Re: Small pay-TV providers
keep in mind that a cable provider typically has a 'localized monopoly'. I can only get Time Warner, and with their new merger, I'm sure that customer service will suffer somehow. TWC has recently been bragging (in ads) about improved service, raised their rates a couple of times, and switched us all over to digital cable boxen. The 'rent' is free... for now. Will be $/month at some point (for the cheap, featureless box).
Since the switchover I've noticed malfunctioning channels on more than one occasion, had them try to bill me for a tech visit post-self-install [caused by their screwed up database] because the boiler plate said "let me send a tech over" [week later] tech arrives, "I know what's going on" makes a phone call, it's fixed. THAT kind of thing (then they try to BILL ME for THEIR f-up). And some of the channels had WRONG aspect ratios that couldn't be corrected. And I can't disable channels I never want to see, like MSNBC or a spanish-language channel or whatever (so channel surfing MUST scan THROUGH them). And re-scan doesn't stop 'the weather channel' from popping up an irritating 'malfunction' message.
And let's not forget the occasional stutters, pixelization, and black screens that seem to happen now that it's "all digital". Analog didn't really have THOSE problems...
Maybe it's time to force cable companies to allow others to use THEIR WIRES (at a reasonable fee, of course), similar to the way it happened with telcos. And now it's working with POWER COMPANIES (using the local utility's lines to deliver THEIR power THEY generate, usually solar).
But yeah, utilities are like that. They're "regulated" but not necessarily in OUR favor...
(and I've never seen a 'small pay-TV provider', not even once)