Coaxial cable - the lifeblood of my TV viewing habitsOn Monday a nondescript van pulled up in front of my house. What alerted me to its presence was that I heard the sound of a ladder being extended. As I looked out the window I noticed that there was a man climbing the ladder up the pole that houses my Internet connection. I’m connected via a cable modem through Comcast, so my initial opinion was that the next door neighbor was getting high-speed Internet installed at her house. As I made my way back to my desk the thought occurred to me that he could be up to something more “sinister.”

I’ve been very lucky. I haven’t had to pay for basic cable TV for the past 5, or so years. Did I purchase one of the descrambler boxes you read about in your SPAM? No, I acquired my television signal through much more benign methods – I sweet talked the installer. If you don’t have cable TV and you order high speed Internet, they put on a governor that blocks the TV signal and only allows the Internet data to pass. When the installer came to my house close to 4 years ago, and to my apartment 2 years prior to that, I chatted him up and nonchalantly asked if he HAD to install the governor. In both installations, the installer left the governor off. As a result I’ve enjoyed basic cable free of charge. 🙂

In my defense, I’m paying close to $70 a month for my Internet access, so it’s not as if Comcast is not making plenty of money off of me. Basic cable is another $30 and I just can’t justify $100 a month. Granted my Internet costs would drop if I had basic cable, but the net is still higher than the $70 I’m paying now. And technically, I’m not stealing, Comcast has been giving me free basic cable. Also, don’t forget that there are downsides to this scenario. I can’t complain to customer support when the cable TV goes out. 😛

As I walked back to my desk, I had the sneaking suspicion that the guy at the top of the ladder was putting the governor back on and if so I knew that there was nothing I could do about it. A few minutes later, as I sat typing an e-mail, I noticed my Internet go down for about a second. It came right back, but clearly something had been un-plugged. I finished the e-mail rather quickly and got up to look out the window again. The mysterious man in the plain silver van was gone. I thought to myself, “That was awfully quick. You don’t install someone’s high-speed Internet that fast. He didn’t install a governor did he?” I hopped downstairs and quickly turned on the TV and much to my dismay, all I saw was a lot of static.

Technically speaking, there was still some presence of a signal, but it wasn’t strong enough to realistically consider watching anything. My free TV had been jacked. Later that evening, I dug up some old “rabbit ears” and switched the TV back into antenna mode and was pleasantly surprised at the picture quality of the 10 channels that I can pick up. The downside is that many of the channels that I watch are cable only. So TNT, Discovery and FX, just to name a few, are now gone. 🙁

I probably watch too much television as it is, so I’m thinking of this as a blessing in disguise for the time being. I know that I’ll break down and finally purchase basic cable, but I may live in denial for awhile as I try and convince myself that I don’t need those other channels. I don’t need to watch The Shield, Mythbusters, American Chopper, MTV, or Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Buffy?!? Wait, err, I mean SportsCenter. Ahem, yeah, SportsCenter. 😉