12:30 PM -- Apparently, they are killing off analog communication and entertainment products like rats in the NYC subway.

Earlier this week, I noted the demise of analog broadcast TV and the end of our beloved Rabbit Ears. Now I've received a letter from OnStar -- the purveyors of those annoying radio commericals in which they claim the communication system they've installed in GM vehicles will save you from anything ranging from a flat tire to a nuclear holocaust. Here are some excerpts from this letter, along with my annotations:
    Dear Mr. Raynovich, We at OnStar want to express our appreciation for your loyalty and business over the past several years. We are writing to you today to inform you of an upcoming change to your service.

Uh-oh, you know a letter that starts like this isn't headed in the right direction. I'm about to get hosed.

    For the past 10 years, OnStar has relied on the analog wireless nwetwork to provide communications to and from OnStar-equipped vehicles. However, based on a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling....
Yeah, that's it. blame the gummint. They did it, right?

    ... wireless carriers will not be required to support the analog wireless network beginning in early 2008. Without the analog network, we can't ensure the national coverage that will allow us to provide you the services you expect from us.

Let me get this straight. The FCC actually passed a rule eliminating regulation, but you're saying that caused the network to be not available. The cause and effect is a little cloudy to me here. It's as if the FCC ran the network themselves. Sneaky, OnStar. Why don't you just fess up that you decided supporting an analog network was too expensive?
    As a result, beginning January 1, 2008, OnStar service in the United States and Canada will only be available through vehicles that are capable of operating on the digital network.
Finally, the bottom line. Couldn't you just have started the letter this way? Weenies.

    Since your vehicle's equipment is analog-only, your vehicle's OnStar system will not operate on the digital wireless network. Unfortunately, this means we can't extend your OnStar subscription past December 31, 2007. In particular, in an emergency, despite what your system may indicate, you will not have a connection.

Okay, I get it now. Do you have to insult me and then gloat over it too? In the event of an emergency, I'm screwed.

    We want you to know that there are currently many 2006 and 2007 GM models available with OnStar digital network capability that will be able to recive OnStar service after December 31, 2007.

Very helpful, thank you. So you're saying the solution to this problem is to just go out and buy another car, so that I can continue to give you money, even though my car is only four years old and I just bought it off the lease. Very helpful.

    We hope to be able to maintain our relationship with you through your future vehicle purchases.


Well, it looks like OnStar should redo some of those annoying commercials . Something like this:
    "OnStar, help, help! I've crashed into a telephone poll and now I'm being mugged.

    (no answer) "Help me... mphhfhhhh... ... help..." (no answer) "Please... Aaiiyhyhyiiiieahhghghghh!" (silence, commercial ends)
— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading

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optodoofus 12/5/2012 | 3:12:16 PM
re: OffStar Normally, I wouldn't defend the reputation of big business, but in this case, I think you are pointing the finger at the wrong party. Onstar did not make the decision to stop supporting analog. Instead, it was the cellular network on which their service runs. Onstar is pretty much just GPS service combined with cellular phone service. In your case, they used analog cellular service (since it was cheap). Now, their cellular provider is turning off the analog network and you're out of luck. I am certain that Onstar would rather continue to collect revenue from you and the thousands (tens of thousands? More?) other subscribers in your position. But unless they want to install and run their own nation-wide analog cellular network, they don't really have a choice.

Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:12:15 PM
re: OffStar I realize that, they partner with Verizon Wireless. I find this even more stupid, that they are offering and advertising a service over which they have no control.

Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:12:10 PM
re: OffStar >I think that this particular situation is the >stuff that class action suits are made of.

Amen, rrfmdj! Glad somebody understands the insanity of it all.

"Oh, your phone doesn't work? Well why don't you just buy a new car."

rrfmdj 12/5/2012 | 3:12:10 PM
re: OffStar I have a 2005 Buick Park Avenue with Onstar. The past three Buicks I have owned have also had Onstar on them. I like the service; however, I am one of those who are affected by this so called FCC Ruling. I was urged by the Onstar representative to contact the FCC and complain. I received an email from the Chairman of the FCC stating that GM and OnStar have known about this issue since 2002. This was later confirmed by GM and OnStar in emails to me.

My problem with this is that they waited until very late 2006 to tell the affected customers. This, I think completely the fault of GM and OnStar.

I contacted GM and they told me that they would give me a $500.00 credit toward my next GM purchase, that is if I trade within a year. Duh! I just bought a $40,000.00 Park Avenue that I thought was equipped with OnStar for the duration of my ownership. I can't just go out and trade cars at this point, there's a matter of building up equity before I can trade.

I think that this particular situation is the stuff that class action suits are made of.
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:12:09 PM
re: OffStar Why don't they offer you $500 toward the installation of a new Onstar system that will work? Their long term fees would make up the cost to them. Sounds like they are being shortsighted and cheap.

Reminds me of what is happening to TVs. Do a Search for 'portable TV' and you will see lots of portable televisions available for sale, even though their analog tuners will be obsolete in a couple of years so the devices will be useless.
rickaty 12/5/2012 | 3:12:08 PM
re: OffStar It is their fault for being crazy enough to use only AMPS (analog) when AMPS basically stopped being sold as a primary handset technology in the mid 1990s. ONSTAR is probably not even that old. They should have started with a combined digital/analog ONSTAR from day 1.

What year did GM make the switch over from putting AMPS (analog) to CDMA (digital) in their cars ?
rrfmdj 12/5/2012 | 3:12:06 PM
re: OffStar They made the switch over from what I have been told in very late 2005 to early 2006.
Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:11:58 PM
re: OffStar >They made the switch over from what I have been >told in very late 2005 to early 2006.

If true, that is simply amazing. I suppose this was a cost-saving mechanism? Does anybody know how much you save by installing analog-only vs. combined analog/digital? I imagine it's something like $100.

Perhaps some marketing exec over at GM really thought that once OnStar switched over to digital it would be a way to sell new cars.
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:11:57 PM
re: OffStar "Does anybody know how much you save by installing analog-only vs. combined analog/digital? I imagine it's something like $100. "

I doubt if it is that much. I have an old cell phone that has analog/digital, and the phone probably costs less than $100.

Here's a poor-man's Onstar:
Get a phone with built in GPS. Put it in your glove compartment and wire it up so it is always charging.

Now you have much of what Onstar gives you:
-Ability to call for help (You can call 911 even if the phone isn't activated).
-Tracking--you can find your car's location if it is ever stolen.

Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:11:50 PM
re: OffStar Yeah, only a few problems with this:

-- I'd become one of those boneheads crashing the car as I hunt for the cell phone in the glove compartment

-- I can no longer impress my friends with the "shout at the OnStar to read you news headlines" feature

-- The kids can't talk to grandma on the built-in speakerphone system while we drive to the beach. The best part of OnStar.
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