Competition lets everyone win

I have to acknowledge that even I, one who should know better, have become media-desirous. I finally got cable.
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For years, I've held out. I've denied my desires, even needs, and said no to the media sirens. The allure of those seductive images often bent my resolve, but it was never broken. No, I would hold out forever.

But now, I have to acknowledge that even I, one who should know better, have become media-desirous. I finally got cable.

The last straw was when SBC upped my phone bill another 10 percent. That made it okay to just peek at the alternatives for phone service. I was surprised to find there were other companies that could provide both local and long-distance for 20 percent less than SBC. Then, just as I was about to make the switch, a brochure from a company called Everest appeared at my front door.


Everest has recently overbuilt the local cable company's monopoly. Because I wasn't looking for cable TV service the brochure was headed to the trash when I noted that both local and long-distance were available from the company.

Adding up the numbers, I discovered that for a mere $15 more a month, I could get telephone service AND about 150 channels of wired programming. Hmmm, my resolve was weakening.

However, before making the leap I wanted to give the satellite folks a shot. If I was going to cure my media desire with cable or satellite, I really wanted to get the HDnet, the new high-definition channel.

I called DirecTV and the Dish Network. All I wanted to know was, “Do you carry HDnet?” After wading through those darn multi-level menus, I discovered neither company has a “question” option. You're either a customer or you are not. You either have an account and are reporting trouble, or you are signing up for service. All I wanted to do was ask a question for Pete's sake!

After being on hold for more than five minutes, I hung up. These guys could have had me as a customer. All they had to do was answer the phone! As the consumer affairs guy Clark Howard would say, “Welcome to the customer disservice department.”

Then I called the new competitor in the neighborhood. The first thing that happened was a person answered the phone — on the second ring. Then they acted like they were pleased I had called. No “pick your language from the four options,” none of that “please be patient as we…blah, blah.” A real person answered the phone.

I was able to build an a la carte package of cable TV and local and long-distance telephone service with all the desired phone options and high-speed Internet access. Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish Network and SBC, you all lose. Everest, you win. And so do I.

The point of all this isn't that cable now brings TV, telephone and Internet into my home. No, I'll still use an off-air antenna for local HD signals. But it was refreshing to be reminded that when there is competition, everyone wins. Remember that as your station begins HD and DTV transmissions. What will you do to win viewers to your signal?

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