Cable Television Informative - Overview of history
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.
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.