Cable – monopoly of the worst kind

We used to talk so much about public monopolies in India. Yes, public monopolies are not good, but a private monopoly is the worst. Look no further than your friendly cable TV provider if you don’t buy my argument. Let me describe my experiences, un-spiced.

Just moved to Bangalore and want a cable connection?

Method #1. Its so easy, just call the local cable guy, any neighbor will have the number handy. Someone will show up the next day. So prompt you will think. Well, I say why not, when he is going to make more money with minimal additional investment.

Method #2. In case the cable guy does not show up even after you called him, there is a shortcut. Look around your house, your rooftop. Grab that thick black coaxial cable running through your property. Just cut it! You would be performing a perfectly legal action, someone is running wires through your property without permission.

Once the guys show up, you will be asked to cough up a non-refundable deposit. Amount will depend on type of clothes you wear that day and the quality of finish your house has. Alright, I am overdoing this. This amount depends on the locality you live in. Rich blokes around you, you are asked for 1000-1500. Regular middle class neighborhood, Rs 500-1000. And so on.

So you ask them, what would they do with this deposit money? Guys will say they need to install additional equipment, and lots of additional wiring to welcome you to the network. The truth: he won’t install any extra signal boosters just for you. And you did know that his cables are already running shadows around your house.

But you got to pay howmuchever deposit he demands! He is the only cable guy you know.

Alright, so you are finally connected! But why do all channels from number 30 and up look grainy? And guess what, ever since you got connected, your neighbors too aren’t getting sharp images. Now, it is time to start the gradual process of learning to live with grainy pictures. Learning to put up with poor quality – instead of doing the hard job involving complaints and demands – is an Indian habit.

But, if you choose not to put up with the grain drain, then best of luck. Your first battle is getting cable guy’s attention. Method #1 (calling him) won’t work. Wait till he shows up asking for monthly bill. If you cant wait that long, just try method #2 (cut it!), works all the time.

After this entire struggle, you got an extra signal booster installed near your house. You are now the lucky guy with sharp moving pictures on your TV. All right you tell yourself, and wait for the next big sporting event!

Oh O! 12 hours before the big sporting event starts, you find your cable has gone dead. Instead of moving images, you have moving letters that say something like “dear customers … sorry … join us in our fight against X … thank you”. X will either be a government that just raised taxes. Or MSOs who raised rates. Or pay TV channels who just figured the cable guy was underpaying them.

At this point of time, you are just stuck. Sorry, even if you are the I-wont-put-up-with-this-nonsense sort, you can’t even crib and complain. The cable guy has finally made you realize: your entertainment is his business, and you are at his mercy!

Hope you got an idea. This is how our cable TV services are. The worst kind of monopoly in India.

PS: Lets just hope DTH (dishtv, DD Direct like things) becomes practical, easy and affordable to bring an end to this.

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3 Responses

  1. […] But, despite having been at the receiving end of my local cable-wallah’s tantrums, I haven’t switched to DTH yet. Here is why. […]

  2. Well written and so true. So now, do you think DTH has made things better?

  3. Cable TV is great specially if you got those digital cable boxes that is coupled with TIVO _

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