Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I Want My TV Free

For years I lived without caller-ID because I felt the cost far outweighed the value. I thought Qwest’s prices for this and other ‘extras’ to be ridiculous. Then an opportunity came to get local phone service through AT&T Broadband (which later became Comcast through mergers and acquisitions). Suddenly I received caller-ID and several other features included in the basic line cost, which was no higher than Qwest’s basic line cost (sans the features). I’ve never looked back since then.

I quickly came to love caller-ID, which allowed us to effectively screen out many solicitations. Then came the no-call list, which mostly did away with the need to screen out solicitations. But the no-call list legislation has this nasty hole that allows anyone of whom you have been a customer to solicit you at will.

A few weeks ago we started to get phone calls from a toll-free number four to six times daily. There was never any name listed, just the number, so we didn’t answer. The number was not listed in the Internet 800 number lookup service. The incessant calls got annoying. A couple of times I picked up the phone and immediately hung up. After days of repeated calls I realized that these people weren’t going away, so I picked up the phone and responded very curtly to the caller.

It turned out to be a Comcast solicitation for cable TV. They had a great offer to get cable for $30/month. After a year it goes up to the regular $55/month.

My family lives in the Stone Age when it comes to TV. We have four TVs in the house, but we get only broadcast channels via the old antenna in the attic. We have never had cable or satellite TV. It’s not that we haven’t been exposed to it; it’s simply that we don’t think there is sufficient value in it for us. When we have been able to watch cable or satellite while on vacation or while visiting homes that have it, we discover that there are simply more options of nothing worth spending time to watch.

We frankly don’t watch much TV except for the likes of Arthur and Caillou, and that’s only for the little kids. My older boys seem to like Nova, and one of my sons enjoys Antiques Roadshow, although; I can’t seem to get into it. I’m one of those weird guys that gets nothing (or less) out of TV sports. I think I’d rather watch an opera than watch a sporting event. And since my desire to watch opera ranks somewhere below my desire to clean the toilet, I have little desire to pay to watch sports.

My family is busy, especially when school is in session. With five kids’ schedules that include school, music practice, family responsibilities, church events, sports practice and games, etc. there just isn’t much time left to watch TV. I rarely sit down at home unless I’m working on the computer. My wife wanted to buy me a recliner chair a few years ago, but I laughed at her because I knew I’d never sit in it. Finally she said she wanted one for herself, so we bought one. But she doesn’t sit in it that much either.

We have a fairly broad collection of DVDs and some old VHS tapes. If kids want to recreate in front of the TV, they often pick one of the DVDs or else play the GameCube. We’re also terribly Puritanical when it comes to video games. We don’t allow any game with a rating above E10+ in our home. (We even screen out many of those.) We’re not trying to let some industry group set our standards, but our TVs and gaming devices are in public areas and we want our little kids to be able to wander in and out of public areas without being exposed to something that is inappropriate for them.

The upshot is that I told the Comcast representative that not only could I not imagine paying $55/month to watch the junk they broadcast on TV, I can’t imagine paying $30/month for the service either. Heck, I doubt I’d be willing to pay $5/month for it. The cable and satellite companies aren’t going to go out of business because of people like me. Some of their best customers are the people in our society that can least afford the service. But until they improve the fare or improve the cost-benefit ratio from my perspective, my family will likely remain in the TV Stone Age.

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