Frustrating cable TV problem, seeking recommendations other than "switch providers"

I have Spectrum (formerly TimeWarner Cable), and over the past maybe 6 months have been frustrated immensely by an issue with missing channels on all 3 of our cable boxes.

Starting in the mid-1200 range, several but not all channels can be tuned in to the extent that I can enter the channel number and the box will go to that channel, with a banner showing what channel I’m on and what’s playing, but with a black screen where the content of the channel should be. This is not the normal “WTVI is not currently available, try again later” error message: just a black screen, like the cable box thinks it did its job and then forgot to actually bring me the channel I want.

On VERY rare occasions I can flip back to the previous channel and back again a few times and it will clear up. Sometimes I can “channel down” to a working channel and back up and it will clear up. But mostly, nothing works. Rebooting the cable box works sometimes.

Last weekend, we finally had a technician come out to look at it. She found that the signal outside is great, but the signal at the cable boxes was crap (I think I heard her telling someone on the phone “+10” outside and “-9” inside, but if that doesn’t make sense, I either heard wrong or am misremembering). She replaced all the cable from where the line from the pole arrives at the house to all three cable boxes. She replaced a splitter where the cable in one room feeds my cable box and my cable modem. And when she was all done, it worked on every cable box. She left, then we left to go get lunch, and when we came back, it was right back to where it had been before.

Obviously, I need to call Spectrum back again. But I wanted to be armed with ideas to suggest or questions to ask that might actually get this resolved. Thanks in advance!

Back in the days of analog cable I had the same problem. After a couple of attempts at a fix they sent out a very senior technician to troubleshoot. He suggested we remove one of the cable runs, “because you can only split the signal so many times.” That seemed like a copout excuse, but it solved the problem.

Don’t know if it works the same way with digital cable, but it might be worth asking about.

Oh God, I have Spectrum as well. I can’t get the C-span channels to ever come in well. I love the book tv over the week end and they freeze, “pixilate” audio cuts out constantly. I have been through four different boxes, the cable guy put in new splitters and cables but nothing solves the problem. I don’t know what more to do, I feel your pain.

I am not a cable tv technician but sounds like you may need an in line digital cable signal booster. Sounds like a digital version of the problem **kunilou **had.

Thanks, all. The commiseration helps. I will inquire about signal boosting.

Are all three of your cable boxes older models? I’d swap out at least one of the boxes and see if that helps, if it does, you know what you have to do for the other two.

Good thought, but all three are less than a year old.

Spectrum is probably using Switched Digital Video for most of the channels. What that means is that your cable box is acting like a streaming device and talking to Spectrum about what channels it needs to show. In vintage cable, all the channels came on the coax and your box tuned which one it wanted. There may be something in the communication path that is losing the packets for those channels. You may be able to find a guide for your specific area which says which channels are SDV and which are analog. There’s a chance that a few are analog, and those are the ones you see.

Keep following up with Spectrum. Assuming they are SDV channels, the computers at the home office should know which channels it is sending to you. If you can’t get this resolved thorough them, you can submit a complaint with the FCC and Spectrum will likely assign you a dedicated person to get this resolved.

Does your neighborhood have a Facebook or NextDoor community? If so, ask if any of your neighbors have the same issue. If so, it might mean some sort of upline splitter or router is messing up.

Over the past few years my cable provider changed the encoding on some channels from (memory hazy) MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. They did this slowly so at first a couple channels would tune in with no picture or sound, but the channel banner and program name at the bottom would be correct. When I called and asked they told me that the fairly old grey Motorola digital box with PVR didn’t do MPEG-4 and eventually would have to be retired. Once half a dozen channels, including a couple I really wanted, made the switch to 4 I got a newer version of the PVR box and the channel with no picture came back.

If I had a cable box that was a year old and it didn’t support whatever video standard the provider was rolling out, I’d be upset.

Thanks for these latest replies! I hadn’t thought about the Nextdoor idea. I’ll put the word out and see if I can get numbers on my side.