Battling Conventional Telecom and Media Providers

May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Spending

Yesterday I prevailed in my little struggle with AT&T over saving money on our landline telephone. Since I was unable to fully downgrade our service using online account management, I connected to the site as a potential new customer so I could engage the online, real-time chat person/robot. When she/it responded with an oh-so-charming “how can I help you today”, I hit her with the query: “I want to fully downsize my account to the bare minimum.” Her response: “I do not have the resources to help you with this issue – please call ……” ┬áNice. Not having the “resources” is an obfuscatory way of saying “it’s not gonna be that easy sucker.”

So I called. To my surprise, it wasn’t particularly hard to get it done. At first the customer service person told me that I already had the most basic “complete choice” calling plan. I said I don’t want caller ID or call waiting. Instead, I want the cheapest “no choice” plan. After about five minutes of “wait – my computer is down” (was that for real?), she found what I was looking for. A few clicks later and said she had hooked me up with the el cheapo $13.50/month no frills landline. We shall see when the bill arrives.

Cable Alternatives – Online Video Programming

As I continue to explore other downsizing options in the media provider world, cable TV is a prime target. Today I learned that Boxee is about to release a Windows version of its free media center software. Boxee has garnered a lot of happy followers in the Apple and Linux worlds because Boxee makes it easy to: (a) gather and organize all of your video content and content providers in one location; (b) connect you to a variety of sources of online video/TV programming; and (most important) (c) connect your PC to your TV (using an HDMI cable) for high quality playback of your content/streaming video programming.

In other words, Boxee is one of those tools that can be a cable-killer. The key to using a service like Boxee is the ability to watch high quality programming (including HD) on your big screen, using an easy to connect PC. According to this story from Business Week, some Boxee users are indeed going cable-free.

I have been keeping track of free online TV programming services for my baby boomer friends over at Go To Retirement. I will be adding Boxee to the list as soon as the Windows version is released in June. Boxee is free for users although I expect that could change for some content. The only downside is that due to a market share battle with Hulu, Boxee users have only limited, lower quality access to Hulu content. That’s OK as long as you are comfortable using more than one free, cable-killing video service. I am happy to do that if it is user-friendly and provides HD content. I love that HD and I am willing to pay for it if necessary.

So the technology vs. cost battle continues. If we are smart about it, I think consumers willing to adapt to what is new and not cling to what is old will be the winners.

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4 Responses to “Battling Conventional Telecom and Media Providers”
  1. TMN says:

    Boxee is really useless. It’s a skin over various online video sites, but it doesn’t allow you to search, or find all available episodes of a show, or anything useful like that. With another 6 months of working on the right features it could be cool, but until then, just buy a wireless keyboard and hook your PC up to the TV directly. I’ve been doing this for close to a year, and it works great.

  2. As soon as hulu is back on boxee I think I’m done with cable. I’ll get the basic over the air crap and that’s it. I enjoy TV but I’m just tired of how much it costs. IPTV FTW!

  3. Rob Bennett says:

    I don’t think there are any winners.

    These sorts of tactics provide a financial payoff. They will spread.

    A large corporation is always going to have more “resources” for giving its customers the runaround than even the best-informed and best-motivated of the customers have for fighting back. The companies have a big long-term edge.

    Some will say “oh, it can never work to alienate your customers this way.” It couldn’t work in a world in which there was a price to be paid for this sort of behavior. But if most of us come to tolerate the behavior, the price goes away. When that happens (we appear to be well on the way), we have entered a new world where the old rules do not apply.

    These sorts of tactics suggest a company that views its customers as enemies to be outwitted. Something is going wrong with the capitalist system when that becomes an increasingly common view, in my assessment. Those who support genuinely free markets should be frightened by this sort of thing, in my view.

    You shouldn’t have to go to “battle” with a company to which you pay money on a regular basis. Really.


  4. Rick Beagle says:

    Mr. HardTruthMoney,

    I absolutely love this latest series of yours! Keep up the fight and let us know the results.

    Rick Beagle

    PS I find it humorous/sad that all of us can relate to your struggles.

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