TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cable's Digital Drive Irks Basic Customers

Cable's Digital Drive Irks Basic Customers

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 26 Sep 2005 02:02:46 -0400

By Deborah Yao, AP Business Writer

PHILADELPHIA --LaRonika Thomas got upset when Comcast moved the Sci-Fi
channel to its digital service this summer, ensuring she couldn't
continue to watch her favorite show, "Firefly," without paying $20
more a month.

The Chicago resident received The Golf Channel instead on her basic,
analog cable service.

"I don't watch golf. I would rather have static on than that channel,"
said the theater director.

"It's an awfully big cost," said Thomas. "I haven't canceled my
service yet, but I may."

Across the country, cable operators have been moving popular channels
from analog to digital service, which offers customers better picture
and sound but also can handle much larger volume, allowing cable
operators to use their networks for more lucrative options such as
video on demand and Internet and telephone services.

Cable operators such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications
and Cablevision are tight-lipped about the changes, which affect many
of the nation's cable subscribers. Markets seeing the change include
cities in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan,
Massachusetts, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas.

"They're trying to reclaim some of the capacity, mostly for HD" or
high-definition TV, said Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman
Research Group, a research and consulting firm in Durham, N.H.

Digital services let cable operators better compete with satellite TV
and soon, phone companies, said Jimmy Schaeffler, an analyst with The
Carmel Group, a market research firm in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

Another reason why digital is alluring to cable: "It's hugely more
profitable," Schaeffler said.

Fees for advanced services can inflate a basic subscriber's bill by 30
percent to 40 percent or more.

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