The Breakdown

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Expecting a refund from Time Warner Cable for CBS/KCAL blackout? Don't spend it yet

Time Warner subscribers have missed L.A. Dodgers games on KCAL, U.S. Open tennis on CBS, and hit shows like Under the Dome.
Time Warner subscribers have missed L.A. Dodgers games on KCAL, U.S. Open tennis on CBS, and hit shows like Under the Dome. Photo by Susan E. Adams via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been about a month since CBS, KCAL and Showtime have been blacked out for more than 1 million Time Warner Cable customers in Los Angeles.

Subscribers have missed L.A. Dodgers games on KCAL, U.S. Open tennis on CBS and hit shows such as "Under the Dome."

And the total refund will be: $0.00.

“CBS is carried as part of a programming package,” said Bret Picciolo, a Time Warner spokesman. “We don’t make it policy to credit customers for any individual channel change to that package because, as a whole, that package continues to carry a value.”

There’s better news for Showtime customers. They’ll be getting a credit for whatever they would normally pay for the channel, usually about $15 a month.

If all this tempts you to leave Time Warner, its argument is essentially: “Yeah, this is bad, but it’s going to be just as bad with the other guy.”

“By and large our customers understand that switching isn’t the answer, because sooner or later all are other providers are going to face the same situation,” said Picciolo.

But that’s not good enough for Todd O’Boyle, a consumer advocate at the Washington-based Common Cause. He says Congress and the FCC should step-in and help resolve the dispute.

“They could really inconvenience the parties involved and add some urgency to the issue,” said O’Boyle. “Without clear direction from Washington, we’ll just see more of these blackout fights in the future.”

O’Boyle says both CBS and Time Warner are at fault, but he says CBS blocking access to its website is particularly egregious, and violates net neutrality rules.

The FCC says it’s working at the highest levels to resolve the dispute.

But a more powerful force may be the NFL. The closer it gets to the regular season opener, the less leverage Time Warner has.

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