Which is better: Monopoly or Competition? Part 1 – First, the good


During the past week, my spouse and I moved to a new home, about 12 miles from our previous one.  Accordingly, we had to move our pay TV service, and obtain new fixed-line phone and broadband access from the phone company.  The two experiences could not have been more different.

This begins a multi-part article to recount my experience, and highlights how differently a service provider will treat consumers, which I believe is based on whether or not they think they have to compete for your business.  Much of this is a swashbuckling tale of outsourcing and lack-of-coordination, complete with the blow-by-blow minutiae, but we’ll get back ’round to the real point before the end.

First, the good: DISH Network’s new Hopper with Sling

On January 14, two weeks in advance of our move, I called DISH Network to request the move of their services to our new place, which we scheduled for Tuesday February 4.   Also, I was anxious to evaluate DISH’s new Hopper with Sling home media gateway and whole-home DVR, after having seen it demonstrated at CES.  Unlike the original Hopper, the Hopper with Sling’s Broadcom BCM7425 processor incorporates the capabilities of the previously separate Slingbox right into  the set-top box itself.

A couple of days ahead of the actual installation date, a DISH Network representative called me to confirm the appointment, and also asked me to take my existing set-top boxes from the old home.  At 8:10am on Tuesday morning, Roman (the technician) arrived at our new home, took down the existing satellite dish, put the new one in place, and then asked where I wanted the set-top boxes installed.

DISHThe new Hopper with Sling went into the family room, and our existing Joey (client set-top box) went into one of the bedrooms.  Roman had to replace the coaxial cables, as they were old and had an insufficient electrical rating.  Since he was in the crawl space under the house anyway, he also offered to run wiring for my home audio system (which I didn’t request but was grateful for).   Then he showed me how to transfer the DVR recordings from the original Hopper, onto the new Hopper with Sling.  After about 90 minutes, Roman was gone, and everything worked great.

I also ordered DISH’s new Super Joey client, to replace the existing Joey; as well as DISH’s new Wireless Joey 802.11ac IP client set-top, but they were not yet shipping as of installation day.

In summary, the DISH customer service experience exceeded my expectations.  Stay tuned to this blog for an extended review of the new Hopper with Sling, Super Joey and Wireless Joey set-top boxes, as well as the “Best of CES” Virtual Joey and the other new DISH apps that go with them.  My 2012 review of the original DISH Hopper is here.


New phone and broadband service options were limited

We also needed to arrange new phone and broadband services.  My new neighborhood is served by two broadband providers.  One is CenturyLink, the incumbent Telco, and the other is a small independent broadband provider that uses digital terrestrial microwave delivery.  The microwave provider had speeds of <2.5mbps, whereas Centurylink told me their DSL lines qualified at “better than 3mbps” in our neighborhood.  I opted for CenturyLink because they offered a phones-plus-broadband package at a reduced price.   In any case, because we are in an outlying area, there is no local cable operator, so we will miss the 20-plus megabit speeds we got from Comcast, let alone the 40mbps promised by CenturyLink themselves.

Also because we are in an outlying area, T-Mobile’s cellular signal doesn’t reach.   One of our sons is now on Verizon, which does reach, so I checked into that.  Years ago, I had switched from Verizon to T-Mobile because Verizon’s CDMA phones didn’t work in Europe – you had to rent a “special” (GSM) phone from them if you wanted to travel outside of their US footprint – and unfortunately, this is still the case.  Verizon’s network upgrade to LTE is supposed to resolve this later in 2014, in that subscribers will be have the option to use multi-band LTE phones which work elsewhere, but AT&T’s network reaches us today, and that’s the way we went.

On to Part 2 of this story.


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