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Cable chaos is coming

In her letter to the editor, Linda Z. Miller of Lenox writes: "If you subscribe to Spectrum and do not have a decrypting device from them connected to your TVs, you will have no signal on your sets."

The following statement was issued by Linda Z. Miller, the chairman of the Five Town Cable Advisory Committee, representing the towns of Lee, Lenox, Great Barrington Sheffield and Stockbridge

To the Editor:

Chaos in cable tv services is about to hit the Berkshires starting December 5th, when Spectrum TV will begin encrypting all its video transmissions and if you subscribe to Spectrum and do not have a decrypting device from them connected to your TVs, you will have no signal on your sets. You may have seen their announcements on their own channels, or heard announcements if you called them, or received a letter in the mail from them with a Charter Communications return address that looked like a piece of junk mail. These announcements tell you what is coming and what you need to do in order to avoid having some or all of your cable TV service effectively turned.

Spectrum is telling us that they are switching to all digital, but Cable transmissions have been digital since 2009 and before, mandated by the FCC. What they are really doing is switching to encrypted digital signals. Though the FCC has said they may do this, it didn’t say they must. Charter, the parent company, has opted to do this, saying the use of encryption is to fight theft of signal. The problem is that we here in the Berkshires do not have any signal theft issues. So, why should we be forced to combat a problem that we don’t have, you may ask? The answer is to increase their revenue.

Since there is no need for the encryption locally, any charge for a decrypting device is a de facto rate increase. For Spectrum, the cost of each of these devices is a fraction of what they are charging for one month. Our Franchise Agreements with them states that they can implement technological developments if they can be done without adding a financial burden to subscribers. As their plans have been laid out, a financial burden will, indeed, be placed on many subscribers.

If your cable service is currently connected to a DVR or other digital box supplied by Time Warner cable in the past or by Spectrum for receiving upper tier and premium channels, you will not be affected by the change. Your box or boxes will be reprogrammed remotely to enable decryption. If you currently subscribe to Basic or Starter service only, you will need a decryption adaptor box for each TV set, likewise for any TV set you may have that today functions without any box via a direct connection to a cable. So, if you have one set currently connected to a DVR and three that are direct connected, you will need three of the new devices, one of which Spectrum will give you free for one year, and the other two devices you will pay $6.99 per month, each. If you have only Basic/Starter service with three TV sets, you will need three devices, two of which Spectrum will supply for up to 2 years free depending on your circumstances. You will have to pay for the third. After the initial free periods, you will have to pay for all of them each month. Local officials have expressed deep concern over these developments.

Because the encryption is proprietary, there are no devices that you can buy in the open market to date that will do it. If you need one or more devices you can go to the Spectrum offices in Lee or Pittsfield and pick them up there, or you can request that they be sent to you by calling Spectrum Service. They come with self-installation instructions. You will need to tell them what type of cable connections you have. If you will need someone to connect it for you, Spectrum will do this at no charge for installation if you call Service for your device(s), request installation at that time, and no wiring is required. Otherwise there will be a charge.

The Five Town Cable Advisory Committee will hold its quarterly open meeting Tuesday, December 12th, 6:30 p.m. at the Great Barrington Town Hall. Spectrum/Charter officials will be present and the public will have an opportunity comment directly to them.

Linda Z. Miller, chairman

Five Town Cable Advisory Committee

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