Cable customers frustrated with change
By JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star
Saturday, Feb 10, 2007 - 12:07:15 am CST
Donna Adams turned on her television at 2:54 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Unable to bring up the recorded programs on her digital video recorder (DVR), she opted to watch live TV instead.
She pushed the button on her remote and her TV responded eight minutes later.
She timed it.
As if that wasn't bad enough, her DVR crashed after 10 viewing minutes.
It does to Tony Young, who continues to have problems with the search engines on his high-definition DVR and digital cable box.
Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't.
You get used to it after a while, said Young, who pays about $100 a month for his TV service. But getting used to a mediocre product is a little bit no, it's incredibly frustrating.
We don't have another option for competition. This is forced on you.
Adams and Young are two of many Time Warner Cable digital cable customers disgruntled with the company's decision to change its channel guide last fall, dropping the contracted Passport in favor of company-created Navigator.
The change affected 46,000 digital cable subscribers. Time Warner has 110,000 total television subscribers in Southeast Nebraska.
Complaints ranged from the guide itself ugly graphics, incomplete information, etc. to problems with cable boxes after the software was loaded into them, causing some subscribers to reboot one or more times a day.
We know it needs to get better, said Beth Scarborough, president of Time Warner's Nebraska division. Comments are not falling on deaf ears.
Time Warner has a war room set up in its offices at 16th Street and Old Cheney Road, where engineers, technicians and customer support staff work on solving problems.
So how did Time Warner reach this point in the first place?
In a letter sent to subscribers last summer, Scarborough said the cable guide was changing to make it compatible with other software programs coming down the line, such as caller ID for those who have Time Warner's phone and digital cable TV service.
What Scarborough failed to mention in her letter was Nebraska was the first Time Warner division to introduce Navigator.
Time Warner is the nation's second-largest cable company with more than 18 million subscribers.
My brother in Kansas City called to say they were getting Navigator and wanted to know how we liked it, said subscriber Kevin Thierolf, who spends about $100 a month .
He didn't have a favorable report. One of his biggest complaints was technical his box was no longer compatible to the DVI cables he used for his HDTV.
I know you can't anticipate how everybody is going to use it, Thierolf said. It's hard. But there were some obvious things.
Such as listing whether a show is a repeat or not (now fixed) or having the fast-forward function revert back a second or two after it stopped, the way Passport did.
Scarborough said Time Warner would not have introduced the software if the company didn't believe it was ready to go. It introduced the new guide to its employees before rolling it out to subscribers.
Our experience at that point was that it was good to go, she said. It was good enough to go to market with.
Instead, the system paled in comparison with its predecessor. It prompted Scarborough to write another letter last month thanking digital and DVR customers for their patience.
the conversion was a highly complex exercise and was not without some inconvenience, re-educations, recalibration of settings, and for some, even downright disappointment.
Time Warner continues to tinker with the system and urges customers having problems with the software or their boxes to call customer service.
We knew it was going to be a challenge to implement, Scarborough said. Maybe we didn't position it in the right way. We're sorry for that. It wasn't our intention to deceive.
Still, it may take a while for Time Warner to get back into the good graces of customers such as Adams, who spends $200 a month with Time Warner on TV, phone and Internet service.
They've lost my loyalty, Adams said. We wouldn't tolerate anything else in our house performing like this. We're stuck, and that's what's frustrating.
Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or firstname.lastname@example.org