By Jesse Wood
March 12, 2014. With a full parking lot and a steady stream of customers, Charter Communications’ office in Boone was busier than normal on Wednesday, the morning after the cable company completed its transition to an all-digital network in the High Country region.
Those who do not have set-top boxes associated with the all-digital upgrade on every single TV and those who still plug a cable cord into the back of a TV – and not a set-top box – noticed a blank screen last night or this morning.
Mark Shell was among the more than a dozen people waiting in line on Wednesday morning to retrieve two set-top boxes.
While Shell doesn’t have cable, he said his dad and grandpa called him last night and told them that their cable didn’t work. Since he didn’t have to go to work on Wednesday morning, he decided to pick up two boxes for his family members.
Fred Bowman of Banner Elk was another customer visiting Charter on Wednesday morning. While Bowman knew of the all-digital change in advance, he was out of town for the past five weeks tending to his ill mother. He just recently returned to the High Country. He said while his TV was working last night, it didn’t work this morning.
After a lengthy wait and two set-top boxes in a bag, Bowman said, “I think everybody in the world forgot to get boxes this morning.”
Another person in line was Gary Anderson of Vilas. While he had already had his five set-top boxes, one of those didn’t work property, so he was in town to pick up a new one.
A month ago, Charter began a communications blitz to notify customers of the pending transition by alerting customers on bills, mailers and phone calls and even through commercial spots and forced tuning when turning on the TV.
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.
Patti Michel, director of regional communications for Charter, 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. Charter also offers 24/7 tech support for customers installing the devices.
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.
Customers may visit www.charter.com/digitalnow or call 1-888-GET-CHARTER (1-888-438-2427) for more information.