Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Private War with Cable Television


by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Editor’s note: the views expressed in this post are strictly that of the writer and does not reflect the views of Redlegs Review, its staff, management, and editors.

I must admit, I’m not a patient person. I have been known to stand in front of a microwave and yell “hurry up”. There are some occasions that my actual patience has been similar to the Biblical person Job; like the time I ordered a pepperoni pizza from a local restaurant and the person taking my order asked me if I wanted sauce with that. I’m not making it up; she really did ask me that. To her defense I did say pepperoni only. Here’s another example of “Job’s Patience”;

In late September 2001 Charter Communications upgraded all their cable television equipment in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia to provide digital video and high speed internet to its customers. My house was upgraded near the close of the 2001 baseball season. Needless to say I was quite excited to have the latest in video technology. Having a degree in electronics, I kept pestering the installer with what must have seemed a thousand questions; including a very important one, “Do we get Fox Sports Ohio?” I explained that I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan and their baseball games have not been aired on local television since 1998. “I don’t know,” replied the patient technician. I thought his response was a bit odd but I digressed to allow him to finish his work. When he completed the install he handed me an instruction booklet along with a channel list and hurriedly sped away in his truck, I guess to prevent me from asking any more questions.

Tossing the instruction booklet aside, (I’m a man; men don’t need instruction books!), I went through the channel list. Here it is, Fox Sports, channel 29. Whoops, did I see that right? Fox Sports – PITTSBURGH? Pittsburgh? What the heck are we doing with a Pittsburgh sports channel? WE’RE SIX HOURS FROM PITTSBURGH! I know of some Pittsburgh Steelers fans, but I knew of no one from this area that are Pirates fans. I immediately called the cable company to complain, their response, “We’re coordinating your cable channel lineup with Charleston W.V.” I explained that I understand, but since we’re four hours from Cincinnati, and less than an hour from the Ohio state line, could we not receive Fox Sports Ohio as an additional channel. “I’m sorry, but no.” was the reply. I single-handedly added a new phrase to the American language, “Evil Cable Barons”.

Great, now I have to continue to see when the Reds are playing Chicago, Atlanta and Pittsburgh in the hopes to watch my favorite baseball team play on television. To add insult to injury, on the rare occasion Cincinnati was playing on ESPN our “Evil Cable Barons” blacked out the game, INCLUDING road games.

Useless trivia; in 1924 Cincinnati radio station WMH was the first to broadcast Reds games locally with Gene Mittendorf doing play-by-play. WMH is now WKRC radio.

In 2004 Charter Communications sold this area’s cable franchise to Suddenlink, so hope for watching Reds games sprang up, but the “Evil Cable Barons” of Suddenlink ended my dream. I took my pleas all the way to the Reds themselves, only to have them sympathize with me as they told me to keep complaining to the cable company. More insult to injury, the 2004 Reds Media Guide had our cable company listed as an affiliate.

In the summer of 2004, I made what seemed to be the millionth call to the “Evil Cable Barons”. The lady taking my call had a thick British accent, and during our conversation I asked what part of England was she originally from, “Liverpool” she replied. I have some knowledge of English soccer, so I dropped this question on her. “Here’s my point,” I started, “what if your cable company in Liverpool had just a Manchester United soccer channel?” She responded, “There would be blood.”

By March of 2007, I had enough. In my Verizon phone bill was an ad to bundle phone, internet and DirecTV for a price around what I was paying for cable television and internet. When I called the first question was which Fox Sports affiliate we would receive. “All of them, if you want," the operator told me. “Wow”, I said, “You mean I tell you what I want to watch, instead of you forcing me to take channels? What a revolutionary concept!” The DirecTV person told me that Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Cincinnati, Sports Time Ohio and Fox Sports Pittsburgh are part of the basic package. Tears were streaming down my face as I arraigned for an installation. “Is this what it feels like to be free?” I told the representative. “Yes” he responded.

It was with great joy that I called Suddenlink to cancel my service, would you believe they had the nerve to ask why! Couldn’t they see the numerous calls I had made to complain about not receiving Fox Sports Ohio?

As a postscript, Cincinnati Reds games are now being shown on Suddenlink channel 22; just pray the game doesn’t go into extra innings. I was at my parents’ home a couple of years ago when an extra inning Reds game was ended by a walk off jewelry sale. Did cancelling the service prompt the “Evil Cable Barons” to action? Nope. It took a prominent local business man who threatened to pull his advertising that got results. I know, I’m good friends with his brother who told me what he did, invoking the used car adage “Money talks and nobody walks.”

Seven years later I’m just as big a fan of DirecTV as ever before. Frontier Communications took over for Verizon in this area four years ago with complete satisfaction on my part. In March 2012 a tornado slammed our area, thankfully there were no injuries, or deaths, but I did lose my telephone to all the Suddenlink customers that were using my perfectly working phone to make calls. You see, Suddenlink’s slogan “Suddenlink, you’re connected” does not apply to power failures.

Have a blessed week.

Dan Howard

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I had HD cable and high speed Internet with Comcast. Over a 2 month period I took a day off work 5 times trying to get quality reception and a consistant Internet connection. The problem was never resolved. I returned their equipment and have been a happy DirecTV customer since.