Some U.S. cable TV customers are in for a nasty surprise this coming February 9. If they don’t already have digital cable adapter boxes, they’re going to have to have them by then to continue watching all the cable channels currently available to them.

It seems that cable provider Comcast will require nearly a million customers across Washington state to install converters — even those with newer TVs that have built-in digital tuners.

As Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times reports, that’s coming as a rather unpleasant chock to many Comcast customers:

“This is a shocker if you bought a new TV, expecting to just plug your cable into it and be all set. … [Comcast’s move is] also contrary to the message that cable companies and the government have been sending about digital TV — that cable customers can continue with their current setups.”

Even those Comcast customers who already have a digital converter box will need a new one. Comcast is going to move channels 30 through 80 on its system to digital from analogue at the same time as broadcasting goes digital.

And what, you may ask, about older analogue televisions with only antenna reception? The U.S. government is offering grants of (US)$40 per household to help defray the cost of special adapter boxes (different, again, from the new digital adapters Comcast will require in WA) to allow users to keep using their older TVs into the “digital age”.

4 Responses to U.S. “digital switch” hits cable users, too

  1. Melissa Mendoza
    Dec 16, 2008

    Hello Ms. Alexander,

    I just wanted to clarify that customers that have existing digital cable service will not need a new set top box. The existing converter boxes will continue to work.

    Kind Regards,
    Melissa Mendoza
    Comcast Customer Connect
    National Customer Operations

  2. Maggie James
    Dec 16, 2008

    Thanks, Melissa!

    I guess Brier Dudley’s meaning, when he wrote:

    “Separately, Comcast is now tweaking its network in a way that will require most of its customers to have a different sort of box. Technically, it’s moving channels 30 through 80 from analog to digital.”

    …could have been a little clearer. I wonder how many WA residents reading his piece read it the way our staff did?

    Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the situation is better than first thought for customers. And that’s *good* news, indeed!

    Maggie James,
    Managing Editor

  3. Walter Neary
    Dec 17, 2008

    Hi, hey, I also work for Comcast, and just wanted to clarify, I am not sure where the Feb. 9 date came from. The changes will take place in various regions at different times. We will be in touch directly with customers. Comcast will be sending all sorts of notices to customers at least two months before they are affected at all throughout 2009.

    Don’t mean to quibble, just wanted to pass that along! Also would offer up a newer Seattle news url,

  4. Maggie James
    Dec 17, 2008

    Hi, Walter:

    February 9 – unless they’ve changed it 😉 – is the master date for the nationwide digital switchover…

    Again, the original Seattle Times piece we saw did not differentiate between the natiuonal broadcasting system switchover date and the dates or phase-in periods of the Comcast changes.

    Thanks for the pointer to the new Times story!

    ~ Maggie

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