Years ago, AOL became successful in large part because of their making their software ubiquitous, one could not avoid being exposed to it because of the near constant barrage of disks and CD's attached to magazines, newspapers, stuffing our mailboxes and even at checkout likes in stores, making AOL an easy choice for getting online.
In order to get online 'back then', there were 3 things that you needed. A medium (a phone line), an accessor (the pc and modem), and a service provider (AOL). Often a potential online customer would have the first two, and the AOL disk would be the final thing enabling you to 'surf the web', (if they didn't have the necessary hardware, then they weren't much of a potential customer).
AOL was not the only company doing this, many ISP's in the 90's would give out disks containing the needed software to connect to their system as well as use the internet (most notably a web browser).
Pretty good business model: make it as easy as possible (within reason), to draw in new customers who will be likely to remain with you for an extended period of time, paying all the while.
Shame other businesses don't have such ideas, despite how easy they would be for some to implement.
After my earlier issues with DISH, I decided to do some further investigation into what it would take to get it running in my home, so over lunch today, I ran by a Radio Shack here in Sioux Falls and inquired about it.
According to them, I could sign up and use DISH with no contract, get a free lease on the equipment, and pay just 31.99 a month (plus tax and whatever else they decide to tack on), pretty simple I thought.
So I asked, "If I said 'I want DISH today, just like what you described there', am I able to get the necessary equipment here, take it home, install it myself and have it work?"
"No," the salesman replied. "What normally happens is you buy a $50 installation voucher, and then call DISH and have someone come out to install it for you, and then you receive a $50 credit to your bill."
Seeing the shock on my face (I wouldn't think it has to be that complicated), the salesman continued: "We do sell all of the needed hardware, so you could buy it today, set it up yourself, then call them to activate it immediately."
Not liking the idea of spending $100 up front on a receiver, I passed, however this whole thing continues to make me wonder if this is the best way for them to run their business.
By attaching a debt to a receiver instead of just the deadbeat customer, they enable unscrupulous former customers to make a small profit by selling such equipment to unsuspecting potential customers who might be driven off from the company who is denying access to the receiver, all because of a former customer who didn't want to pay their bill.
Who wins in the end? Really only the deadbeat as far as I can tell, but even then it's not by much. It's extremely unlikely that the new owner of the receiver will pay the satellite provider to clear the debt, and it is equally unlikely that the customer is going to want to pay anymore money for anything that says the satellite providers name on it because of how they got burned the last time, regardless of whose fault it was. So the new owner is out a few bucks, and the provider doesn't get a new customer. The whole while the deadbeat remembers the good memories of a couple of months of free (to them) satellite television, and suffers a number of hits on their credit report.
Isn't that kind of like... the state refusing to license and allow a car to be driven on public roads because it's previous owner did bad things with it (drug dealing, hit and run, etc), despite the fact that they have no reason to expect that the new owner will follow in the footsteps of the previous one.
Heck, if this were the norm, Police auctions would be selling ultimately worthless goods that could never be legally used because their former owners may have used them for something illicit.
Even with this said, I still continue to wonder, isn't the ubiquity of the satellite signals one of the advantages of encrypted satellite television? All a potential customer needs to do is have hardware, leased or otherwise. Pretty much the AOL method, but on a much larger scale (in theory, you can avoid AOL disks... good luck dodging those QPSK signals of doom coming down from Echostar, DirecTV and others). With the right hardware (almost any compatible hardware), a user simply calls up the provider and says "I've got some hardware that I bought on eBay that is showing your promo channels off of the satellite, my credit card in one hand, and my social security card in the other... gimme my 60+ channels!!!"
Granted I do not have any numbers to support my theories on this, however I would expect that satellite TV providers make far more on the actual service than they do from leasing/selling hardware, thus it would seem logical to me to accept almost any compatible hardware on their network, even if it was once owned by a deadbeat with an existing balance (provided the new owner is not that that person), just so long as the person owning it is eager to sign up for service and give them their money.
Of course, that's just the way I see it, and I've been wrong once or twice in my life.