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Layer3TV, a culture of fraud?
This article is based on my experience with Layer3TV and is my opinion, not a legal claim regarding their business behavior.
I had AT&T Uverse TV which had issues, but overall it was not all that bad. The main issue was that they kept increasing the cost. Another issue was that the modem typically reset itself around the same time in the morning and in the evening. Due to past issues with the cable company, I really didn't want to go to cable (which I ended up doing and it is working better that other options). So when I saw an ad for Layer3TV I decided to call as it was not AT&T and was not cable.
For those who are not aware of what Layer3TV is, it is TV over the Internet. From the user's view it looks like a cable box, but instead of having a cable attached to it, it is plugged into your home network. The concept is quite nice since it separates the TV service from your Internet connection. Unfortunately there are a lot of issues, not only with the actual service, but also with the poor customer service. But in my opinion it is worse than that as it seems to me that they have a culture of fraud.
Why do I feel that they have a culture of fraud? The first issue, which was not a concern to me, was that they advertise that they have 4K service. I don't have a 4K TV, so it does not matter to me, but at the time I subscribed there was I think only one channel that was 4K. That seems pretty deceptive to me.
The next issue was that I decided to save money and return two of the "lite" boxes and just keep the main box with the DVR. Even thought I logged a call to have the boxes returned and had disconnected the boxes, I was charged for the next month for the boxes (it is interesting that they did the same thing when I cancelled the service). The first response was that the credit was correct. I think I got lucky and one person realized that they had made a mistake and said that I would get the correct credit. The problem is that it does not show as a credit (see below) and I am really not sure if it was credited properly.
There are also issues with the DVR. Examples are not recording, not allowing you to watch the whole show, not allowing you to not watch the end of the show. This not always the case and often it works properly, although the design of the user interface is horrible. When I submitted a ticket on the problem, the response back was that it is known that they have DVR issues.
In some cases it was not too big of a deal since it was possible to get around it, but that was not always the case. I set it to record Breaking Bad prior to the marathon. For two Sundays it recorded it without a problem. On the third Sunday it did not record until I went in and re-saved the settings, without making any changes. When I complained about this I was offered a $10 credit. It was a known problem after all. Well, to be able to watch the missed shows it would have cost me much more than that. Then the customer service person submitted a bogus and insulting ticket, clearly not thinking that I would see it. I asked for a $100 credit, just to make a point. The first response back was that they could not do that, but then the person saw the ticket and decided to change their mind and issued the credit, at least I think so. The problem is that I was not billed, but there was no record of the credit.
In another case, the recorded program froze before the end of the recording. Even though it claimed that there was more to watch, it would not play it. I tried to schedule it to record a re-run of the show, but then it thought that it should record starting immediately until the end of the repeat. I had to delete the recording and then re-schedule it. Unfortunately, it did the SAME EXACT THING for the second recording. I did manage to watch the end of the show, but it was really annoying.
So due to the problem with the DVR and not being able to trust that it would record anything that I set it to I decided to switch to cable. I decided to be nice, in part to see if they could manage to fix all of the issues with the service, and told them to just end it at the end of the billing period. I stated that they no longer had permission to charge my credit card. Well, come the end of the billing period they again charged my credit card. When I complained about it, they admitted that they made a mistake, but said that they would not issue a credit until the equipment was returned. To me, this changed a mistake into fraud. They should have immediately issued a credit. In doing this they changed me from a customer who would consider using their service once they got everything ready for prime time to someone who would never use their service again, as well as getting me to write this.
Their service is really in Beta. There are numerous issues in how it works. I am not sure that they have ever used a DVR before since the way they make it operate just doesn't make sense.
As a side note, it seems that they are more focused on how things look than how it operates. It seems that you can get the boxes in different colors and have an option for another color for the top. I guess some people are into that, but I really don't care about what color the box is. The remote is nice and I was told that they had someone known to design it (I don't remember who as I really don't care). One issue with the remote is that it seems to suck up batteries. Not sure as to why, but within a short period of time the batteries in two of the remotes had to be replaced, with the third a short time later.
With most DVRs it is easy to watch multiple shows that are recorded. Layer3TV does not seem to believe in that. After watching the show, it goes back to live TV. This means that you have to press the DVR button again, scroll down to the entry for that show, scroll down to the next show to watch, which is done in reverse date order so that typically the show that you want to watch is at the bottom.
Another issue is that they claimed to have a "smart" home page which had one bigger live TV and 4 smaller ones. Cute, but pointless really unless you want to try to watch multiple things at once. The real problem with this is that it was supposed to learn what you watched and select those stations. Instead it seemed to randomly pick stations that I never watched. This also included changing the live TV channel after watching a recording. This means that you can to constantly fight it to watch what you wanted to watch instead of what it wanted you to watch.
Another interesting aspect is that each box can have multiple users. I am not sure of all the personalizations it allowed as I only had one user. But it also meant that when you turned on the box you got the login screen and had to press enter, then it would take you to the home screen, which you again had to hit enter again to get a single channel on the screen. Add to that typically it would change to a different channel, that means that you would have to change the channel as well, all this just to get back to the point where it had previously been.
The guide was interesting too since they did not use the full screen as they had side panels all the time. This meant that the guide did not show much at all. The search function was also interesting. You could do a search for a program and it would find it, even if you had no means of being able to watch it. For example it would list programs available on Amazon Prime and even if you had a subscription, it did not matter since it would not let you watch it. There was no way to limit what it returned to programs that you could actually watch.
A nice feature is that the DVR can record 8 programs at a time, but this is also a problem since there is no way to limit the data usage. It will try to record regardless of what it does to your network. This means that if you have limited speed for your Internet connection that it is likely that you will have problems.
Overall they don't seem to have a concept of a proper design. The problems were never fixed in the 4 months that I had it. They kept saying that it would be fixed sometime in the future. Their customer service is often horrible, but I will admit that sometimes you got lucky and got a decent person.
We shall see how the refund goes. I do have to wonder if they really made a mistake or that is just how they operate to see if they can get more money out of people if the person does not noticed that they were charged. The bottom line is that I don't intend to ever use their service again due to the fraudulent charging me for an additional month and not immediately issuing a credit.
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