Emailed Comments

MT writes
I 'killed' my tv by not watching it.  We'd be rid of the instrument too, except for video games and netflix.

TVs make great monitors. LWP says
I love watching stuff on the computer -- I can skip or mute ads, watch what I want when I want.  So superior to TV.

Content providers directly over the web are gutting not only cable TV, but first generation services dependent on signal like TiVo. Newer TiVos cover the gap; CS writes
We never had cable, just a TiVo (Premiere now) on an antenna, and there are a lot of stations in Long Beach most in HD.  We use [TiVo] to watch older shows from Netflix too.

The house is 60 miles and two mountain ranges away from the transmitters that serve Long Beach and the Los Angeles metro area, otherwise the new simplified setup would include an antenna too.

FS says
 Yeah, we have TM-Basic and saw the Hi-Def (QAM-compatible) disappear and the nasty artifacts on analog appear. I pushed analog cable to every computer in the house using small cheap analog amplifiers and PCI tuner cards.  Everyone [...] [is used to] watching TV in a window on their computer and taping shows with Windows Media Center.

FS say putting D/A boxes for Time-Warner's signal no option. Another nail in TWC's over-priced coffin.

TWC has put out DH as well
I've had the same F#%!ing problem with the Time Warner service. I've had them out here 3 times last week but I still get fluctuations with the cable TV and (sadly) the Internet too. (The Internet has been just a little better the last few days.) I've got all the battle stories too trying to call TW and talk with tech support weenies; dropped calls, mis-information, long hold times, etc. - absolutely crazy.

If you see a guy in Front of Time Warner with a sign that says "Time Warner Sucks!" that's me!

Seems like things haven't improved much since 2008. DH is now looking into U-verse as well.

Finally, KT asks
What bandwidth are you getting now?

I have a friend who is thinking about the switch but was told the DVR function of uverse was lacking. Namely that you can't rewind a live show unless you are recording it. True, not true?
With the service upgrade, pretty stable around 12 Mbps.  No idea about the U-verse DVR's features as it went back in 2008 and AT&T keeps upgrading their software over the line.


Firmly in the Middle of the Road

The New York Times reports that time spent on the Internet now matches time spent on cable TV.

Joshua Brustein reports that a Monday, December 12 Forrester Research paper shows all age groups are using the 'Net as much or more than TV. People are still watching TV, just increasingly over IP.

Time spent consuming "lean forward" services like Facebook, YouTube, and so forth matches "sit back" entertainment over cable or broadcast television. In 2007, 18% of surveyed adults watched TV over the 'Net; in 2010, 33% did.

The trend marks a well-understood "beginning of the end". As customers leave, fixed infrastructure costs transfer onto fewer and fewer payers. Rates increase, driving more customers to substitute other goods.

Time-Warner Cable, ComCast, and the like better come up with a compelling suite of services and better pricing soon or end up like Yahoo!, MySpace, and ultimately GeoCities.

Time to short some stocks.

See "American Internet Use Catches up with TV Use" (13 Dec 2010).


Love Notes from AT&T

Just arrived in the mail, a price increase notification from AT&T:

The price of the Elite service is increasing $5 to $40/month February 2011. Good thing we just jumped from Elite to Max ($45/month) and doubled our speed. No word if U-verse Max is increasing found online.

Reading between the lines, most U-verse broadband customers have the bottom three tiers (Express/Pro/Elite). By December 2009, U-verse had 2MM customers. If 2/3rds run the bottom tiers of service, AT&T just bumped revenue by $6.67MM/month. A year later in 2010, if there are 3MM customers (50% AGR), that would be $10MM/month top-line increase.

That'll help speed roll-out.



The U-verse connection is only "Elite" grade. That's $35/month for "up to" 6 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. For another $10/month, it becomes "Max" grade and gets "up to" 12 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up.

Some of that $60/month recouped from Time-Warner Cable is begging for work.

Log onto uverse.att.com, "U-verse Internet My Details", "Change Plan", "Modify". Select "Max", proceed through checkout (4 screens). Receipt screen says
    Thank you for your order.
      Order Date: 12/12/2010 1:40PM PST.
      Order Number: digit string
    About your order:
      Once your order has been processed you will receive an email with your confirmation activation date.
    Order Status:
      To check order status, visit www.att.com/uverseorderstatus

An email arrives within the same minute, confirming the order.

Three minutes later — 1:43pm — another email arrives:
    Order Confirmation
    We've finished processing your recent order.
    Thanks for choosing AT&T U-verse!
    Confirmed Installation Date:
      Sunday, December 12th
    Confirmed Technician Arrival Time:
      Between 12:00 AM and 12:00 AM

Nice! Likely AT&T has already flipped the bit in the Residential Gateway and scheduled a reboot for midnight.

A quick sidetrip through www.speedtest.net shows the connection still runs at 6 Mbps down and just under 1 Mbps up.

Log onto the RG. "Settings", "Diagnostics", "Reboot System". Okay to reboot? Fire when ready, Gridley.

Make coffee. Five minutes later, the network is back. What does www.speedtest.net think?

12 down, 1.5 up.

Good work, AT&T.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Eliminating Time-Warner Cable simplifies the house's network:

The tangle of coaxial cabling and signal splitters comes out of the cabinet that houses the TiVo, television, media PC, and Bose DVD/audio system (not shown on diagram).

Entertainment and information choices:

  • Netflix via Wii or PC
    • Disney/ABC announced Sat 10 December they will stream through Netflix
  • Hulu, cbs.com, fox.com, Comedy Central, other shows via PC
  • Amazon, various sources offered directly through TiVO
  • The InterWebZ via PC
  • The public library
    • Our libraries offer many fine DVDs for free to play on the PC or Bose system
    • Libraries also have lots of books.   A lifetime's worth, in fact.
  • Anything on a phone: Twitter, FB, usw.


Out of Time (Warner)

Kill your TV has been a shibboleth since the 1960s. We pulled the plug on our Time-Warner Cable service this week. It will not be missed.

TWC is raising rates (again). The service has been wretched since December 2009 when it changed its signal. Before, our QAM tuner-equipped television received HD signals. After TWC's "upgrade" local HD stations vanished along with several analog channels (Weather, ABC Family, others). Remaining analog channels now have grainy reception with occasional freezes and image glitches. A weird audio glitch intermittently distorts sound on all channels, causing a wAVEring UP-and-dOwn eFFect. "Glee" and "American Idol" songs sometimes sound like cats yowering.

The basic-plus cable service price is approaching $60, and TWC wants an additional $10/month for an HD converter cable box. The cable box is just a tuner, not a DVR, and requires integration with our TiVo. We'd be able to watch/record only a single program at a time, instead of watch one, record two as we do now.

We could switch to a complete package. TWC sells tv + phone + Internet service ($120/month) but we already have mobile phones, Skype, and Google Voice. And my buddy EM has the TWC package. His phone and Internet were down for a nearly a week in October and he continues to suffer service outages.

Next we considered our viewing habits.  We watch 4 network shows, a couple of cable TV shows, and sometimes the news. All shows eventually become available online usually within a week and typically the next day of first airing. 'Net availability has replaced TiVo. Movies and premium television series stream from Netflix's HUMONGOUS catalog through our Wii or computers in full HDMI or VGA glory. Our only realtime TV is USC Football, and that's over, thankyouverymuch NCAA. And "Deadliest Warrior" replaced Max with another host. So ... Time-Warner cable TV offers ... what?

Well, it does offer a $60/month bill. $60/month is $720/year. That amount buys two $25 AT&T data plans or four $15 data plans or will upgrade my AT&T U-verse data rate and buy some data plans. My phone gets more face time than cable TV via TWC. Hmmmmm.

Bye-bye TWC. Hello cbs.com, Hulu, and all the online content in the universe.

The collateral damage is to TiVo. We have an unlimited, perpetual license. We've pretty much sucked all the juice out of it since we bought the license for $200 almost ten years ago. When the Series II TiVo gets better at handling 'Net downloads and a broader catalog of services -- or an upgrade to a Series III lets us transfer our perpetual license, we'll use it. For now, sad TiVo is sad.

As for realtime sports, that's why you offer to bring the beer. $60/month buys lots of beer. Drink it with friends.