Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Race Goes to the Wii-fist

In the Internet Age, speed is everything.  Now that the internet providers can model their levels of service on broadband speed – the money you pay, the faster your internet connection.  Those who can’t or done are now finding that it takes forever for an application like Facebook to respond. 

This business model doesn’t work so well with television internet service.  The speed has to be continuous.  Telling lower-paying customers who buy a less-expensive wireless box in order to receive a tv signal, with the downside that it will take longer to download content and that interruptions can be expected, is like telling a new car owner that the economy-model car they’ve just bought will only go 30 miles an hour and that you can expect the car to come to a grinding halt every three minutes or so.  Waiting for the company to reboot your car can take up to five minutes or longer, so you’ll have to restart the car yourself.

Or just take the bus.

That is Roku’s and GBTV’s answer to customers who initially bought Roku’s wireless box in over the summer in order to watch Glenn’s show, for which customers who signed up early could subscribe to for $5 per month.  There were three levels of boxes one could buy.  Suspecting that speed would be a factor, I purchased the most expensive of the selections.  I was suspicious, but it was the only game in town.

Everything was fine, at first.  A Glenn Back fan could watch his entire two-hour evening program with satisfaction and no interruptions.  The only problem that occurred was the dissynchronization of the audio and video signal, which they eventually resolved.

Soon, though another problem developed:  by October, the signal was cutting out.  Gradually, the interruptions got worse and worse.  Either someone was interfering with the signal or the traffic for Glenn Beck was growing beyond either GBTV’s or Roku’s capacity to deliver the signal.  The other night, I counted 21 interruptions in the space of an hour.  That equated to about one interruption every three to four minutes. GBTV featured the movie, The Hiding Place, a wonderful movie about two sisters from Holland and their father who hide a group of Jews during World War II in their attic.  Trying to watch the film on Friday when it debuted was pretty near impossible.  Saturday was a little better but not much.  Finally, I was able to watch the second half with no interruptions.

I complained (repeatedly); the answer was to go watch the show on my computer.

Excuse me, but I bought this gadget specifically for the purpose of watching the show from the comfort of my living room, not sitting in the office chair in my bedroom/study.  I bought it with the understanding that it would deliver the TV signal smoothly, not haltingly like a car with carburetor problems sputtering down the road.  Netflix works fine.  The company is troubled and the programming is somewhat dated.  Since I’m a fan of old movies and love documentaries, and I don’t watch that much television, it’s not a problem.  What is a problem is that my job is going away in March and I can’t afford to keep on buying $100 gadgets to watch Glenn, at least not every four months.  If Roku and GBTV want to make money by tiering their service, let them do it with their programming, not the actual speed and delivery of the signal. 

The high-end box I bought in July is now obsolete.  In order to continue watching the program, I must purchase another box at a cost of $79 (there’s a more expensive, $99 box whose features including gaming and an Ethernet connection).  Glenn is offering a discount of $10 on the purchase of new boxes.  As long as the $79 version offers the optical connection the current box has, I’ll stick with the $79 box.

No one ever said life is fair, new technology even less so, but to base the price of a television signal receiver on speed puts you into the lemon-yellow zone. 

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