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Jul 14, 2009 7:36 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Mad as heck over added Cablevision charges

Jul 14, 2009 7:36 PM

Before the switch to digital cable was mandated by the federal government, family cable subscribers were able to watch just anything they wanted without having to rent a cable box. But since the switch, a number of channels that were available were mysteriously scrambled once Cablevision began the conversion to an all-digital provider this spring.

That simple move, which Cablevision said was designed to prevent the theft of its more popular channels, is causing a minor revolt from Ditch Plains to Accabonac to Montauk in East Hampton, as cable subscribers are now required to pay an extra $6.75 per month for each cable box in their home in order to watch channels that they are already paying for through their family cable plan.

“This is the number-one topic at all the CACs,” Town Board member Pat Mansir told Cablevision representative Joan Gilroy at a Town Board work session on July 7. “This leads back to when the telephone and lighting companies had a monopoly and could do as they pleased.”

Ms. Gilroy was quick to point out that the federal mandate to switch from analog to digital was necessitated by the lack of enough bandwidth for emergency service providers in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but she couldn’t answer residents’ questions about why the cable company only saw fit to scramble channels now, when analog signals were far more easy to pirate than digital ones are.

While Ms. Gilroy said that Verizon, her company’s competition in western Long Island, already charges customers for each cable box in their home, residents in East Hampton had harsh words for the new practice.

“It’s bait and switch, and it’s fraud,” Beverly Bond told Ms. Gilroy and the Town Board.

“This is total crap. You’re getting hoodwinked,” Patricia Hansen said.

“That sounds like gouging,” said Town Board member Brad Loewen.

Cablevision has offered several programs to customers who have analog televisions, including one that allowed a free box for life to customers who have only one analog television and another program, which expires August 31, that will allow other residents to receive one box free for a year. But in a community where many people have three or more televisions in their house that they are accustomed to hooking up via one regular cable line, the offer doesn’t go far enough. Some who 
complained to the Town Board said that they thought they were 
getting a free box, but later learned 
that Cablevision was now charging them.

“I can’t go into my bedroom and use my old analog TV. I was told I can’t have a free box because I already have a high definition television in my house. And other households who have more TVs might be in a more serious situation. I think it’s extortion,” said Margaret Turner.

Even Town Housing Director Tom Ruhle, who said that he subscribed to Cablevision only so that he could watch local cable access channel LTV, said that he was upset by the new policy.

“Are you going to sometime scramble every channel? If you are, I either have to get a box or I go to the competition,” he said. “Are you going to scramble LTV in the next six months or year and say it’s because of 9-11?”

“You know what, you’re creating domestic disharmony,” said Town Board member Pete Hammerle. “People in my house are saying, ‘Why do I have to watch the Yankees? I want to watch Animal Planet.’” The company has to think about cutting some kind of slack to make it more palatable to me. Don’t make us buy a $7 box for every other TV in the house.”

Ms. Gilroy said that the cable boxes cost Cablevision about $200 apiece, which she said might be part of the reason for the high cost, though she said the company is working on new technology that will allow people to use $2 cards to unscramble the signals on their televisions. After nearly an hour of being grilled by angry customers, she left for corporate headquarters, with an armful of unanswered questions and a message of revolt in tow.

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I have several TVs in my house and one box. I will be damned if I am going to pay cable any more than they already squeeze from me! So we all cram into one room and wrestle for the remote.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 14, 09 12:07 PM
What's even worse they have not done this to any of the spanish speaking
channels! Go figure. Switch to direct TV its much better. Our house did it after
this most recent Cablevision scam
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Jul 14, 09 12:33 PM
A lot of new TVs accept a card instead of a box, but most are high end. I switched to Directv ten years ago and would not go back to cable. I do however pay an additional 5 bucks a month for a satellite receiver for each tv I own.
My main gripe with cable was the processor in the cable box was so slow, it took forever to scan the channels.
If I am not mistaken, i believe cable companies have until 2011 to switch from analog to digital. The over the air switch occurred last month.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jul 14, 09 12:44 PM
You both recommend Direct TV? I heard that when the wind blows you lose reception. Is it reliable? I actually would pay more just not to cable!
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 14, 09 2:42 PM
Ref your Directv question, It is not a wind problem. A really heavy front from a rain storm may degrade the satellite signal for a few minutes as it passes through. This may happen once or twice a month at most.
My honest opinion is the HD is better on satellite than cable. I don't think your getting the full 1080i or even 750p on cable. Probably due to bandwidth problems.
I fiqure I pay about the same for satellite as cable, but I get more channels and better reception than cable can ...more
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jul 14, 09 7:05 PM
I was at a little party last weekend and all the people were from the city. They were all talking about HBO this and HBO that and all the movie channels and this sports channel and so on and so on. I felt like a little old farmer boy because I can't afford all the boxes and upgrades. Cable sucks
By private (27), sag harbor on Jul 14, 09 9:43 PM
Why won't Cablevision give people the option to buy a cable box instead of just renting them? Because they can! They know they have a monopoly and do whatever they want and get away with it. When they first moved channels to the digital service, I asked why they were raising their rates. Of course, they said they weren't. I guess they just don't understand that when you get less channels for the same money, that's a rate increase. DIRECTV, here I come.
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Jul 14, 09 10:35 PM
Everyone bitches about Cablevision, but everyone continues to subscrive and pay Cablevision's rates! Don't like the service, drop it and get a dish, or put up an antenna the old fashioned way!

And "sag private," I guess "cable sucks" because you don't have the price.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 15, 09 2:51 AM
Agreed with itsamazing! Unfortunately i bet this is the last we're going to see of Ms. Gilroy, with her armful of unanswered questions and her feigned concerns for Cablevision customers. As somebody that's endured more han a few "mishaps" and "oversights" from cv over the years, all i can say is its great to see them sweat a little! Maybe the backlash from the overcharging will mean their customer service rep will start sounding a little less snooty when I make my weekly complaints!
By harveee (1), East Hampton on Jul 15, 09 3:39 AM
Drop cable.....deep-six dish/Direct TV.....hulu.com...free internet TV...the way to go!!
By cat (18), Riverhead on Jul 15, 09 8:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
In that picture of Ms. Gilroy I believe she was explaining how big her bonus check would be this year if Cablevision has there way. Don't be suckers. Drop them and anyone else that pulls this S*&^!
By noyfbdumass@yahoo.com (1), Town of the Rich & Undeserving on Jul 15, 09 1:01 PM
Boy it's so simple isn't Mr Wheeler. Just shut up and go somewhere else. Cablevision has the best internet hands down, so for that I remain their customer, but that doesn't mean I don't like to complain a little once in a while!!
If cablevision would just have some good old fashion morals people wouldn't be so unhappy with their service.
By private (27), sag harbor on Jul 15, 09 10:07 PM
Boy it's so simple isn't Mr Wheeler. Just shut up and go somewhere else. Cablevision has the best internet hands down, so for that I remain their customer, but that doesn't mean I don't like to complain a little once in a while!!
If cablevision would just have some good old fashion morals people wouldn't be so unhappy with their service.
By private (27), sag harbor on Jul 15, 09 10:07 PM
Sho' is simple, Sag private. If you have alternatives, why complain?

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, there's a difference between "Internet" and "Cable Television" even if, in this instance, they're under the same roof and on the same bill.

And since you apparently have Cablevision's broadband Internet service, there's no excuse for double-posting as you just did.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 16, 09 1:24 AM
I switched to DirecTV in 2006 and never looked back. My only relationship with the cable company is for broadband internet. It's difficult (and too competitive) for them to jerk people around on that, because it's only one service and it's easy to make an apples to apples comparison.

I do appreciate the irony that these service providers simply have no concept of service at all.
By Paramarine (28), Raleigh, NC on Jul 17, 09 10:48 PM