Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
Tivo HD + Charter Cable = Suckage
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02/01/2008 10:12:17

Let's start this post with a bit of background information: For starters, in late 2006, I purchased a Tivo Series 2 DVR and replaced my Cable Company's PVR with it. Since it was a Series 2 DVR, I was no longer able to receive digital or HD cable stations, but that was okay because at the time having a PVR that actually worked correctly consistently (yes Moxi I am looking at you) was more important than high definition.

Now lets fast forward about a week ago Saturday. I finally decided after months of thinking about it, to upgrade to a Tivo HD box and rent Cablecards for it from Charter so that I could have the great Tivo interface and functionality combined with the digital and HD content that Charter had to offer. At the time this seemed like a great idea and beyond the initial expenditure of $300 for the Tivo HD unit, it would only cost me $13 a month to get all of the Charter HD channels (excluding movie channels) and to rent two Cablecards.

So I get the Tivo HD last Saturday and I get everything hooked up. Things go rather well. I have a scheduled Cablecard install with Charter on the following Tuesday. I decide that installing Cablecard can't possibly be that hard as it basically amounts to a PCMCIA slot and some simple pairing of various IDs on the Cable Companies end, so I opt out and don't take any time off work for the install (though in the end this part really would've made no difference). So when I get home Tuesday I find that the cable cards the tech stuffed into the Tivo HD are for all intents and purposes non-functional as they appear to have been paired incorrectly. The tech also disregarded the one page of installation instructions provided by Tivo and proceeded to do it "his way" which failed miserably. He was in and out in fifteen minutes and even while writing up additional paperwork in the driveway, it began apparent to my wife and she went out and called him on it and he then proceeded to imply that we were the ones who should be reading the Tivo instructions. After four calls one after another Charter trying to get a repair of the card to the correct Host ID, all I could get scheduled was another tech appointment for today, Thursday as nobody at Charter even had the slightest clue what a Host ID or Data ID were much less the difference between a multi-stream or single-stream Cablecard and why I didn't need two multi-stream cards for the Tivo HD.

Long story short, the second tech came out today and I made sure I was around for it. This guy was pretty competent and he made a real effort to get things going. When it became clear to both of us that the multi-stream cards were not going to work, he decided that he should go back to the warehouse and grab two single streamers and come on back to my place. I have never seen this level of dedication on the part of a Cable tech and I was very impressed. About an hour later he returned and we tried to pair the single stream cards. Though they appeared to pair correctly, I couldn't download a channel list. He told me that I should follow up with Tivo tech support and beyond that return the cards back to the Cable Company office if things didn't work out.

At this point I was pretty fed up with the Tivo HD. Tivo's own unit doesn't appear to provide any details as to why the downloading of the Channel List failed nor do they provide documentation to intepret the information that they do provide. On top of that, calling Tivo and speaking with their Cablecard support staff was 100% fruitless. I described the situation, and while I was expecting a detailed troubleshooting sessions involving me reading off various figures from the config screens, the support guy simply says, "It sounds like your Tivo HD is fried and thats why the Cablecards don't work", take it back and get another one.

What?!?! Now for those of you who know me, you probably think I was furious and fit to be tied at this point. However long before this point I had accepted the fact that this match made in hell between Tivo HD and Charter's Cablecard support wasn't going to work out. What kills me about this is that it probably wasn't the Tivo unit. The second Charter tech mentioned specifically that they've NEVER gotten a Tivo Series 3 or a Tivo HD to successfully work with Cable Cards in this area. On the flipside however he said that when he installs CableCards directly into TVs, it normally just works right after the pairing process has been completed.

So this tells me a number of things. For starters, while Charter may be partially responsible for the Tivo HDs not working, the fact that television Cable Card installations appear to go off without a hitch indicates to me that Tivo itself may have some sort of problem here. And it doesn't appear to be a unit specific problem as Tivos have never worked in this area with Charter Cable Cards as best as I can tell. This being the case, you would think Tivo would've taken a greater interest in my case rather than blowing me off with the standard, "Exchange your unit for another".

I will be taking Tivo's advice to some extent however. I plan on returning the Tivo HD to Bestbuy however I will not be exchanging it for another unit. A full refund of the original purchase price will do quite nicely thank you. Oh and Charter, thanks for employing at least a few intelligent techs. That's only the second time I've run into one over the years (the first time was the guy who helped wire up our house when we first moved in), but I must say that is a refreshing change of pace to have a Cable guy show up at the door who will give a real effort to get the job done.

I guess this means no Superbowl in HD for me. Ohhh well. That suits me just fine :)

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