Digital Cable

Our palace at 100 Prince St. is now equipped with Eastlink’s new digital cable service. We’ve made the jump from 50-odd television channels to something in the neighbourhood of 200.

The installation experience was frustrating. A guy came around on Thursday morning to do the installation, and spent about 15 minutes installing the digital box in our living room. He then made a telephone call to activate it, and then was on his way, telling me that in about 45 minutes everything would be downloaded to the box, and we’d be in business.

Well, 5 hours later we only had about 20 of the channels between channel 100 and channel 200 coming in: the rest of the channels simply contain a message saying “One Moment: This channel will be availble shortly.” But many moments passed, and nothing came in.

After 15 minutes on hold to Eastlink technical support, I got through to a helpful agent who was able to reset the digital box several times remotely, but alas to no avail. She scheduled a service call for Friday morning.

Friday afternoon another Eastlink guy showed up at the door to do the repair. He fiddled with the box, and couldn’t do anything immediately. So he phoned in to headquarters and was on hold for 10 minutes himself (proving that at least they treat themselves as poorly as they treat their customers). More remote resets, etc. Nothing. Finally he resorted to going out to the pole on the street where he found that we were plugged into the “old plant” rather than the “new plant” and, further, that the line from the pole to our house was in rough shape.

He spent another hour giving us a brand new line from house to pole, and when he left about 4:00 p.m. we were fully digital, with all of the channels coming through loud and clear.

That we had a bum line from pole to house probably explains something about why our analog cable had quirks, like wavy lines showing up every 2 or 3 minutes on A&E.

For the next three months we’ve got a free trial of the whole universe of new digital channels. I’m disappointed that the international channels seem to be “Canadianized” versions: for example, we get “BBC Canada,” not the bona fide BBC. If you’re a fan of advertising as I am, it’s disappointing to get ads for Bobby Vinton CDs from Kitchener rather than bona fide British ads.

My initial favourites of the new channels: BBC Canada (for the pre-Trading Spaces show Changing Rooms), iChannel (a weird channel that seems sort of like the Discovery Channel, but hosted by Joe Clark’s daughter; they have Scientific American Frontiers hosted by Alan Alda, which is great), BBC Kids (for all the kids shows with multi-ethnic kids with British accents), Tech TV (just for the crazy insanity of watching people take technology absurdly seriously) and, of course, the Movie Channel, all 5 versions thereof, for movies and HBO programs.

It’s amazing I can get any work done.


Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on March 10, 2002 - 21:55 Permalink

Having been told by the drones at East Link, that

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 10, 2002 - 21:59 Permalink

I had considered either StarChoice or ExpressVu for our house, but we had the guys from Video Pros come over with their protractor, and the way they figure it, unless we could move a large tree, and/or move St. Paul’s Church Hall, there was no place on our house to mount a dish that would allow it to see the satellite.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 11, 2002 - 00:21 Permalink

We went with Express Vu and love the service — except no BBC Kids for some reason (they say they are negotiating). [I will be over in my jammies to Peter’s house to watch Thunderbirds next Saturday.] The installation guy was wacked. Went into the basement and drilled a convenient hole for the cord — out 15 inches from the wall! when pointed out moved it 11 inches closer to wall and stapled the cord to the TV directly into my shelving without asking. A complaint to the Wacky ones was met with indifference. Has anyone used the high speed internet off the dish?

Rob MacD's picture
Rob MacD on March 11, 2002 - 19:09 Permalink

Peter, make sure you take full advantage of the 3 month free preview of all those digital channels. I loved TechTV and a number of the documentary and kids channels (and, oddly, the Gameshow network) but, with the free preview over, cannot bring myself to sign up for any of the extra packages at 6.95 each (3 packages for 14.95), nor 2.25 for any individual channels. I know that isn’t much more money, but to me, that extra money is the straw that breaks the camel’s bank. So enjoy the Freeview.

Graham's picture
Graham on April 12, 2002 - 22:00 Permalink

Well, as a long-time subscriber of StarChoice, I’m unhappy as well.

Of course, I expected that they would nibble away at what they originally promised in order to recoup their high initial investment; but, they really don’t have a clue about how to handle complaints.

Let me explain: when they first advertised the system, one of the selling points for me was that one could buy two dishes — one for home, one for cottage — and use the same account (of course, with additional receivers). One could also suspend the service at will and restart with no penalty. Great for vacations or frequent out-of-town visits. This was first thing to disappear — I think they allow one suspension and reconnect and then charge. Okay, I suppose that”s fairly reasonable, under the circumstances.
It does require someone from the call centre (assuming you’re willing to wait the usual twenty minutes or so) to process your request.

The latest change was a recent — and rather abrupt — missal announcing that there would be a new ‘multi-receiver’ charge of $4.99 to ‘better reflect the cost of providing additional support and programming to multiple receivers’. That’s, uh, $4.99 per extra receiver.

Great! They encourage us to buy them, telling us that there would be no extra charge, and then change the rules mid-stream.

The supposed carrot was a dangling of free lifetime warranty. Fantastic. This thing (the receiver) has no moving parts, basically sits there and will probably be obsolete by next week anyway. (Anybody that doesn’t put an industrial surge-protector unit between the receiver, television etc. is not getting any sympathy from me.)

There must have been quite a response to this particular gouge. I telephoned in my initial complaint was told I could forward a letter to the ‘Office of the President”. I did so. And then waited several weeks for a response which arrived in the form of a computer-generated, unsigned letter. There was an ever-so-teeny admission that ‘in hindsight, are [sic] communications about the introduction of this fee should have been made more understandable.’ Plus, the disclaimer that this new fee was never meant to be per additional receiver (hmmph!) but was $4.99 for all additional boxes over the initial one.

Plus the upper-level programming levels — they’ve had to move past ‘gold’ to ‘titanium’, ‘platinum’ and ‘ultimate’ (doesn’t leave much room for anything better, does it?) — will not have to pay the new fee.

At any rate, I’m unhappy that this response letter couldn’t even have a signature — even fictitious — of someone up there. Someone has to be responsible for such lowsy customer relations, you’d think.

As I said in my letter, I moved to StarChoice because I was unhappy with the way Rogers Cable arbitrarily changed their billing practices. Now, where do I go? ExpressVu?

Well, I suppose I should be slightly mollified that this rather anonymous response letter concluded with ‘Again, thank you for your feedback. We assure you that your comments are important to us, and are respectfully accepted.” I should be mollified, right?

fregeau jc's picture
fregeau jc on May 3, 2004 - 21:59 Permalink

The volume on the Quebec stations is very very week

R Young's picture
R Young on June 16, 2004 - 02:38 Permalink

Had express vu 3 months. Rain fade & tree spring summer leave growth problems during wind conditions. Signal breaks up & pixelates. Some channels available on Rogers not available. HELP system not responsive to complaints. Said I signed after installation (before trees had leaves) Good thing I only went with one receiver and kept Rogers Cable. As lousy as Rogers is, at least their customer response seems to try to help. They rebuilt the cable network in our district and it now works 99% of the time. Once my Express VU contract is over — who wants a dish. Maybe I can get it to work up in Muskoka. What is it with the request for a telephone line to be connected. I do not order any PAY PER VU so I do not see why unless they want to verify that there is a billing for the house telephone number against the satellite. Also — have sympatico high speed and land line and mobility. Still no bundle discounts after 3 to 4 months of ONE BILL. I think Sabia needs to fire a whole lot of Bell people to shake em up.

N. Cleary's picture
N. Cleary on August 3, 2004 - 14:30 Permalink

We’re not so happy with the Bell Expressvu Receiver. We have to keep replacing them as they as they break down. Current one was purchased April 2003, so less than a year and a half out of it, but off warranty. The previous one lasted 2 years. Apparently this is par for the course.

Also, we have an old channel package which Bell Expressvu people are constantly trying to get us to “upgrade.” Yeah, right, the “upgrade” will cost us more and give us a lot more channels we don’t want in order to get the ones we have now. Beware those packaging questions they ask you on the phone and don’t make any switches before checking out the actual price and channel package on line.

Expressvu does not stand up to thunderstorms and the signal is usually lost just when there is nothing else you can do at home, because your power is out. There is no cable service of any kind where we live (for real, for real, none of the neighbours have cable) so we are stuck with satellite or antenna on a tower, which only got us two stations.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on August 3, 2004 - 16:19 Permalink

I’ve had an Expressvu receiver for a number of years, with no problems. I agree with N. Cleary that the original channel package is a much better deal than the current ones, and you should not “upgrade”. I also concur with the thunderstorm problem. However, for the 99 percent of the time that the dish is working, the picture is much clearer than that of “digital” cable, there are more channels (I particularly like the ability to watch the central and west ooast feeds, in case I miss a favorite program). I pay $48.77 a month, not including any purchased movies, and find it to be a good deal.

F. Grutzmacher's picture
F. Grutzmacher on August 6, 2004 - 21:04 Permalink

In early summer I contracted to have Bell ExpressVu installed in my home. There was a promotion which included two receivers. They system had to be installed before August 8/04 in order to receive the promotional price. I had heard that the promotion overwhelming their installation department. (Translation — not prepared.) As I was 5 hours from home, I called for assurances that the installation would take place on Friday, August 6, 2004. I was told that they had problems at the beginning of their promotions but everything was on time now. I drove back to Toronto. You guessed it — at 4:50 on Thursday, message was left that they were rescheduling my appointment to August 17, 2004.

I could not sepak to a manager or anyone else in authority today. What a frustration.

Has anyone else experience this. What can one do?

Ben Samson's picture
Ben Samson on September 9, 2004 - 14:23 Permalink

We are frustrated with our Express Vu dish. Whenever it rains or snows (wet snow) we have no reception. These are the times when we want to watch some TV. Are there solutions to the problem? Frustrated! Help!

Richard's picture
Richard on January 12, 2005 - 16:12 Permalink

From ExpressVu’s invester news as of the last quarter of 1994:

Earlier in the quarter, Bell ExpressVu also initiated service on Nimiq 3,
a high-powered direct broadcast satellite leased from DirecTV and operated by
Telesat Canada, to boost capacity, further enhance signal quality solving the
majority of rain fade issues, and to add more unique interactive television
(iTV) services.

John B's picture
John B on July 7, 2011 - 17:58 Permalink

Seems like no matter where you are people have trouble with cable installations — one day they will figure it out, hopefully.