Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Cable Monopolies and Internet Monopolies Continue to Suck the Life out of and Hold Their U.S. Customers Hostage.

Our designated cable company where I live is BrighthouseBrighthouse is in fact owned by Time Warner but operated by another company thanks to some fancy stock dealing.  In other words you can take it to the bank that when push comes to shove, in the end you’re still dealing with Time Warner. 

In my area where I live, the only way that Brighthouse keeps from losing customers is by bundling internet with TV and phone to make it look like you're getting a really good deal by combining the three.  That may be true if you can harangue them into a short trial installation such as those given by the Satellite companies, but after that expires they really put the screws to you and the deal is no deal at all.  But they figure you’ll put up with it because it’s cheaper then switching to Satellite for TV, and your phone service by another carrier, because they also know if you want any decent internet speed at all, you have no choice in the matter.

By the time I dumped Brighthouse, my bundled services were close to $200 a month.  The only pay channel I carried was Showtime because Audrey likes Dexter, Shameless, Californication, and some other Showtime stuff.  I also carried a smaller $6 package that included Encore and a few other lesser channels.   Well, it was supposed to be six dollars.

I had already made up my mind to try and get the bill down to a more reasonable figure.  We didn’t really need the phone service.  Everybody in this house has a cell phone so there was no real point to having it.  But when I told the Brighthouse representative I wanted to cut off just the phone service, the bill only went down about six bucks, even though the monthly statement always showed the phone service as being $30.  It’s called Monopoly math I guess.

When I said I wanted to get rid of the small encore package, the total price went up  because well, you see, I had been getting a deal and now I wasn’t.  It’s total bullshit nonsense designed entirely to discourage people from moving on.  But I’m smarter than that. I told them to shove the whole thing up their ass except for the internet.  I would have told them to choke on that service as well if we had one decent alternative.  But we don’t.

In most areas of this particular region, if you want good internet speed you really only have one choice.  That's Brighthouse.  They have a monopoly for the most part, although in some places in Bakersfield you can get Cox. 

So if you unbundle, Brighthouse jacks up the price for internet to $60  or more.  $70 if you want the mid range service which you practically have to have for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.  Well you do have a choice of the inconsistent slower speed if you don’t mind sitting and watching Netflix buffer the show you’re watching three or four times and hour.  The top tier will cost you even more.  Life is grand for big corporations with huge monopolies. 

The only internet alternative I have is AT&T who keeps sending us ads telling us that we can get fast internet service for the low “introductory” price of $14.99.  That "fast internet service" is in reality, "up to 3MBS".  In other words, forget streaming or doing much of anything besides browsing the internet.  Fine for a few, ridiculous for most.

This is after AT&T had promised the FCC that they would be providing better speeds in areas such as this.  That of course was total b.s.  It took them forever just to begin providing DSL service here at all.  I did use their service once, but that was before the days of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu etc.  As Google Fiber slowly works it’s way around the country, I’ll be cheering them up although it’s doubtful I’ll live long enough to see them finally give Brighthouse a run for their money.

But I still saved money.  I switched to Dish and for the first year,  even after paying Brighthouse their King’s Ransom for internet service, I saved quite a bit.  For the second year, I’m still saving about $30 a month over Brighthouse, and this is with a package that includes the same Showtime and Encore packages we had before.

Better yet, the new Dish Hopper beats anything Brighthouse has by leaps and bounds.  For instance, I no longer have to worry about setting up to record particular network shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX in prime time.  It records all of them automatically.  Every single one.  And if you wait until the next day to watch a recorded show, it’ll skip the commercials for you on those programs as well.  Add a two terabyte external hard drive as I did, and you have more than enough room to record whatever you want.  Not that the space already provided didn’t do the job.  I had well over 500 shows recorded before getting the external hard drive and still had room left over.  But I wanted to keep a season’s worth of episodes on a few series so this arrangement just made that easier. 

On the downside, Dish is really not much different from the cable company despite it’s lower price.  You have to buy “packages” and often the networks you want to watch  are upper tier packages as this is what happened in my case.  Who knows what would happen if people were actually able to pay for only those networks they watched.  I could do away with well over 90 per cent of what I’m paying for.

Most of the smarter people I know have given up Brighthouse for either Dish or Direct TV.  In this area you don’t have to worry about storms, snow, or clouds or any of that other stuff that can cause Satellite reception to go haywire but from what I read that’s not as much of a problem as it was in the early days of Satellite TV.

If I had my own personal choice though, I would put a decent antenna system up on the roof and say goodbye to Dish as well.  We live far enough from any local stations that rabbit ears just don’t work.  We are also hindered by the fact that the signal sent out by the Bakersfield stations are terribly weak.

Two things hold me back.  Girlfriend Audrey watches a lot of shows, and second for health reasons I can no longer go climbing around on roofs and install an antenna system on my own.  And I can’t find anyone around here who does that kind of work anymore.

But I’ll look into it again and will see if I can’t talk the girlfriend into giving pay television the big kiss off when our Dish contract is up next year.  This is the last season for Dexter coming up so she won’t miss that.  Most of her other shows and a couple I watch, would be readily available with an antenna, although we would probably have to invest in our own DVR initially.  No big deal.  We’ll  still end up saving money over the space of a year. 

And one more word of advice if you have Brighthouse.  Don’t ever never be late paying your bill even by a few days because you somehow missed it, or just over looked it.  Why? 

Because they’ll send a guy around to hang a threatening notice on your door to let the whole world know you slipped up as if somehow you’re a dead beat because you didn’t get them their internet ransom demand in a timely fashion.  And then, they’ll charge you an extra $10 for having experienced the privilege of being shamed. 

I had this happen once.  When I called the lady at the company, she said this was their “new policy.”  In other words, another way to squeeze $10  more out of you.  I told her that their policy was a bunch of crap (I used stronger language) and that I had never ever come home and found a notice like that hanging on my door and I didn’t give a damn what their pathetic reasoning was, especially when I had been a customer for years and had never missed a single payment.  And if you think the $10 dollars goes to pay the guy for putting that crap on your door, think again.  Most of them live in your neighborhood or are working there anyway.  As a matter of fact, there’s a Brighthouse employee that lives two blocks from me.  I know this because the company truck is always parked in his driveway.

One thing for certain, when it comes to internet service, cable, or cell phone service, U.S. customers are screwed thanks to their representatives in congress constantly lining their pockets with a mountain of cash from these media giants and their continuing flow of highly paid lobbyists.  Overseas, internet connections are faster and a whole lot cheaper.  People in Europe would not tolerate shit like this, so why do we?