Charter Doesn't Care If You Can't Watch BBC America

“I have a TIVO HD that uses two cablecards. On 9/27/2007, I realized that channel 196 (BBC America) was not working on either card; it did not appear to be authorized. I called Charter customer service (as I have had to do for many problems over the last couple months), and their immediate response was, as usual, to send out a technician. I called back a bit later and suggested that they try removing the tier from my account and adding it back in – this technique had fixed another random outage affecting all HD channels that had occurred earlier in the week. As with most calls to Charter customer service, I felt that the representative didn’t really know much of anything about the service and that I had to troubleshoot my own issue. The technique didn’t fix it, so the technician came the next day (9/28/2007). This was the 4th technician to come to my home in the last 2 months (all because of problems with Charter service), and like the others, he did nothing that I couldn’t have done myself…”

…He admitted to *never* having dealt with cablecards before, and thus knew absolutely nothing about what was required to set them up. I felt like I had to train Charter’s own technician. He brought a new card, which I was pretty convinced wouldn’t fix the problem since it was being seen on both of the cards I already had. Nevertheless, he went ahead and called the Charter operator to begin pairing it with my account (and I, of course, had to find all the numbers for him since he apparently had never seen a cablecard before).

While this was going on, I received a call from someone at Charter. I was told that I should cancel the technician call because the issue with channel #196 was a head-end issue and the tech wouldn’t be able to do anything. Unfortunately, by this time the tech had been at my home for over half an hour and the process of changing cards had already begun.

The new card the tech brought was deemed to be somehow faulty by the operator. He put the old cards back in, but the operator was convinced that they would stop working within minutes. He then got up to leave without fixing the problem. I made a call to Charter customer support immediately, telling a manager that my problem was not fixed (and in fact was made worse), that the technician had no idea what he was doing, and that I was getting fed up with dealing with it. The manager put me on hold while, I assumed, she was on the phone with the local dispatcher. After a lengthy wait, she came back on and told me that I would be receiving a call from an experienced technician in a few minutes, and that he would be coming out to my home that night. I did tell her that another Charter representative had called to tell me that the issue couldn’t be fixed by a tech, but she assured me that it could. She also promised a credit for the time I went without service.

Two hours later, no technician had called. I called Charter customer service back, and was told by a different manager that (as I had been told earlier in the day) it was a head-end issue and could not be resolved by a technician. I asked when it would be fixed, but she could not give me an answer. I gave it a few days before calling again.

I called back on 10/6/07, a week after I first reported the problem. My call was answered by a Charter representative who admitted she knew nothing about cablecards. Her very first response was to schedule a technician to come to my home. I explained to her that a tech had come out for the very same issue a week earlier, and that one of her coworkers had already told me that a technician could not do anything. She went to talk to her supervisor, and came back a few minutes later to tell me that the supervisor agreed that a technician must be sent. Again I tried to explain that a tech had already been to my home and had not been able to do anything. After a few minutes of this, she game up and transferred me to her supervisor. Initially, the supervisor game me the same story of wanting to send a technician. However, after I explained again and again that a tech had already been to my home, she looked up the issue in the system (and I have no idea why this wasn’t the very first thing done) and found out that, yes, it was a known head-end issue that other people were having as well and, no, a technician couldn’t fix it on my end. She put me on hold while, supposedly, she tried to verify the status of the problem with whoever actually fixes problems at Charter. She came back on after a while and could not tell me anything new, only that it would be fixed sometime in the future. I asked her if it would be helpful for me to call my local Charter office. She said that it probably would, but there was no number she could give me for it. She then said that she would request that they call me within the next 24 hours. I have yet to receive that call, 5 days later.

I am in an extremely frustrating position. The channel still does not work. I have no idea when it will be fixed. Whenever I call the only number I have for Charter, I get a representative who has no idea what they are talking about and, usually, tries to send a technician to my home, even though I have been told there is nothing a tech could do. Besides this, the technicians that have come to my home have been universally ignorant of the product they are supposed to be installing. If I get through to a customer service representative who actually understands the issue, all they can tell me is that it is “being looked at”. I have no way of contacting the people who are actually fixing the problem (if they exist) to check on its status.

I know it’s only one channel, but this is just the latest of a long string of issues. I am paying for Charter’s service, and Charter needs to make sure that it works. I am very tired of constantly being forced to talk to representatives and technicians who know less about my problem and cable in general than I do. Besides this problem, it took several weeks and 3 technicians to even get my digital cable setup to work to begin with. The service is flaky; it has become deauthorized several times for no apparent reason. The technicians that come out don’t know what they are doing and are typically dishonest on top of that. 3 of the 4 techs I have dealt with have requested to use my phone because theirs is “broken” or “the battery is low”. One of these 3 kept getting calls on his “broken” phone throughout the visit, proving that he just wanted to use my minutes instead of his own. Also, I was charged for all 3 service calls (the billing statement for the 4th hasn’t come yet, but I don’t have high hopes), even though the issue has always been plainly Charter’s fault. I was able to get a refund for 2 of them by calling customer service several times, but I should not have to fight for the right to not get ripped off.

I have never had such a prolonged bad experience with a company’s customer support. I have also never dealt with a company that is this disorganized; time and time again I am told conflicting things by different Charter employees. Amazingly, even after completely failing to fix my issue, the representatives almost always try to sell me more service (usually telephone service). I don’t see why I would want to trust Charter for more service when there have been so many problems with what I already have. I am forced by my apartment complex to use charter if I want to have cable service; rest assured that that is the only reason I am still putting up with this (for now, anyway). I used to have Comcast at my previous apartment. I always thought it was bad, but it wasn’t until I switched to Charter that I knew how bad things can really be.


As our friends over the pond might say, that’s bollocks. Sound like you’re in need of some TLE: Tender Loving Escalation. Try sending your complaint to this guy:

Charter Communications
Neil Smit, CEO
ph: 314-965-0555 (ask for “the office of Mr. Smit.” This gets you forwarded to a voicemail box. Who knows whether anyone who cares actually checks it. Dial by name directory doesn’t work either).
fx: 314-965-9745

Either that, or switch to some sort of dish-based tv service.


Edit Your Comment

  1. I’d say send a fax, but who knows what happens once it gets into the paper tray. For all we know, Charter took out the paper tray on the fax machine and has it feed directly into a shredder… <_<

  2. Pylon83 says:

    CableCARD setups can be ridiculously finicky. And unfortunately most cable companies don’t properly train their employees on how to troubleshoot them because there are relatively few of them in the wild. You just have to keep hammering and hammering at the technical support group until you get someone who knows what they are doing. As far as it being a head-end issue, it’s probably an issue with the encoder that they don’t want to address. Good luck finding someone who will actually reveal what the problem is. I worked at a cable company and it was even difficult for the tech support reps to find out what the actual problem at the head end was. And on top of that, if we did find out, we were expressly prohibited from revealing the extent and nature of the problem to the customer.

  3. entitynein says:

    Having escalated a different issue to the Mr. Smit’s office, I can tell you that they’re just about as unresponsive as they come. Phone and email both went ignored when I made an attempt well over a month ago (trying to get NHL Center Ice). I’ve concluded that the only response Charter likes to give is the one you’ve heard all too often. “Someone is currently looking into the situation, and you will be contacted when it is corrected.”

    If I can find a reasonably priced broadband provider in my area (Alas, no FIOS folk to set my house on fire), I’ll be dumping Charter altogether, moving my internet elsewhere and my cable to DirecTV. Apparently my voice doesn’t count, so I’ll use my wallet instead.

    Good Luck.

  4. miran says:

    Call again and ask to have the problem fixed, and when they can’t get it fixed, ask to be transfered to the cancellation department. At the very least, they will probably offer some financial inducement not to leave before it gets fixed.

  5. InThrees says:

    My parents have Charter upstate, and they’ve had nothing but problems. Poor signal quality, can’t schedule a tech (more accurate: techs can’t meet schedule), cable goes out, can’t get it fixed… they’re only alternative is satellite, which sucks even more.

    I really think Charter is only alive because they have no competition in a lot of areas.

  6. Unfortunately even in the systems down here (southeast US) cablecards are 2nd class devices. They aren’t used widespread enough for most CSRs or TECHs to get enough hands on experience with them to trouble shoot them quickly. Even crazier, with clean strong signals I’ve seen people with Tivo HDs have similar channel drop off issues where they have to have the cards rebound/service refreshed so that the tiers come back.

  7. QuantumRiff says:

    I actually encourage them to send a tech, because the techs call to a different support center, with actual, knowledgeable tech people. twice now I’ve had them call and give their info, then hand the phone to me…

  8. Odwalla says:

    Your local government has an office that deals specifically with granted monopoly franchises like cable. Call them and tell them everything that is going on. They are there to work on your behalf and will get resolution from Charter for you, be it restored service, credit, or (hopefully) both. If Charter refuses to fix the problem they are in breach of their franchise contract and can be subject to stiff penalities by your local gov’t.

  9. Dave-O says:

    I used to have charter back in St. Louis and also dealt with terrible service. I don’t have the energy to type out all the things that went wrong, but my roommates and I compared our phone bill’s at one point and over the previous two month period we had spent an average of 12 hours per week (about 1.5 hours every day) on the phone with charter CS.

    The moral here: Avoid Charter if at all possible!

  10. scoosdad says:

    Go here:


    register as a user, and post a brief description of the problem, and preferably a link to the whole story here on Consumerist. There are Charter techs who frequent the Charter forum on DSL Reports, and perhaps one of them is in your area and can offer some help. I’ve seen other people’s Charter runarounds solved eventually solved that way.

    The other recommended way of dealing with Charter is two-pronged:

    1. Find the location of your nearest Charter office, and go there and talk to someone.

    2. Find the name of the person in your area who has some municipal oversight into Charter’s franchise in your town. That person may not be able to get your problem fixed, but usually has a pretty good list of names and phone numbers for local Charter contacts who may be able to get something done, especially if you start the conversation off with something like, “City Manager XXX gave me your name and number and suggested I call you…”

  11. tesmerjg says:

    Have you tried filing a complaint with your local public utilities commission? Odwalla suggested this but perhaps didn’t know the name. Usually they are called PUC’s.

  12. SoCalGNX says:

    Charter sucks! They were out to my house an average of 3x a month the first 14 months I had them. They also lie. The initial installation did not happen. They told me they called my husband. Since we had no phone at the house (it was to go in with their installation), they supposedly called us at his work number. The only problem was that they would have gotten him, his secretary or an answering machine. We are moving in the future and one of the criteria for a new home is somewhere that they do not have Charter.

  13. Buran says:

    Charter also STILL has not restored CBS HD to me despite repeated complaints, nor have they added Discovery/Animal Planet’s HD channels to my lineup despite requesting that too.

  14. Buran says:

    oh, and by the way? You can’t use cablecards with satellite TV services. Your suggestion for an alternate is totally unacceptable and shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  15. Scooter says:

    I got through Charter for my cable and internet access, and I have to say that they are the worst company I have ever had to deal with in my entire life. It is a constant stream of problems and list of incompetent employees that won’t end.

  16. HeyThereKiller says:

    It’s hammertime

  17. cabedrgn says:

    I had a cable card in the TV in the bedroom (Hitachi Ultravision) from brighthouse in orlando and had nothing but problems. First, I couldn’t get any HD channels (my wife didn’t notice, she was there when the Tech Came) so I called customer service (herein: CS) and they told me I could only get standard (2-13) channels. I told them how absurd that comment was (why would I need a cable card since without a cablecard I can get 2-64), they agreed then shrugged and sent out a tech. Tech insisted I had a cable box and when I showed him the card he said “I thought only businesses could have those.”

    After him handing me the phone to their tech center and me doing most of the work (reading codes from the TV card info screen), I finally had all but the extended HD tier (ESPNHD, TNTHD, etc.) but also got channels I didn’t subscribe to (HBO and STARZ). Calling CS again (I wanted my football on HD damnit!), they ‘reset’ my tier information while the lady said “You can get regular channels on a cable card, I thought you could only get HD.” The reset proceeded to unregister my TV from the cablecard brining up a nasty error and since they didn’t know what to do they sent another tech out.

    Tech #3 came out and told me he didn’t do cable cards but gave me the tech center backline and told me to work it out with them, he then left.

    I called the backline, spoke with a rather infuriated tech (contracted guys seem to do this all the time) who managed to help me somewhat. He got it re-registered but now I was only able to get HD + Extended HD. No non-hd channels.

    At this point, I was fed up and told them to come get the damn thing and give me a box. A week later another tech shows up telling me he can’t take back the cable card, only I’m allowed to take it to the service center.

    So I did, traded in the cable card for the box and now all is well. Funny how that works and quite amazing how much mis-information they give their CS staff, almost like they don’t want people to give cable cards. In 10min I gave more accurate information to the CS staff than training probably did in an hour. Granted most were nice and really wanted to help, they just didn’t have the knowledge at their disposal to do so.

  18. Pylon83 says:

    I don’t think their failure to add Discovery or Animal Planet HD is grounds for complaint. If they have yet to strike a deal with those channels to carry the HD stream, so what. They owe you no obligation to do so. Your issue with CBS is another story. Is CBS HD down for just you, or the whole system? Sometimes the local affiliates themselves have transmitter problems so the channel is out due to no fault of the cable company. Just some food for thought.

  19. TehRev says:

    Chater Free and loving it. I had the WORST experiences with them. Charter Cable has the worst customer service ever.

  20. Pylon83 says:

    You hit the nail on the head. The cable companies do not like CableCARDs. Those with CableCARDs pay very little for the card, rather than renting a $10-15/month HD Cable box or HD DVR in the case of TiVo users. Additionally, as it has been made clear here, CableCARDs are notoriously difficult, and techs end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on them. Plus, with a CableCARD, at least 1.0, it is only one-way, so you cannot order PPV’s, which are a huge profit center for cable companies. Most of them would prefer that they not exist, and they would not offer/support them if the FCC did not mandate it.

  21. Employees Must Wash Hands says:

    Charlie’s letter tells us that cablecards don’t work with Charter’s cable services either, and that his issues with them appear to be far bigger than simply the technology through which his TV is (or is not, as it were) delivered.

    In other words, suggesting that he consider a company that is not Charter seems perfectly acceptable.

    I feel for the guy’s Tivo not working (the stack of three S2 units in my closet reflects that I was once a loyal member of that church) but there’s certainly a point where if you continue to have unresolvable problems with a company, you cease doing business with them.

  22. spynotebook says:

    I am so glad to see this story. Since I have too many trees in the wrong place (no DirecTV for me), I am forced to use Charter to receive HD programming. We are having this same problem (BBC America, Channel 196) with one of the Charter HD DVR boxes. Techs have been out 4 or 5 times and keep insisting that switching the box will help. They even re-wired my entire house.
    It didn’t help.

    I am prepared to cancel my service next time I call if they can’t get it fixed or give me some credit or a cheaper monthly charge.

    All this after the sales tech told me that TiVos were an unproven technology and prone to lots of problems.

    As soon as I can get away from Charter, I will.

  23. Crazytree says:

    the idiots at Charter just raised my bill $15 this month.

    it’s like Anschluss…. except instead of Germany wanting to take over Austria… it’s Charter wanting to take over my bank accounts.

  24. BigNutty says:

    Charter has become an expert at the “runaround” game. The longer they keep you running around, the longer they get to keep billing you.

  25. sibertater says:

    I don’t have the fancy-schmancy cable like lots of people do. The thing plugs right into the back of my TV and I am happy. I don’t have a zillion channels and I don’t spend a bunch of time on the phone with retards who piss me off, just because breathing is an involuntary function.

    My parents have and hate satellite because they don’t know how to work it, but they still keep it. I NEVER had any problems with my satellite when I had it and I only had it because I lived in a remote part of the middle of nowhere.

    Charter, schmarter…call Dish and get a DVR.

  26. theblackdog says:

    “I called back a bit later and suggested that they try removing the tier from my account and adding it back in”…”I felt like I had to train Charter’s own technician.”

    Is it just me, or does this sound like “asshat who thinks he knows it all” customer?

  27. ms16 says:

    @CRAZYTREE, that’s them trying to stave of bankruptcy. Same reason they are always trying to sell you stuff.

  28. charlah says:

    Thanks everyone for your help. A Charter “Corporate Escalation Specialist” contacted me within a day of this posting. Today they fixed my problem…they wouldn’t get very specific, but it sounds like someone entered some numbers wrong early on. It’s amazing how fast things can get done if you talk to the right people!

  29. charlah says:

    @theblackdog: If Charter’s technicians had ever heard of/dealt with cablecards before, maybe I wouldn’t feel that way. But, usually, the first response of their customer support was to send a “hit” to the card. The second was usually to send a technician, who usually had absolutely no experience. If I didn’t try to think logically about my issue, who would?

  30. spynotebook says:

    Congrats! Now can you please have them call me?

    I have had this problem since October 25 and it is getting quite annoying.

    I have taken to just stopping by my local Charter office and asking about it. The last time a nice woman gave me her extension to call if it was not fixed by yesterday.

    It wasn’t.

    I called the other night and they did give me a $54 credit so I am a little happier but I really just want BBC America.

  31. mangopants says:

    Hello! I have this problem too, I have a Motorola DVR that Charter gave me (not a Tivo) but the exact same issue was experienced.

    After 5 months, 60+ calls to Charter (not exaggerating) and 3 visits from technicians I finally got a supervisor visit this site and read this article and the related success article – she sent a “CCV Hit” to my box – fixed the problem right up!

    I requested that she send an internal memo to EVERYONE else in the company so share the knowledge… she said she would (but I’m not holding my breath). If you have this problem, ask for a “CCV Hit” to your box and see if that helps!

  32. HemiLess says:

    Wow! If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn I wrote this article. I’m having the same problem. No BBC America (Channel 196). I’ve been having this problems since September 2007, when I had my cable cards installed in my Tivo HD.

    I’ve gone through the endless motions of calling Charter. Having appointments setup. Only to have someone call from the local office and cancel due to the Head End problem. The 800 support personnel are clueless about this problem.

    I’ve had technicians show up, who are also inept as the writer describes. I’ve had promises of someone showing up within two hours. Only to have no one show up.

    I’ve received no credit for this problem. And like to writer it’s only one channel. But it’s one channel that I want to watch and can’t. And should be able to.

    Perhaps we can organize a movement and have a large group meet and complain about the problem at our local office?

  33. HemiLess says:

    Registered User

    Join Date: Apr 2003
    Posts: 11

    Finally after months of calls and visits from Charter technicians. My problems with BBC America, channel 196 has been resolved. The cause of the problem resulted from my initial installation in which none of the host information for the cable card was entered correctly on Charter’s end. Amazing enough I was able to view every other channel except this one.

    Any way on November 30 I Charter technician (not a contractor) arrived and after 15 minutes (in which he verified the host information and MAC address) I will be able to watch Torchwood (season final) this evening. Too bad I couldn’t watch the entire season. Now to try and obtain a decent credit and perhaps purchase the box set of Torchwood.