What Happens When Basic Cable Doesn't Work?


A number of things happen when basic cable doesn't work. For one thing, you're not going to see who is going to get the boot from American Idol. Or, without TV, you may find yourself engaged in a delightful conversation with your significant other. Sometimes you know what happened to the cable without even getting off the sofa. For example, a major thunderstorms causing the lights in your house to shut off and keeping the telephone from having a dial tone makes it a safe bet your cable TV problem is outside. But you already know this one -- you may not be familiar with other common problems making your basic cable service unavailable.

Clearly Define the Problem

  • No signal arriving at your TV set is different than having poor signal. Clearly define the cable problem. No basic service means you have no image or a screen full of snow and a rushing noise on each of your basic cable channels. If some of the channels are working and some are not, then you have a signal-quality problem. After checking the basic channels and finding snow and noise on each channel, your next move is to check the other televisions in your home with basic cable service. If the problem exists only on one TV, the cause of the problem has been localized to a cable outlet or box in that one location. If tcommon to all TV sets, the problem is with the cable junction box in your house, the cable wire coming into your house, or somewhere in your area on the cable line.

Check the Obvious First

  • If you have confirmed the issue is with one TV set only, don't overlook the obvious. Check the power cords for the set and cable box to make sure they are plugged into the wall. If the AC outlet is controlled by a wall switch, check the switch to make sure it was not accidentally turned off. Check the batteries in your remote control. When everything is correctly plugged in, you still should have working indicator lights on the TV set and cable box even if basic cable service is not available -- otherwise, you probably have a power problem. If you're sure everything has power, confirm your TV set is turned to the normal operating channel for working with the cable box. Check your cable box, DVD player and any other connected device to make sure the signal selector is in the correct position for TV viewing, as opposed to DVD or videotape viewing.

Check the Not-So Obvious

  • After that basic troubleshooting, it's time to start checking the more subtle causes for disruption of service. Confirm the cable is connected to the proper input. Hold the connector in one hand and push the cable into the connector with the other to make sure it has not pulled loose. Visually inspect the cable behind the TV set, along the baseboard, and in the basement if that's where the cable goes. Your dog or some rodent may have chewed the cable, a vacuum cleaner may have cut or damaged it, or you may spot some other physical problem. Check all connections from the TV to the junction box to make sure they are tight. If multiple sets in your home are without service, continue your visual inspection where the cable enters your house. An aerial drop may have been damaged by a storm or an underground feed may have been cut when someone was digging.

Call for Help

  • After completing all of these checks but not resolving the problem, you must call the cable company for a technician to find out what's happening. But at least you are prepared, as the customer service representative will ask you about all of these connections and inspections in an effort to fix the problem without sending the truck and technician to your home. So bear with the customer service rep and follow their instructions -- you may get everything working without waiting for the next business day. Additionally, customer service will know if a cable outage has occurred in your area.

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