Category: Cable TV

Technology Nostalgia

Streaming Video Specialist

I just wanted to remind you or make you aware that I am your streaming video specialist.   You may be looking to looking to cut the cord — cancel traditional pay TV and use a live channel replacement service like You Tube TV or Hulu TV or piece together streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV + or others in lieu of channels.  You may be looking just to supplement your traditional TV subscription with those streaming services.   I can help.    I can also set you up so you can watch all of your Comcast / Xfinity live channels on your computer, smartphone or tablet.   I can set you up with streaming players like the Apple TV, Roku player, Amazon Fire Stick, or the software baked into your Smart TV (which usually isn’t as good).   I always prefer one of the streaming players that gets added to the TV.  They can be as low as $50 or less.  Of course you will pay monthly for the streaming services you want to use (with the exception of plain You Tube or rentals).  Amazon Prime Video is included with your Prime membership.   I have helped clients open up new dimensions to their video viewing.   You know who to call. 

Remote Clients

I do support some out of state clients through “screen sharing” software that allows me to view and in some cases control (with permission of course) their computer.   I have also been receiving referrals to Connecticut clients outside the Hartford area. I am very appreciative. I do charge more for example on a job “east of the river” or “down by the shore” but I will still gladly help those clients. I will disclose rates to a client before beginning work so there are no surprises.   A basic statement of rates is found on my website — westhartfordtechsupport.com .  I also have a 1 page complete statement of billing policies, which can be provided to you at any time upon request. 


iOS 13 Frustrations Continued

You should all have iOS 13 (known as iPad OS 13 on the iPad) on your Apple mobile devices by now.  Last week an important update, 13.2, came out.  A client brought a concern to me — that saving pictures from a text message / iMessage has changed in iOS 13.   I looked into it and found that there may be just one method available for older iPhones.  Previously, you could press and hold on the picture and press SAVE or you could tap to “open” the photo and then press the share button (the square with the upward arrow).  While both methods still work for me (iPhone 11), on the client’s iPhone 8 only the press and hold method worked.  Please be aware of this.


iOS 13 Lessons

Given that there are these changes that seem a bit jarring in iOS 13, I want to offer the opportunity of having a few lessons with me in the new operating environment so that you can function at your full potential.  One thing I did with clients 2 years ago, when iOS 11 came out, was work through a “field guide” together.   The current version of the e-book we used is called “Take Control of iOS 13 and iPad OS 13”.   Even if you did not want to work through a few chapters with me to improve competency, I would highly recommend the $15 e-book.   https://www.takecontrolbooks.com/ios-13-ipados-13/

Technology Nostalgia

I was thinking about how far we have come with technology.  These days we are using pocket sized phones and tablets as the computers we spend the most time on.  Everything is so digital.  A few nights ago I felt like I was being forced to file an insurance claim online.  I just wanted to talk to a live person.  Finally, I was able to.   I began reflecting on how far I have evolved in the area of phone technology.  Going back to my earliest days with the computer, I would dial into the internet on the home phone line (tying it up so no other calls could get through).  Talk about a way to cut down on scam sales calls!   Later on as I was starting my first business, and about 2 years before my first cell phone, I had the need to make cheap long distance calls.  I subscribed to a quarterly billed phone called “Phone Tel” — not to be confused with other companies with the same name.  I think I was a customer until about the year 2000.  Working in healthcare, my father was a regular pager or “beeper” user.  I got one when I turned 18 but ultimately didn’t find it that useful.  AOL Instant Messenger or AIM and AOL e-Mail were my messaging tools of choice for several years.  My first cell phone was a Motorola Star TAC.  This was the phone to have 20 years ago.  If you don’t remember it — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_StarTAC

The Perils Of Buying Used Smartphones

4K TV Is Coming

Most of the TV’s you have bought over the past 2 years have been 4K TV’s.  However, there hasn’t been much 4K live TV content.  Netflix and Amazon Prime offer 4K video as does You Tube.  I just saw the ad tonight — Comcast will be offering Notre Dame Football games this year on NBC in 4K.  To make this happen with Comcast / Xfinity — you need 2 key components:  1) a 4K TV and 2) a cable box that supports 4K. 

The Perils of Buying Used Smartphones

The following write up originally started as an e-mail to a client last week concerning a used smart phone issue we were dealing with.  I polished it up a bit and realized it was good to share with all of you.

Used smartphones, especially iPhones and high-end Android devices can be a nightmare unless you know who you are getting them from.  Take these 2 lessons to heart

1)  Ideally they should be UNLOCKED.   Locking is a nasty trick that carriers use on their phones to keep you on their service.  After the phone is paid off or a contract is fulfilled –they are not automatically unlocked.  A customer has to call up and ask for the unlock code and then go through some motions after the fact which are usually pretty easy.  People can buy unlocked phones directly from Apple and that does happen in some instances.  ** Verizon has always been the one exception with carrier financed phones, since about 2011 they have not locked their smartphones because they had to make  a deal with the FCC.  As of July 1 that policy changed with Verizon now locking smartphones for 60 days (to prevent theft they say).  They have no power to go back and retroactively lock existing phones.  Buying a carrier locked smartphone, with no ability to go back and contact the seller to get in unlocked, could mean that you are unable to use it with the carrier of your choice.  FYI, Apple says that most iPhone models purchased through their physical stores or apple.com (with the exception of some ATT models) are unlocked.   

2)  The second concept I want to introduce to you  is the idea of “financial locking” or blacklisting.  Most customers finance their iPhones and expensive smartphones these days.  On Craigslist, Offer Up, or other known sites for peer to peer sales — there will be many deals for “great phones” that seem way too good to be true.   Think of  an iPhone XS for $200.  It is a totally fake deal.  I have a good friend who got burned on the buying end of this a few years back.  Let’s say the $900 phone has a couple scuffs on the back but is otherwise very operable.   He sells it for $200.  The buyer thinks they are the luckiest dude on earth!!  The seller had insurance on the phone and puts in a claim for a STOLEN phone.  The insurance company has the authority to blacklist the phone with all carriers — basically worldwide.  The seller is shipped a new phone and the original is blacklisted — it is rendered in operable and cannot be activated.  Maybe just maybe it could be used on WiFi only.   Another version of the scam goes like this.   A young kid (18+ of course) buys a $1000 phone.   A maxed out iPhone 11 Pro Max with monthly payments is about $55 to $60 a month.  He decides — Oops I’m over my head can’t make the payments.  He does not go through the proper channel of having a buyer legally assume the contract on the phone.  He sells it for a steal of a price — $200.  The buyer is in heaven or so they think.  Wow.   2 months later when the seller’s cellular account gets cancelled for non payment — the phone gets blacklisted under the same process.  It is a paperweight.

Oh – the perils of buying used smartphones!

My Biggest Cable Savings Victory Yet


$2500 Savings a Year??

As you know, I have been able to save several customers money on their Comcast bills.  I don’t really have a lot of experience negotiating with Frontier because most of my clients have Comcast.  One time, I was able to help a client save $500 a year with Cox Cable.    While I will make a call to Comcast in the course of a normal appointment with you, given the potential for savings it is often worth it ( I will let you know in advance) to have me come out at the 1 hour rate simply to make a deal for you.  

Recently, I really hit a grand slam for a client.  He had been taken advantage of by a tech support scam where he was hit up for $300 for printer support.  I was able to get $200 of that back.  The client was also paying $25 per month for supposedly legit tech support but hadn’t make contact with the outfit in years.  I have been his tech support for the past 2.5 years.  I got that knocked off by contesting it with his credit card.  That is a savings of $300 a year. 

I didn’t want to stop while I was on a roll.  I said — let me look at your Comcast bill.  I think I can save you some serious money.  Boy, did I ever!  

My client was a serious and very profitable customer for Comcast.  He had many educational / documentary / music packages added to his Comcast bill.  In fact, there were packages that I didn’t even know existed.  The client is a man with a very scholarly reputation. Not all learners can get to a classroom due to age and mobility, so he treats his TV as the classroom.  Fine by me.   Nonetheless, the Comcast bill is about $400 a month with some movie rentals (package price was $375 including taxes and fees).   [You can pick your jaw up off the floor now]. 

There was a desire not to cut services from the bill.  Comcast did not fail us.  They were able to reduce the bill by $42 per month with the price guaranteed for 2 years.  That is a savings of $504 per year. 

The savings blitz did not stop there.  My client then told me he was paying for a 2nd Comcast bill.  Hmmm….  A second residence somewhere?   He thought he had been paying this bill for about 6 or 7 months.  It was a Comcast business account for TV (6 cable boxes) and internet.   $164 per month.  To make matters even more confusing, the bill clearly said it was for the RECREATION AREAS of the apartment building.   I was pretty sure that my client was not a commercial landlord.   This one took about 24 hours to straighten out but it turns out that this was all in error.  What an error!!  No Gold Glove for Comcast here (baseball joke).  Credit will be given for past payments.

If I never brought up the Comcast bills, this would have gone on and on with no end in sight.   The elimination of this bill represented an annualized savings of $1,968  (the last year a pitcher won 30 games in the big leagues). 

Unbelievable right?   It really happened.   $2500 a year in Comcast savings.  We lived to tell. 

Concluding Notes

I just want to add this disclaimer.  I have many clients that pay $250 or more on their Comcast bills because they have not negotiated in years.  There is a good chance I can save you some $$$.  If you are paying $200 or less, I can possibly save you some money if you are willing to cut back on service. If you just negotiated a deal recently, now is probably not the time to negotiate a new one.  I own my modem and router.  I believe it on a technical principle, not necessarily a cost principle. However, even though they cost me $260, if they last 3 years (and I think they will),  I will still save money versus the Comcast modem / router which is $468 over the same 3 year period.  I used to say that if you had phone service with Comcast it is hard to own your own modem but you can still own your own router.  Best Buy has made that a little simpler.  They now have a cable modem with voice, with a not so great router built in, for a cost of $200.  If you have a large house or a house with WiFI challenges (unique shape perhaps), you need your own router regardless of whether you rent a modem from them.

Not As Good As They Used To Be

A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge.   This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.

The starting price of an iPhone is now $749.  It used to be $649 not that long ago.   The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model.   Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost?  It may be a little of both.

Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers.  One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be.  They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only.  However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same.   Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services.  Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle.   The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore.  Watch out!  Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals.   Overseas “customer service”?  I don’t even want to get started with that today.

Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball.   A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently.  As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore.  And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant).  Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore.  Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved.  Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app.  It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up.  I am ready when you are ready.  You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV).   I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap.  Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV.  However, you will have to learn something new.

And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.  

It’s not as good as it used to be.

Cord Cutting Part 3 – Numbers Please

In a previous discussion on streaming I mentioned that a $70.00 a month cable internet package (or better) would be a appropriate option for “cord cutting”.  As I always strive to provide accuracy in recommendations, I want to tell you that the current (stand alone) price for the Performance (60/5) internet package with Comcast is 74.99.   I was within a Starbucks drink of the price. 🙂  Comcast does charge a bit more if you only have one product with them, but you do get that freedom of not being bound by a bundle or a contract.  Also by being an Internet only customer with the cable company (or Internet / TV, no phone), you can save $13 per month by purchasing your own cable modem.    I don’t want to leave out the phone company either.   I recently reviewed Frontier’s pricing and it seems they are offering a 45/6 package for new customers for 24.99 and a faster package for 29.99 per month.   In areas where they have true fiber to the home, the speeds will be even better. I have some clients that get by with less speed doing 1 stream at a time but I would like to err on the side of enough enough bandwidth.   Fast phone company service with your own router — can work.

Established customers usually aren’t respected. Want to get new customer pricing? Cancel your services for a few days (few weeks when you go on vacation) and then have your spouse sign up as a new customer.  .  I can confirm this strategy worked with a family member, but YMMV (your mileage may vary). 

For those of you in the West Hartford Center area and nearby neighborhoods — you actually have one more choice for internet — a true fiber optic provider that has moved into the area.  The company is called Go Net Speed.  I would strongly urge you to consider them.  They offer a 150 MB/s connection for $50 a month and no junk fees.   This may be your one chance to break free of the monopolies.  https://gonetspeed.com/ .  They hope to build out more areas soon. Fill out the form to request service in your neighborhood.

The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying

New Year – New You

What would you like to improve in your technology picture this year?  How can I help you get more out of your devices and services?  What would you like to learn? Some areas that clients have mentioned to me already include:

-Using a password manager (finally)

-Breaking free of cable TV

-Learning how to use streaming video services (ie. Netflix + Amazon Prime)

-Upgrading the 4 or 5 year old iPhone / iPad to a newer model

-Upgrading to a new Mac now that Apple has released new consumer level models for the first time in years

Please let me know how I can partner with you on this journey.  I am ready and willing to be deployed. 

Cord Cutting Intro – Wrap Up

We had some substantial discussions about cord cutting over the past two weeks as a result of my Parts 1 and 2 e-mails on this topic.  Don’t hesitate to ask me about your situation.  I think the cord cutting movement will experience major growth in 2019.  One of our local talk radio shows, which usually has a political focus, devoted 3 hours to the idea of breaking free from these $200+ bills last week.   The bottom line is, I think it is possible to get down to an Internet + cord cutting TV service combination for about $110 a month (approx $70 + $40).  As for home phone — you may choose to go without, you can move it to a service like Magic Jack (as I have done $40 / year), or even move that number to the phone company.   And just remember, if you are not ready to be a cord cutter yet — you can always be a streamer.  Trying to drive a hard bargain and cutting features to save money on your existing cable package is another option.  Contact me for a cord cutting assessment. 

And on to this week’s feature —

The Ethics of Cell Phone Buying

You can buy your new smart phone from the Apple Store.  You could go direct through Android device manufacturers like One Plus, Google, or Motorola.  Buying an unlocked phone on Amazon may be an option too.  Best Buy sells a handful of unlocked phones and also ones connected with carriers like Verizon and ATT.  However, a significant percentage of customers (my clients included) go to one of their carrier’s stores.  If you might want to change your plan or take advantage of carrier specific promotions, shopping at an ATT Store, Verizon store, or T Mobile store may be the way to go.  I’m not telling you that you should or shouldn’t.  One thing I can say in their favor is that the salesperson jobs there are career positions.  These are not traditional retail (ie. Apple) or big box store jobs that pay at a level where the worker needs to work 2 or 3 jobs to possibly survive in the community where the store is located.  The sales professionals in carrier stores are commissioned.   You may have never known this, but if you purchase your phone there the salesperson will not make much of a commission unless you buy a few accessories with your phone.  It seems weird to me, because the acquisition of a customer who will pay bills month after month has to have value to the company.  However, this is the way compensation works.  Very often, we do purchase accessories with our new phones.   A case, car charger, and screen protector can be very helpful add-ons.    On the other hand, you may be like me.   You might be the type to buy your phone accessories from Amazon that they don’t have in carrier stores.  That’s ok too.  All I am saying is that this is food for thought.  If you shop for phones in your carrier’s store, it is a good idea to consider buying your accessories there.  You won’t have to wait for them either. 

Cord Cutting Part 2

Cord Cutting Part 2:  How Much Speed Do You Need?


Last week I covered what cord cutting was, some of the main providers (Hulu TV, You Tube TV, Sony Play Station VUE), and what you should expect to pay (around $40 per month for Hulu and You Tube).

Equipment Required

You will need streaming video box to play your live TV replacement service.   Costs range from the $40’s (Amazon Fire Stick + Roku player) to $200 (Apple TV box).   Unless you have a compelling reason to go with the Apple TV, I think the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku would work out just fine for most of my clients.   Keep in mind that Amazon and You Tube still are not getting along right now, so if you want to subscribe to You Tube TV, I would go with a Roku.   With any of these services, you can watch live TV at any time on your computer, smartphone or iPad (I’m not going to say “tablet” because with the standard iPad being $329, its unwise to look elsewhere). 

How Much Speed Do You Need?

If you are on a DSL internet package from 2003, that won’t work.  However, most of you are likely capable of streaming HD video.  With multiple concurrent internet users in my home at any one time, I would probably feel comfortable with of an internet speed of 40 mbps or more (which means 40 megabits per second in the download direction).  I see cable internet speeds frequently advertised for 150 or 250 mbps, but if there are just two people at home, you really don’t need to pay for that much speed.  You certainly can if you like.  I have some cord cutting customers getting by on 22 mpbs from the phone company.  It works!   Cutting down to Internet only (or internet plus phone) should cost you about $45 to $60 with the phone company and $70 with the cable company for a serviceable option — for the Internet portion of the bill. (Extra savings:  if you only get Internet from the cable company, you can save a ton by owning your own cable modem.)   The streamers I am helping don’t have much concern about a home phone, but you can still have one as a cord cutter. 

Packages

It is true that with the cable company or the phone company, the sun sets on some packages offered.  I had a client tell me recently that she was told by her cable company that she could never get her package back if she changed.  Another client, who is not a candidate for streaming, recently changed her package to get the Home and Garden channel.  She was upset when she lost one of her favorite channels.  In a subsequent conversation with Comcast she was told that there was no option of reverting.  While they may be full of bloated bills and price gimmicks, the cable companies (like Verizon, for example) are not so evil that they proactively cancel customers on “grandfathered packages.”   If you are in a contract, you may be getting a 12 month or 24 month discount for being on a given package.  That discount expires, but there is a good chance you can keep your package, even if it is no longer offered to new sign ups.    Keep in mind, your provider may make it difficult for you to stay on that package.  The price could be jacked up or features could be removed, seemingly on a monthly basis.  On the other hand, you may be able to ride along the easy road with it forever.

Truth be told, when you decide to be a cord cutter, multi-service packages from one provider don’t matter much.  Internet is the only thing that matters.  You will be getting your TV elsewhere.

Conclusion

Maybe you just want to try Amazon Prime Video (since you are paying for it already).   Maybe Netflix is super appealing to you.  You may just want to rent some movies from time to time.   Be a streamer!    Or you may be sick of the $200+ bills and want to take 100% control of your live channel subscription experience.   A “free TV” antenna may be good enough if you don’t care about anything more than local channels.   With a Roku box (and the like) you can get a really good traditional pay TV replacement service for about $40 a month.   If you don’t like the menus and setup on Hulu Live TV, you can go to YouTube TV the next month, and so on.   You are not locked down.  You have choices.   Welcome to 2019!

Snip, snip.