Comcast explains upcoming changes to cable broadcasting
By DEB WUETHRICH
Approximately 75 people sat shoulder to shoulder in the Council Chambers at Tecumseh City Hall last Thursday night to take part in an information meeting presented by Comcast representatives. Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch invited the company to make the presentation in the hope that it would lessen public anxiety that has been observed regarding changes coming in the broadcasting industry.
Comcast governmental affairs manager Fred Eaton explained that consumers actually are facing two separate changes. First, Digital Television Transition (DTV), is a change enacted by Congress that affects broadcast channels such as ABC, NBC, and CBS, among others.
Eaton said since more programming can be placed on a digital versus analog technology, the move will free up spectrum capacity for cell phones and other wireless devices and emergency channels, while also providing a financial return for the government which plans to auction some of the remaining capacity. This change, scheduled to take place in February of 2009, will require a special converter box for televisions that are not hooked up to a cable of satellite or operate with antennas or rabbit ears. Those boxes will cost about $40, however, special $40 coupons are available toward purchase of these boxes. Applications for these coupons are available at Tecumseh City Hall. For those who are attached to a cable, the February change will not make a difference as it relates to the bottom 20 channels, Eaton said.
The other change is Comcast’s Digital Cable Migration, which will move expanded basic cable networks to digital only format. Reasons given for this change include the ability to expand programming and services, to enable more HD and digital channels, and faster Internet speeds.
Eaton and other Comcast representatives, including Marketing Manager Megan Martin, then explained how Comcast subscribers, which currently includes many Tecumseh residents, need a digital receiver or a compatible digital equipment (a converter box) in order to continue to receive the Expanded Basic channels 24-70, including Disney, ESPN, etc. after October 7. While Comcast is not upgrading all subscribers at once, October 7 is a date that will affect many in Lenawee.
“I know this is confusing for a lot of people,” said Eaton.
Owners of some of the newest digital TVs may not require the receiver, but most residents will need one for every set. Receivers may be rented from Comcast. The boxes are being offered for free for a period of time which varies depending on level of service. Rental fees, depending on service, then will range in price from $1.99 per month to $6.95 per month, according to Martin. Units may be picked up at a temporary location at the Adrian Mall near the Elder Beerman entrance, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 4-7 p,m., and Saturdays, 10-3. They also may be ordered. With newer TVs that have a cable card slot, Comcast can rent customers a card that will unscramble the channels.
Consumer frustration has been surfacing in the Tecumseh area since residents began receiving mail notifications about the change. Several have called City Hall, while some have even tried contacting City Council members for assistance. Welch said individuals still could call the city “as a last resort,” but encouraged those present to try to work directly with Comcast on their specific issues.
One man in the audience stated that he believed Comcast was not ready for this change and had not adequately trained its customer service reps, who gave differing answers.
“This is a new thing for the industry as well as nationwide, and we’re one of the first areas to go through this transition,” Eaton said. “Unfortunately, what you felt was some of the hiccups that happened.”
Some seniors exiting the meeting said they wished they could just turn the calendar back 50 or 60 years.
“Then we wouldn’t have to worry about stuff like this, because we didn’t even have TV back then!” a woman said.
To contact Comcast, call 1.866.590.4559 or visit www.comcast.com/godigitalnow.