Get That Man An Antenna! Cable Customer Gets Care, All Right

Bill Johnson was wondering when he could finally get HDTV via cable, so he emailed Adelphia, his provider, for the answer. What follows is Johnson’s exchange with a customer relations specialist, which took place late last month. The customer relations specialist’s name has been withheld because he was undoubtedly just cutting and pasting his script:

Sent to:
Has Adelphia considered any plans for HDTV—especially for the Staunton, VA, area? Amy Raught advised me last summer that basically you had none. A lot has happened in eight months, and a CEO of one of your enlightened cable operator competitors said he would rather be one year ahead than two years behind in embracing HDTV.

Thank you for taking the time out to write to Adelphia. It is always a pleasure to communicate with our customers.

The transition from analog to digital is a complicated, evolutionary process that will take time and will vary greatly from market to market. Cable operators are investing $6 billion a year to upgrade their facilities to deliver the digital programming our viewer’s [sic] want. Most broadcasters (like NBC, CBS, etc) still do not have definitive programming plans and initially will deliver at most only a few hours of digital programming a week; key technical and compatibility issues are yet unresolved.

While cable operators and broadcasters are involved in constructive discussions about carriage arrangements, we remain committed to providing our customers with the programming they tell us they want. Digital broadcast signals are available to all customers over the air, just as broadcast analog signals are available over the air (if you are able to receive them in your area via an off-air antenna).

Adelphia is using digital compression technology to offer programming choices to customers. These digital programming tiers are being offered along with the analog programming tiers. Customers do not need to purchase a new digital television set to watch this programming. These services are intended to be seen on analog television sets using a digital converter available for rental from Adelphia.

HDTV is not compatible with the cable system, as in the fact that the picture quality will be the same [as] that [which] you are receiving now on your current television set. As mentioned above you can get a digital signal via a digital receiver on your analog television that is a better picture quality that [sic] what you are receiving now.
If you do have any other questions, please contact your local Adelphia cable office or feel free to email me at any time. Adelphia appreciates the opportunity to provide you with cable entertainment.

Customer Relations Specialist

Sent to:
Dear Mr. Customer Relations Specialist,
I’m amazed at your statements that the networks don’t have definitive digital programming plans, and that HDTV is not compatible with the cable system. This evening, ABC, CBS, and NBC together have five-and-a-half hours of HDTV programming; on Sunday, CBS has the AFC Championship game in HD and next Sunday, ABC has the Super Bowl in HD. And there are thousands of Cox, Charter, and Comcast customers around the country who would absolutely dispute non-compatibility.

Today’s news said that two former AT&T officers were being named Adelphia’s CEO and COO. Perhaps they’ll have a more forward-looking view of HDTV, and Adelphia won’t have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into sending out such signals. This, despite the fact that Adelphia was one of the 10 signers of the May 2002 NCTA letter to the FCC promising to bring HDTV to at least some customers in 2003. Based on that, I had hoped your response would have a tiny glimmer of hope for us HDTV enthusiasts, however few we may be. Oh my! Perhaps the Rigas damage is more than anyone knows, and if so, I guess a 40-mile rooftop antenna and DirecTV, here I come.

Bill Johnson

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