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MailTribune.com
  • More about Charter's digital rollout

  • Perhaps you can shed some light on the letter Charter customers received stating that that after April 29 all programming would be broadcast in digital format, and every TV would need a separate cable box. When we asked, we were told it wasn't Charter, but the FCC requiring this. If the FCC has mandated that all broadcasting ...
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  • Perhaps you can shed some light on the letter Charter customers received stating that that after April 29 all programming would be broadcast in digital format, and every TV would need a separate cable box. When we asked, we were told it wasn't Charter, but the FCC requiring this. If the FCC has mandated that all broadcasting be digital, shouldn't basic and local stations still be available without having to pay extra for a box? What's the actual requirement?
    — Sandi D., Medford
    We've noted local cable subscribers' displeasure at the rollout of those mandatory cable boxes before, Sandi, but we haven't looked at the FCC's regulations regarding Charter's all-digital conversion.
    After some digging, we found that in October 2012 the FCC ruled in favor of allowing cable systems to switch to all digital — at the request of cable companies.
    So, contrary to what you may have heard, digital conversion of a cable system isn't mandated by the FCC, but is up to individual cable companies to decide.
    The new digitally encrypted cable system essentially requires subscribers to have a decoder ring — the set top box — to be able to watch TV.
    There are benefits to the new system. For example, it allows remote activation and deactivation, so there's no more waiting for a technician to arrive between noon and forever when your HBO trial month ends.
    Although the FCC isn't mandating cable system encryption, the regulation body is far from laissez-faire when a cable company rolls out its all-digital system.
    For subscribers at the time a cable company begins to encrypt its signal, the FCC mandates that cable companies must provide free for two years two set-top boxes or adapters. Further, that regulation extends to five years for basic cable subscribers who receive Medicaid.
    At the end of the free period, the FCC requires subscribers to be notified 30 to 60 days before the lease charge going into effect. These regulations don't apply to new subscribers after the rollout.
    Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.
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