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Cable chaos is coming

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By Thursday, Nov 30, 2017 Letters 12

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

12 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Paul Benjou says:

    Simple. I will cut the cable and use Amazon’s Fire Stick and Netflix to stream over the internet. Bye, bye cable ????..and finally hello to savings!!! This has gotten out of control.

  2. Carole Owens says:

    Linda please find a larger hall. No one is happy; you may have a very big crowd. It will, however be to no avail, Spectrum will not respond instead in a year they will jack up the price for each box in your home – $10 per box per month. Paul, I would be grateful to know exactly what to do to live without cable. In addition to understanding what you said — is a smart TV another avenue?
    Thank you Carole Owens

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Carole, I have not had cable for many years. I use my phone for my Internet connection, and with the unlimited plans being offered again, it is still a good deal. I use an android as I like the app selection better than Apple. A tethering app allows me to connect my phone to my desktop (Bluetooth options are also available for various platforms) and watch video on my large screen mounted on the wall (just like tv).
      4G LTE speeds give me up to 20Mbs which is ample for my purposes. However, when 5G comes out with speeds up to 5 times faster I will not be upset (though the fiber companies may be). This methodology allowed me to utilize excellent bandwidth even when I lived in an “unserved” area with regard to high speed (no cable or DSL was even available).
      It is a simple cost effective solution especially considering I will have a cell phone anyway.
      Many things, such as this comment, are simply done on my phone regardless.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        A more mundane solution can be seen here:
        In order to stream anything, there is still a need for a data transport medium (data provider) – in the Tribune article they still use cable, just drop the TV service. My solution utilizes the cell phone I already have, taking advantage of an unlimited data plan.
        I paid a one time fee of $10 for an app called EasyTether about 10 years ago. Additionally, there is a $12 monthly fee, each, for Netflix and Hulu. As they both offer multiple users, I split this cost with someone else as we each maintain an account. Just about all news venues offer free online access to their info, and just about all sports matches can likewise be found online for free (be smart on these, as many shady sites are virus laden, or partake in other unscrupulous Internet type activities).
        So my monthly cost is my cell phone bill, which I already pay for anyway, plus $12 and there is very little programming I can’t find for free other than those – if I can’t find it free, I choose not to watch it (sorry Amazon, Game of Thrones is not important enough for me to add another monthly service charge).
        If there is sufficient interest, maybe I can set up a presentation on this at one of the libraries…

  3. James M. says:

    TV free , the environmental movement of the mind…

  4. concerned says:

    Ever since they took over ,it has been rate hike after rate hike,I battled to bring the Bill down,then they remove the stations you watch,and want to charge more to bring them back,then your bill is fine ,next month there is a rate hike,they say “oh it’s new taxes”few Month’s later,Now they are added the new boxes to get service,and I was told a $5.00 dollar charge now it is 10.00?Wtf The service sucks,on demand isn’t accurate as they don’t ever give you the full seasons in the line up,they skip different ones,so you miss an episode or 2-3. I don’t understand why they claim to be the best,as they aren’t

  5. Karen Chamberland says:

    The monthly price of the box has changed drastically. I was told $4.00 when I got them about a year ago. I just ordered one for a tv that never had one and was told when my grace period is over it will be $11.95 a month for every box I have. That means I have to pay to get the service into my house, then pay again to use it? Some how that does not feel legal.
    Paul I will be contacting you for help. This “legal robbery” has gone too far.

  6. Michelle Loubert says:

    Picked up my boxes yesterday. We have basic cable at about $30/month. Was told boxes free for one year then $12/each per month. No way! Researching other options now. Too bad. We were considering moving everything (internet etc) to Soectrum. Not now. My daughter advised that with the streaming services today like Hulu…why even bother with cable. Maybe she is right!

    1. Michelle Loubert says:

      Update: My husband hooked up the box, called Spectrum with our activation code. Simple, right? Wrong! Received message that there is an “outage” in our area (Housatonic). Looks like today will be a rough day for Spectrum employees!

  7. Laura says:

    I think it’s time to look for a new cable advisory committee who can get things done.

  8. Angry says:

    When I went to get my boxes I asked how much they would be after the free year. She responded that since I was a time warner customer they would be $12. I said I’m a Spectrum customer assuming so because they bought time warner. She told me no I was grandfathered in with time warner packages. She switched me to Spectrum and the basic package was $20 something dollars cheaper with 3 times the internet speed. My friend who picked up his boxes and complained about the price was not told anything about being a time warner customer. I guess its a Dont ask, dont tell situation and a money grab.

  9. Sarah says:

    I don’t know why and what people complaining about. I used charter spectrum cable and internet services from http://www.bestbundlepackages.com/ and I am quite satisfied with their services and all that.

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