Editor’s Note: Charter will have extended hours through March 15 as it transitions to all-digital TV. The store off of George Wilson Road will be open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By Jesse Wood
Feb. 25, 2014. If Charter Communications’ customers don’t convert to set-top boxes associated with the all-digital upgrade coming to the High Country in the next two weeks, then cable customers will be watching a blank TV when March Madness rolls around.
Since the middle of February, Charter has sent out a blitz of messages on bills and mailers and through phone calls, commercial spots and forced tuning when turning on their TVs to alert customers that they must soon acquire Charter-issued digital set-top boxes.
Patti Michel, director of regional communications for Charter, mentioned that if customers haven’t upgraded to the set-top boxes come the week of March 11, they won’t be able to watch their “favorite programming.”
Charter Communications touts the change by adding that customers will have access to Video On Demand, “200 high-definition (HD) channels, better picture quality and significantly faster Internet speeds” as the company completes its move to an all-digital network through the first half of 2014. Once the digital upgrade is completed, a Charter press release states, then residential Internet speed will double from 30 Mbps to 60 Mbps at no additional charge.
So far, Charter has completed the upgrades in several markets of its 29-state footprint: parts of Michigan, Missouri, Texas, California, South Carolina and Massachusetts.
Michel said that more than 90 percent of Charter customers in North Carolina and Virginia have adopted the digital devices for at least one television in their home. However, each customer must have a Charter-issued digital set-top box for each television at the residence.
Michel added that customers may obtain the set-top boxes through the mail by calling 1-888-438-2427 to request a self-installation kit or in person by picking up the equipment from the 755 George Wilson Road location in Boone.
While a Charter press release noted that customers may receive boxes at no cost for one, two or five years depending on the “customer’s programming package and other qualifying factors,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported more specifically that:
- Customers currently on the “digital” service tier may receive one additional free box for one year.
- Those on Charter’s “limited basic” service are eligible to receive two free boxes for two years.
- “Limited Basic” customers who qualify for Medicaid may receive two free boxes for up to five years.
- Customers with “expanded basic” service are eligible to receive two free boxes for one year.
- Charter charges $6.99 per month to rent boxes over those limits.
With customers reporting bills, which feature add ons such as HD, exceeding $150, every additional fee such as the $6.99 per box is an annoyance to customers. One customer’s cable and internet bill totaling $170.17 included $25 in fees for the “set-top box upgrade and service, digital view and HD ultra view.”
The same St. Louis Post-Dispatch article noted that customers “must follow Charter-issued directions on hookups” when installing the set-top boxes or pay a Charter technician to install the device for $29.99. Charter also offers 24-7 tech support.
“We want our customers to be happy,” Michel.
This change has also been frustrating for some who were unaware of the transition, the involved complexities and the looming deadline.
As one customer who called High Country Press noted, “It’s like a zoo out there. I don’t think anybody knows.”
Customers may visit www.charter.com/digitalnow or call 1-888-GET-CHARTER (1-888-438-2427) for more information.
Franchise Agreement No Longer With County
Watauga County and Charter Communications had a franchise agreement that expired in December 2012, according to County Manager Deron Geouque, who added that the state of North Carolina is now the franchising authority.
As for franchise complaints, Geouque added that the N.C. Attorney General’s Office Division of Consumer Affairs is the handling agency. File a claim with the Consumer Affairs division by clicking here or calling 1-877-566-7226.
What do you think?
How has the transition for you been? Also, what do the fees look like on your bill? Each bill seems different.
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