Don’t worry, we’re not having any major crises…except when it comes to our internet and cable TV provider. There’re only a few major providers in the UK: Virgin Mobile, BT and Sky.

After looking at the packages online, reading reviews, and the fact that the previous embassy tenant left a Sky cable box in our apartment, we decided to go through Sky.

We called them for set-up a couple weeks after we arrived in our new apartment in October. Here’re some of my observations so far.

  1. They told us they couldn’t set up the TV because the previous tenant hadn’t shut theirs off. So I had to send an “official” letter asking them to turn it off because the previous tenant had left the country.
  2. Their customer service office is in SCOTLAND. So if you don’t have existing service, they will charge you long-distance rates to call customer service. But at least there is a friendly person on the other end with a fun Scottish accent.
  3. We wanted fibre. They told us fibre wasn’t available in our area…even though there is a fibre optic cable coming out of the wall and into the existing cable box.
  4. As previously mentioned, we put in our order for internet and TV at the end of October. They gave us two separate dates for installation…the earliest that they could get to us would be November 12th for internet (about two weeks), and (after calling back several times) we finally got a date for cable installation of November 29th. Since it was the day after Thanksgiving, we had to go with the next available date of December 9th.

At this point, may I just take a moment and rant? Are you KIDDING ME??? FIVE WEEKS to install cable??? It took barely a week in Belize…a third-world country with no infrastructure. Is this a first-world country or not???

From what I’ve heard, this is fairly standard. I personally think it’s ridiculous, and they need some good old-fashioned competition in this industry!!

Moving on…

  1. When they “install” your internet, no one actually comes to your house. They will send you a router in the mail and tell you to put it in yourself. On your “installation” date, someone flips a switch remotely, and voila…you have two or three days until your signal ramps up and is strong enough to send an email. Not sure why this process takes two weeks.
  2. If you ever do track down a date for your cable engineer to arrive, they will send you a kind email saying that your engineer will arrive anywhere between 8am and 5pm. Fairly standard and annoying. But don’t worry! They say they will call you the night before and give you a 2-hour window. Except they don’t call. And when you call them, they will tell you to call back the next day after 9am (an hour after your window has opened). You will then continue to call them all day, and they will continue to move your window back by 2-hour increments…until around 3:30pm when the engineer finally calls you and says he’s right outside, and your day is basically shot.

And one more very important thing to note: There is an annual property TAX on every TV that you use in your house. It is £145.50 ($238 USD) for color and £49.00 ($80 USD) for black and white. Happily, the US gov’t does consider it a tax, so we get a waiver.

To wrap things up, here’s a great article on what 400,000 people do to avoid the tax.