Trapped in a Digital World

Earlier in this blog, I chatted a bit about Cable and my desire for ala carte programming. The lack of choice has kept me from upgrading to Digital Cable despite all the bells and whistles it has advertised (bells and whistles I will likely not need or desire).

On Friday, I came home to discover a letter from Cablevision saying my premium cable package is being phased out on September 28. The only way to get HBO and the others was to upgrade to Digital.

While prepping for the radio interview, I went to their web site, browsed their three package options, found them wanting and fired off the following e-mail to customer service:

I am furious at the notice I received in today’s mail. After winnowing my cable options since December, you now intend to remove all the movie channels from my service. To continue to enjoy these channels, you are now insisting I upgrade to Digital.

However, you do not have a package that suits my needs. Please tell me how I can receive HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Showtime, Encore, and Flix without receiving the seventeen variations of each brand.

Without greater flexibility in your package options you’re dangerously close to losing a longtime customer (me and my family can date our Cablevision service to 1976). I look forward to hearing from you in the immediate future.

This morning I found the following awaiting me in my inbox:

Mr. Greenberger,

Thank you for your email.

Every cable subscriber during this year has to upgrade to digital service as per FCC regulation.

Please call our sales department, as I am sure there is a package that you will enjoy.

Thank you for using Cablevision

Janet
Cablevision Shared Services

To which I replied:

Janet,

Thank you for your optimistic but useless reply.

I have already review the Gold and Silver packages and they DO NOT meet my needs. Unless you’re hiding Bronze or Copper options or are ready to offer ala carte, then I am stuck.

And still furious.

Actually, maybe a little less furious since I may not have known that the Federal Government wants everyone upgraded to digital. The FCC is basically asking me to spend more money without providing me with regulations giving me the freedom of choice I have come to expect from this country. (Almost the reverse of those unfunded mandates like “No Child Left Behind.”)

Deb figures we should merely get the minimal digital package, skipping all the movie channels. Rather than tape movies to watch at a later date of our choosing, the alternative would be to frequent the local video store which takes a lot of the spontaneity out of the thing. I’m thinking Netflix might be a better alternative since they don’t have a short window to watch and return which helps should we be forced to rent DVDs in order to see The Sopranos, The L Word, Angels in America, Six Feet Under or even sample shows like Deadwood.

I’m feeling in a bit of a bind here. Satellite might be an option but I’m loath to lose the discount we get for subscribing to cable TV and a cable modem. I also don’t like the satellite feed being subject to weather whims.

Grump.

4 comments

  • Cablevision is pulling your leg.

    The FCC deadline for digital, commercial broadcasts is 2006, and that’s only if an 85% market penetration exists.

    Sorry if this makes you even madder, Bob.

  • teisto

    I think in the long run you’re better off downgrading to the minimal package, and going thru Netflix; plus you’ll end up saving more money that way. Right now my digital cable package has all the bells & whistles, and it’s not worth the $95/month I’m paying. So I’m switching to just the basic and just WFDVD (waiting for DVD).

    Naturally, the only downside is that HBO takes forever to release their programming on DVD. I try and keep tabs on it through TVShowsOnDVD.com, since they’re the main info hub for that stuff.

  • Donald

    Go with Netflix, Bob. The turn-around time is fantastic and you can sit on movies forever without incurring any late fees. We recently had a film on our counter for five weeks because we just weren’t in the mood for watching it “that” night. We currently have over 60 movies in our queue and with my partner and I constantly adding and re-arranging the list there is a certain amount of excitement when a new Netflix mailer arrives in our box: “Oooh, what movie are we going to see?” Of course, occasionally we get the “who added this movie to the list?” comment. All part of the fun.

    I too await ala-carte pricing from our cable provider. I refuse to pay for channels I don’t want. When they are ready to play I will be ready to pay.

    – Donald P.

  • JAG

    WHo is Cablevision think they are kidding. The FCC date is sometime in 2006.