Our experience . . .

Charter Communications vs. DirecTV


Charter Communications would hope you would not discover that there were other options to receiving more television programming channels and better quality pictures including HDTV.

Until we added DirecTV as a programming provider, we didn't know that Charter had been providing us with HDTV resolution at a lower scan rate than advertised, my always questioning the busyness in Charter's HDTV picture. Of course, Charter never volunteered to tell their HDTV customers that DirecTV would give them real 1080i HDTV picture quality if their set would be able to accept it, an image so sharp and clear you cannot find any distracting noise running around the picture, something that had been easy to see on our 57-inch diagonal Hi-Def screen.

Charter Communications had continually advertised against DirecTV as a provider of excellent satellite service, their ads trying to make DirecTV personnel look like bumbling idiots. However, disgusted with Charter's in-home long-wait tech service and their not being able to explain an added monthly fee, we decided to sign onto DirecTV's service. It started with their fall 2005 schedule, our using a special NFL promotion to receive all NFL football games.

We instantly discovered some facts we had not realized when receiving DirecTV's service.

First, our dish gets 100% signal quality strength and sits at the back of the house where it is almost invisible. While we have many trees around the property, the tech was able to quickly find an area where there was a direct line-of-site to the sky.

Secondly, unlike many grainy pictures we got on Charter's cable channels, DirecTV's channels are all digital and clean. While Charter's Channel 3 (ABC) here in Asheville had herring bone lines in the picture, which was very annoying during Monday Night Football games, DirecTV's pictures were sharp as a tack, as were all their channels . . . the pictures simply jumping off the screen.

We had called on a Sunday afternoon to sign up for DirecTV's service. To our surprise, the system was installed the very next day, which included two standard receivers, one TiVo receiver, and one HDTV 1080i receiver. While we had to put down around $300 on a credit card for the two special receivers, DirecTV rebate checks would reduce that cost to only $100.

But here was the great news.

After one year of service, we would own the receivers And after two years, we would no longer have pay a monthly fee for the TiVo service. So if you move, you own all four receivers, unlike Charter where you would have to return the cable boxes if encountering a different cable provider at your new location.

And here is an interesting story on DirecTV's service.

The installing tech had run one of the satellite receivers through a video game box auto-switcher at my request, which the satellite receiver didn't like after the tech had left, suddenly showing a blank screen. We called the tech about the problem, and he was out the next day to fix it. Simply running the game cable outlet into the rear of satellite receiver solved the problem. Also, DirecTV allowed us to specify which technician we wanted if service would ever be needed, their customer service putting this tech's ID number into our file so the same person would be called, the tech knowing our arrangement of satellite receivers in the home.

We had downgraded our Charter account to a basic service in addition to DirecTV, which was required if we wanted to keep Charter's broadband Internet service. However, the total cost of the combined two systems was now $130 after the NFL promotion would expired, actually $18 dollars cheaper than when we had Charter as a stand-alone provider.

To our annoyance, Charter had increased their in-home tech service to two weeks for each visit. So if the first tech didn't solve the problem, you had to wait another two weeks for another tech to come back and hopefully get it right.

For example, we had picked up what Charter had called a digital cable box at their south Asheville office. We had wanted full service on a second television in our home. We had driven to the office so we didn't have wait two weeks for this second box.

But we were to discover later that the box given to us at their office was a one-way model and couldn't talk to Charter's head end, which the first technician missed and the second discovered. However, the second tech didn't have the correct box in his truck with an S-Video out jack for best picture on a non-HDTV set, our having to wait another two weeks if we wanted it. The issue was now turning into six weeks to get this second box up and working.

So we decided instead to drive again to south Asheville, this time hopefully we could pick up a correct cable box. But it wasn't long before this box was giving us trouble, too, literally dying on us as we headed out on vacation. However, after we had called Charter about the new problem, the customer service rep set up for a tech to come out while we were gone, a visit we had not been informed about, the tech arriving as we were driving home from vacation.

You guessed it, we had to wait another two weeks. So I headed down to the south Asheville office . . . again to pick up another box. This time the third box worked correctly and provided us with the services we had been expecting all along, the time for this problem to be resolved now having reached over two months.

But then Charter suddenly raised its invoice to us by $25, bringing the monthly bill to $148. Calling the billing office twice and speaking with two different representatives, no one was able to explain the added $25 by line item, telling us only that we owned the money for our next month's subscription to Charter . . . and that was that.

The next day and saying enough was enough, I called DirecTV. You know the rest of the story, our discovering their service was better, faster, and cheaper than Charters. However, do you remember our having to wait two weeks every time for a Charter tech to show up at our home? Charter was somehow able to downgrade our service on the pole in only two days.

So we suggest the next time you watch a Charter ad making fun of satellite service, consider the source. They even advertise for you to order a free satellite guide, which could be easily printed and maintained by Charter to discourage you from going to satellite service while misrepresenting the available programs.

However, we found few of Charter's claims to be correct, seeing their ad now as lies to trick customers into not investigating other services, their then being forced to use Charter's inferior service and picture quality. On the other hand, DirecTV's signals are all digital, a fact you can take to the bank as you change from one channel to another, the quality of the picture virtually pristine.

However, we do recommend Charter for their broadband service, which again requires you to carry their basic 13-channel service, the total cost around $54 a month. But that is reasonable since the broadband speed is about double compared to DSL service.

As proven again, the rule is always "Buyer Beware."





"Freedom is Knowledge"