As an example, consider channel 21, WGN. For three days in April, basic/standard customers (I cannot speak for digital customers, as paying $8 for a set-top box is well below the line) were treated, when tuning to channel 21, to some weird picture of an orange circle surrounded by blue bars. Even worse, according to Mrs. Snowed, the picture was not symmetrical. Anyway, our first call to Time Warner yielded someone who, apparently not knowing better, told us that the loss of WGN's signal was due to a blackout of WGN's baseball coverage. (National superstation coverage cannot be blacked out in Austin, Texas, as we obviously do not have a major league baseball team.) It wasn't until the second call that we were finally able to reach someone who knew that Time Warner was aware of a problem with WGN's signal. We were told at the time that once the channel was restored, we could call for a partial refund, and today, I got one. (As a convenience to my readers, Time Warner's customer service line is (512) 485-5555.)
And then, I've learned that Time Warner is once again preparing to drop another channel from basic cable. The culprit this time is channel 14, KADF-LP, an Azteca America affiliate. Now, as my Spanish is rusty at best, I don't normally watch channel 14, but I'll bet some people in this city do, and they're going to be surprised when said channel disappears from their service. (Source: this page, though you can always access upcoming lineup changes here.)
In a recent talk with Time Warner, I was told that things are moving toward a point at which every cable customer will need to have a set-top box. Cable channels are starting to transmit solely in digital format, and even the local over-the-air channels, currently still supported in analog format by cable companies until at least 2012, will eventually only be available digitally.
Now, Time Warner still only rents their boxes, but customers can also use CableCARD-equipped devices of their own to get around that. Just understand, as per Time Warner's page, that some programming options may not be available for some people with CableCARD-equipped devices:
The new services listed below cannot be accessed on CableCARD-equipped Unidirectional Digital Cable Products purchased at retail without additional, two-way capable equipment.
Pick your poison, I suppose, if you are wanting all the programming available through Time Warner Cable.