Since moving to Ottawa, I’ve been getting cable television and internet from Rogers. It wasn’t bad for the first year or so, but since then they’ve been raising their prices every six months, sometimes significantly. It had reached the point where it certainly wasn’t worth it any more, especially considering that Teodora and I don’t watch much television. Mostly we watch CBC shows (Air Farce, 22 Minutes, and Rick Mercer), and CBC has been broadcasting a digital high-definition signal in Ottawa since September 2006. So I took the plunge, and bought a hybrid (digital/analog) TV tuner card for my computer (Hauppauge WinTV HVR 1600) and a set of rabbit ears.

At first I wasn’t pleased with the tuner card, due to the abysmal quality of the software that came with it. But at the recommendation of several reviewers of the card, I downloaded the trial version of a piece of PVR software called BeyondTV. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a vast improvement over Hauppauge’s software and it’s quite usable. Watching high-definition TV on the computer is great, and being able to skip the commercials makes it ever better!

To replace our internet, I decided to switch to DSL service from the National Capital Freenet, a not-for-profit internet service provider and the world’s second free-net. Unfortunately, I’m quite far from Bell’s nearest central office and thus limited to a download speed of 2.5 Mbps, compared to 6 Mbps with Rogers. But the NCF’s price is significantly less, and some things are actually faster with NCF, for example BitTorrent downloads, which Rogers slowed significantly using traffic shaping.

Yesterday I reached the point at which I was satisfied with the new television and internet setup, so it was time to pull the plug on Rogers. First I had a look through the FAQ on their web site to figure out what I needed to do to cancel my service. I was disappointed to learn that they require 30 days advance notice, but what can you do? I also read that cancellations can be done by phone any time from 7:00 am to 2:00 am, seven days a week. But after phoning them up and navigating through the annoying interactive voice response system, I reached a department that was currently closed, and would be open during their “normal business hours”, which they neglected to specify.

I phoned again, taking a different path through the IVR with the hopes of getting a real human being on the phone. I succeeded, but the person who answered my call wasn’t able to handle cancellations, and forwarded my call to the same place I had reached on my previous attempt. I called a third time, reached a different person and asked again to cancel. When she proposed to forward my call, I told her about the “normal business hours” message and she told me that indeed that department was closed, and that the mysterious normal business hours were 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, seven days a week. I was surprised to hear that, considering that it was currently 6:00 pm. Upon pointing this out to her, she corrected herself and told me that the weekend hours were actually 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

So this morning, a bit after 8:00 am, I resumed my quest. Taking my original path through the IVR, I got the same old “normal business hours” message. I called again, taking the path that would bring me to a human. I got forwarded to the same place again. I called a third time, and the person who answered told me that she would be unable to make any changes to my account due to technical difficulties. I called a fourth time, and miraculously reached someone who didn’t decide to shunt me off to some other place after hearing what I was calling about.

She of course told me that I wouldn’t be able to cancel my service for 30 days. I asked whether I could at least cancel my internet immediately, and she told me even that would not be possible. But luckily, I was able to switch my connection speed to the slowest available, thus avoiding most of the wasted cost.

Anyway, I’m glad that in a month’s time I’ll finally be Rogers-free. I’ll be paying less than half what I was before while hardly giving up anything (and even getting a bit extra thrown in, namely CBC in high definition and fast BitTorrent downloads). And hopefully Rogers will stop sending me junk mail once a week! Well, maybe that’s too much to hope for…