The X factor
At this point in time, you are unlikely to be the first person in your area to have satellite or cable, so speak to your friends and neighbors.
Maybe you are wondering why I am giving you this advice, when so many “experts” have written about this
subject. The simple answer is, they possess insight that is very valuable, since they have already “taken
their chances and paid their money”. They can shed light on what I call the X factor.
Supporters of both camps are quick to point out the supposed shortcomings of the other, but I have seen zip on what
is likely the biggest factor that will affect the quality of the signal you will receive. That factor is the person who
shows up at your door to install your chosen service. Most customers experiencing poor signal quality have likely
had a bad job performed by the installer. The reason you want to speak to your friends and neighbours who already have
satellite or cable, is that they will be quick to tell you about any installation horrors they have experienced.
I have personally experienced 2 very bad installs, one by a cable installer, and the other by a satellite
installer. The cable installer was adding high speed internet to my basic cable service. He ran the wire
to my computer, added a splitter, hooked one connection to the TV card in my computer and the other to the cable
modem. He ran some basic network connectivity test, (ping, DNS queries, etc.), we even watched a little TV on my
computer monitor; every thing was great. He then tucked the coaxial cable under the carpet, packed up and left.
After dinner that night I went to my computer excited to play with my new toys, and found nothing worked! After
far too many calls to the service desk (complete with the service tech blaming me and my computer hardware for the
failure), a service tech was finally dispatched to my home about 10 days later.
This tech solved the problem in about 2 minutes. The original installer had managed to lay the coaxial cable
directly over top of the tack board that holds the carpet down, puncturing the cable about 50+ times. The tech who
solved the problem informed me that he does about 4 of these types of calls every week. He then informed me that
he was an employee of my local cable provider, but the installers were not. It seems that the cable provider had
been outsourcing the work, so that their highly trained personnel would not be tied up doing installs.
A few years later I had a similar experience with satellite service. I added another television to my home and
decided to get a new high definition satellite receiver. It was a very cold November
day, so I decided it was worth the
money to have an installer do the outdoor work and I would do the rest. The installer arrives, does the outdoor set-up,
goes the extra mile, and hooks up all the indoor stuff and leaves (I was not at home for this install). Over the
next week, I notice that every so often, the picture pixilated when you changed channels. The problem continues to
get worse. The pixilation is happening with greater frequency, and would last sometimes 40 to 50 seconds. I
call to get the problem looked after, and then I'm jumping through hoops. Maybe it’s the wiring within the house
or the satellite receiver; move the satellite receivers to different locations in my home to see if the problem follows
a specific receiver. No that’s not it. Check the wire, not it either. More pointless conversation with
the service desk, of course I have to describe the problem again, I use the word pixilation and suddenly the other end of
the phone goes dead. I then realize that I'm speaking to someone who is not knowledgeable about the subject matter.
I demand to speak to a supervisor. A few transfers later, I end up speaking to someone
who walks me through some
trouble-shooting and asks a few questions, like when did I first notice the problem. Right at that point I knew that my
problem would be solved; networking 101, when something goes wrong, ask yourself when did the trouble start; and did you
change anything just before the trouble started.
As it turned out, the installer damaged the LNB housing on my satellite dish, and moisture was getting into it.
A visit from another installer and all is well again.
The cable and satellite industries are businesses, not benevolent entities. You can always make a few extra
dollars (millions or billions), by outsourcing portions of your offering. Payroll is a big expense for large
companies, when they have to keep enough staff on hand to handle busy times, but still pay them during not so busy
times. Outsourcing solves that issue for large enterprises, by offloading that problem onto someone else. So
while it solves the payroll problem for satellite and cable providers, and shortens the time consumers have to wait
between placing the order and installation, having a third party involved in the equation (the contracted installer),
can cause inconsistent service delivery.