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22 May 2008 @ 03:14 pm
RCN "Crushes" their customers  
Well, as foretold by my last posting, RCN has started encrypting all their digital channels in the Boston area now. I called tech support to find out the scoop, and was informed that indeed all channels except 2-22 and 93-98 would be encrypted. (those ranges include only the non-HD broadcast channels).

Their codename for this project is "Analog Crush". They almost got it right, if they just renamed it "Customer CRUSH", that'd be about it...If you want to read more people bitching about this topic, there are discussion forums at: AVSForum and DSLReports.

I had a really poor experience talking to their support people on the phone, and followed up with the following email to cabletv@rcn.com. We'll see what they say in reply.


I have been a "triple-play" RCN customer since about 2002, and up until now have been entirely satisfied by the services provided. I receive Cable TV via a QAM tuner: <http://www.silicondust.com/wiki/products/hdhomerun> connected to a computer. Up until last week, I was able to watch your entire "Expanded Basic" lineup, and additionally, the HD versions of the channels available in the Expanded Basic lineup. I was quite happy with this.

However, recently, some of the channels started becoming encrypted. In particular, I seem to have lost FOODHD (181), TBSHD (174), HGTV (182), ESPN2HD (169), NGC (172), WSBKDT (159), WLVIDT (156), LMN (47), and BCTC (85). I am especially surprised that WSBKDT and WLVIDT became encrypted. These are channels that are available free over the air!

When I called up tech support today, they told me that these channels had indeed been intentionally encrypted, and that furthermore, all channels except 2-22 and 83-98 would be encrypted in the near future. He told me I'd need a converter box, for which I naturally expressed my displeasure, and transferred me to Sales to work that out.

When I got transferred to sales, everything went wrong. First of all, the rep was very argumentative, and kept insisting upon untrue statements that displayed a remarkable failure in the training process:
1) That I could not possibly have been watching HDTV channels without an RCN converter box for the last year. He had no idea what a QAM tuner was.
2) That it's all the FCC's fault that RCN is encrypting channels, and that I should not be upset at RCN for making this change.

This was not the start of a good conversation. And even after I tried to express that I wasn't interested in arguing with him, he continued to attempt to convince me I was wrong...Anyways...

As of now, I am a mightily unhappy customer: you want to force me to pay an extra $12/month to rent equipment that I do not want to have, and which will provide me poorer service than what I already had. When I expressed my displeasure to the representative, he essentially brushed me off and told me that I might as well go to another provider.

Additionally, the rep was unable to tell me whether or not your DCT-6200 boxes have firewire output enabled, and if they do have it enabled, whether the output is 5C encrypted or not. (actually, he had no idea that Firewire was even a thing that existed on cable boxes). This is an important point for me in comparison shopping for service. A cable box with a usable firewire output will allow me to connect it to my computer without the purchase of new equipment.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide.

Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Derekwarlord_mit on May 26th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
I was away when this happened and I started losing recording on my myth!!

For the record, I do have a DCT-6200 and indeed the firewire is enabled and 5C is off. but who knows how long that will last. But why should I have to go get a bunch more of those when my HD Homerun boxes have been working great for so long?? *grumbles*
Derekwarlord_mit on May 27th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
I just got off the phone with RCN... After spending 2 hours, talking to seven people, the "Supervisor" (Carl) I got on the line had the gall to tell me that the FCC was mandating that they encrypt their digitial signals!
(Anonymous) on November 11th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
the fcc is mandating this "With the Federal Communication Commission’s mandate that all broadcast channels be transmitted digitally by Feb. 17, 2009, digital is the future direction of the industry,”
Derekwarlord_mit on November 11th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
And you, like the person at RCN, gets the mandate definition wrong. The mandate is specifically only for over the air broadcasts. So yes, WCVB, WBZ, WHDH, etc all have to stop broadcasting in NTSC by Feb 17, 2009. But this has NOTHING to do with the cable companies. Cable companies are expressly allowed to continue with analog broadcasts on their cable plant. Moreover, the cable companies are expressly REQUIRED to provide the local channels.
(Anonymous) on May 28th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
No more clear QAM in Brookline, MA
I had a very similar experience. When the HD channels disappeared last week, I wasted an hour arguing with the RCN tech support bozo before discovering that he did not even know what a QAM tuner was, insisting that charging $12.95 for their HD box was not a fee for HD.

RCN's arrogance compounds my annoyance. I specifically chose RCN because they made their content available in clear QAM - I asked several specific, detailed questions to nail this down. Not only did they lie to me, but they degraded the service with absolutely no notice.

I sent the following email to the consumer reporter at WCVB - we'll see if they show any interest.


Earlier this year, I responded to an RCN advertisement mailed to my home and signed up for their bundled service plan (internet, phone, TV for $99.00/mpnth). As an engineer with no love of cable companies, I asked the RCN representative a number of specific questions before committing to a contract. Key among these was an explanation of their advertised claim that they do NOT charge a fee for access to High Definition content.

I asked if anything would prevent a TV equipped with a QAM (Digital Cable) tuner from receiving non-premium HD content. I was told no. I asked again, and the RCN rep confirmed that no box was required. I told the rep that this would be a deal-breaker for me, as I have no desire to pay for or clutter up my house with cable boxes. The RCN rep again confirmed that, as long as I was not interested in HBO or other premium channels, no box was required.

Once the service was installed, I confirmed that I was, in fact, able to receive the HD equivalents of the non-premium channels, such as NESN HD, History Channel, and Discovery HD. All was well for several months until, about two weeks ago, RCN began encrypting all their HD content. When I called to complain, they still claimed that they do not charge extra for HD content - the customer simply has to rent an HD box, at $12.95/month, for each TV. For the owner of several televisions, this surcharge would increase the monthly cable bill by 40 - 50%.

RCN's claim that their HD content is "free" is the equivalent of a restaurant claiming to offer free dinner while requiring customers to buy cutlery from them to eat it. There is no technical reason for this policy, it is simply an attempt to squeeze more revenue out of customers.

The FCC instituted regulations several years ago that were intended to stop cable companies from imposing their boxes on customers. RCN is, at a minimum,violating the spirit (if not the letter) of those regulations.

And they wonder why everyone hates cable companies.
fuhm on May 28th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
BTW, no reply yet to my email other than a perfunctory auto-reply: "Thank you for contacting RCN. A member of our support staff will initiate contact as quickly as possible." It seems that they don't have any time left after screwing us over to bother to reply...
fuhm on May 28th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
Most channels now gone
I updated my webpage of QAM channels to show that almost all channels are now gone. Oh well.
(Anonymous) on May 28th, 2008 10:30 am (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone

I am trying to get the Globe to write a story about this. Would you (or any others commenting here) be willing to speak them if they decide to do this? Please pass on your contact info to me.

edgar (@) consumerworld.org
(Anonymous) on May 31st, 2008 09:58 am (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
I started a facebook group:

If enough people make a big enough stink about it, they could change their policy. All I really want is NESN HD. I was so happy when it 'came free' with my DigitalVision package. But after two months, its gone. Anyway, join the group. The point will be to see how many members we can get. The larger the numbers, the more likely someone is to pay attention.
(Anonymous) on June 1st, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
This is a big reason I have stuck with RCN this gives more reason to leave. It is extremely disappointing that RCN is taking a great product and throwing it all away, I have always hated Verizon because they never cared about the little guy.

RCN have you forgotten the only reason that people went with the you is that you offered something the other providers did not. If I cannot get digital free and clear from RCN there is no reason to keep RCN. The DVR you offer is the worst of the bunch, the channels you offer is the worst of all. Why stay?

(Anonymous) on June 2nd, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
I would be more than happy to speak with them. I've been using a HD Homerun for several months with RCN. In fact, I switched to RCN from Comcast for this reason. I had been recommending them to everyone on the Silicondust forums and elsewhere. Now the pull this and try to point the finger. Who do I contact at the Globe?
mrconsumer on June 2nd, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
I have emailed and left messages for Hiawatha Bray, one of the Globe's technology reporters. He has yet to call me back, despite wanting to talk to me. He also said he was confused by the issue.
(Anonymous) on June 14th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
Based on some of his other writings, I'd say he's pretty easily confused.
mrconsumer on June 14th, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
Re: Most channels now gone
Found someone else to write it. It appears in today's paper. (Too bad on Saturday, and she buried the price issue.)