Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life without Cable Television

Today is the third day without cable television in my home. It was a long and frustrating point to get there. But so far so good and there will probably be future blog entries here on the subject (watch the Label "Life without Cable" for more entries in the future).

So a quick rewind of how life without cable came to be. Back in February of 2008 Aurora Cable Internet sold out to Rogers Communications. Aurora Cable Internet (ACI) was the last old cable television provider in the Greater Toronto Area not to sell out Rogers. ACI serviced the town of Aurora and Oak Ridges (north Richmond Hill) for over forty years. As a resident of Aurora for most of my life I grew up with Aurora Cable providing the Suddard family with cable television and, eventually, Internet services. ACI always seem to take care of us whenever something happenned to our cable service or if we had any questions.

So when I returned to Aurora and got my own apartment, I didn't even think about going anywhere else (i.e. Bell) for cable and Internet services. I merely looked up the rates, called ACI, asked a couple of questions and had an appointment to be hooked up to services in no time. The best part, unlike horror stories that any Rogers customer will tell you about, ACI picked up the phone in 2 telephone rings max and actually knew what they were talking about!

Back in February 2008 though, the writing seemed to be on the wall for the demise of ACI. Rogers had succesfully applied and received approval from the CRTC to begin "overwiring" the ACI service area. This meant Rogers could now begin to offer services to the Aurora and Oak Ridges area. Rogers claimed they were at an unfair disadvantage as their main communications rival, Bell, in the Aurora area because they couldn't provide television, internet or telephone service to Aurora or Oak Ridges residents. ACI did provide a counter that they provided more local programming (VERY TRUE!) than Rogers does on their channel 10. However, it was to no avail and the CRTC approved Rogers to overwire the Aurora and Oak Ridges area. With the death notice of ACI practically begun to be written, courtesy of the CRTC, ACI owner Jim Irvine decided to finally sell to Rogers.

Fast forward to March 2009. In the mail I receive a notice from Rogers that the ACI migration to Rogers services will begin. I have until May 13th to switch to Rogers services as ACI services will be disconnected in my area. The letter was from Rogers Vice President of Consumer Services Phil Hartling who wrote that:

Rest assured, we will continue to provide you with the quality of customer service you have come to expect from ACI. It is our goal to help make the transition as smooth as possible for you....We have a dedicated team of specially-trained Advisors ready to speak to you about the full suite of quality services that Rogers has to offer as well as answer any questions you may have.

With this assurance I examined the website that Rogers had set up for this transition. I found the Internet pretty quickly and figured we could use the "Rogers lite speed Internet" package in order to save a few sheckles. Moving onto Rogers Basic cable things got a little more difficult.

All I wished was to continue to have the regular basic cable service that ACI provided without the need for a cable box. I visited the Rogers transition website for the channel line up Rogers would provide on their basic cable service without a box. But on the Rogers website it only lists the channels and not what is in the basic package or enhanced packages. So I printed out the channel line up, grabbed my pen and headed off to the local Rogers Plus store at Yonge Street & Dunning Avenue in Aurora to inquire about the channel line up and inquire if I were to bundle my services how much I could save.

The Rogers Plus store visit was a bit of a dissapointment. The letter from Phil Hartling of Rogers said I could either call the 1-866 number or visit the Rogers Plus store for assistance on the migration. However, apparently the special advisors at the Rogers Plus store work banker's hours (9 to 5ish) but the supervisor on duty did assist with the bundling question I had. However, for the cable channel line up he tried his best but suggested I call the "Special Advisors" at the 1-866 number for my channel line up question.

So I returned home and called the Aurora Cable Internet migration phone number (1-866-566-8306). The first advisor picked up and told me that the call would be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. Next he asked me how he could help. I told him what I currently had with ACI and what I was aiming at switching over to with Rogers in terms of Cable and Internet. I then posed the question to him about the channel line up.

He rattled off the channel numbers that were included. When he was finished I asked the question? "So Fox is no longer offered on the basic cable package on channel 28?" The customer rep responded that Fox is Channel 19 according to the printed copy he had. I tried explaining how I got my channel line up off www.rogers.com/auroracable His reply was management had printed off his channel line up and his was right. I asked to speak to a supervisor about this discrpancy. The Rogers, as Roger's Vice President of Consumer Services labelled him, "specially trained Advisor" said the supervisor or manager was currently unavailable. Hmmm..how convenient I said that as soon as a major problem comes up, Rogers' managment is missing in action. The Rogers advisor and I argued in circles over and over about how not knowing the basic information of where a cable channel is located and whether it is located in basic television package or not was an issue that he couldn't resolve until I hung up in frustration.

I called the 1-866 number back again in hopes I would get a "specially trained advisor" a little more down to earth. However, my hopes were shot within seconds as I could barely understand the person as she explained that "this call was recorded for quality...blah, blah, blah, blah." Apparrently I stumbled across a "specially trained Advisor" who was not specially trained in the English language (funny enough I double checked the letter from the Vice President of Rogers and there is no mention that the specially trained Advisors would speak English coherently...funny I would assume they would).

Nonetheless I continued on asking the same questions I did on the previous call. She went through the same channel numbers as my previous phone call and gave me the same response when inquired about the status of Fox television. But things got a little more interesting. This time when leading her slowly through to the www.rogers.com/auroracable website, she claimed that address was ACI's internet address and not Rogers' channel line up. Apparently this "specially trained Advisor" had been "specially trained wrong!". I countered that this was the website adress that Rogers' Vice Presidnet, Phil Hartling requested ACI customers to use to transition to Rogers via the letter. She disagreed that this was true even though I possessed a signed letter from Roger's own Vice-President. I asked to speak to the supervisor or manager about the issue. She said one wasn't available and she inquired if I was ready to migrate. I replied I wasn't until the problem with the channel line up had been resolved. She seemed dumbfounded and I hung up her as well.

I called a third time and got another female "specially trained Advisor" that at least spoke English. This call didn't resolve my channel line up easier. So after an hour of trying to deal with Rogers about basic cable in one night and four different interactions (1 at Rogers Plus store and 3 phone calls to the "specially trained Advisors" without supervision) I was no further ahead in getting the last question answered.

The next day, during work hours, I called the 1-866 number again with some hope. There would be a new batch of "specially trained Advisors" who might have a better answer. But hope was lost again as I called in and again the call was answered by someone barely speaking English. I again, for the fourth time, explained my problem. This time I skipped the usual questions and go straight to the point and asked to speak to a manager. She put me on hold for two to three minutes then returned to say the supervisor was unavailable and if she could help. I said she couldn't because the three other people the previous night couldn't. I then asked if someone could call me back within the next 24 hours from managment. She agreed and I gave her my cell phone number and repeated it back to her again just to be sure. I asked for her to tell me my the phone number she had written. She repeated back to me inverting four of the numbers. I then told her again what the phone number was this time with her repeating first the area code (which she got right) then the next three digits (which she screwed up) and the last four digits (which she of course screwed up). After repeating the phone number five times and her still screwing it up, I had enough and hung up. I didn't expet a Rogers person to call me back with the answer to my question, because for cryin' out loud, they weren't "specially trained Advisors" in writing things down.

I picked up the phone, with a little glint in my eye, and dialed ACI's 905-727-1981 phone number. As per usual they picked up the phone within 2 rings. I asked the simple question of the lady who picked up the phone and then told her I had inquired with at least three people at Rogers who obviously didn't know. She admitted she didn't know off hand but that if I waited two minutes she would have the answer from one of technicians. Sure enough, the lady gave me the quick run down. I asked the usual question of "where does Fox television fit in?" She replied on channel 26 which matched where I had it. I said "I will miss ACI's good service that I've come to love and respect." She replied that this phone number would eventually become inactive and their office would be rolled into Rogers' operations. When that number dissapears, it will be a sad day.

After hanging up the phone and going home from work that day. I suggested to Yvonne that perhaps we give up on cable television. She agreed as she only sometimes watches television. I was going to give up on cable television.

Why give up on cable television? Because if a company like Rogers who was born and built their name on cable service can't even tell me if Fox is included or not which forces me to contact one of their former competitors for a straight answer, than cable is simply not worth watching.

Another convincing point that Rogers' service stinks, I haven't told the story yet about how simply activiting my internet service with Rogers turned into an 2 hour ordeal. But that is a subject for another blog entry.

Who knows where life without cable will lead me. Stay tuned to this blog to find out!
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