Hey Charter! Where are my channels?

bmorem@thetribunenews.com  March 8, 2012 

I’ve got somewhat of a mystery on my hands that involves Charter Communications, provider of our cable TV service.

The puzzle is this: Some time last week, both the Golf Channel and another channel — it could have been the Speed or Hunting channels, a couple places where I don’t spend much time — both lost their signal.

Instead of watching grown men and women taking leisurely strolls through park-like settings, whacking a little ball with high-tech sticks while making millions of dollars for their efforts, I got snowy static or a black screen with a “No Signal” alert.

Of course, I assumed it was merely an anomaly and that Charter would find those missing signals and get the Golf Channel back where it belonged. Ah yes, you know what they say about assumptions.

Taking the initiative, I called all of the numbers related to Charter that I could find in the phone book. A toll-free 800 number had been disconnected. So I called another 800 number and was told by a recording that the number I had reached was not in service. It was the same for all of the company’s 800 numbers.

Knowing that the city of San Luis Obispo oversees Charter Communications as the city’s cable TV franchisee, given the power to “ ... negotiate and oversee the terms of the franchise and to assure that any rate increases are legal, based on Federal Communication law,” I called the Charter number listed on city letterhead. Disconnected.

(I’ve been told that calling the number at the bottom of my bill will deliver results. I guess I’ll have to wait until I get my next bill to run that possibility up the flagpole.)

I’m not the only one mystified by the Golf Channel’s vanishing act. My good friend James lives on the other side of our town. He called Monday morning and asked if our channel 67 was off the air. I agreed it was. He sent me the following email chat he’d had earlier with a Charter employee identified as TTD Conie. The following is their back and forth:

You have been connected to TTD Conie.

TTD Conie: “Hi, James! How are you? This is Conie. I am glad you contacted Charter. How can I help you today?”

James: “Conie, why are we no longer getting the Golf Channel?”

TTD Conie: “I know how frustrating it is when you can’t access your favorite channels when you want to relax and watch TV. I’d be glad to take a look at your account to determine the cause of the problem.”

TTD Conie: “I need to verify your service address to make sure that I have pulled a correct account. Are you chatting for the address in LOS OSOS, CA?”

James: “Thank you. We were getting it up to about a week ago.”

TTD Conie: “You’re welcome. James: “Yes, the address is correct.”

TTD Conie: “Thank you for confirming the address.”

TTD Conie: “Please give me a minute or two as I check on your area channel lineup.”

TTD Conie: “James, are you referring to Golf Channel channel 412?”

James: “No, the Golf Channel on 67."

TTD Conie: “Thank you. Please give me another minute to check it to the account.”

TTD Conie: “James, channel 67 is not available in your area.”

TTD Conie: “Please try to check channel 412.”

James: “What happened to it? It has always been available.”

James: “Channel 412 does not show on my lineup, which I have printed out.”

TTD Conie: “I cannot give you the exact reason but as seen on file channel 67 is not available in your area.”

James: “Who can answer my question? Should I give it to the newspaper and suggest an investigation?”

TTD Conie: “I’m afraid you don’t need to.”

TTD Conie: “There have been alerts of channel line changes.”

TTD Conie: “Effective 3/1/12, channel launches, migrations, and realignments will take place in this area.”

TTD Conie: “Some of these channel changes will include movement to a new channel number and/or change of service level in which a box and/or subscription of services will now be required to view certain channels.”

TTD Conie: “Please let me know if you are still connected to this chat session at this time.”

That was it for James.

First of all, The Lovely Sharita and I didn’t get alerts of any “channel launches, migrations, and realignments” as of March 1.

Second, what an odd response to James’ suggestion of going to the newspaper: “I’m afraid you don’t need to.”

Now, if you want to read some enlightening reviews about Charter, Google up Charter Communications for San Luis Obispo County; take a perusal of the blistering reviews under Yelp, for example.

One of them, posted by Suzy G. of Nipomo, starts off this way: “The key is to seriously lower your expectations ahead of time. Think doomsday scenario. Take a breath, pour a stiff drink, and pretend you’re calling your mother-in-law who hates you to tell her that you ran over her dog. Then call them up and order service.”

Seems a little selfflagellant, but I’ll call the number at the bottom of my next Charter bill for an answer to the mystery of the Golf Channel that’s gone missing. Was it a case of bait and switch — signing up for a certain level of service only to see that change? Or, as is said in golfing circles: Was it just the rub of the green?

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or at 781-7852.

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