Dishing Out About Cable

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:32 PM

The other day, it dawned on me. My telephone is digital service provided by the cableco, as is my internet access. Yet, I have a satellite dish. Surely, the cableco could offer something to make it worth my time to switch to cable tv, too, right?

Now, Dish Network has been good to work with. They have good technical support and they were offering a “free” DVR before anyone else. On the other hand, the Weather Channel lacks local forecasts, I can't get any of the local public service channels (occasionally, for instance, the City of St. Peters might have something interesting on, as does Lindenwood U.), and the DVR is not a dual tuner, so if it is recording, you can only watch what you are recording (that doesn't make much sense, now does it?). Dish, these days, gives you a dual-tuner recorder, but they want fifty bucks to replace the old one that I now own, since I was under contract. The one $50 will get me will be a no-charge leased unit instead of one that is mine to keep (although what you do with a satellite tuner/DVR if you cancel service is beyond me anyway…).

So, I called the cable company, Charter Communications. After talking to several people and getting multiple different answers, I finally got the bottom line: they offer about $13 in discounts for getting the “triple play” package (phone, internet and TV), but they are more expensive than Dish, so I'll end up at the same price point as before. Their DVR is also only a 40 hour one versus the 100 hour one that Dish gives out. On the other hand, they offer the aforementioned channels and some others, a GNU/Linux based DVR (a Moxi box) that can be expanded with an external hard disk, photo card readers, etc., and you can even transfer non-flagged material over Firewire to a computer or burner. Moreover, it consolidates all communication and media services onto one bill.

The question is whether it is a wise choice. Charter is ranked lowest for technical support of major providers. In my experience with their internet service, it is pretty good actually, although presently I need to get a technician out because I cannot download anything of substantial size (100 MB or more) without losing the connection). On the bright side, they have a new CEO who is promising to focus the company's resources on improving support and since I live in Charter's home city, we'll probably see any improvements first…

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