Charter Communications is switching all of its Madison area customers to digital only, starting in mid-March.

It means that to watch any cable TV channel, the television you want to use will have to be equipped with a digital set-top box issued by Charter. The boxes translate the encrypted television signals.

The change will affect tens of thousands of Charter customers in south-central Wisconsin, Charter spokeswoman Kim Haas said. She declined to give exact figures, saying Charter does not disclose the size of its customer base.

“About 90 percent of our customers already have at least one (box). Our focus now is that every customer is covered and that they have their secondary TVs covered, as well,” Haas said.

Each set-top box costs $6.99 a month — on top of the fee for subscribing to cable television. Charter said it will waive the charge for at least one new box for at least one year for all current customers. Digital video recorder (DVR) boxes are not included in the fee waiver.

The nation’s fourth-largest cable provider, Charter said getting rid of analog signals, which take up more bandwidth, will give it room for more high-definition TV channels and more video-on-demand options.

The company, based in Stamford, Conn., also said it will double the speed of residential Internet service, at no extra charge, when the rollover is complete sometime this summer. “It’s a better platform for our customers,” Haas said.

The digital transition will be phased in, starting March 11. The first area communities affected are: Barneveld; Black Earth; Dodgeville; Lodi; Mazomanie; Mineral Point; Mount Horeb; Portage; Poynette; Prairie du Sac; Richland Center; Sauk City; Spring Green; Windsor; and Waunakee.

Residents will get letters at least 30 days in advance, Haas said. Those in Madison are scheduled for the change in early April.

Haas said as the transition is made, customers will be able to get more high-definition channels, going from around 100 to more than 200 by the end of the summer, depending on the subscriber’s level of service.

To accommodate an expected increase in customer service needs, Charter has extended hours for its two offices, at 2701 Daniels St., Madison, and 2935 S. Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, and has added a third location, 515 Junction Road, through mid-May.

All three locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Subscribers can get digital boxes sent to their homes, if they want to set up the boxes on their own, at no additional shipping cost.

Having a technician come out and install the boxes will cost $29.99.

Customers who have analog TV sets can get the digital signals but they won’t come in high-definition. If they don’t want to get a set-top box, they can hook up an antenna to receive over-the-air channels.

“Are they likely to do it? Probably not,” said UW-Madison telecommunications professor Barry Orton. “More likely, they will say, ‘I’ve had it with Charter’ and go to (ATT’s) U-verse or Dish TV(satellite).”

As for which service will be a better deal, Orton said it depends on how many channels — and which ones — a customer wants to buy.

Charter suggested customers go online to www.charter.com/digitalnow or call 888-438-2427 for more information.

Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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(36) comments

jrducky

I am fed up. Have less channels I can view and to locate is a joke. I can see this is for $$$$ all of this.
Allo is looking better all the time. This tier crap is unreal. To remove crap you do not want (and there is plenty now) you also lose ones you want. I am tired of this and it's only 6 hours after they switched. Charter is going to lose a lot of customers. I am one of them.

AGoltz

The whole argument about the monopolization of this broadcast industry is, more or less, a separate topic. So just focusing on the fact that the network is being ungraded because there are so many people that only have access to basic DSL speeds. Also, the fact that the internet speeds for existing customers with the 30MBps are doubled at no additional charge is awesome. You can view some of the details of the Spectrum internet service here getcharterspectrum.com/internet/ and no one can say that that is not a good thing. Any arguments made beyond that as they relate to price increases or monopolization are really a separate discussion to be had.

maryrichards
maryrichards

As someone mentioned--this didn't just effect analog tv's--I have a newer digital vizio that was able to get local channels without any sort of box up until April this year when Charter did this. It seems like obvious monopoly move--am outraged city/state whatever govmt body are being sheep and letting this happen. There used to be a number we could call--I had a name and number in 2007 of a city liaison that would help residents if Charter was being unfair--do we still have a city contact? If anyone knows could they please post that? I just saw this news item too---am seeing some dots connecting here, a battle is heating up and I support what Chet Kanojia says and is trying to do: http://news.yahoo.com/katie-couric-aereo-tv-supreme-court-212342689.html

GreggerBudinsky
GreggerBudinsky

“Charter Going Digital”…..wow, sounds cool.
Let’s see….I’m guessing that it probably sounds better than……“Charter will now be encrypting all their channels. Your present digital TV will no longer work (with Charter's digital signal) unless you secure a set-top descrambler available from Charter for $7. per month. Yep, "Charter Going Digital" is better.

john q public
john q public

the worst part is that with the extra bandwidth, they'll add more crap channels that no one wants, then raise prices even more for all of the new "content". so they'll get 2 reasons to raise rates. the government needs to force cable/satellite providers to go to ala carte and stop letting them force us to pay for 100s o channels that we dont watch.

adamman

Remember when we didn't pay for television? ( Except for the cost of a B&W TV? - for you young people that means "black and white".)
Remember when internet was free because there was no internet?
Remember when families spent time together in ONE room watching Bonanza?
Remember when our dads taught us how to shovel snow before snow plows?
Remember when our dads taught us how to mow the lawn before landscape services?
Remember when there were no school buses? ( And we had to find our own way from Milwaukee St. to Lafollette High School? And back?)
Remember when there were no "nail guns" and carpenters drove nails by hand?
Remember when there was boxing at the UW?
Remember when there was no spandex?
Remember when electronic games didn't exist, except for ping pong?
Remember when the WSJ and the Capital Times were delivered to your house by Woody and he came by every week to collect?
Remember when all the neighbors came to help if you had a weekend project?
Remember when the neighborhood playground was a completely safe place?
Remember Square Ball and hop scotch?
Remember the toboggan slide at Olbrich Park? What a blast!

If you don't remember these things, it's okay. You are either too young or suffering from Oldtimers Disease.

john q public
john q public

welcome back to the 80s.

bobbyk1950

bought my antenna over two years ago, dropped cable for TV, use cable for internet. if you can't find something to watch on say 10 or 11 OTA channels plus Hulu and say CBS Online blah blah perhaps you spend too much time watching, not enough time doing.

ttt3

For the record, I have charter for everything (TV, Internet, home phone) and I think they've gotten much better in recent years. The internet In particular is blazing fast and reliable. Kinda sucks that you'll have to have a box for every TV now but not a huge deal. The box gets you the channel guide and stuff which is really handy.

Observer5

Ditch cable and just get an antenna. You can get about 10 stations over the air.. Besides, watching more than 21 hours of TV per week increases depression

Galileo

Same here. Never had it, only miss it when I want to watch something like the Rose Bowl on cable, but there's plenty of bars to see those in, or good ole radio.

adamman

Not only increases depression but also belly fat. TV watching has become the leading cause of obesity and death in Wisconsin (and most states in the deep south, northeast, west, Midwest, mid-Atlantic and northwest, Hawaii and Alaska and American Samoa).

Ditch cable and find some second hand Jane Fonda workout videos. Or, come to where I live a walk my dogs so I can watch TV.

BillS

We lived in a rural area, where we had TV from DirecTV, internet from HughesNet and phone from Frontier (those were our only options). We moved to Madison and use Charter for all three, for much less money, faster internet, better quality service, increased dependability (no weather outages), and the convenience of dealing with one company instead of three. (For the record, we have no relatives or friends employed by Charter.) Best advice, shop around. Nice to have choices.

Jumpingup
Jumpingup

So if I want to add service to each bedroom tv and to the livingroom, it would cost $35 a month? What is the number to Dish?

davea

Go to Directv!

dakref

The satellite companies do the same thing. Direct TV charges $6 for each genie for each tv. They charge $10 it it's a dvd. They're all screwing us.

WI_Expat

Richard,

Broadcasters were required to start broadcasting in ATSC (high definition be it 720p or 1080i) as of a date few years back but for the most part needed to still broadcast in NTSC (480i standard definition) for existing off-air reception.

When it comes to cable, there is an analog channel lineup and intermixed are QAM digital channels govern by a separate set of regulations.

One reason a carrier like Charter is eliminating analog is so they can replace that portion of the frequency spectrum allocated for analog (analog takes more spectrum space than a digital channel) so that the digital lineup can be apportioned to QAM standard definition (digital yet traditional standard), QAM 1080 (High definition)...and future 4K (next increase in resolution) signals.

A current "analog" signal can accommodate several digital transport signals hence the logic for the change

srwboneheadedtroll
srwboneheadedtroll

So Mister Smarty Pants, why do I need a "charter box" for my digital television?
NOTHING BUT A RIP OFF!

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Thanks for the explanation.

irisK

Can you explain, does this mean, a digital TV with a QAM receiver attached to the cable, without a box, there will be no channels to view anymore.
I thought they had to leave the basic cable stations unscrambled.
This is so confusing.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

I didn't even know it was still possible to get an analog signal. Wasn't the whole country required to convert to digital back in the late oh-ohs?

Lexus Peterson

Can someone post how I really can watch current shows without cable? I will do it. I don't mean last season. I mean current season. Thanks

River

Quit charter 8 months ago. Not one regret.

Theo
Theo

Me too. I get all the content I want from Amazon, HULU Plus and Netflix for under $30 per month.

I am just waiting for the day Charter blocks the competition due to their government enforced monopoly on high speed internet.

jrducky

May I ask what your using now?

Wis_BlogRider

Our Wisconsin legislature this week introduced legislation that would make it illegal for a local county or municipality to uphold a living wage in their communities. Good luck Charter trying to stay in business in Wisconsin with $100 plus a month for cable service when fewer can afford it even though you think you have a monopoly. People have to eat and remember, the Titanic sunk when it hit an iceberg the owners never believed could sink it.

spnewswatcher

Wow! What a rip.

brown

We'll that's fine i'll just be dropping cable all together no need to be paying for crappy service anyway's. Hopefully a lot of people will follow my lead.but i doubt it people like cable too much.

jrducky

I am with you

happydays

go with TDS - the service is much better- we had charter for years and their customer service was horrible

College Didn't Take
College Didn't Take

TDS has crappy internet. I finally dropped Dish and went to ATT and am using Google TV and Chromecast. Can't complain.

CarolASThompson

In this area, TDS just leases lines from ATT. What was wrong with your internet?

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

He is Scott Walker: College Didn't Take, kicked him out! Enough said?

oldAGE

Not completely true. The historic TDS Metrocom areas served with copper facilities are AT&T copper. TDS all over Dane County has their own facilities, Fiber To The Home (PON) and deliver 100Mb Internet and full digital television with DVR and wireless set top boxes.

oldAGE

All depends on where you live. I wouldn't call 100Mb Internet access crappy.

oldAGE

This biggest problem is their use of the giant Motorola DCT700 boxes. For kitchen installations where Expanded Basic was good enough, a nice clean installation with the coax right into the wall mounted flat panel was great. Now it's adding a set top box, it's power block, the cable going into the box, another cable coming out of the box back to the TV.... Three additional cable and wires... Yup. We put a man on the moon in 1969. 45 years later, digital television is delivered like analog cable was delivered in 1976. It is like the old "select-a-button" set top ala HBO in 1972. The only difference is the IR remote control. Otherwise, it's exactly the same and almost just as big.

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