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Up Yours Joe Wineke

Thanks Joe, for being a lobbyest for AT&T as Democratic Chair. Thanks for whipping all the Dems into shape so you could push through that hideous telecommunications bill.

Living on the bottom end of America’s economic system, I don’t partake in many earthly pleasures. Now and then I do enjoy watching a school board meeting, or the alcohol licensing committee meeting.  I have even been known from time to time to enjoy WYOU. For example, some time back, they had a nice piece on Mother Jones.

Starting next month, if I chose to partake in such democratic indulgences, I will have to pay $70 more a month. JFC, now that’s a price hike. The irony of “public access” only being accessible by the Charter’s “elite tier” customers. So Joe, fuck you, and the lobby horse you rode in on.

I think my project today will be to get a VGA cable so my laptop can stream directly to my TV. I can then cancel that luxury good, basic cable.

6 responses to “Up Yours Joe Wineke

  1. Yes, Charter Cable is moving all public access channels from analog channels (3, 12, 19, etc.) to digital (982, 985, etc.). You don’t need to upgrade from “basic” or “expanded basic” to any more expensive digital package to watch them. The PEG channels will be broadcast in what’s called “clear QAM”, another word for unencrypted digital cable.

    You can rent a Charter converter box for $3-5 a month under their “basic with a box” tier and be able to watch PEG channels. Or you can buy your own tuners: Many of todays $200 DVD recorders include QAM tuners, as well as many newer televisions. Most TV tuner add-ons for personal computers do include QAM tuning as well, so what you described is a great option. Check the fine print when you buy.

    They’re also moving C-SPAN2 and 3 to this new “Public Affairs Neighborhood” and our state’s wonderful WisconsinEye (like C-SPAN but for Wisconsin) has always been broadcast in this digital manner even for “basic cable” customers.

    You’ll also be able to watch more than a dozen more PEG channels from your region. Where in the past you only saw 1-3 channels of your local PEG station, Charter is now showing 10-14 channels of several stations throughout your region.

    Yes, all this is a consequence of the “video competition” bill, now known as Act 42. All those people who were watching PEG channels on ordinary analog tuning that was present in any TV bought in the last 20 years will now need to get some type of QAM to analog converter box. This greatly hurts schools, for example – all those TVs in all those classrooms are all analog, and now those schools won’t be able to watch their own school-produced PEG channels or C-SPAN.

    Charter’s trick here is to drive through the loopholes, uhm, provisions of the new law that seem to let them pretty much define a “tier” (the package that you buy for a specific price) as just about anything they like, including changing the broadcast technology in mid-stream after you’ve subscribed to it.

    If you don’t like this, complain to your city hall, to your state legislators, and to Charter.

  2. Thanks for the info.

    FYI, that is not what Charter told me this morning. Even the Cap Times changed their initial story. One CAN NOT get any PEG channels without Expanded Basic. In addition if the channels are digital, one must be subscribed to Digital Charter. There was no mention of any “basic with a box” tier. In fact Charter’s tiers do not start until Charter Digital which is in the $70 range. If what you say is true, someone should notify Charter of it.

    BTW, the VGA hookup is working fine. We just watched an HD version of According to Jim for free and was clearer than Charter ever was. Its getting harder and harder to even legitimize $20 a month for Charter. I used to pay over $100 a month just to get some HD channels, and all Charter ran were reruns.

    With an Apple TV and a lap top, Charter is more or less irrelevant.

  3. If you can point to that Cap Times story, I’ll be glad to fact-check it. I am deeply involved with the issue and have been in constant contact with a Charter director for the last six weeks or so, clarifying the details. Are you saying that a Charter sales rep told you that you can’t stay with “basic” or “expanded basic” and still rent a digital converter box? It is possible or even probable that Charter’s sales agents have not yet been properly instructed about this transition to digital.

    As I explained above, you don’t need to rent Charter’s box. The cheapest refurb DVD recorders with QAM tuners I’ve found are at – about $100. At $3-5 a month, though, it would take a long time to catch up to $100-200 for a new tuner. If you have a newer TV, it may be QAM-capable.

    Either way, the cost of cable has increased for anyone who has analog now and wants to watch PEG channels now and then. That’s the opposite of what they promised from Act 42 – that it would lead to lower prices.

    Also note that Charter’s analog-to-digital transition is unrelated to the off-air analog-to-digital transition that’s taking place in Feb. 2009. Those government coupons can only be used for ATSC (off-air TV) tuners. They can’t be used for anything that includes a QAM tuner.

  4. Here is the initial one that sounded close to what you were saying.

    I remember a follow up (WSJ maybe) about needing expanded basic. Charter tends to refer to expanded basic ” as basic”. If they are on 200 channels you’d need expanded basic to receive them, but if 900 you’d need digital.

    Here is what happened. I called wanting to know what channels I would lose. They finally acknowledged all public access channels would be moved. I was told I needed to sign up for expanded basic or digital to receive these channels. On the website it states PEG channels are Basic with Digital. There were also some expanded basic with digital. I took this to mean that while they were basic and expanded, one need Digital Charter in order to access them. Later in the day I called to cancel. I was very explicit, I am canceling because PEG channels are moving and I will no longer have access to them. Customer service acknowledged this fact.

    At no time was there any mention of a basic with box tier. That was the purpose of my original call. How do I with basic now access these channels. I was very clearly told expanded basic was needed for this. When I canceled there was no “up selling” attempts to stop me from canceling. It seemed rather clear they were trying to purge the “basic” customers.

    My biggest frustration with Charter is I have to buy 100’s of channels I don’t watch in order to buy those I do. I used to have their HD service. I had to have basic, expanded basic, and Charter digital, in order to receive the HD tier. Why should I have to buy 500 channels if their were only a few I wanted to watch. Why the hell can I not just rent the HD box and order the HD tier to get my basic channels.

  5. Analog and digital are two different ways of broadcasting these channels. Charter has many packages you can buy that are only broadcast in an encrypted form that requires one of their converter boxes. The PEG channels will be broadcast in a “clear QAM”, non-encrypted fashion. Charter has told us that it is possible to remain a “basic” or “expanded basic” customer, yet rent a digital tuning converter box for approx. $2-4 depending on location.

    Your Charter experience is interesting. I find their web site to be a similar experience. It’s not apparent that you can order basic or expanded basic there. You can’t add a “digital receiver” alone; the web only allows it if you order a digital package. I discovered that if you enter “live chat”, you can convince them that it’s possible to have basic/expanded and also want to order a digital converter box. The rep first wanted me to buy $39 “digital home” but then they talked to their own internal support and were told it was possible to get “basic with a box”.

    In Wisconsin, you might want to do this if you want to watch WisconsinEye. This C-SPAN-like channel for Wisconsin’s government is already broadcast unencrypted in digital on basic cable. No extra charge. Now you’ll want it for all the other PEG channels.

  6. John,

    Thanks. Yesterday I got a pamphlet in the mail that listed all the “basic” channels. Some were analog, others digital, and still others HD. I decided to call them back and just add on a HD box.

    This will cost me about $10 more a month, but I can live with that to get local HD channels.

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