Product Review: DISH TV vs. Hughes Internet

Apples and oranges, I know. However, Hughes Internet and DISH TV are both satellite-powered products, and therein lies a tale.

Friday afternoon was devoted to canceling both services. Spectrum cable (known locally in Deer Lodge, Montana, as Charter) had sold me on a bundle plan including TV, Internet, and landline telephone access. Installation had just been completed. Spectrum’s blazing Internet speed alone would have been enough to make the change, though that wasn’t the original motivation. The Hughes plan I was on boasted of “25 mbps.” What they delivered was so logy that I couldn’t even watch a single YouTube video. The screen would just lock up and laugh at me.

This slowpoke arrangement is deliberate. They say it’s only fair. I say they’re being less than truthful. Hughes chops your broadband access through what they call the Fair Access Policy–or FAP. Trust me, getting FAPPED is not the way to go. Suppposedly, your modem rats you out when you’ve used “too much” broadband and the system locks you down to dial-up speed (if that) for the next 24 hours. But in my experience over the last couple of years, my broadband access has always been locked down.

DISH TV, on the other hand, has never done anything (or failed to do anything) to irritate me. So did the difference in how the two companies treated me stem from my attitude toward them…or was it a pure difference in policy? Or did it have something to do with the fact that I was retaining one account with DISH TV but not with Hughes Internet?

Got me. Only the Shadow knows.

DISH TV and Hughes Internet do have some sort of weird symbiotic relationship. I had DISH TV down in Arizona, moved it to Montana, and was told by DISH that DISH also provided Internet service. “Go for it,” I said. Next thing I knew, I was on the phone with Hughes. Yet the satellite dish Hughes used said DISH on it. Go figure.

Both satellite dishes say DISH on them

I called DISH first, explaining to the human (whose every word I heard and understood easily) that I wanted to cancel the Montana DISH TV account (mine) while leaving the Arizona DISH TV account in force. Naturally, the gentleman asked why I was canceling the account.

“Believe it or not, it’s not because of you at all. It’s because of Hughes. I decided I needed a landline to eliminate the RF waves hitting me from my cell phone. Hughes said they could provide that. But it turned out they had no way to provide an unlisted number, so I had to go with Spectrum and ended up bundling.”

He was appropriately shocked. Like me, he’d never heard of such a thing. He was also extremely helpful, canceled the correct account immediately, and even told me I did not need to return the three (countem three!) receivers I have here.

“Is that because I have the old style, not the Hopper?” I asked. I’d insisted on those, not wanting anything with the ability to record programs.

“Exactly. Just recycle them or whatever.”

Cool. Three boxes I don’t have to pack and ship. I was immensely pleased.

Three “outdated” DISH TV receivers of the too-simple-for-today’ sort, ready for the dumpster–uh, recycling bin.

Contrast that with my Hughes cancellation experience half an hour later.

First off, the human I got at Hughes was a lady with a sharp voice and an accent which combined to allow me to comprehend every ninth or tenth word she said. At best.

Then there was her reaction when I told her why I was cancelling. I was blaming them for a product deficiency? I must be retarded! Yeah, she was a little more subtle than that, but the reaction was there. Then there was the fact that I admitted Spectrum’s speed made Hughes look really, really sick. Not exactly diplomatic on my part, oops.

“That’s because of the Fair Access Policy,” she explained, just the slightest bit offended.

“Don’t get me started on Fair Access. I don’t believe in it.” Okay, so now I’d blasphemed against her corporate religion. Then I added insult to injury when she tried to sell me more something. “I want nothing but to get away from you guys completely,” I foolishly admitted.

I had no one to blame but myself for what happened next:

1. The Montana account would be cancelled as of May 2nd, six days after my call, don’t know why she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) cancel it that second, but no big.

2. After X number of days beyond cancellation date, a shipping box would be sent to me and I then had X number of days to send “all their equipment” back or get hit with another $300 equipment charge.

3. The Arizona account won’t cancel until May 26, thirty full days after my call. Frankly, that sounds just plain mean, but I’ll get something out of it. I’ll be in Arizona for a while, visiting my wife, and will put her unused laptop to work while Hughes is still up and running. Take that, y’all.

4. There’s still a full year of contract left, for which I will be penalized of course, but I knew that.

5. Same $300 equipment-not-returned threat applies. Well, not the same, but an additional one, I think. Frankly, I don’t really know. Could be the same. By this time, I wasn’t making out much of anything she said.

I really need to work on my charm offensive.


DISH TV: FIVE STARS. DISH isn’t perfect but the competition makes it look good. Pricing could be better but the programming choices kept me entertained and they were gracious at cancellation.

HUGHES INTERNET: TWO STARS. Frankly, I’d go lower than that but there are times and places when this company is the only option, especially in super-remote locations. (Which Deer Lodge is not; I could have avoided a bit of misery if I’d been thinking clearly two years ago.) Their biggest downsides include the so called Fair Access Policy (which chokes your computer to death by slowness) and a somewhat stinky attitude when they find out you don’t love them any more.

Spectrum? Too soon to tell, though I can say, “So far, so good.” One huge plus–at least here in Deer Lodge–is that I have the local salesman’s number and can call him any time I run into a problem. That’s already been a great help.

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