Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 12th 2015 Contents A31
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
A couple of months ago, Flow
kindly switched me to their new
Advanced Video Services, a suite
of IP based technologies designed
to launch the company s cable TV
offerings fully into the 21st century,
giving me a month to test the serv-
ice before asking me to choose my
I chose the Basic package, the sec-
ond tier of their four tiers of services
at a cost of $275 per month. Prices
range from $180 for their 44 channel
starter package to a premium package
($479) with the sports and enter-
tainment choices that would meet
the needs of most households.
I ll admit to having a bit of a
unique situation here, though I sus-
pect every home has their viewing
quirks. The management is upset at
not being able to access Bloomberg
without paying $84.
The wee tyrant would probably
enjoy the Family Time package,
adding $30 to the monthly bill.
I watch local news on cable on
the second box in my home office
and the one time I tried the "Play
from Beginning" function of the new
system on a local news show, it sim-
ply didn t work.
This is also an adamantly standard
definition household, and upgrades
to the viewing experience aren t cur-
That s been another part of the
experience. If your signal isn t leaving
Flow s new set-top box via its HDMI
port, you re going to catch hell trying
to work with the new menus and
channel selection system, which is
not optimised for lower resolution
Activist Colin Robinson contacted
me soon after switching to share his
experiences, which closely track my
"As a subscriber to Flow s HDTV
and old disc-based PVR, I m deeply
disappointed I switched," he explains.
"A single button no longer turns
on TV and cable box, and you can t
just rewind a show in progress---
that s now a six keystroke affair,
installation took two visits, and I
still have signal strength and guide
"The biggest hit was my 87-year-
old mother stopped watching TV on
her own---she just couldn t use the
all-black, small-button remote and
on-screen menus, every channel
number she had memorised had
changed, and scrolling favourites is
no longer a one-button affair."
Robinson documented his expe-
riences in more detail here:
In contrast, lecturer and comput-
ing expert Simon Fraser thoroughly
enjoys the new service.
In an online conversation about
his experiences, he gave his mother s
experience with the service a C rating
and his own a "high B." Flow s cus-
tomer service won a D minus.
"Picture quality is quite good in
both locations, and the number of
HD channels is decent," Fraser
explained, "price is also pretty good."
"The box suffers from some UI
Problems when compared with my
old set-top box but that s partly me
getting accustomed to a new system.
I also think that the deficiencies
could be remedied by a firmware
"This digital service is probably
very sensitive to line quality," he
explained after I described by issues
with the service.
Those problems include service
dropouts lasting hours that initially
defied resets of both the SIM card
in the box, and customer support
probing of the system.
Eventually, service returns after
such episodes but continuously
restarting the box and even unplug-
ging it feels more like 1990 s com-
puting than 21st century cable serv-
ice.Over the last two weeks, I ve actu-
ally stopped bothering to understand
the service. I run my signal into a
device that allows my server to act
as a DVR, and I ve been exploring
the quality of current over-the-air
(OTA) signals using modern flat
reception digital antennae which can
be as cheap as US$10 and look far
more hip than rabbit ears.
I m going to have to mount the
antenna outside the old, thick con-
crete walls here, but I m getting really
good signal from CNC3, fair recep-
tion of the Parliament channel and
have to cross my fingers about the
flaky signals from CTV and TV6.
I m going to return the Flow box
connected to my home office, and
the one in the living room is on the
firing line. Behind the trigger is a
Stanching the Flow
Flow's new online schedule is comprehensive but difficult to read on
standard definition screens, due to tiny text.
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