Are you tired of paying for cable channels that you never watch? So is Senator John McCain: He's introduced the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, a bill that would offer incentives to cable companies to offer what's called "a la carte" programming options, allowing consumers to buy cable channels individually. Today Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, has announced its endorsement of Senator McCain's bill.
Sometimes ranting about bad customer service to your telecom provider actually pays off, especially if you have a legitimate beef and are so steamed that you talk about leaving for a competitor—and your threat to jump ship reaches the right ears.
The digital phone services used by millions of consumers today are likely to quit when the lights go out, as homeowners found to their dismay in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last fall. These services, which use a technology called VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), rely on a modem to send phone traffic over the Internet, and that modem needs power. A backup battery can keep the modem and a corded phone operational during a blackout, but don't assume your telecom provider has included one with the modem they provide.
The other night, I nearly missed the nail-biting finale of "The Americans." But a trifecta of TV-watching features and services saved me: Here's how.
The 2013 Major League Baseball season gets under way on March 31, with the Houston Astros taking on the Texas Rangers. For millions of Americans, the return of baseball means tuning in to ESPN, Fox, MLB Network, and regional sports channels to watch their favorite team in action.
Free video on demand is a great idea in theory—but often it hasn't offered much to watch. And most of free VOD content has been SD (standard definition), a letdown for anyone used to high definition. But recently things have improved, at least for TV programming. The situation varies by provider, but based on conversations with friends and relatives, I'd say free VOD is generally getting better. Here's what you need to know:
Verizon has sent notices to FiOS customers who are using the company's oldest type of high-definition set-top boxes: As of April 15, certain HD channels will no longer be accessible using those boxes. Customers who want to view the channels will have to exchange the old box for a new one, but there's no charge for doing so.
Among the biggest bones of contention in the now-frequent carriage-fee disputes between broadcasters and cable/satellite companies is broadcasters' insistence that carriers buy an entire bundle of channels just to get the one or two networks people actually watch. Today, Cablevision declared "Enough!" and filed suit against Viacom.
Given that millions of consumers choose to use prepaid wireless plans for their phones, is it that much of a stretch to think the prepaid model will work for home Internet access? That's what Comcast is trying to figure out with its new Xfinity Prepaid service.
Republic this week offered an additional pricing option: to buy its Motorola Defy XT phone for $99 rather than $249, and to pay $29 a month for service rather than $19. All other terms of service seem to remain the same—including the lack of any contractual obligation.
Softbank Corp., an apparently deep-pocketed Japanese telecommunications company, has reached a deal to buy 70 percent of U.S. mobile carrier Sprint Nextel. At first blush, the announcement may look like a win for consumers. Look closer, though, and the long-term impact could be less rosy for wireless customers.
Emergencies—like the dramatic storms that raged across the U.S. yesterday—frequently happen when you don't expect them. Instead of scrambling to figure out what to do, why not be ready for whatever might come? And of course, your electronics devices can help. Here are some handy tips we culled from FEMA's website.
Traditionally, all cable-TV subscribers have had the option, mandated by the FCC, of receiving an unencrypted basic tier of OTA (over the air) channels, which lets them receive the channels without renting a cable box or CableCard, provided the TV is equipped with a QAM tuner. But the cable industry has petitioned to change this rule, arguing that very few people subscribe only to the basic service tier in all-digital systems. As a result, "the overwhelming majority of subscribers to all-digital systems already have a set-top box or CableCard-equipped retail device and therefore would be unaffected by encryption of the basic service tier," according to the FCC.
In our most recent telecom survey, seven out of 10 respondents with a triple-play service bundle didn't even try to bargain their bills down. But of those who did, more than 90 percent got some accommodation from their provider. We've been reporting for years that haggling with your telecom company can pay off—and now, one of our staffers can also testify that it does.
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