I only have one choice for local cable. I could go with DIRECTV, but I feel like it’s going to be more of the same, plus DIRECTV won’t work with a TiVo Series 3, which is what I have after paying for Time Warner’s HD DVR for several months. The HD DVR offered by Time Warner is the biggest piece of junk I have ever seen. The user interface looks like Windows 95, it constantly freezes, records repeats and first runs even though I tell it I only want first runs and when I can actually figure out the interface, there’s a lag in the response from the remote control. It couldn’t be more obvious that we, as customers, are testing their technology, which clearly isn’t ready for wide release. That point was only solidified when I decided to get a TiVo Series 3, which uses CableCARD technology. While Time Warner offers CableCARDs, there aren’t many people at the company that know anything about the technology or how to provide support to customers via phone or technicians.
Here’s the story of how things went for me and my brand new TiVo S3. As soon as I got the TiVo, I made a service appointment for the following Saturday morning between 9am and 12pm. The technician arrived at 12pm with no CableCARDs despite the fact that it clearly said the job included CableCARDs. The technician was also installing internet, so while he was finishing that up, he called his supervisor in the field letting him know that the warehouse didn’t supply him with the CableCARDs. His supervisor agreed to come out to the house the same day between 1 and 3pm. He showed up with two cards, inserted them into the TiVo, told me it would take some time for them to be registered on the network and left.
The next day I turned the TiVo on and was only receiving local channels. No CNN, no MTV and definitely no HBO, Showtime, etc. I called Time Warner customer service and they clearly didn’t understand that I was using TiVo and not my TV for the cards. They also didn’t understand why I had two cards. I explained it all to them and they were clueless. They said that both cards were listed on my account, but after trying various signal refreshes, she could not get the cards to work and ended up saying there was a problem with the TiVo. So I got off the phone with TW and called TiVo. TiVo went through the CableCARD screens and figured out that while the cards might be listed on my account, they clearly were not initialized properly and were therefore not paired. The TiVo support guy was very nice, though the entire process with him on the phone took upwards of an hour to get to the point where TiVo was saying that it was TW’s fault. TW said it’s TiVo’s fault and TiVo said it was TW fault. Needless to say, I was frustrated beyond belief. I asked the TiVo guy what questions or information I should ask for from TW, so that I might get someone to help me better. He offered to call TW with me on the phone and help, so we called them up and started again.
The rep at TW was nice, but clearly didn’t know anything about CableCARD technology. From her perspective, everything was fine and there was no reason why it wouldn’t be working. She put us on hold for a long time, though she did come back every so often to tell us she was still trying to get through to someone that knew a little more about CableCARD. She knew she wasn’t going to be able to help. We did have to push a little for her to ask someone else. Finally she had a supervisor come on that knew a little more about CableCARDs. She sent some refresh signals. The TiVo guy said they needed to send a “hard hit” to the cards and she didn’t understand that. We went through a bunch of other options, spent a lot of time on hold and finally, almost 4 hours later (!!!!), she set me up with another technician to come out the following Saturday. As you can imagine, I was so beyond frustrated at this point that I wanted to smash the TiVo. So, just to tally up how much of my time it has taken to get to this point:
4 Hours (for technician who showed up without the cards)
3 Hours (for supervisor to come out and install the cards)
4 Hours (on the phone with TW and TiVo customer support)
TOTAL: 11 hours and the CableCARDs still aren’t working
The following Saturday, the technician showed up at 9am sharp. He had 1 CableCARD. I shot him a look and he could tell I was immediately pissed. I told him the whole story and he told me to calm down and assured me he wouldn’t leave until it was solved. He had more cards in his truck. He went out to his truck and grabbed 5 more cards. So he had a total of 6 cards in my house. I removed the existing cards for my TiVo and placed the first replacement card in the bottom slot. I tested the channels and had the same problem as before. Only local channels would work. Card #2 did the same thing. Card #3 did the same thing. We tried card #4 and it worked fine after taking a few minutes to pair with the network. Great, we have 1 card out of 6 that works. Now, it shoudl be said that switching out cards on the TiVo isn’t easy because it asks you to go through the Guided Setup after you switch the cards, which takes a long time. I did that once and then we just figured out it was much easier to test the cards in the TV, since it had a CableCARD slot. We went through the remaining cards and none of them worked. 1 out of 10 cards were defective as far as the technician was concerned. He said he would run back to the warehouse and grab some more cards and would be back in 15 minutes, which he was.
We inserted one of the new ones into the TV and it didn’t work. We tried the next, which also didn’t work and finally the third, which didn’t work. This wasn’t making any sense. He tried calling their IS (engineers) department and no one answered. All morning he wasn’t able to get anyone on the phone. He knew that he needed to get these guys on the phone in order to figure this out. He finally got someone on and they couldn’t do anything for him because the cards weren’t listed on my account. So he then had to call customer service and get them added to the account. He called the IS department back on the phone and went through them to see if they could reset the card from there. He listed all the numbers they were asking for over and over, but something wasn’t matching up. It was finally determined that a bar code didn’t match the number of the actual card so when the card was brought into inventory and scanned, it didn’t match what the card actually was. In other words, the bar code didn’t match the code that was hard coded into the card. There was no way to correct this. And we couldn’t simply swap it out with another card. IS doesn’t have the ability to add equipment to an account, so we had to call customer service back, have them remove the old card and put another one in. Once we did that, we called IS back and after reading them all the numbers to activate it, it worked. So out of 10 cards, we had 2 cards that worked. Everyone was pretty excited. The total amount of time spent on this was 4 hours, bringing the grand total to 15 hours to get 2 working CableCARDs in my TiVo, never mind the amount of time it took to run Guided Setup several times (about 30 minutes each time).
You can be sure I will be writing a letter to Time Warner about my experience, which could not have been more frustrating. I work 70+ hours per week and having to deal with this could not have been more unpleasant. Unless you have the time and patience to deal with hurdles like this, I would not recommend getting an S3 in Los Angeles. Maybe other people have had better experiences, but chances are you haven’t. It was made very clear that CableCARD technology is so new that there aren’t many people that know what to do, which is really unfortunate. It’s worth mentioning that the tech that came out the second time was a rock star. He went above and beyond to make sure the job was done right. He took pride in what he was doing and was extremely thorough. his name was Aric and his technician number was 6509. He should be training everyone, even the supervisors.
I know this was long, but if it ends up helping people, then it was worth it. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me directly.