02.02.2009 08:46 AM
RCN switch causes confusion in Washington, D.C., area

RCN, the cable company, shut off analog channels in the Chevy Chase, MD, area two weeks ago, and did the same in parts of northwest D.C. last week. It was part of the operator’s plans to shift to digital technology.

The effort, the “Washington Post” wrote, is part of an “analog crush,” in which RCN is getting rid of analog signals to increase its channel offerings. That means that customers used to plugging coaxial cable cords directly into a TV now will need a digital converter box for every TV set to get channels.

The change, on top of confusion over the over-the-air DTV transition, left hundreds of District of Columbia customers confused and frustrated, the newspaper reported.

On some sets, MSNBC, ESPN and the Disney Channel were nowhere to be found.

“At first I thought I had forgotten to pay the bill,” a customer told the “Post,” who then waited on hold for over an hour to talk to an RCN customer service representative. The subscriber was informed that she needed new cable boxes for every TV— the first one is free, but each other box costs $3 a month to rent.

RCN spokesman Michael Houghton said he understood how the close proximity to the separate broadcasters’ transition is creating confusion for customers.

For RCN, the digital conversion is driven by competition, the “Post” reported. As cable companies vie with satellite providers and online offerings, they are trying to free up resources to offer more appealing packages of channels. Each analog channel takes the same amount of bandwidth as 10 SD digital channels or three HD channels.

RCN has completed the digital conversion in all of its other markets, including New York City, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. Other cable companies are also transitioning to all-digital systems to free up needed spectrum.

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