Posted: June 20, 2014
I made the trek this week to the Charter Communications office in Altoona to pick up my new cable television box so I could take advantage of the high-definition signal that the cable company has been rolling out this month. Usually, there are more sales clerks than there are customers in the building. But to my surprise, there were about 60 cars in the parking lot.
As the line began to form, I took a number, similar to what I do when I am at the Division of Motor Vehicles facility. As I waited patiently, I listened to other customers' questions and concerns about the transition to the high-definition television. The entire process only took about 20 minutes. It was very efficient and I was pleased that I didn't have to spend the whole afternoon waiting to receive my new piece of equipment.
However, when I approached the counter, I was disappointed to learn that the best way for me to tape programs on a digital recording machine was to lease the equipment from Charter. The cost to rent a digital video recorder is $12.99 per month. I asked what I would have to do if I wished to purchase a DVR from a local retailer and was told that I would not be able to pick up the cable television signal unless I rented a DVR from Charter.
This seemed odd to me, so I returned later in the week to inquire some more. After a few questions, I learned that I could receive the cable television signal from Charter if I leased a cable card from them. That would cost me $2 per month. After doing some quick math, I realized that I could buy my own DVR for about $200 and lease a cable card from Charter and save myself a significant amount of money over the next few years.
It's obvious that Charter would rather have their customers rent a digital video recorder from them. But I now know that I have another option if I don't want to have an astronomical cable television bill each month.
RANDOM THOUGHT: If anyone wonders why the U.S. economy can't seem to grow at its usual pace, it should be noted that rule makers on the federal level set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules consuming 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. In all, the Federal Register finished the year with 79,311 pages, the fourth highest total in history. So, even though there appears to be gridlock on Capitol Hill, the federal bureaucracy is busier than ever.