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Nobody Does It Better

Alan Breznick
11/29/2006
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Nobody knows how to tick off consumers better than cable operators.

In the latest instance, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has angered untold thousands of its newly acquired cable subscribers in the Los Angeles area with unexpected video and high-speed Internet outages and spotty customer service as it attempts to integrate old Adelphia Communications and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) systems into its operations. The MSO's less-than-stellar performance has even prompted a potential class action lawsuit accusing the company of breach of contract, franchise violations, fraud, and deceit, among other nasty things. (See Time Warner Subscribers Sue.)

Time Warner's unhappy turn in the spotlight comes on the heels of similar publicly aired complaints by new Comcast subscribers about the takeover of their old Adelphia systems in the Northeast. From Pittsburgh to Burlington, Vt., cable customers have griped that Comcast has cut off their video and/or high-speed data service and generally bungled the transition from one cable operator to another.

As cable company spokespeople keep pointing out, such technical glitches are to be expected as one MSO takes over the operations of another, with different systems and equipment that must somehow all be made to work together seamlessly. That's particularly true in Los Angeles, where Time Warner is trying to make some sense of a hodgepodge of different cable headends, hubs, set-top boxes, cable modems, china patterns, video-on-demand (VOD) platforms, billing systems, trousers, and the like.

Perhaps the real problem is that cable operators usually don't tell their new customers what to expect. Instead of informing them that there could be some temporary service problems, MSOs usually march into a new market promising the sun, the moon, and the stars. When the inevitable glitches then occur, subscribers feel not only disappointed and put out, but deliberately lied to. And that certainly ain't the best way to start off a new relationship.

So cut out some of the hype, cable guys. Level with your new customers, as well as with your old ones, and let them know that there might be problems when you take over somebody else's old, antiquated cable system. Your subscribers might actually appreciate a little honesty and even thank you for it.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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