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Spectrum Forces Digital Upgrade

Lately, Many of the Communities in Our Area have been Getting Letters from Spectrum About an Impending Change of Service

It’s no secret that cable providers remain among the most hated companies in the country. And, at a time when more and more people are cord cutting in an attempt to flee the high cost and poor service provided by cable companies, you would think that they’d have a sense of the mood in the room and just might, you know, not do something to tick off a bunch of their remaining customers by raising rates and forcing them to add new equipment that they don’t want.

Lately, many of the communities in our area have been getting letters from Spectrum (previously Time Warner, one of the two principle cable providers in our area) about an impending change of service. The letter reads (in part): “To deliver even more value to you, we are converting your TV service to a 100-percent digital format. You will be required to have a digital receiver on each TV in your home by (date varies).”

Not surprisingly, we have been getting a large number of phone calls and in-shop visits by agitated customers as people try to figure out what this will mean to their systems. And, in nearly all cases, it is something that the homeowners don’t want and didn’t ask for.

For years, one of the principal advantages of going with cable over the far superior image provided by satellite was the ability to simply connect it to the cable coming from the wall. This served the vast majority of our customers well who would opt to have a DVR box on one or two principal sets, and then just go “straight cable” on the others.

The letter mentions that Spectrum “will supply you with one Spectrum Receiver at no cost to you for up to the term of the contract agreement between Spectrum and your apartment complex,” each additional box will cost $6.99 (plus tax) per month. Also, I was told by Spectrum that the “free” box was only free for the first 12 months.

My business partner’s dad visited the local Spectrum to pick up his boxes and said there was a crowd of about 60 people lined up outside the office with armed security guards to help keep the peace. He described the mood of the crowd as “mob like.”

We were hoping that these new digital receivers were going to be ultra-small in size so they would be easy to conceal behind a wall-mounted set. The digital receivers Spectrum is handing out, however, are quite large—far too thick to easily fit behind most flat, wall-mounted TVs without removing the TV from the wall and significantly shimming it off. Also, the box given to my partner’s dad came with a large separate power brick. Further, with these new boxes will come a new channel line-up, so any “favorites” macros that you’ve programmed into smart remotes will need to be re-programmed.

The letter says that this is happening to “allow [Spectrum] to deliver you a substantial increase in HD channels as well as improve all TV channels with even better picture and sound quality. In addition, we will be able to offer you a more expansive lineup of channels, increase your internet speed, and provide exciting new products and services for you to enjoy—includes access to thousands of FREE On Demand choices.”

However, when my partner’s dad asked the Spectrum agent why he had to get a new box, he was told that people have been stealing cable for years and that this was going to put a stop to that. Oh, yeah, and also improve his picture.

To Spectrum’s credit, the included “self-install” kit includes the coax and HDMI cable (or composite/component if required) needed for the installation.

I reached out to Spectrum—after an hour on hold and having to provide my name, address, phone number, and last four of my Social—to see what the installation fee would be to have these boxes installed. I was told the installation was $44.99, which covered as many boxes as necessary and that Spectrum would remove and re-install any wall mounted TVs in order to do the installation. Take that with a huge grain of “I’ll see it when I believe it…”

For those who have had it with the cable company, might I suggest reading my DISH Hopper 3 review…