Charter’s fix for the cable junkie

Remember when you used to get four channels of TV for free over the airwaves? Neither do I. Does anybody out there still do tube that way? At least, anybody under 97?

And so it has come to pass, verily, I sayeth unto ye, that Charter Cable will continue to feed your idiot box until the year 2019. That’s because the company just inked a 15 year deal with the city of Reno. For Charter to work that barter, it offered 5 percent of its local annual gross revenue, $2.8 million worth of video equipment, and five channels upon which the city can use that gear. The Committee of Concerned Charter Chokers offered its recommendation to the City Council: “Run away, run away!” The council said, “OK, we’ll run away, but first, we’ll sign that there contract.”

It seems that many are not thrilled with the continued prospect of getting their cable via Charter, a company that a large number of customers regard with the same affection they show a spider in the bathtub. Many who have dealt with Charter for any length of time can usually cite at least one of a now familiar list of complaints: phone operators putting you on hold for two days, bills printed in Sanskrit, installers showing up at 3 a.m., and repairmen offering roofie-laced cocktails to housewives. As one Charter vice president said, “Sure, we’ve been the pits in the past. But look at it this way—there’s nowhere for us to go but up. Hail Satan!”

Financially speaking, it doesn’t have to be a disaster for your house to suckle on The Glass Teat That Makes Us Crazy. Charter does offer a friendly basic cable package that delivers 26 channels for a mere $14 a month. Fifteen years ago, that would have been a very attractive option, one that would have satisfied many Charter customers. But here in the new millennium, most of us cable maniacs have come to realize that life is somehow not worth living without The Food Channel, The Shoe Channel, The Cleavage Channel, Celebrity Gardening and Surgery Tonight!

So, lo and behold, there’s Charter’s expanded cable service, 76 channels for $44 a month, which is, as one analyst once analyzed, “all the effing smell-o-vision a reasonably sane person can handle.” But buyer, beware: This package does not include the HBO family of channels. For that very popular cluster, customers must fork out extra because both HBO and Charter know that the new breed of desperate TV hopheads must have their weekly fix of shows like The Sopranos (this week: trouble at the Bing when Sil catches Tony shaving Paulie’s back).