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Remember When the Economy Started to Tank? Think Communications… Part 1

07/28/2010 Leave a comment

I’m going to break this into a multi-part post because after I began writing it, I noticed that I had a lot to say about each topic. I didn’t want the “You lost me at hello” brain melt happening to you, the Reader.

Gas prices in my area broke $4 a gallon for the first time ever. It seemed we would never again see the price go back below $3….then something happend. Either the President released reserves, or the oil companies felt sorry for us, realizing that if they didn’t do something, they would soon lose several customers…but the price dropped down to about $1.79 and lasted for about 2 months…

I blame two industries, three depending on how you look at it….

Oil Industry, Cellular Service Providers (Post Paid), Cable Companies (Communications, not including cellular or radio broadcasting)

I will discuss these in a moment.

During that time, while we were all scraping together to make sure we could put food on the table with this new budget impacting spike, oil companies were reporting record profits, month after month….and the executives were going home with bonus checks they never imagined.

As I said something happened, and anyone can feel free to pipe in here and educate me and the readers as to what it was, but the price of gas did go down…and in the midst of the chaos and the dust, there were two industries that did not change. Cellular and Cable Services.

Cable Companies – I won’t name the service provider in my area – their lawyers and budget is much bigger than mine, but I know I don’t care for them. We actually have two in a sense. One is a true cable company providing digital phone services and internet, as most do. The other is largely a telephony services that has contracted with a satellite company to provide services. Part 1 we will talk about the cable company.

So the cable companies provide internet, and they also provide phone and television services. Think about your own bill. How much are you paying? Cable companies raise their prices on average of 8% every year since the first cave drawing was broadcast in analog back in the day…

I know before the Digital Television age really became rampant, homes in your neighborhood were still using the old televisions. As the FCC declared that all broadcast stations had to go to digital, what did the cable companies do? They began raising the prices as soon as they could figure out how to manipulate the market. The FCC caught on to that. As the switch to digital began, the channels started dropping from the analog lineup. We were paying the same prices for a decreasing channel lineup. If you wanted your old channels back, you had to pay more to get into the “Tiered” programming structure many cable providers currently use. Here’s where they screwed you the first time.

You could switch to satellite services. I did for 3 years with Dish Network and I loved them. The only reason I don’t use them now is because i live in an apartment that doesn’t allow me to hook up satellite without extra money in damage protection. The cable company locally loves to bash satellite providers…the signal drops in the rain (not as often as they say, i lost maybe 30 minutes in 3 years), there are no local service people that can come out 24/7 (duh, because they don’t have wires running all over the city that can can get damaged or stolen), the “ugly” equipment outside your house (that’s the cable company’s way of making you think that satellite dishes on your neighbors houses are an impairment, in fact they are ugly – but more to the cable exec’s that have to drive around and look at them) who actually notices this in a neighborhood?

I love that they bash the signal issue….where do you think the cable company gets their signals from?? Satellites!

In our age, we all need the internet it seems. Its to the point that we communicate with family, friends, employers, coworkers, clients, government and so on. We have become so dependent on this luxury, that several can’t imagine not having it in their homes. What would we do without Social Networking sites? We wouldn’t know how many therapy sessions it took  Cousin Lucy Lou to stop picking her nose…or that your buddy Jim was officially announcing that he was sitting in the drive thru at Starbucks rockin’ out to Queen after noticing all of the ugly satellite dishes in the neighborhood nearby…or that Mindy has seen the latest Blockbuster film for the 9th time and has changed her review of it for the 6th time.

Fees for broadband are getting stupid as well. Each year they keep dropping some lower speed plan and make you pay more for the next one up, if you switch. They remind you that because you were grandfathered into the plan you had, you can never go back to it once you change something. I recently downgraded maybe 25% of my original plan speed for a savings of about $7. The odd thing is that most of the time, my download speed is not much better than when i used to have DSL. How can that small of a decrease present that big of a change of quality? I asked the phone rep if she could connect me to the tech dept after we were done. I wanted them to ping my computer and tell me whether I was getting a true (or close to) download speed as they were advertising that I was getting. The tech department told me that they couldn’t do that….hmm. I find that hard to believe because they probably know all the details of my computer, browsing habits, browser, speed, memory and what I have on my desktop.

Telephone services. Why are we still paying for long distance? I use Vonage currently, and have for almost 4 years. I can take my number wherever I go. Hell, even if I travel, I can still take my adapter and plug it into a broadband internet computer and still get calls anywhere…I can also call anywhere in the US and some other countries for no long distance. Call quality sounds as good as the old method. No extra charges for voice mail caller id etc. And they don’t publish your number in a directory – standard, no charge for that. Send me an email and i will get you hooked up with them as well. Referrals get special deals I think, so check with me before you do it on your own.

For your convenience, the cable company offers bundle prices on their services. I don’t know what you pay for yours, but the average I hear from friends locally is around $160 per month…freakin insane….

So watch for my Part 2 where i will discuss wireless companies including the one I use. I will also tie this all in together to show you why I feel that these industries contributed to the current economic conditions of the last two years, and discuss a bit about how they could be better corporate citizens. Feel free to leave comments. I will review and publish each one as long as its relevant to the discussion. Thanks for stopping by!

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