(The following is a commentary from Scott Greczkowski – Comments are welcome) As you may know at times I can be very opinionated. I believe in speaking my mind and I believe in praising, as much as complaining, however as of late there has not been much to praise about. For years I have been on the Internet posting my views on various things, today is no different. As you may have seen in many of my posts I have been wishy washy on my thoughts on the merger between Echostar and DirecTV. As of late I have been critical about Echostar’s operations. If this merger were announced over a year ago, I would have been 100% supportive. In my eyes at that time Echostar could do no wrong. Charlie Ergen was a caped crusader who’s mission, to give customers great service at low prices. But then things changed at Echostar, customer service went down the tubes. Dish Networks equipment became even more unstable. The cost of the services went up while the channel count went down. Must Carry came and while Echostar knew that must carry was coming for over 2 years they waited to the last minute to get ready for it, causing terrible quality service for all it’s subscribers. And Charlie Ergen while always lawsuit happy was issuing more and more lawsuits to everyone about his problems, putting the blames on others when ultimately it is Echostar who must take the blame. By the end of 2001 we saw many of Echostar’s most vocal supporters drop their Dish Network service to switch to DirecTV. Dish Network no longer had the homegrown family feeling. In a years time Echostar had turned into a corporate monster, no longer caring or listening to its current customers, alls that Echostar was concerned with was the number of new subscribers they could add to their service, roping almost all new customers into 1 year contracts, leaving new customers stuck with bad service, faulty equipment and poor picture quality. Heart felt customer Charlie Chats and Technical chats turned into Propaganda filled advertisements, both programs which took pride in taking Hardball questions from customers turned into prescreened and in some cases pre arranged questions. Customers to this day are left with satellite receivers which do not function as they should, units like the Dishplayer which have always had some kind of problem got worse with software updates, while the software is written by Microsoft it is ultimately Echostar who chose to release the software even though they were notified beforehand that there were many bugs in the new software. How does Echostar handle complaints about the bugs? Many customer service reps will tell you that they have not heard of the problems before and offer to send you a reconditioned Dishplayer for a $14.95 shipping fee, users get the new unit and still have the same problems because the problem is not the hardware but the software. Late last year Dish Network filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for the buggy software, yet this does no good for Dishplayer owners who will see no benefit even if Echostar wins the lawsuit. Dish tried to get smart and make its own PVR, taking the role of writing its own software. Yet the software is buggy, customers machines routinely forget to record shows or loose shows already recorded. While the software is written in house they still refuse to take the blame. 501 owners are told to hang in there fixes will be coming soon. It is my opinion that when a receiver is released all features should fully work as advertised out of the box. DirecTV who has more subscribers does not have the kind of problems Echostar does. While I am an upset customer I must admit, I admire Charlie Ergen, he has built up this huge company from nothing, taking incredible chances to get his service launched. When I first heard that Charlie was trying to buy DirecTV I laughed, especially when I heard that Rupert Murdock was the top running in the bid for DirecTV. Charlie will admit to anyone that he admires Rupert. People on the internet were praying that Rupert did not get control of DirecTV due to Rupert’s crude business practices, his hate of technology and his hate of HDTV. Their prayers where answered when Rupert announced he was pulling of the DirecTV talks with General Motors. Many folks figured that GM would take DirecTV off the market for a while. Just a few days later they announced the plans to Merge Echostar with DirecTV. I remember how excited and proud I was for Charlie the morning of the announcement. The little guy won the battle. For the next few days I was very happy of the merger announcement news. But then I started to think about it. How would the merger work? Charlie announced that one of the things that the merger will do it eliminates the duplicate programming, which both Dish and DirecTV currently carry. How will they do this? It would appear that they would have to move the core programming from one satellite to another. Many people have trouble seeing the satellites and may loose their service if the core services move from where they are now. Many people would need to have new dishes installed and everyone else would need new satellite receivers. How would this work? To this date none of the questions have been answered. Here are my feelings on the merger. I have thought hard and long about this. I do realize that if a merger goes through it is going to require a lot of inconveniences for both Dish and DirecTV customers, from having to get new dishes and equipment to learning new Channel line ups. But after being against the merger for a while now I weighed all the factors and must say that I must give the green light to the merger. My main consideration for giving my support for the merger is that I feel both providers are out of space for new channels and interactive services. If the government were to deny the merger what we have now is what we can expect to have until some new technology comes down the pike that will fit more services on the existing bandwidth. With the announcement that the new Echostar / DirecTV combo will carry all 210 DMA’s for local TV it seemed to be announcement to help get the merger passed. If the merger does go through a condition of the merger should be all 210 markets are required to be online within 2 years of the completion of the merger. I can see trying to play ball saying in the future that all 210 DMA’s are not being covered due to the costs of uplinking them. DirecTV and Dish also mention that broadband will be a big thing they can bring to everyone if the merger is to go through, to me this was a non-issue. Both Dish Network and DirecTV currently have 2 way broadband, while it is expensive it does not run well, because of its built in latency problem satellite internet will never compare to cable or landline based broadband service. From what I hear from people who have satellite broadband the service does not work well now, there is no mention on how things will improve with the merger. It would be my guess that things would actually work slower if the merger was to go through. One of my concerns of the merger is that both providers do not seem to be looking to far forward into the future. With the dawn of digital broadcast television and HDTV upon us it seems they are not looking to the future, they have announced that when the merger is done there will be room for 12 HDTV channels. 12 is that it forever? I am sure that in the next few years many networks will start broadcasting in HD. 12 HDTV Channels seems awfully short sighted. And what do they do when all the Analog broadcasters from all 210 DMA’s flip their analog signal off and only broadcast in Digital? These are things that they should be thinking of now or else in another 2 years we can hear them moaning that they are out of space again. I am not afraid that there will only be one choice in satellite TV, I feel that the cable companies can easily beat satellite TV if they put the effort into it. Satellite TV, which only has so many frequencies available to it, will ultimately hit a brick wall in the future, while Cable TV can have unlimited spectrum, the only thing stopping the cable companies from expanding now is the costs needed to rebuild its systems. With the ability to offer basically anything it wants down its wires cable TV has nothing to worry about. And while Echostar has made some terrible blunders in regards to its equipment, services and customer service one must weigh in what Rupert Murdock would have done if he got control of DirecTV. I choose the lesser of two evils, my moneys on Charlie Ergen. When the merger is approved, the ball is on the 50-yard line, it will be his turn to take the ball and run with it. Sooner or later he will realize that he needs the support of his customers and when he does that he could score a touchdown.