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Friday, February 23, 2007
Almost switched cable
I almost made a big mistake this week. I almost switched to cable-- I know, I know! Calm down... I didn't. Shhh! I didn't. It's OK. It's OK.

See, it all started when I got a rate increase notice from DirecTV. As of March 1st, my bill will go up $3 or $4. While $4 isn't a deal breaker, the notice gave me time to ponder a few things:

1. I could break my DirecTV contract without penalty (I hate contracts)
2. Cable lets me record HD without shelling out hundreds of $$$ for equipment
3. I could feed cable to my 2 Media Center PCs and have 2 more DVRs

Of course, I was also keeping in mind that:
1. I hate our local cable service and their horrendous customer service
2. We love the TiVo service that runs on our DirecTV R10s
3. We love the picture quality of DirecTV and their customer service is great

So I started doing a little research. The first roadblock came when I tried to get pricing from Insight Comunications' website (the intuitively named ""). They don't offer it. Instead you see all these tiers of service and special add-on packages. Not very helpful. So I was forced to call them.

Calling to order something isn't nearly as painful as calling to get help once you're a customer. I was able to find out that I could get 2 Motorola HD-DVRs and a similar programming package for about $80. Considering I will be paying that much for DirecTV without any HD-DVR, I was somewhat interested. However, the big issue I still had was that the second HD-DVR was being leased to me for $16 per month. Damn, that's high!

With my cable rate in hand, I called DirecTV to inquire about my contract (to make sure that the rate change canceled any contract if I canceled before the rate hike) and to see what they had to offer. I've been a DirecTV customer since 1998, so I hoped they would play ball.

The DirecTV rep informed me that I didn't have any contract at all right now, so I could come and go as I please. Cool. She also said that I could get the DirecTV HD-DVR for $199 and that they would send someone out (for free) to upgrade my dish to the 5 LNB model.

"Hmmmm," I thought. Nobody is blowing me away with their offer.

If go with cable, I:

1. Save a little bit of money on programming
2. Pay a sh!tload to lease the equipment
3. Lose TiVo software
4. Lose digital picture quality on the lower 100 channels (they're analog converted to digital and they look like crap)
5. Get to feed the crappy-looking lower 100 channels into my Media Center PCs
6. Most importantly, can record HD (4 shows at the same time)
7. Get some of the worst customer support I've ever encountered.

If I stay with DirecTV (and take them up on their offer), I:
1. Keep TiVo!
2. Pay the same as cable overall
3. Get to record 2 HD shows at the same time
4. Pay less for equipment over time (2 years with the HD-DVR would be $8 per month versus $16 per month FOREVER!)
5. Keep self-service customer service (change programming on their website) and great on-the-phone support
6. Keep the superior picture quality of DirecTV
7. Still can't feed my DirecTV feed into my Media Center PCs

So after thinking it over (and having Amy to tell me that she will kill me if I take away her DirecTiVo), we decided to stick with DirecTV. I'm not sure when/if I'll get the HD-DVR, but I do know that I do NOT want to be stuck with cable.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.