FCC-enabled Triple-Play Customer

After writing about triple-play and residential broadband for years, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and try it out. I already had Internet access from Comcast, and I’ve taken out an order to add TV and phone service. The motivation wasn’t entirely economic, although it will save me a bundle for the first year. I’m currently getting TV from DirecTV and my phone from AT&T like a normal person, so the prices of these services will be cut in half and my Internet would have been $15 cheaper for a 50% higher cap, but I decided to go for the 16 Mb/s cap for a price that’s still lower than what I’ve been paying for a 4 Mb/s cap.

My primary motivation for dropping DirecTV was to get away from their crappy DVR. I don’t watch live TV at all, and haven’t since I got my first TiVo in 2002, but there’s no way I can tolerate DirecTV any more. They used to partner with TiVo for a nice unit that integrated two satellite tuners with the recorder, but they idiotically decided to cut their ties with TiVo and do their own thing a couple of years ago. The DirecTV box still doesn’t know what channels I get, and there’s no way I can tell it, so it tries to record baseball games on channels I don’t get and misses the ones I do. This is really unacceptable.

The only convenient way to record all the games played by the A’s is to do a keyword search for “Oakland A’s”, because the actual titles of the games are things like “Oakland A’s at Evil Anaheim Angels of Anaheim” or vice versa. So title search would require 58 entries on each of the four channels where A’s games appear (local OTA, Comcast Sports Net Bay Area 1, 2, or HD.) The keyword search for “Oakland A’s” tries to pick up games on other sports nets and national channels, which is worthless.

Although Comcast has a deal with TiVo and is testing a Comcast DVR with TiVo software, the feedback on the TiVo forums is that it doesn’t work very well, no doubt due to the crappy Motorola hardware platform it’s built on. Some day it will probably be fine, but it clearly sucks at this stage. Thanks to the FCC, cable companies are required to support CableCard, so I can use a true TiVo HD box on cable with the simple addition of a cable M-Card, as the story goes. So we have an odd case of Comcast gaining my TV business because of regulatory action on the cable front that doesn’t exist for satellite TV. DirecTV is not required to open their system to third-party DVRs, and they don’t. Don’t believe that the irony of this effect of cable regulation is lost on me.

The first hiccup came when I tried to activate TiVo service on my new DVR, which I bought from Amazon for $214.65 (it’s up to 263.47 already.) TiVo accounts are indexed by e-mail address, and because I already had a DirecTV TiVo, they wouldn’t let me login to their site with my e-mail address to active the new own-brand TiVo, which is pretty dumb. So I had to use an alternate e-mail address after a fruitless hour on the phone with CS. TiVo does some things exceptionally poorly.

I should have that all straightened out by the time the cable guy shows up, but I do have to ask him why he ran over Kevin Martin’s dog (*inside joke*.) More on that later.

2 thoughts on “FCC-enabled Triple-Play Customer”

  1. Richard, unless you have passed the point where you can no longer cancel the contract, I strongly recommend that you opt out and refused to be “bundled.” This is an anticompetitive tactic on the part of the telephone and cable companies. They claim that you will save money, but hide in the fine print the fact that in fact the discount is only temporary and that you’ll eventually pay a lot more. And you’ll be locked into a contract for ALL of the services, so you can’t drop one part of the bundle with which you are dissatisfied. You also won’t have the option of going with a competitive service provider — such as our ISP — for many years, and thus will harm the prospects of competition. Don’t do it! Don’t get bundled!

  2. I get the promotional price for a year, and after it’s over, it will still be less than I pay now for AT&T phone, DirecTV, and Comcast Internet. There’s no commitment in any of the fine print that I can see.

    I would foreclose the option of going to AT&T for a similar bundle at the right time, but they don’t even offer all these services in my neighborhood anyway.

    The new TiVo HD is really sweet, BTW.

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