Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comcast is Killing Me

I’m a big fan of technology improving our lives however, it seems I may be in the minority with that opinion.

Comcast is the largest providers of cable TV, voice, and data services in the country. One would think a company of that size would have the latest and greatest to offer their customers. Due to the recent digital TV transition, I’m finding that not to be the case. The issue is not the digital TV transition. I’m all for that. The problem stems from their application of this new digital technology.

Up until now, I have received my basic cable channels (over-the-air networks, public access, etc.) in an analog format and then our additional premium channels (Food Network, History, NatGeo, Discovery, etc.) in a digital format. For DVR’s we use 2 Series 2 analog TiVo’s. This has worked well, even though we have a digital cable box and a TiVo we are able to record multiple channels at a time and we are able to transfer programs between TiVo’s so regardless of which TiVo records the show we can watch it anywhere. The only limitation is with the digital channels as we are limited to a single digital tuner per TiVo but since some of our channels are analog, this hasn’t been an issue. We also have full access to Comcast’s On-Demand system.

Starting June 25 all our channels will be digital, which makes our analog TiVo’s a bit of a problem. I contacted Comcast to see what our options are and was sorely disappointed. Here are the details in case this will help anyone else deal with the Comcast machine.
  1. I could purchase new digital TiVo’s. This would allow me to keep the same TiVo software and functionality we like, provide us with dual digital tuners per DVR, and allow us to continue sharing programs regardless of where they were recorded. The downside here is we would lose On-Demand and would have to pay for the TiVo’s upfront. We would also have to rent Cablecards from Comcast in order to access the digital channels via the TiVo’s. 
  2. We could get Comcast DVR’s. This would cost us more per month as we have to rent the DVR’s and we would lose our wonder TiVo software. We would gain dual tuner DVR’s and full access to On-Demand but we would lose the ability to transfer shows between rooms. So if we records The Office in the basement but we want to watch it in the bedroom we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. When I discussed with the Comcast Executive Office the guy I talked to has 4 DVR’s and said he would really like this feature but Comcast has no plans to offer it. Comcast uses Motorola DVR’s and according to their website the DVR’s are capable of doing this but for some absurd reason Comcast disables this function.
  3. Comcast offers an Anyroom DVR system that allows you to record shows in one room and watch them in another, sort of. This system, costing about the same as a couple of normal DVR’s, provides you with a hub unit that you records all your shows on and then station units that allow you to watch what has been recorded on the hub unit. While this might seem like a solution, it does have a few problems. First, you only get access to On-Demand on the hub unit and not any of the stations. Second, you only have DVR capabilities on the hub unit, you can’t pause live TV on the remote stations.
Since none of these options provides what we want I contact Comcast via Twitter and was put in touch with their Executive Offices. That proved a dead end as they told me the same thing I already knew, these are the choices and we can’t do anything about it. Again, it baffles me that a company the size of Comcast can’t do any better than this.

My options are to pick one of the 3 choices above and get happy with what I’m giving up or leave Comcast and go to a satellite TV provider. If for whatever reason you have read this far what do you think? What are your experiences with Comcast? Am I the only one that thinks being able to watch a program on any DVR regardless of where you recorded it is a big deal? TiVo makes it easy by sharing between DVR’s on your home network. Why Comcast disables this is beyond me.

The clock is ticking, we have to do something by June 25th and right now, I’m not sure what that will be.