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Cable Television Informative - Overview of history

Review by Rik01 on 2006-07-24
We have Cable here in Vero Beach, Florida. It's a legal monopoly, which is odd, since the congress made monopolies illegal years ago.

When cable first arrived years ago, I was pleased. It was cheap. It had HBO. It had more than 3 channels. It ran 24/7. Weather rarely affected the signal.

Times change, though.

One of the first things I noticed was when cable managed to make stealing cable a FELONY. Now, lawmakers have a whole list of worse things that are classified as misdemeanors. I wondered just how much money the cable companies paid the congressmen to push that law through so fast with so little news coverage.

We got more channels and the price went up. (It used to be $19.95 a month, including HBO. No box was needed.) Then came the cable box and more stations and the price went up -- along with various service charges. Since -- naturally -- any technology that is created will inevitably have those who will work hard to circumvent it (radar detectors) folks came out with different, tunable cable boxes. That way, you didn't have to pay the box fee. Big Cable didn't quite get those made illegal but their technology advanced to the level where they could detect an illegal box on their lines.

They could then cut your service. Later, they developed a way of hitting your box with a signal, which would not hurt their equipment, but would burn out an illegal box.

We had 13 channels, which went to 25 and later, over 100. New premium channels appeared. (Starz, Cinimax) which, understandably you paid more for. Still, for folks up all night, cable was good. Most stations reran programs you missed during the day.

Companies pay cable to carry their stations. Advertisers pay cable to annoy you with ads. You pay cable for the service. For cable, it's a win-win situation -- especially since only one cable company can serve an area. They're not required to 'share' their lines with rivals.

Some genius in the business discovered that folks were getting too many good channels for a base price. So, he came up with 'tiers' or different levels of service, each at a different price.

Basic Cable consists of the original 13 channels and doesn't need a box. However, the programming is so poor that it will drive you nuts. The second tier costs you more, but usually has the cheaper of the premium channels tossed in, along with a few good stations and a load of stations you don't want. (15 sports channels. 5 craft channels. 10 news channels. 47 radio channels.) It looks good on paper -- but is lousy in your home. The third tier, which costs even more, incorporates the first two, plus another premium channel and a couple of good channels not offered previously. (Ever notice how Nickelodeon shows kid programs on it's main channel, many cartoon shows of which don't last long? However, those shows your kid likes are then placed on ANOTHER channel, or channels, which you usually have to pay more to get.)

Basically the whole 'tier' concept is a scam to get the consumer to pay a huge amount in order to get real good TV. Each tier comes loaded with channels you normally wouldn't watch, but are bundled in because Cable get paid for them and it makes a lame package deal look better.

All right. Still with me?

On to the next scheme.

Pay-per-view arrived. That was fine. The prices reasonable -- but they soon went up. The programs were varied and pretty good.

Along came 'ON DEMAND.' A good idea. However, with no instructions, you manage to loose some bucks before you realize that not all of the movies you select are free. They even offer premium station shows there -- but they're not available to you if you don't already subscribe to that premium service.

Along came HDTV. Suddenly we all needed HDTV boxes -- at a higher fee. However, less than 1/4 of the stations you get are ACTUALLY IN HD format.

Just recently, Cable sent me a form telling me to pick one of three options for cable. If I didn't, my cable would be shut off. The options were numbered -- just not explained. Reading the notice several times gave me a headache. A call to a service representative confused me more. A second call straightened things out.

Basically, Cable was going to 'give' us about 10 'new' channels. We could select to keep our premium ones or add more -- at a cost. The whole thing boiled down to the fact that Comcast was upping our rates and tossing in 10 channels and the 'selection form' was to make us thing we were getting something for free.

If you didn't agree, you lost your cable.

So, now I have a gob of stations, with roughly 50 that I don't watch. (I speak English. Why do I HAVE to have 8 channels in Spanish?)

Remember the $19.95 that I started out with? It went to $72.00. Now it's $80 +. Some folks pay over $100.

I think we were better off with the 3 channel free TV.

Now, lastly, the GREATEST SCAM OF ALL! This generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for Comcast and other cable companies and just absolutely irritates the heck out of the majority of the subscribers.

INFOMERCIALS.

Also known as paid advertisements. The FCC dropped the time limits a commercial could run.

After midnight, my 150 channels switch over to about 8 viewable ones. The rest are filled up with infomercials.

Every slick character who can come up with the dough can rent time on cable -- in those slots where you used to watch the replay of that movie you missed at 9:00. They'll hawk, push, badger, pitch and yell at you to buy all sorts of dubious products. They'll bring in 'professionals' to convince you how good their stuff is -- when that professional is being paid to say that and is probably a paid actor.

Know that $350 air cleaner for your home? Using the old, time honored pitch -- started by the owner of RONCO -- they give you a bathroom version FREE! The thing is about 4 or 5 inches tall and RETAILS FOR $69.95!! (It probably cost $4.00 to make.)

Truth in advertising laws do NOT prevent hucksters from exaggerating the prices of their goods.

INFOMERCIALS clog up the very expensive cable from after midnight to as late as 9 in the morning!

I have a DVD player. I'm going to start using it at late night.

Satellite TV is starting to look REAL good, even if it gets affected by the weather from time to time.

A lot of the 'medications' advertised on cable at late night are herbal based -- or else the law would not allow them to be promoted. (Some hucksters don't tell you that they're herbal.) Many can hurt you, since there are no regulations on the quality or dosages of herbs. Many show up for a few weeks, make their megabucks from suckers, and vanish. In some instances, you can't even find the company.

The Cable Company doesn't care. It's not their responsibility to police the ads in case something being sold just might put you in the hospital or is tremendously over priced.

By the way. Anyone recall those kitchen gizmos that worked so well on TV when demonstrated by the inventor or a professional? They usually sold for $69.95. However, about a year down the road, the same things turned up at Walmart for $29.95.

I am really, really tired of getting taken by infomercials and cable companies. I certainly don't like it when a company bribes congress to make a misdemeanor crime and turn it into a felony. I do NOT like monopolies.

I figure it's time we all woke up and started doing something about it.
Comments:20 Replies - Latest reply on 2006-10-04
Posted by Hugh_Jorgen on 2006-07-25:
If you were running a legal cable setup, why would you care if stealing cable is a felony or not? You seem to think cable TV is some "right" granted by the Constitution. Guess what? It's a for-profit business that you have the right to ignore. You seem mighty unhappy with, well, everything. I would drop cable and get a set of rabbit ears so you can enjoy what free TV there is out there.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
I agree and I think you have a good post here. Infomercials and cable companies should be regulated but by the people that watch them, in other words turn of the TV and go do something, have fun.
Why the government made it a felony to steel cable is because they are felons themselves and are paid allot of money to make laws that protect big business. We can fight the thing best by canceling our cable and getting life’s that don’t glue us to the TV.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
"OFF"
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2006-07-25:
Yeah...subsitute the TV for M3C.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
Yeah... that's the ticket!
Posted by Ponie on 2006-07-25:
Didn't Henry Ford once make a car called to Model A or the Model T? Gosh durn that gummint! They let these car companies build cars with all the bells and whistles now and it costs me more to buy a car. And weren't those black and white TVs that you usually had to go to a bar to watch good enough? Shoot! Now we don't have an excuse to go out to hoist a few when Uncle Miltie is on.
Posted by Doc J on 2006-07-25:
If the poster means to draw attention to how virtually every petty offense is nowadays elevated to felony status as a means for self-serving elected officials to appear "tough" on crime, I concur fully. However, if the poster wishes to justify theft by pointing out the excessive nature of a penalty or the price of the service, he is wrong. There's nothing wrong with paying more for more product. It's a fair bet that the poster would expect more pay for more hours of work. Odd how it seems to be seen only one way. I've not had cable since 1996 and rely exclusively on those free rabbit ears for my very limited TV viewing. The savings added up. If you want a luxury (like cable, sat-TV, cell phones, etc) be prepared to pony up. In 1977, 30% of American homes had no a/c. Now, it's an expected feature. Perhaps the poster believes the cost of a/c equipment added to homes in 30 years should be absorbed by the builders? Want to save several thou on your house...omit the a/c. But don't whine about "the heat".
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
Interesting.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
Indeed
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2006-07-25:
At least you got more cable for your money...where I live, the cable company keeps increasing the fee and each time they do, they take away channels.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-25:
DB thats only at your house.
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2006-07-25:
Then I'm coming to your house to watch TV.
Posted by Nohandle on 2006-07-26:
Come on guys, give this poster a break. I found this most informative and unless I completely misread all that was said, I think his primary complaint was the fact his rates continued to rise and he was receiving all those stations he didn't want and few of those he did want plus being subjected to comercial after comercial.

The process used by most cable companies nowadays, so I understand, is the bundling which of course is select one station you like and gee whiz you also get fifteen you don't want and have no intention of watching.

Some areas cannot even pick up basic television without the benefit of cable, so they have no option but to subscribe if they chose to have television at all. Perhaps the day will come when we can pick and choose those programs we enjoy and the cable companies can keep the rest.
Posted by Nohandle on 2006-07-26:
Just realized I misspelled commercial, thought I'd point that out first. LOL
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-07-26:
When cable came to our ciy in the early 80's, the big pitch was that a lot of it was commercial-free. That was true of a few channels such as AMC. It is no longer true of any channel except for the premium channels, for which you pay more. I think commercial TV should be free. Newspaper has ads but that's different. It's not a linear view and you can ignore them. I will not pay for cable TV. If I can't see it on broadcast, I guess I just won't see it.
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2006-07-26:
I agree that there are a bunch of channels that I don't even watch and have to pay for...car racing channel, religiouis channels, BET, alot of kid's cartoon channels etc...How nice would it be to have a cable company say...ok for $25 monthly you are entitled to a certain number of channels and we got to chose which channels we wanted...I know, I'm dreaming again!
Posted by DebtorBasher on 2006-07-26:
Hello Sheriff!
Posted by Rik01 on 2006-07-31:
Actually, I was complaining about the virtual MONOPOLY cable companies have over the areas they serve. This means, they pretty well can do what they want with programming and pricing.

As for making it a felony to steal cable, the whole point was that they got a minor crime turned into a major one with little problem, on a subject which affects only them. I found this odd when there are SO MANY other crimes being done which are more serious in nature that affect MORE PEOPLE which are considered misdemeanors. A felony determination should be reserved for crimes of a serious nature.

I have no problem paying for GOOD CABLE. However, I have a problem when the company deliberately arranges things so I have to buy more and more expensive plans just to be able to watch some good TV. As I pointed out, the cheap, basic plan has 13 channels, the ones you can pull in without a box. The plan has little which is real good on it. So, you HAVE to buy an additional 'tier,' which will have a few great stations, for additional cash. HOWEVER, they'll load the tier up with garbage stations to make it look impressive on paper. (Basically, on the second tier, you've gone from 13 channels at roughly $25 a month to 50 channels for $45. HOWEVER, out of those 37 'new' channels, there's only maybe 3 that you actually wanted and will watch. The others you didn't want, but have no option but to take them and pay additional costs.)

The US does NOT ALLOW monopolies because of the past harm and great amount of trouble they caused in the past. (Read up on Robber Barons.) However, if XY cable serves your city and you like the programming and prices of CE cable, you can't get it. XY cable has the exclusive rights to your area. XY cable owns the cable lines and is not (unlike the breakup of Bell Telephone years ago) obligated to 'share' them with a rival.

You have no options.

If you buy a car, and you don't like the local dealership's prices, you can go to the next dealer or the next until you find one with options you like.

With the introduction of Cable, most of the big TV transmitters shut down. Now, most programming is beamed to satellites, which bounce it back to commercial receivers in a tight signal. This means, your average person with an old TV antenna isn't going to be able to pick it up, or, if they do, they'll not be able to unscramble the signal without special equipment.

Plus, the Cable Companies flooded the night with infomercials. Your 150 stations, of which you probably regularly watched 20, changed to about 75% advertisement. Those 20 stations dwindled, at late night, to about 6. However, you're PAYING FOR GOOD TV, 24/7. The cable companies didn't give you a choice. You can't get anywhere griping about it. If you terminate your account, you have only satellite TV as an option, which has it's own problems.

A bill to make cable ala carte is in congress. This means if you're going to pay for cable, YOU get to select what channels you get. (No more 35 sports stations in your Tier that you never watch, but pay for.) The cable companies are fighting this. People are getting fed up.

If I pay $100 a month for cable, I certainly don't want 45 channels going to infomercials after midnight, 35 sports stations that I don't watch (which, interestingly, hardly ever get replaced by infomercials) and 10 Spanish stations that I don't understand.

You're trapped by a company which steadily dreams up ways to make you pay more for less. (A similarity is those original kid computer games. The box was big, with bright pictures of well drawn characters in exciting action. The TV ads showed kids excitedly playing this fairly good sized hand game. Animated, colorful cartoon figures portrayed the action. So, you paid the high price and opened the box to find that the game had a tiny 2X2 liquid crystal screen, often in black and white, which displayed ASCII characters so small you could barely see them. Open up the game and you'd find a whole lot of empty space. The concept was to trick you into buying one, with basically false advertising and oversized packaging, knowing that 95% of the purchases would not be returned for a refund.)

Cable does the same with the packages. They offer you what appears to be a lot for a moderate price, until you get it and discover that 80% of it is junk.

You have a 'diversified monopoly,' meaning many cable companies scattered across the country under different owners. However, each has a 'local monopoly,' meaning consumers have no choices in the contracted areas.

Lets just hope the 'ala carte' bill passes. Lets also hope that Truth In Advertising Laws start closing down infomercials. (One guy was pushing a book telling you how to cure diabetes without doctors. Unfortunately, most diabetics do not have any cures available to them. 95% of diabetics are so because of genetics. 5% are because of overweight or certain biological conditions and have the potential to be cured. Following his book could have killed people. However, he made his wad off suckers and is no longer clogging up the late night airwaves.)

Think of the majority of infomercials as scams like the old Psychic Hotlines and the current 1-900-needadate scams.

If you sit back and let companies trick you with 'creative advertising' you'll soon find yourself paying a whole lot for basically garbage.
Posted by Nohandle on 2006-07-31:
Thanks for the clarification on my part. I enjoyed your second post as much as the first. I personally found this most informative.
Posted by Little Guy on 2006-10-04:
You Sir, are an Idiot. If you are so cheap why don't you hook up an antenea or rabit ears and go back to broadcast chanels only. They are still out there Pinhead. Hey when your cable was 19.95 how much was a loaf of bread or a new car? Welcome to progress and inflation. Hey don't forget to reuse you tin foil because the price of that went up over the last 30 years to!

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