Cutting the Cord

by Barb, still home in Somerville, MA recovering from knee surgery, but now venturing out for special guest star appearances

cutthecordHi. Barb Ross here, announcing that when it comes to our Maine house we have cut our cable cord.

I know hundreds of thousands of people have done this. But most of the people I know who have done it are at least a generation younger than us, habitually watch TV shows on a device other than a television, and have never had a land line.

My husband and I, on the other hand, should be a cable company’s dream.

  1. We’re happy to pay money for value. If we’re getting services that are easy to manage and that please us, we are happy to pay for them. This extends from the plumber who opens our house every season to cable TV. Give us good service and we’ll pay for it.
  2. We love television. I’m not going to tell you I’m some kind of intellectual who hates TV. We love TV and in my opinion, television, particularly television from the non-basic channels and streaming services has never been better. If Dickens were alive today, he’d be writing for HBO, etc, etc.
  3. We’re middle adopters, not cutting edge people. While my husband is a bit more of a gadget person than I am, meaning that we have a bunch of boxes hooked up to our TV and bunch of remotes, in my perfect world there is one remote and one place to go to find television I want to watch–to my cable guide.
  4. We have to have internet when we’re in Maine. We’re there for the whole season, and we’re working when we’re there.

In other words, despite our older-skewing demographics, we are exactly the people cable companies should be really worried about losing. We are the types who would have hung on forever–if we’d had just a tiny bit of decent service at a reasonable price.

We have cut the cord for one reason and one reason only. Time Warner Cable in has surpassed our previous record holder, Aetna Insurance, as the worst company in America.

The year started off with an $800 cable bill. Without telling us, Time Warner had taken our account off seasonal suspend and loaded it with every premium channel available–at full price. My husband negotiated it down quite a bit, but not nearly close to what it should have been, which was zero.

Since this occurred I’ve talked to at least three other people, people with cottages all over Maine, to whom this happened. If Time Warner thinks $800.00 is an amount most Maine residents, even seasonal residents, will just pay not to have to deal with them, they are off by more than a couple of zeros.

Then there was the internet. Multiple visits by technicians over the summer. To get a technician to come, you have to pass through a gauntlet of service calls, whereby you have to credibly prove they can’t fix whatever it is from their office. Then you have to be home at the appointed time, which is almost never the time they actually show up.

The cable boxes died at some point and had to be replaced. The technician pronounced them “lemons.” The new ones installed had to be rebooted every 24 hours, which wiped out the guide and anything we had set to record. Time Warner support asked, “Is it plugged into a surge protector? The new boxes don’t work if they’re plugged into a surge protector.” This sounded like a total lie to me, the kind of thing people say when they have no idea what is wrong. My husband pointed out to them that if the new boxes didn’t work with surge protectors a) that meant they didn’t work at all and b) maybe it would be a good thing to manufacture them with cords that were more than two feet long.

So it went all summer. Crappy internet, balky cable boxes and bills way too high to justify. I said I didn’t mind paying money for value, but the equation was way off. By August, we’d decided to end what felt like an abusive relationship when we left in the fall.

My husband Bill called to cancel. They briefly talked him into hanging on to the phone, which would allow my mother-in-law who lives with us to keep the phone number she’s had for twenty-five years. After they put him on hold for half an hour to figure out how to do that, he told them to forget it. To mail the boxes intended for shipping back the DVRs to our billing address in Massachusetts and cancel the account.

They said, “no problem.” They also said they couldn’t cancel the account for ten days, but we wouldn’t be charged for the extra ones.

Of course, you’ve guessed what happened. The boxes were shipped to the Maine address and we were billed for those extra ten days. Belatedly, Time Warner service claimed they “can’t” ship boxes to any address except the service address. Which proves they don’t understand the meaning of the word “can’t.”

My husband believes this is all straightened out and we are shut of them, but I won’t believe it until we get the final, final, final bill. Good riddance, Time Warner.

We’ll have to find internet somehow next summer. Fortunately, Boothbay Harbor offers a couple of alternatives.

What about you readers? Anybody cut the cord? How has it gone? Are we crazy?

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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20 Responses to Cutting the Cord

  1. Monica says:

    We own a B&B in Maine and we had to get rid of cable. The service provider is chosen in some sort of lottery where the town decides which cable service is available, only one choice per town.

    Other B&B’s had home accounts, we had a business account. The cost was high and kept going up. The home accounts were about half. Try as we might, we could not get switched to home use so we cut the cord.

    Now we have a satellite.

    There’s nothing quite so painful as trying to cancel cable. I wish you well and that the final, final bill doesn’t languish somewhere in Maine until your return next year.

    (Feel better soon!)

    • Barb Ross says:

      Monica–that is so funny. My protagonist, Julia Snowden, faces this exact problem in my upcoming book Fogged Inn when she tries to get internet for her apartment over Gus’s restaurant. The cable company insists its a business account, but fortunately, a few minutes with the curmudeonly Gus straightens them out.

  2. Ann says:

    Excellent article. I agree with you about being more than willing to pay for good service. Our cable company at home in Florida is Bright House cable and their customer service is Excellent! Good luck finding a new service provider next summer.

    • Barb Ross says:

      Glad to hear there is a good cable company somewhere. Our company at our house in Massachusetts is Comcast, and I have lots of amusing stories about how terrible they are, but they haven’t succeeded in driving us away yet.

  3. Jewel Hanley says:

    Barb, if you have Internet service through the phone company (isn’t Tidewater in Boothbay?), just get a Roku box. I haven’t had cable or satellite for years.

  4. David Edgar Cournoyer says:

    Congratulations of taking the first step to getting out of the abusive relationship with your cable company. Unfortunately leaving cable for satellite is like divorcing Dr Jekyll and taking up with Mr. Hyde. I cut the cord a decade ago and had a rebound relationship with a satellite company for several years. When I tried to dump DISH (for poor service, bad value) via their customer service phone line I was told to press a certain button to drop service. When I did so, the system said I had pressed an invalid key. A couple of repetitions revealed that it wasn’t an error, they never programmed that key in the first place! I finally did the breakup in a one hour live chat. That way I was able to generate a printout of the whole ridiculous conversation. My co-author and I are integrating that conversation into a dystopian novel about a future world run by the IRS. Actually the IRS is currently much nicer to communicate with than the cable or satellite companies.

    • Barb Ross says:

      I am laughing, David, both about divorcing Dr. Jekyll and taking up with Mr. Hyde and about a dystopian world run by the IRS. I do agree the IRS is easier to communicate with than Time Warner Cable!

  5. Vickie Fee says:

    We cut the cord five years ago and are more than content with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Acorn — along with the random free channels on the Roku. We don’t have antenna for network/local channels, but we get news on the Internet and stream network shows we want, like Elementary on CBS, to our computer (connected to our TV via HDMI so we can watch it on the TV screen).
    We’d never go back to the aggravation or expense of cable!

    • Barb Ross says:

      I am so glad to hear this, Vickie.

      I’m not sure how we’ll feed my mother-in-law’s addiction to CSPAN, The Catholic Channel and Turner Classic Movies, but I am willing to make the effort!

      • Karla says:

        Those are the same channels my mother watches! Plus a Polka station out of Wisconsin. Similar experiences, thank you for sharing. TWC was okay for years, then about a year and a half ago, after a brief conversation with tech support about the true meaning of “customer service”, we quit too. Same reasons. We get limited channels with a Best Buy antennae.

      • Barb Ross says:

        I agree, Karla. The first couple of years after TW acquired Adelphia, they were “okay.” This year they took a nose-dive.

  6. When I was having billing issues with AT&T, my cousin pointed me to the address of state over site offices, hidden away in small print in the phone book (required to be there, but not required to be easy to find). A letter with cc to the state did get results. Maybe there’s something like that for cable . . . Meanwhile, the antenna in the attic lets me get more TV than I really need, and the library has great DVDs.

  7. Lynn says:

    Doesn’t Janet Evanovich have a FTA who can’t leave the house because the cable company hasn’t shown up yet to fix his service? I know that is fiction but really it should be easier to get service!

  8. Kait Carson says:

    Ah, the joy of Time Warner! Better than Fairpoint though, who had wonderful local services people, but who told me from their NC home office, “Well, if you didn’t live where you do, you wouldn’t have the problems.” Yep, that was their last day.

  9. dragons3 says:

    Barb, I agree with you that Time Warner is the worst company in America. They’re the only cable company allowed to operate where I live and, because this is a “dead” area for reception, cable is pretty much required if you want to watch network TV and don’t stream. I cut the cord a few years ago and do all my watching online — Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime — and DVDs from the library. It gets a bit frustrating to hear people talk about the latest “Person of Interest” or “Criminal Minds” and know I won’t see it until sometime next year, but that’s nothing compared to the aggravation of trying to deal with TW. Congratulations on cutting the cord!

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