The New York Times’ Gadgetwise Blog on Monday posted an entry about TiVo entitled “TiVo, Nice Service if You Can Get It“. It is generally favorable about TiVo itself, but makes it sound like the hassle of getting TiVo may not be worth it because of the increased costs and trouble with getting it set up. But the way I read it is an indictment of cable MSO practices – in this case Time Warner Cable.
Nearly all of the negative points in the article have to do with TWC, something I suspect a number of TiVo users can sympathize with. First they sent the author on a wild goose chase, telling him he could pay $40 for an install or bring his box in to an office to swap for free. So he lugged his box to a TWC office, only to be told the couldn’t give him a CableCARD and he’d need the install visit anyway. (Thankfully that should be changing August 1st, when self-installs become required.)
So he had the installer come out to do the incredibly difficult task of sticking a card into a slot and calling in a couple of numbers. Of course, the installer failed to show for the appointment and he had to reschedule for four days later. When the installer finally showed up he didn’t seem to really know what to do with a CableCARD, a common complaint. But at least it worked on the first actual install visit.
But that’s not all, TWC told him that his monthly bill would go up by $14 because, despite the CableCARD fee being lower than their DVR fee, he’d lose his bundle discount for having both cable and broadband service through them. This is a new one on me, I’ve never heard of anything close to this. He’s still receiving cable and broadband service, so why should they cancel his service bundling discount? This smells like BS to me. I think the rep was trying to use scare tactics to keep him from returning their DVR. I left a comment (currently pending approval) recommending the author contact TWC corporate to confirm the change in his charges, since that really doesn’t smell right to me.
In the end he seemed to like the TiVo service, but the process of getting it installed understandably left bad impression. And if the $14 bill increase holds true, he’s facing an extra $34/month between the TiVo fees and the increased cable bill. (Yes, I also recommended product lifetime in my comment.) This is a much larger increase than most users would face. Normally you’re looking at an increase in the vicinity of $9-12/month if you go with TiVo’s monthly plan. The TiVo is $19.99/month, but cable boxes are generally around $12.95/month. So that’s $7, and CableCARDs normally run $2-5 a month. Sometimes the first card is free, and sometimes it can be a bit higher – $7.50 or so. But for most users it is within that range.
This kind of incident is why I scoff at the cable industry’s claims that we don’t need any more regulation to create a level playing field for third parties, such as TiVo. The new requirements going into effect next month are a start, but I don’t think we should stop there. We need the FCC to pursue AllVid to further open up the market and allow truly competitive products. The current environment is strongly anti-consumer choice. It is Ma Bell pre-Carterfone.