All I Want Is To Watch Some Football In HD And For Bright House's Website To Reflect Reality

Here’s what Tim wants: to turn on his TV and watch football games in high definition. That’s pretty simple, and seems like a reasonable enough request. At least he thought so. His cable company, Bright House, advertises that they offer HD for free to their subscribers. Wow, that’s great! They quoted Tim a $29.99 rate, but failed to mention that he wouldn’t be able to receive HD without renting a cable box. You know, the HD channels that were the entire reason why he got cable in the first place.

Tim writes:

Over the past few weeks Bright House has been nothing but misinformation and trouble for me. All I wanted was to subscribe and get ESPN and ESPN2 in HD for football season (seems like a reasonable request right? wrong…). Bright House calls themselves the home of free HD and I was soon to find out Bright House is the home of pretty expensive HD and you better not believe our channel listings. This is the letter I sent to Bright House:

I am contacting you today to express my dissatisfaction with the Bright House service we have received over the past two weeks. Per the channels listing on the Bright House network website, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD are included in the basic cable package, except they really are not included. We initially were quoted $29.99/month for basic cable and were told that no box was required (I have the online chat record if you would like it).

The technicians came out, activated our account and were unable to find ESPN HD and ESPN2 in HD. I drove to a local Bright House center in order to determine why we could not receive these channels in HD and was informed that we needed an HD box for $9-10 more per month (so much for home of the “free” HD). I then asked about getting a cable card so that my Tivo would work and was told that the $29.99 price I was paying was a promotional price (I was never informed that this was a promotional price in the first place and certainly not informed that getting a cable card would cancel the promotion) and getting a cable card would increase my price to around $74.00 a month! I declined and drove home very dissatisfied.

My wife called Bright House to see if there was anything that anyone could do to get us a cable card for the advertised $3/month fee. The representative on the phone informed my wife that it would be no problem and set up a service appointment to have the cable card installed. I thought everything was great until the first bill came and showed that basic cable was $74 again. The phone representative increased my bill well beyond the $3/month that my wife was quoted. We called Bright House again today and were informed that the $3/month cable card cannot be part of any promotional package and that we would have to upgrade to their digital cable combo (at an bill increase of ~$25/month) to use the cable card. I am very unhappy with Bright House at this moment and will be exploring my other options for my entertainment needs in the near future. Can you please tell me why ESPN and ESPN2 in HD are listed in your standard cable package when they are not? And why I cannot add on a cable card for your advertised price of $3 to get them?

Is there anything else I can do? I feel basically swindled into a package that in significantly more expensive then I wanted to pay. I also would like to get my experience out because Bright House loves to claim how great they are in customer satisfaction and I feel like they are lying about having free HD.

It’s easy to see how Tim was confused. The lineup pages at Bright House do list many of the HD channels as part of the “Standard” lineup. The “Digital” lineup is separate, which would lead a rational person to believe that they only need the basic package to get all of the included channels.

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  1. deathbecomesme says:

    It’s common sense that any channels you get over coaxial cable are going to be SD and not HD. Unless you get over the air channels. I get about 11 over the air channels and about 5 of them are in HD

    • AzCatz07 says:

      Yeah; I thought everyone knew this. You’re not going to get HD through a coax cable.

      • longfeltwant says:

        What do you mean? I get some HD through my coax cable. I don’t know how TV tech works, but I don’t have a cable box, and I definitely get many HD channels.

        Charter Cable; Madison, WI

        • AzCatz07 says:

          I’ve never been able to get HD without a receiver. I’ve had Comcast and am now with DirecTV. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I didn’t think it was possible.

          • longfeltwant says:

            /shrug

            I dunno. I don’t watch a lot of TV but I get some football games in low def and high def. On only have the coax coming in to my TV from outside. It’s strictly minimum basic cable.

          • Southern says:

            Most TVs these days come with built in HD Tuners – no set-top box required for OTA or otherwise “unencrypted” channels.

            Hard to believe there’s still a cable company out there that doesn’t have ALL of their channels encrypted (basic channels included), though.

            But HD will come through coax just fine. The receiver is normally just for the decoding of the signal, then they output through DVI or HDMI for best video signal from the receiver to the TV/Monitor. Most Cable/Satellite companies run coax to the receiver (usually RG-6).

          • wren337 says:

            You need the box to decode any encrypted HD channels. Typically anything you could receive over the air (PBS,ABC,NBC,CBS) are sent un-encrypted and you can see those in HD without a box.

    • Sarek says:

      My basic cable (TWC) carries the 5 local over-the-air major network stations (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS) in HD as well as in SD. [Not ESPN, of course.]

    • mikeMD says:

      It is clear that the cable companies have the ability to send HD without using the digital cable box. Our family has service at 2 locations (Cox, southern CA). At one home we have a very basic plan (essentially the over the air channels) and the networks/PBS have HD channels that come through fine with our HDTV tuner (no external cable box). I tried to get a promotion to upgrade to some basic cable channels and was also told after the fact that viewing those channels would require a cable box rental for every TV which made it a very bad deal.

      My relatives nearby have a higher tier TV plan that includes basic cable and a few premium channels (sports package). The HD versions of all the channels work fine on every TV with the built in HD tuner. The only features that require a cable box are things like DVR or pay per view.

      Cox scrambles the HD signals on lower tier plans but unscrambles above a certain threshold. They perpetuate the misconception (seen in comments here) that the box is the only possible option. The company chooses to force the box/rental on customers. I believe many people (like me) would subscribe to more channels if I did not have to spend $8/TV for an external box that seems to be designed to suck electricity and remind me of all the PPV I did not want to watch in the first place.

      (end of rant)

    • speaky2k says:

      When I had cable (got rid of it this summer), as long as I had a TV that could get HD channels, I could get HD channels from my cable company without a box, even with just basic cable. When I last scanned my cable, I had something like 200 channels, the 70-90 basic cable channels, many of those same channels in digital format, and then an additional grouping of some of those channels in HD. My non-HD compatible tv could only get the 70-90 channels. The other company who serviced my town changed from this same thing, to requiring a box for even their basic cable, a lot of people left when that happened and went to the cable company I had.

    • BigDragon says:

      It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The HD channels were originally supposed to replace the SD channels. That’s why they started putting ATSC/QAM tuners in all TVs instead of the old NTSC tuners. The cable companies, in their never-ending quest to monetize every little thing they can, decided to upcharge for the HD channels and saturate their lines with multiple versions of the same broadcasts all to increase revenues. It’s absolutely ridiculous. There is no reason why the cable companies cannot send HD over coax. Some do, most don’t all because of greed.

  2. longdvsn says:

    Wow…call back and talk to another CS rep. A cablecard should cost maybe $2.50 a month and be available on any package or promotion. Some cable companies even offer them for free (even Comcast, I think).

    Unfortunately, the HD box requirement (or bring your own hardware (TiVo, HTPC, etc.)) is true of all companies that advertise free HD.

    • longdvsn says:

      …finished reading the article…looks like they did talk to several CSRs who say the cable card can’t be added to the promo price.

      That’s really sad, Bright House…really sad.

    • longdvsn says:

      Further Clarification…call back again and demand the promo price:
      It sounds like the following FCC rule would apply:
      “Pay only for equipment you have. Your operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box if you choose to use your own CableCARD-enabled device. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5).”

      http://www.fcc.gov/guides/cablecard-know-your-rights

  3. longfeltwant says:

    Here’s my question. Is it really impossible for a communications company to offer satisfactory service? Can anyone name any large cable, telephone, or satellite company which manages to make its customers happy? Other market segments manage to satisfy customers, so why is it so freaking hard to transmit a signal from point A to point B without doing it in such a way that your customers want to firebomb your CEO’s private yacht?

    • longdvsn says:

      monopoly!

      There’s your answer. Most communications companies operate in a monopolistic system…I have only one Cable provider – Time Warner – in my city (a reasonably sized city of 250,000). They can charge what they want and say F-U to customer service…because they CAN. I either have to bend over and take it, or try to go with satellite (which aren’t any better than Time Warner) or online streaming only (which still requires going through the cable company to get half-way decent internet speeds…so I guess I’m bending over either way).

    • Bladerunner says:

      Other market segments don’t have enforced monopolies with government-granted easements. Utilities often suck; entertainment utilities suck the most, because when they mess with you, people don’t have as much sympathy as when your water or power gets messed with.

      • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

        Enforced monopolies? Not hardly. Nothing stopping anyone who wants to (and has sufficient financial resources, etc.) to start a competing cable company. Google’s doing it in Kansas City, for example. It’s generally been a terrible business model, but it’s by no means an enforced monopoly.

        • BigDragon says:

          Just wait until Verizon sues Google for offering better service in Kansas City. They’ll make some anti-competitive claim soon enough. You can’t offer 1Gb internet service without a fight from the incumbents. Progress is not allowed.

        • bityard says:

          Many (most? all?) municipalities make a deal with one company at a time for a certain type of media. So in a given town, only one company is given access to the utility poles for phone lines, another for cable lines, and another for fiber. These deals almost universally give the incumbent a monopoly in the area. Almost nowhere in the country will you have two cable companies with their own separate cable lines on the same utility poles, for example.

          So Google can string up their own fiber in Kansas City because there were no incumbent fiber providers there. If Google ever took this nationwide (highly unlikely, they’re just using it as a testbed for their high-speed technology and services), they would almost certainly be excluded from cities which already have fiber. (Especially FIOS, I would think.)

  4. Bladerunner says:

    I’ve never even heard of “Bright House”.

    • dpeters11 says:

      I believe they are fairly small. I know when I stayed in Carmel, Indiana near Indy, that was the provider there. I actually think that Time Warner does their negotiations.

    • BigHeadEd says:

      They are the provider Orlando, and to be honest, I find their service to be pretty good although I think they aren’t being completely honest in this case. I took in a box to their service center that we fried after plugging up to the wrong DC converter and they just swapped it out no questions asked.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      When I lived in Tampa about 10 years ago I had Bright House, which had just changed over from being Time Warner Cable. Not sure why they changed names and only in Florida.

  5. Joedragon says:

    I think they are breaking the cable cards laws by not letting you use it in a promotional package.

    They can’t say you must rent our box and say want a cable card pay full price.

    • PunditGuy says:

      That’s what we need clarification for. If they’re saying the promo is $29.99 and you can pay an extra $10 on top of that for a cable box, they’re violating FCC rules by not offering a CableCard solution with that promo.

  6. Joedragon says:

    LAW

    http://www.fcc.gov/guides/cablecard-know-your-rights

    Pay only for equipment you have. Your operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box if you choose to use your own CableCARD-enabled device. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5).
    Accurate information on the rental cost of a CableCARD from your provider. Your operator must list the cost of a CableCARD rental on its website or billing inserts and on its annual rate notice, and must provide you with this information when you call. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5), 76.1602(b). Typically operators charge $2-4 per month to rent a CableCARD.
    Use your own set-top box without extra charge. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5)(C). Your cable operator may charge you to lease a CableCARD or tuning adapter, but may not charge you an additional service fee for using your own digital-cable-ready television or set-top box.
    Self-install your CableCARD. Effective August 8, 2011, cable operators must allow self-installation of CableCARDs if they allow self-installation of other equipment, such as digital boxes or cable modems. By November 1, 2011, all cable operators must allow self-installation of CableCARDs. Your operator may decline your request for self-installation if your equipment manufacturer or vendor does not provide you with instructions on how to install a CableCARD and offer a toll-free telephone number for product support. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(1).
    Receive the number of CableCARDs you request. If you opt for a professional installation by your cable operator, the technician must arrive with at least the number of CableCARDs you request. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(3). If you opt for self installation your operator must provide them to you through their normal self-installation procedures (for example by mailing them to you or letting you pick them up at the operator’s local retail location). Some CableCARD devices may require two CableCARDs to access all features. Refer to your user manual for more information.
    Receive a multi-stream CableCARD unless you request otherwise. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(2). If you have a retail device with more than one tuner and that device supports multi-stream CableCARDs, one multi-stream CableCARD can allow you to access multiple simultaneous channels.
    Receive all “linear” channels (channels other than “on-demand”) in your subscription package. This includes premium channels and specialty channels. For some channels delivered using a technique called “switched digital video,” you may need a second device called a “tuning adapter.” This device is typically provided at no additional charge to CableCARD customers. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(4). CableCARD-ready devices currently cannot receive your cable operator’s Video on Demand services.
    Get accurate information about services available to CableCARD subscribers. FCC Rule 76.1205(c).

    • Joedragon says:

      http://www.fcc.gov/guides/cablecard-know-your-rights

      Pay only for equipment you have. Your operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box if you choose to use your own CableCARD-enabled device. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5).

      Accurate information on the rental cost of a CableCARD from your provider. Your operator must list the cost of a CableCARD rental on its website or billing inserts and on its annual rate notice, and must provide you with this information when you call. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5), 76.1602(b). Typically operators charge $2-4 per month to rent a CableCARD.

      Use your own set-top box without extra charge. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5)(C). Your cable operator may charge you to lease a CableCARD or tuning adapter, but may not charge you an additional service fee for using your own digital-cable-ready television or set-top box.

      Self-install your CableCARD. Effective August 8, 2011, cable operators must allow self-installation of CableCARDs if they allow self-installation of other equipment, such as digital boxes or cable modems. By November 1, 2011, all cable operators must allow self-installation of CableCARDs. Your operator may decline your request for self-installation if your equipment manufacturer or vendor does not provide you with instructions on how to install a CableCARD and offer a toll-free telephone number for product support. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(1).

      Receive the number of CableCARDs you request. If you opt for a professional installation by your cable operator, the technician must arrive with at least the number of CableCARDs you request. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(3). If you opt for self installation your operator must provide them to you through their normal self-installation procedures (for example by mailing them to you or letting you pick them up at the operator’s local retail location). Some CableCARD devices may require two CableCARDs to access all features. Refer to your user manual for more information.

      Receive a multi-stream CableCARD unless you request otherwise. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(2). If you have a retail device with more than one tuner and that device supports multi-stream CableCARDs, one multi-stream CableCARD can allow you to access multiple simultaneous channels.

      Receive all “linear” channels (channels other than “on-demand”) in your subscription package. This includes premium channels and specialty channels. For some channels delivered using a technique called “switched digital video,” you may need a second device called a “tuning adapter.” This device is typically provided at no additional charge to CableCARD customers. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(4). CableCARD-ready devices currently cannot receive your cable operator’s Video on Demand services.

      Get accurate information about services available to CableCARD subscribers. FCC Rule 76.1205(c).

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      This law doesn’t apply here. As far as I can tell they haven’t violated any part of these provisions.

      • PunditGuy says:

        That’s not entirely clear. If ordering a $10-per-month box wouldn’t break the promo price (other than adding to it), then they can’t break the promo price with a CableCard.

      • longdvsn says:

        “Pay only for equipment you have. Your operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box if you choose to use your own CableCARD-enabled device. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5).”

        It sounds to me that they could call up, get a quoted package price for the promo with set top box ($30 service + $10 box = $40/mo). Then, under this FCC rule, they MUST be given a discount for refusing the box and using their CableCARD. A small charge may apply for the CableCARD ($2-4/mo).

        The promotional discount must apply to the package, and at most, they could suggest that the box rental is free under the promo (though that would be very scummy). So Total price under $45/mo (should be under $35/mo)…but definitely not $74/mo.

        If you suggest that the promotional discount is not part of the package – it essentially provides a wide-open loophole in the FCC rules, whereby companies could essentially jack up rates $50/mo and give a partial discount (say, $30/mo) back to those that rent their equipment (ie equipment costs $20/mo), but essentially placing a huge extra cost on CableCARD customers (charging $50/mo or more).

    • daveSH says:

      Keep in mind that CableCARDs are almost extinct! I don’t believe that any TVs have been sold in recent years with CableCARD slots and that TiVo is the ONLY consumer owned equipment that is on the market.

      These FCC regulations regarding availability of CableCARDs were crafted long ago when it looked like there may be a market for consumer owned equipment that could receive encrypted digital cable signals

      • PunditGuy says:

        Silicondust HD Homerun Prime. Look it up. Ceton has a competing device. I’ve had nothing but a great experience with the Prime, once Comcast finally gave me a multicast card that worked with their ancient equipment serving my neighborhood. One device, on my network, feeds my home-built DVR (MythBuntu-based MythTV) and all my Windows computers. Three simultaneous tuners. I can do two HD streams at the same time on the wired portion of my network without trouble (haven’t tried three yet) or one HD stream and one SD stream over 802.11n with an occasional dropped frame.

        These “crafted long ago” regulations were updated in August of last year.

        • daveSH says:

          But those are very much “niche” products. For the mainstream CableCARDs are very much dead.

          Yes, the rules were updated recently – but I guess that I didn’t emphasize that the whole idea of CableCARDs (and the rules that went with them) is quite old – and these days are almost pointless (basically serve to protect those few consumers who bought into the concept).

  7. rcojr says:

    While most Cable TV companies supply Broadcast HD, and very few other channels, I am fortunate enough to have Cable supplied by ClickTV of Tacoma, with a distribution area only in our county. They include at $42 over 80 digital and 70 HD channels, including ESPN and ESPN2, through their coaxial cable, with no addtional boxes. I have 3 tvs, and 2 computers that can record both digital and HD signals, for veiwing at any time. Our Comcast/Infinity offers only broadcast TV with HD, only 11 HD channels and 15 digital channels. IF you want more channels in HD from Comcast, a separate box for $12 per month is required for each TV. I have a friend with 8 TVs and a media room, when he found out that he had to have a box for each TV, he was not happy. Alternatively, two digital conversion boxes are available for free, with each additional one $4 per month. These do not supply HD signal, only translate the scrambled Comcast channels to SD channels your TV can get. The Cable companies are out to maximize revenues, and will usually have confusing ad copy, that seem to say one thing, but make them more money. I am glad that I have a cable provider that has Clear QAM (unecrypted HD) signals available for all basic cable channels.

  8. techstar25 says:

    Basic cable does not include ESPN. That’s part of “Standard”, not “Basic”. These are different tiers as far as Brighthouse i concerned. I know, because I had “Basic”, which consists of only the local broadcast networks, essentially the same channels you can get with an antenna. These are delivered in HD via coaxial with NO cable box. However, the “Standard” tier channels, which include ESPN are scrambled and so require the cable box.

    I got tired of Brighthouse so I just put an antenna on my roof and now I’m getting those same “Basic” channels for free over the air all in HD with Dolby Digital. I get about a dozen HD channels, including NBC, FOX, CBS, ion, The CW, PBS, and two different ABC affiliates (Orlando and West Palm Beach). I highly recommend it.

  9. daveSH says:

    A clarification (I hope):

    Generally the FCC permits the encryption of digital (either SD or HD) signals on cable. That allows the cable company to easily “upgrade” (or “downgrade”) individual customers by simply sending signals to the cable box in the customer’s home. There is an exception to this permission: cable companies cannot encrypt cable signals of local over the air stations – such as your local ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS stations. (There have been a very few waivers (about half a dozen) issued to this rule).

    When Brighthouse (or Time Warner) claims free HD – what they mean is the monthly rental for a cable box is the same for a SD box or a HD box.