into a corner, and refuse. I threaten to cancel rather than pay more, they don't back down, and so that's that.

Then Alma convinces me that a $25 fee is better than paying for cable service that does not work. I relent, call back Comcast, and schedule a visit for the soonest possible time - which mysteriously happens to be that very day, Friday, between 12 and 4. Um, OK. We have friends coming over for dinner, but I figure it'll be done by then. Several hours later, at 4:15, the guy finally shows up (after I had already complained to Comcast and been promised a $25 credit should he be late for his appointment). The dude spends over an hour talking to his people, plugging and unplugging things, pressing buttons and scratching his head.

It's now dinner time, and the dude says he needs to get something in Elmhurst, but he'll be back later. Later? we all wonder. It's nearly 6pm on a Friday night. Turns out there is no "later," as the dude just removes our Cablecard, leaves and never comes back. Cable repair: fail.

The next day, Alma manages to schedule another Comcast visit, this time for first thing Tuesday. Indeed, nice dude number 2 shows up at 8am Tuesday, gets a late start (the system is down, of course), then more or less exhausts every resource until 10:30am. He thinks it could be the TV''s built-in tuner, but maybe not. Nothing is fixed. His prognosis: "God only knows." I tell him God couldn't care less if our antenna service is fixed, he laughs, then promises to let us know if he learns anything new. At the very least, he says, he doesn't want to encounter this problem again, and he understands why the other tech "put his tail between his legs and ran away." It seems our cable service is too basic to fix! Cable repair: double fail.

The next step was to chat online with Comcast's costumer service, who was (virtually) nice enough, and may have provided some answers. Needless to say, it involves a whole new layer of headache regarding the provider's so-called "digital migration," the shift of all but the most basic of analog signals to digital. Which is fine and dandy, considering we only wanted to most basic analog service, but there's a good chance that the HD network broadcasts (ABC, NBC, et al., and fancy pants PBS, too) went "digital," too, taking away one of the few reasons we watch TV at all (even crap looks good in HD).

So the solution proffered by the virtual assistant? Upgrade to digital service, which she tells me can be currently purchased as a promotional deal of about $30 a month for six-months, at which point I assume the price would go up. So what you're telling me, I tell her, is that in order to get the same basic service we had before, complete with a handful of basic, no-pay HD channels, we need to pay three times as much each month? No, she assures me. You get over 100 other channels, too. But we don't want 100 channels, I tell her. That's why we have basic antenna service!

The best she can offer is an IM sorry before I tell her I'm more than likely going to stick with or cancel our now even more basic service rather than pay more for the same old shit. Then she asks me if I would take a short survey, and I virtually hang up on her and hustle to pick up Z. at camp. And the first thing Z. asks is if the TV is fixed. Fortunately, she's not so discerning that "Curious George" in SD will be an affront to her sensibilities. Sometimes I think we can just turn on the TV and let her stare at the black screen and she'd be happy enough. Me, too, probably.


Blogger Mike said...

Dude, just use an antenna...you'll be able to pull in a ton of stations in Chicago....the digital box you will need is free, at least for a few more days until Uncle Sam stops the coupon program

7:13 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Mike, I don't think that will work for us. Without the set top box, the antenna will just make our analog stations come in better. But the digital STB is for Comcast users with expanded basic or "standard cable" (whatever that is), not what we have, which I guess they're calling "limited basic," which means just the bare minimum, which also means I guess we're screwed unless we upgrade to something else. I suppose I can still try to squeeze a STB out of them, but I doubt it'll work when they're the ones putting the kink in the hose.

8:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home