When Charter Communications purchased Time Warner Cable, their representatives said that there won’t be any changes in the plans affecting the users. However, many Southern Berkshire communities say that the Charter is planning to encrypt its digital signal.
Chairwoman of the Five Town Cable Advisory Committee, Linda Miller, said that, “Subscribers who replaced their old, analog TVs with digital sets in order to watch TV without converters will no longer be able to do so without converter boxes.”
Three-year evaluation of service provision performance and compliance of the committee is scheduled on September 13. Miller thinks that residents will come to talk about the matter at the Great Barrington Firehouse.
From last year, Charter started to work on the services provision with Berkshire communities. Request by Charter to assume control over cable services in the towns of Lenox, Great Barrington, Sheffield, Lee, and Stockbridge were approved by the committee in September 2015.
Tom Cohan, Director of governmental affairs of Charter, assured the committee last year in a public hearing that if the deal went through, there won’t be many changes. However, Miller comments that, “Sadly, they have announced a very significant change.”
After the Charter-Time Warner merger, they are changing the name of the system to Spectrum. The merger made Charter one of the largest cable operators in the country. In order to protect itself from piracy, Spectrum is encrypting its digital cable signals, and with that, digital televisions using cable service of Spectrum will need converter boxes to watch TV programming.
Subscribers will get these converter boxes free for the first two years, and then they will be charged at $6.99 per month per box. Miller said that at this rate, subscriber with two television sets and basic cable would have to pay for 100 percent rate increase.
“Requiring subscribers to rent signal converters for all sets is tantamount to an unapproved rate increase,” Miller added. She further said that the charge is also in violation with the current terms of the service agreement.
The agreement says that without imposing customers with an undue financial burden, Spectrum must make sure the technical upgrades can be done. “Unless we get really good answers from Charter-Spectrum on this issue, we’ll check in with our counsel to see what recourse is available,” Miller said.