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11 Sep

Moving Away from Cable: The Cons and Whether you are OK with Them

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These days, most consumers are aware of the abundance of cable TV alternatives available in the entertainment marketplace. Many have adopted these, while others are preparing to follow suit in hopes of better programming, as well as other benefits. “Cutting the cord”, as this is now popularly called, is a raging trend tempting many TV subscribers to overlook the benefits they would be giving up if they switched sides. That said, there are still over 200 million adults in the country who remain glued to their cable plans, the majority of them harboring no intentions to make a change.

The greater part of the cord-cutter demographic are satisfied with their decision to break free of what they see as an outdated mode of TV service, citing money saved, monopolistic customer handling avoided, and a wider range of content to choose from. However, for many, there are plenty of new problems they did not count on before switching to one of the cable TV alternatives. If you were considering doing the same, you would be doing yourself a favor by considering the following things first.

Buffering Issues

This seems to be the most common problem hitting erstwhile subscribers who switch to one of the cable TV alternatives. Imagine your stream of the Super Bowl freezing repeatedly, and even for minutes at a time, while it buffers. The problem with streaming is that it is dependent on a fast and uninterrupted internet connection, lacking which it would just freeze, regardless of how engrossed you are in what you are watching. In contrast, cable TV does not require an internet connection to bring you the TV programming it does, which does not need to load the way streamed video does.

Not Getting All the Channels you Used to Have

While there are plenty of streaming options on the consumer market that carry a diverse wealth of shows and movies, this is not always the same as what the cable companies offer. If you have managed to get hooked on many different shows and channels while subscribed to cable, a move to one of the cable TV alternatives would definitely mean missing out in a big way. You could easily end up feeling you made the wrong choice, which of course is a relative thing.

A lot of people who move away from Live TV after getting used to it, miss having the same kind of programming setup in their homes. Moreover, streaming options come with dedicated live user interfaces, which you would need to figure out how to navigate, and depending on the service you choose, this could be hard. The service may deliver a lineup of channels you are not used to watching, while leaving out the ones that you actually do; many fail to cover the entirety of the major broadcast networks, as well as local channels. The worst thing though, is signing up for a steaming plan and finding out you have most of your favorite channels minus a couple, a good channel guide, and an intuitive user interface, all for an attractive price; but if you want a specific channel added to this, it would cost around an extra $15 a month.

Another problem with streaming companies is that they regularly revamp their content libraries, which considerably cuts the chances of getting the shows you are familiar with. Many are also moving towards original content, and will soon rid themselves of quality shows from other creators. This means no matter how huge their libraries get, there is a limit to how diverse the programming there would be. For a truly wide range, you would need to sign up for multiple streaming services, which means separate bills and higher cost.

Live Sports Streaming is Often Complicated

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Pay television sports channels often spend whole fortunes to acquire exclusive rights to live event programming. It is obviously not in their interest to let just any streaming subscriber get access to all that, without paying big that is. Naming no names, such companies would not stream nearly as many games as they air on cable. If you switched to one of the streaming-based cable TV alternatives, you would need to buy a separate pass for each specific event, like MLB.TV or NBA League Pass. Then too, you would not be getting every bit of programming a cable subscriber does.

You could have multiple streaming subscriptions, while also paying for a sturdily fast internet connection that makes using them possible. However, this still does not guarantee having the baseball and football packages at least one person in the family is particular about, or local channels. Cable has everything we have come to think of as “everything”, all covered under a single, simple subscription and bill. While even the cheapest cable is clearly a lot more expensive, it does not have you wasting time, energy, or money on that one channel (or group of channels) you cannot do without, the way most cable TV alternatives do. You could also watch all major events – the Super Bowl, Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, and not have to switch between receivers. Streaming services, on the other hand, pick and choose what they provide.

Internet Problems

Sadly, when it comes to internet speed, the US ranks poorly in relation to the rest of the developed world. Based on where you live, chances are you could more easily get cable than high-speed internet. If you decide one of the cable TV alternatives is more your thing, and go ahead and cord-cut, internet speed suddenly becomes a bigger deal, without which there is essentially no TV in your home. You may end up having to upgrade so that buffering is no longer an issue, which would of course drive up the bill. Even then, you need to make sure your streamed shows do not cross the usage limit. In some areas where sub-par internet is all you get, these problems simply cannot be avoided.

It is common for streaming subscribers to have their internet decelerate to a crawl because their box malfunctioned. When this happens, it not only keeps them from using high-speed internet, but also throws regular TV viewing into shambles.

Your Cable Company May Fight you about the Move

No service provider wants to give up regular monthly payments, which means the moment you let your know that you are interested in transitioning to one of the cable TV alternatives, they would likely make this very hard to do. An approach double or triple play providers could take is hiding your overage fees until they have mounted to the clouds, or outright asking you to pay more for the internet plan you have been availing for ages.

Stories abound of past customers finally cutting the cord, and in the midst of their joy at future savings, receiving emails from the old company about data overages they need to pay for. Most folks just make the change after tiring of paying so much for a channel lineup they never fully watched, but then find out that since the same company provides their internet, they now have to carefully watch the data they use, or end up paying exorbitant overage fees. Some even have their providers come out and tell them that cutting cable would raise the bills on their internet and phone services, or unreasonably cut their monthly usage limit.

Whether or Not to Switch from Cable TV

Everything mentioned above was partial towards cable, so let us change the tone a bit. As an American consumer who wants to be able to watch TV without too many hassles or a bank-breaking bill every month, you need to know which side can best cater to your needs.

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First off, let us see what the average monthly cable bill look like. A report by MoffettNathanson places it at sixty-two dollars, and that is for a midlevel package. As mentioned already, a good number of subscribers have opted to forego cable for this reason, as well as several others. The most pertinent question here is “Why now?” – Because there are so many cable TV alternatives out there, of course. Streaming services are run of the mill these days, and besides being considerably easier on the wallet, they are more widely accessible – you do not need a TV to watch a show or movie, just a computer, tablet, or even phone would serve.

For the undecided, there are four main things to consider when it comes to choosing the TV service that best suits you.

  • What you like to watch: You probably have a metal list of favorite shows, but even so, write that down somewhere. Does cable or network TV air them? The four major networks have plenty of shows lots of people would give their right arms to keep watching till the end of days, but if you do not fall in that category, then maybe an outdoor antenna, or even a basic digital antenna, will do. This is definitely not a fail-safe though; in big cities, your signal could encounter interference, while in sparsely populated areas, you would be able to get just a couple or three local affiliates. This can be established with a simple online search where you also enter your zip code. If cable shows are your lifeline, but you really think a streaming plan is better for your wallet, then you have some homework ahead of you. Find out which streaming options have the shows you like. Not all shows can be accessed on multiple outlets, so do not get your hopes up. For traditional sports fans, cable is the only option they can justify to themselves, end of story.
  • When you can watch your shows: Streaming services generally not only lack most of the breaking news you like to stay in tune with, but also the more popular shows that people tend to discuss at the office water cooler. If you want your shows at the same time everyone else gets them, then cable is the only go. Otherwise, in some instances, you would have to wait up to a year for a show to be made available online, all the while making sure no one accidentally or even willfully spoiled it for you. That last bit is never as easy as it sounds, what with so much of people’s social media dialogue being taken up by the shows and movies they are currently watching. Simply put, this could drive you mad.
  • How you want to watch TV: Switching to one of the cable TV alternatives means having a reliable internet connection. It also requires a device that can connect to the internet and process high amounts of data rapidly, such as a TV, phone, tablet, or computer. This brings in possibilities, but also the need to decide. You need to look at the devices you currently own, and try and figure out what you would probably buy next year, and the year after that. Based on these items and the way they allow you to consume content, you can arrive at the decision that best suits you. For instance, most of your show-bingeing may be done on a laptop, but you probably do not want to be confined to that single device. Then, there is also the matter of watching TV as a group in your home. You would need a web-connected TV for this if you choose a streaming plan. There are plenty of other device types to pick from as well, many of them able to stream to a living room TV.
  • How much it would cost you: When picking cable TV alternatives, you simply cannot skip the math and hope for the best. Add up all the monthly prices you would be paying on streaming services after picking the ones you like, and to that, add the cost of any shows you would buy each month. Take this total and compare it with what you are already paying the cable company. If you are on a bundled plan, then call them up and ask what your monthly fees would be if you stopped getting cable. Take this off the total amount, and you have a fairly accurate idea of what cable is costing you each month. If it turns out that one or more cable TV alternatives manages to considerably lower your monthly outlay, think on whether you can accept the lifestyle change it entails. If you are ok with that, or you think a change is due, then go for it.
21 May

Self-Installing Comcast® Set-Top Box Can Save you Tech Visit Bill

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Comcast®, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the United States and arguably the cheapest cable provider in many parts of the country, recently upgraded to a digitalized version. This means customers will now have to use a digital set-top box in order to watch their favorite channels on TV. Besides, Comcast® customers will have to pay an additional bill amount of $90 for a professional installation of the set-top box or the internet modem, if purchased individually, and not as part of a bundled package.

Both the new customers as well as the existing customers, who are using Comcast® services, must pay this tech visit bill. In fact, Comcast® even became a victim of highly suspicious tech press for this reason very recently. However, the Telco had already announced that the customers who require internet-only service could use their self-installation kit to install the set-top box or the internet modem, and avoid paying the tech visit bill of $90.

Responding to all suspicious news, Comcast® said, “For internet-only customers, we offer two options that do not require an in-home tech visit. A customer can use an Xfinity® self-install kit with a modem leased from Comcast®, or purchase his/her own modem.” They also said that customers could order the new modem online either by visiting an Xfinity® Store or just by making a call.

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The cable company, who often comes up with best cable deals in the US, further added, “We’ve worked hard to make the self-install experience simple and easy and it’s a growing and popular way for new customers to connect. When the installation is more complex, we schedule a technician visit. There are reasons that an in-home technician visit may be necessary. For example, if our engineers need to test signal strength and connections in a home that hasn’t been serviced in a number of years, or if the installation is more complicated for products like Gigabit internet or there are multiple services (like home security) being installed. For these situations, we offer competitively-priced options, which vary by market. It’s important to note that we can’t offer self-install kits for residences that we already serve with an existing customer.”

Note that the installation fee of $90 may vary depending on the market as well as whether or not the cable company has any active promotion schemes running. Furthermore, Comcast® also announced that the installation fee of $90 would be refunded if it turns out that there was no need for special installation.

14 May

Comcast® Spokesperson Suggests Conditional Speed Boost is a Routine Move

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The customers of Comcast® in select markets have got a free increase in broadband speeds provided residential subscribers with Xfinity® X1 equipment bundle cable and internet services. This is applicable for the customers in Southwest Washington to up to Castle Rock city, Houston, and Portland. Only the customers in the area who choose to bundle Comcast’s cheapest cable packages and internet plans are eligible for the speed bumps.

In addition, how much of a speed increase you may get from the cable provider depends on which internet tier plan you presently subscribe to. For customers with 60 megabits per second internet plans, the new speed is 150 Mbps; for 150 Mbps plans, it is 250 Mbps; and for 250 Mbps internet service, the new speed is 400 Mbps or 1 Gbps.

To get accesses to internet service with applicable speeds, Comcast® subscribers should unplug their respective modems for around 1 minute or reset it using Xfinity® app or X1 voice remote. Further, the subscribers not having the equipment will have to upgrade their present modems to get accesses to new bandwidth from Comcast®. The customers of the cable giant who lease modems are eligible for a free speed boost. Even if you do not bundle the cheapest cable plans with internet, you can get accesses to improved speeds by paying for that.

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Note that Comcast® has set a data cap of 1 TB per month, which is applicable for all customers, irrespective of their present internet plans. The cable provider says that most of the subscribers use internet below the set data cap, and that those who do use more data than that should consider subscribing to their unlimited internet service.

When Comcast® first announced about the conditional speed bumps for customers who choose to bundle, there were widespread talks that the company chose to do that to keep customers from dropping cheap cable service in favor of streaming services over the web. However, Comcast® has denied that keeping customers from cord cutting is the intention behind the move.

“This year alone, we have boosted speeds for internet-only customers and customers in packages in more than two dozen different states across the country which added at least 50 (Megabits per second) more speed for these customers,” said Comcast’s Director of External Communications, Amy Keiter. “In a few of our markets, we are also testing different multi-product packages by changing the Internet tiers for various packages we offer.”

25 Aug

CenturyLink® Makes Use Of Artificial Intelligence To Boost Sales

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Artificial Intelligence To Boost Sales

CenturyLink® is now making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the effectiveness of their human sales force. It is reported that they will make use of AI to automate the work of the qualifying sales leads. CenturyLink® is now working with a company named Conversica Inc. and their Artificial Intelligence agent named Angie that can quickly work through the tens and thousands of leads generated each month via varied sources to concentrate on the ones that can effectively transform into sales to generate revenue for the company.

The Software-as-a-Service Artificial Intelligence offering from Conversica has been much successful on every single dollar that CenturyLink® spends on the service. It is reported that the service generates twenty dollars in revenue for every dollar spend on it by CenturyLink®. This sales automation by Artificial Intelligence is much effective in helping CenturyLink® to economically reach the smaller businesses, where the volumes of revenue cannot justify making use of much human capital, says Gary Gerber, who is a senior director at Conversica.

CenturyLink® gets about 90,000 leads a quarter and there is no way they can engage every one of those people in a conversation, so they cherry-pick — they have humans get in touch with the best prospects and have the conversations,” Gerber says. “But you know there are hundreds of sales leads that go untapped.”

These leads come in from different promotions through the internet, telemarketing programs, and more. Conversica helps CenturyLink® via their AI agents to enable email responses and texts that feel like normal human conversation to the leads. The best part of this automation is that every lead will get a response that is specifically tailored for the consumer.

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The Artificial Intelligence agent Angie is capable of reading response and continues the conversation to the point where it is time to transfer the particular lead off to a salesperson. Angie is even capable of making an appointment.

The Conversica system is integrated into Marketo, which is an automated marketing system of CenturyLink® and as the leads come in, Angie goes to work sending texts or emails to engage with the leads. Gerber said that Angie is persistent. “She’ll try as many times as it takes,” he says.

Angie also gets smarter. Gerber says, “What we call AI is actually a bunch of AIs and some real intelligence too. There is an AI that can interpret what is the best message to send, another focused on how to generate the best response, an AI that actually reads it [and interprets it], another AI that measures intent, and another that says what is the right way to respond.”

12 Dec

Updated Sling TV Interface Available On Amazon Fire

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There is good news for Amazon Fire users – the Sling TV experience on Amazon Fire is getting a facelift. The new user interface of Sling TV was launched on Amazon Fire just recently, and Dish Network is also providing a limited time promotional offer for new Sling customers.

New Sling users, who sign up from an Amazon device, can access extended free trial of the service for fourteen days. In addition to that, Dish is adding new international and Latino packages, which can be bought through Amazon, to offer users with much more flexibility to customize their app.

The new user interface for Sling TV offers more personalized experience and adds more ways to find that content that the users love. One of the main changes is “My TV”, which is the new home screen. From there, users can add their favorite networks to “My Channels”. This will offer a one-click access to the channels and networks that users watch most. Moreover, users can pick up from where they have left off from the “Continue Watching” ribbon.

Users may also navigate to the “On Now” screen to have easy access to all the programs that are currently being aired. The “On Now” screen is organized by genres like Kids, Sports, News and many more, meaning that the users can find what they are looking for easily.

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Sling has launched NBA TV and the NFL Network since fall, together with Pac-12 Network and ESPN 3, which expands the breadth of sports content offered by Sling TV. Users can visit the “Sports” screen to have a quick view of the sports shows. The screen is also organized by different sports categories, meaning that the users can find their favorite sports events by the name of the sport.

The offering from Sling for Amazon customers also includes new Hindi and Latino packages. If a user has signed up for the Sling TV service from an Amazon device, the user may visit “Settings/Account” and choose “Manage Subscription” to see the available programming options like HBO, Kids Extra, Sports Extra,  Hindi Pack, Best of Spanish TV, and many more.

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