Rich Warren: Finding media services can be bundle of trouble
Aereo, an advanced technology service that allowed residents of major cities to watch local TV stations via computer, smartphone or tablet, suffered bad reception from the Supreme Court. Unlike local cable companies, Aereo paid no royalties to broadcasters for relaying their programming, which greatly riled them. Station owners and networks filed suit with it finally reaching the high court this past spring.
The court ruled on June 25 that Aereo infringed on copyright. The company shut down within a few days. Aereo claims it will return in modified form, but many experts think this could be the end of the line.
We received a similar query from two different readers. One expressed his confusion: "We are trying to figure out what the best local deal is for cable and Internet hook up. We currently have AT&T for our Internet connection and Comcast for cable TV. We would like to bundle this and get our best deal. We currently have the cheapest deal for TV (about $15 a month) and our AT&T has gone up each of the last three months. This caused me to cancel that and got me looking at bundling these two (TV and Internet). Help! There are just too many options. What would you recommend for someone who is relatively cheap, doesn't need every TV station known to man, or greased lightning download speeds."
The second reader is new to town: "I relocated from Rolla, Mo., to Urbana on Vermont Ave. Would you recommend an Internet service? Volo said because of the tree canopy, an aerial would not reach one of their towers. AT&T offered general Internet for email and limited Internet service. A local friend noted he did not like the Comcast service he has and recommended sending a query to you."
Generally, choosing the Comcast bundle saves money and offers the best quality.
Unfortunately, trying to figure out exactly how much Comcast costs is like an English literature major auditing Physics 301. I spent an hour on Comcast's website and it obfuscated real costs beyond its promotional offers.
For the first six months or a year the rate is spectacularly inexpensive. After drilling down to the real rates it costs a lot. Some readers subscribe to DISH for TV and use AT&T or Comcast for Internet.
A positive attribute of Comcast is that it quickly and favorable addressed reader issues and complaints I've relayed to the company. Its responsiveness impresses me. If you suffer unresolved problems with Comcast, please let me know.
Another advantage of Comcast for Internet connectivity is that it offers nearly universal hotspots at no extra charge. In Champaign County alone Comcast claims 4,500 home and business hotspots. Most businesses that use Comcast for Internet service offer free hotspots for Comcast subscribers, even if they don't post it.
AT&T failed to make the investment in Champaign-Urbana that it has in other places. Its U-verse fails to match Comcast in quality and quantity, and its DSL falls even further behind.
For our newcomer, who seems to desire the broadest bandwidth with highest speed, if UC2B big broadband, now operated by iTV-3, is deployed in your neighborhood, it's your best choice. It requires a hefty up-front fee for installation but will offer the fastest speeds at the lowest rates. Currently it only offers Internet and phone, with a promise of TV in the future.
The outrageous complexities of cable, satellite and cellphone contracts make used-car salespeople seem like Abe Lincoln. As I've previously written, first, purchase a magnifying glass. You'll need it for the fine print. Literally.
Finally, a correction: On June 26 I wrote: "iMobile, an iPod, iPhone, and iPad repair service at 206 E. Randolph, Suite 502, Champaign." As an astute reader pointed out, that's 206 N. Randolph, Champaign. Having lived here most of my life I can't imagine how I missed that.
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.