January 21st, 2011 • 5:07 pm
When I wrote about my problems with my Bell Satellite TV system and the stellar quality of the service I received from Bell TV on January 11, it was right after the repair had been completed and before I had been able to verify that everything was indeed back to normal.
It turns out that, while the repair that the technician completed on January 11 did indeed fix the most obvious aspect of the problem (I had no signal at all) by restoring the ability of my system to receive a signal, it didn’t fix the less obvious reception problems that I had been experiencing for several weeks. Even after the repair, I still had far too many cases of temporary signal loss or degradation, resulting in all kinds of undesirable pixellation and video and audio drop-outs.
So a few days later I had to get back on the phone with a tech support representative and attempt to describe the problem and explain why it was not acceptable. The representative agreed that there was a problem, but since it only seemed to affect some of the channels some of the time, he asked me to do more recording and TV watching on those channels to confirm that there was indeed an unresolved problem.
And so by the following Tuesday morning, I found myself on the phone again with a long list of occurrences of the problem on various channels at various times of the day. At first, the representative that I talked to attempted to deflect my requests for help by saying that, since the technician had done a repair, it was possible that there was another problem elsewhere in my system, for example in the HDMI connection between my PVR and my amplifier. While I agreed that we couldn’t totally rule that out, I did stress that it was highly unlikely (since the HDMI connection had been working just fine for years) and that it was too much of a coincidence that the problems occurred around the same time I had this problem with the crack in the cable leading to a leak and rust around the cable connection coming from the dish.
When I stressed that the problem was not just occurring with recorded events but also when I was watching TV live, and that I did at some point experience not just pixellation and video and audio drop-outs, but also a dialog box indicating a actual loss of satellite signal, then he agreed that there was indeed something still wrong with the signal reception. And so he agreed to send a technician again. Just at this point the phone call was abruptly cut. I figured that there had been some problem with their phone system and that the representative would call me back. It took a few anxious minutes, but he did call back eventually and apologized, saying that their whole system had broken down and that he called me back as soon as it was back up.
I asked and he confirmed that I wouldn’t have to pay for a second service call, since there was a three-month warranty on service calls. This time again, just like the previous week, the whole process was extremely efficient. The representative gave me a confirmation number and said that I would be visited by a technician that same afternoon. He also told me to ask him to replace the whole cable this time!
Less than half an hour after I had talked to the technician, I got a call from someone at the regional office. And he confirmed that the technician would be there some time in the afternoon. In fact, the technician called me while on the road around 10:30 am and told me he would be there in half an hour.
He turned out to be the same fellow who had come the week before. We discussed the problem and I showed him some recordings with the signal reception problem (which was not occurring on the live programs at that particular time). He said that he would indeed replace the whole cable and check the other end, on the roof, to see if maybe the rot had spread from the crack to the other end of the cable, or if maybe there was another leak up there.
A few minutes later, he called me in my home office to tell me that he simply wouldn’t not be able to climb up to the top of the roof where the satellite dish was, because of the treacherous conditions. (It’s a steep climb, and there was quite a bit of snow and ice on the roof.) He said that we had two options: either we could wait until the weather conditions improved and the roof was clear, or he could install a brand new satellite dish much lower on the roof. The original dish was installed way up high because 12 years ago, when we moved into this house, there were many very tall trees in the forest on the south side whose foliage might block the satellite signal. Since then, however, we’ve lost most of these big trees, because they were just ordinary spruce trees that had all grown spontaneously when the land that our house was built on was turned from a grazing field for livestock into a residential property 100 years ago (the house was only built much later) and they all reached the end of their natural lifespan around the time, dropping like flies whenever there was a big wind storm. And so, with these trees all gone now, there was no longer any need for the dish to be way up high on the roof.
Given that we are in the middle of winter here and that there is no telling when the weather will improve enough to make a repair at the top of the roof possible, I felt that the new dish option was a much better one. Besides, it would ensure that all the physical components were brand new and conclusively eliminate corrosion or other weather-related issues as potential causes if the problem decided to persist. And the technician could do the whole thing under my 3-month repair warranty. It would then just be up to me to hire a carpenter later on in the spring to remove the old dish and fix the roof properly to avoid any leaks.
I talked to my wife on the phone to confirm that she wouldn’t mind having a slightly more visible dish lower down on the roof, and then I told the technician to proceed with the installation. It turns out that the technology has improved since our dish set-up was last upgraded, and that you no longer need two cables coming from the dish, with one of them connected to a power supply, in order to get proper support for all SD and HD channels from both satellites. There is now an “all-in-one” component on the dish itself, with a single cable running from the dish to the receiver, and this cable no longer needs a power supply. So effectively the set-up is now as simple as it used to be at the very beginning with Bell Satellite TV (then called ExpressVu) in the mid-1990s, before the introduction of a second satellite and HD channels.
The installation was pretty quick, and soon enough I had a fully functional system again, with even better signal reception on most transponders for both satellites. He told me to try and test various channels while he was finishing the job outside (stapling the cable and cleaning up). I didn’t see any problems with any channels. Of course, that was no guarantee that the problem was effectively fixed, since it was an intermittent one. But the signs were good. And this time we knew that, if the problem occurred again, it would not be due to anything physical in the set-up outdoors.
I offered the technician a cup of hot coffee and we chatted for five minutes, while monitoring various channels to try and confirm that there were no glitches of any kind. It turns out that his employer is a family business located in Greenwood, Nova Scotia and that his own dad is the owner. The business is obviously hired by Bell Satellite TV to do repairs in the whole of southwest Nova Scotia. I congratulated him again on their efficiency and thanked him for coming back again so promptly, at the same time saying that I hoped I wouldn’t have to see him again for a while!
Today, after several days of regular use, I can confirm that the problem appears to be completely gone. I haven’t had a single incident of signal loss, even though it’s been snowing and occasionally the wind has been blowing quite strongly. So it’s looking good. I am also glad I have a whole new hardware set-up outside, which should last at least a few years without requiring any new repairs due to normal wear and tear. (The weather eventually takes its toll even on the most sturdy pieces of equipment.) An added bonus is that I can now easily reach the dish myself with a ladder if I ever need to clear accumulated snow, which can happen sometimes when there is no wind and the snow is particularly wet and heavy.
While the past few weeks have been frustrating at times because of the intermittent but persistent nature of the problem, I must say once again that I have been impressed by the quality of the service offered by Bell Satellite TV and in particular by the promptness of the processing of service calls and the availability of a technician on site so soon after the end of my calls to the company. Canada is a big country and distances in rural areas are often an excuse for delays of several days before anything gets done. It was not the case for Bell Satellite TV and I really appreciated the effectiveness and efficiency of their service.