I Want My HBO

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At that time, I had just recently been appointed to the City of Austin Telecommunications Commission. Although the Commission is tasked with advising the City Council on issues regarding the cable franchises, that work primarily is handled by a subcommittee of the council, the Council Committee for Telecommunications Infrastructure.

The telecom infrastructure committee meets monthly, with a quarterly public forum on cable services. That happened today. So, I attended to pose the issue to the committee and Time-Warner.

The question I wanted to put forward was whether requiring a customer to subscribe to digital service to receive a premium channel would be what's considered a tier buy-through, which is prohibited by the Cable Act of 1992. That is, a cable operator must offer premium channels on an a la carte basis, and cannot force a subscriber to upgrade to a higher tier of service.

I posed the question and Time-Warner responded, and there is good news and bad news in the response. It turns out that the local monopoly daily newspaper misreported the issue--imagine that!--thus creating significant confusion.

While Time-Warner is moving premium content such as HBO off of analog, they are not requiring subscribers to upgrade to digital service to receive it. Customers may continue to hold a basic subscription and purchase channels a la carte. That's the good news.

The bad news is that although you don't need the digital service, you do need a digital box to receive the channel, which must be leased from Time-Warner at an additional fee. By Federal law, Time-Warner can't force you to use their box, but there aren't any alternatives in the marketplace (yet).

But hold on--there is more good news. I was told that existing customers would be grandfathered. So, if you currently have a premium channel delivered over analog cable, you should be able to continue receiving it that way. New customers, however, would be limited to digital delivery of these channels. This was not originally planned, but occurred as a result of feedback from unhappy customers.

So, that's the situation as of the moment. I'm not a cable subscriber, so I can't verify any of this directly. I'd appreciate it if anybody finds that things aren't as I've described that they let me know.

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re: I Want My HBO

Did you buy a TV Chip? Otherwise I find some humor in someone who doesn't own a TV participating in Cable Telecommunications issue. :) (just bustin yer ballz man)

re: I Want My HBO

Heh heh ... nope, no TV. Is that working in the freaking spirit of public service or what? :)

re: I Want My HBO

G'day

Chip Rosenthal wrote:

> Just stopped by to followup on the discussion about two months back
> regarding Time-Warner's move to take premium channels off analog cable.
> I've posted info here: http://www.unicom.com/chrome/a/000182.html

Thanks for the info and for taking our concerns to the commission.

From Chip's webpage:

>I was told that existing customers would be grandfathered. So, if
>you currently have a premium channel delivered over analog cable,
>you should be able to continue receiving it that way....

>I'd appreciate it if anybody finds that things aren't as I've
>described that they let me know.

Since I am the originator of your referenced newsgroup thread, and I am one of those who would be royally screwed (currently subscribe to Basic Analog + HBO, and would have been forced to pay for the digital box to keep HBO), I am happy about the grandfathering.

They are upping our rate though. Last month's bill had the following paragraph at the bottom of it:

"Effective April 1, 2003 the monthly price for analog HBO service will increase from $10.95 to $11.95. Note that the price of digital HBO will remain at $10.95/month. To upgrade to Digital service and enjoy 14 screens of HBO at $10.95/month, call today....."

Of course to upgrade to Digital service would mean losing my Basic option ($8.58/month) and having to pay much more for the "smallest" digital package ($47ish). Yes I am paying $1/month extra for a service that I only recieve 1/14th of, but that I think is worth it just for the Sopranos and 6 ft under.

Thanks again Chip

DrRuth

(posted to austin.general)