Might as well chime in. WARNING! This could be a long one.
I started with SD in 1998 because they were the only locally-available alternative to analog cable.
Pre-HD Era (1998-2005) -- 400 series receiver
Initially, I was very impressed. The video quality on most channels seemed to be on par with DVD, especially the animation on channels like Teletoon and YTV. Over the years though, they've been adding more and more channels with few (if any) upgrades to bandwidth. As result, macro-blocking and other compression artifacts have increased substantially. Most non-HD channels now remind me of the horrible analog cable I had before. SD's much-touted 5.1 surround sound was also non-existent.
The program guide was also a disappointment. Remember, I signed up back when the only alternative was those huge program guide magazines. There were no TV guide web sites on the internet yet, either. So I thought with the company automatically updating the guide, it would be hyper-accurate. When a show is shuffled around or had an extra-long episode, the guide would be updated right away with the changes. What a joke! I was lucky if the changes happened before the show actually aired! Other providers include info such as the episode name and whether or not the show is a repeat. Shaw direct has none of this information. Its show descriptions are often incomplete, generic, or missing altogether.
HD-Era (2005-present) -- 500 series HDPVR
Now the real funs begins. Lock-ups, crashes, dropped audio, corrupted programs, molasses-like navigation. These are just some of the features the SD HDPVR offers. These were all very annoying to be sure, but each could usually be fixed with a hard reset or an hour or two on the phone with tech support.
However, the true pièce de résistance came in fall of 2008 with the now infamous F2 firmware update. This update implemented High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) over the receiver's high-end digital (DVI) connection. It effectively disabled this connection for any customer unlucky enough to have a non-HDCP-compliant monitor. This was just the tip of the iceberg though. A fault in the way the HDCP was implemented caused the protection to trip any time a "DVI repeater" was used. The most common form of home repeater is the A/V Receiver. So now people who used receivers as an interface between various devices in their home theater (like me) could not use SD boxes with a digital connection at all, regardless of whether their A/V receiver was HDCP-compliant or not!
While this was a major screw-up by SD (and their design partner Motorola), it was nothing compared to their reaction to the issue; which was to totally deny it! Disgruntled customers calling for help were greeted by confused level 1 techs who had "not even heard of the issue" for months
after it first appeared. Gradually, SD would acknowledge the issue when pushed, but then promptly deny any responsibility for it. They blamed receiver manufacturers who, in turn, blamed them. They even tried to claim that they were under no obligation to provide a working DVI connection just because it was on their hardware! Customers calling tech support now received a different story every time they called. Management couldn't seem to understand what the big fuss was about and instructed their receptionists to push customers to use an analog connection to get around the problem. Fixing it, seemingly, was never on their minds. Was this because they were privy to exactly what the nature of the problem was and were aware that nothing could be done? We may never truly know.
The advice to use component (analog) connections revealed several major problems with the mindset at SD:
1) It was an avoidance of the issue, not a fix.
2) It showed complete ignorance of the fact that most of their customers who would be utilizing the DVI connection also had custom-installed setups that could not simply be altered in this way without incurring significant expenses of time and/or money.
3) These same customers likely subscribed to SD's most high-end programming packages. Customers you would think SD would not go out of their way to offend.
SD to this day has still not made a formal acknowledgment of the HDCP issue, much less apologized to customers. Now they're parading around their new 600 series like they expect all the people they f*cked over with the 500 series to eat it up. God in heaven.
As you may have guessed, SD customer service is a mixed bag at best. At times, they seem almost deliberately dense and obstructionist, as if they've been given a list of a few scripted answers they can provide and are forbidden to deviate from without trying every one of them at least three times. Despite their insistence that they keep an issues file on every customer, the new representative you get on your second call rarely knows anything about what you discussed with the previous one. No less than six times I've called complaining that they have my timezone set wrong, so when daylight savings time comes or goes, my clock is always an hour out (this screws up all my DVR timers). They happily fix the problem and assure me they've made a note in my file about the timezone. Yet, they next time DST comes around BOOM!....screwed up time.....again. Wait times are often over an hour as well.
It's not all bad though. As far as I am aware, you can still talk to a person.....from this continent.....when you call, and they are usually quite pleasant to talk to; even if it's always about the same issues over and over. If they ever go to one of those voice-navigation tech support systems that Bell has (where you say the word instead of punching the number), that will be the final straw and I'll cut them loose for good. I can find a better use for $120/month.
-- Very dissatisfied. They should diagnose me with Stockholm Syndrome for still being in such an abusive relationship.
Good night, folks.