Time Warner to move access channels to digital cable
freeing bandwidth is aim; city officials expressing concern
Time Warner Cable is moving public, education and government access channels from analog to digital delivery statewide on Oct. 1. The change means that Time Warner customers who don’t subscribe to digital services will need digital equipment to view the channels, which show community-generated, governmental and educational programming.
In a June 28 letter to the City of Austin announcing the change, Susan Patten, Time Warner’s vice president of government relations, said the move was aimed at freeing up bandwidth for adding channels and improving Internet speed. Patten says analog channels use more bandwidth than digital ones.
The channels affected are: City of Austin (Channel 6), channelAustin (Channels 10, 11 and 16), Travis County Television (Channel 17), ACC-TV (Channel 19) and AISD TV (Channel 22). These channels are also available online.
On Tuesday, the City of Austin expressed concerns.
“We recognize that cable companies will eventually migrate all channels from analog to digital, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t reduce access to our local PEG (public, educational and government) channels … which are an important part of Austin’s community fabric,” wrote Rondella Hawkins of the City of Austin’s Office of Telecommunications & Regulatory Affairs.
Time Warner said it will inform subscribers through its website, newspaper ads and notices in bills. It’s up to access channel producers to add crawl information to their programming.
The change was initially slated for Aug. 5. Melissa Sorola, Time Warner’s Texas region communications director, said the date switch followed an assessment of the company’s systems statewide. Hawkins said that she notified Time Warner on Tuesday that she did not think the Aug. 5 date met federal cable regulations about sufficient, proper customer notice.
Chip Rosenthal, chairman of the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission, a city advisory panel, said that the date change to October alleviated his concerns about timing, but that “in the long term, there are still problems.” He said the switch would “impact the part of the community that can least afford it.”
Sorola declined to give specific numbers, but said that Austin has a “high penetration” of digital subscribers.
Time Warner Cable is offering fee-free digital upgrades. Customers on the basic service tier who request a converter will not have to pay monthly charges on it through Dec. 31, 2015. Standard-service customers (those who subscribe to basic service and analog) will not be charged a converter rental fee for the first year, after which normal rates will apply. Additional converters for digital customers will be provided at normal rates. Customers have up to 60 days after the date of the conversion to take advantage of the feefree offers.
For more information, contact the company at 512-4856000.