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300 channels and nothing on? TCI is going digital, offering more

Bristol, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Soon TCI of Central Connecticut, Bristol’s cable company, will be upgrading to a new digital system the company says will provide viewers with clearer pictures and more channels.

With the new system, known as “All TV,” customers would see the channels they have now ­and then some.

Matt Fleury, spokesman for TCI, says that the new system will make it easier to add channels in the future.

Current customers in West Hartford, where the new system is already in operation, have access to 36 Pay-Per-View channels, assorted movie channels, 15 specialty channels, and 40 channels of music.

Digital TV can pack anywhere from 15 to 20 digital channels into the space of one normal analog channel.

Programming packages start at $35 and run as high as $65 a month, according to TCI’s customer service center, all of which include digital and
non-digital (analog) channels.

Digital cable box rentals are higher than the rate for the current boxes, which are rented for $2.46 a month. The first digital box is $3 a month, with additional boxes for $8 a month.

The All TV boxes provide users with on-screen menus and program listings that can be browsed from their remote controls.

The program and movie listings menu, known as Prevue Interactive, can be searched by channel, time, and by the name of the show.

Another menu lets subscribers order new channels and Pay-Per-View movies. Orders are sent back to a computer at the cable company.

The All TV boxes can also tune in standard analog channels so there’s no switching between equipment when going from one type of channel to

The new system won’t be a mandatory switch. Cable subscribers will still be able to view all the channels they get now without going digital.

TCI has already started upgrading Bristol’s system, but the company hasn’t said when the upgrade will be completed.

This move to digital comes after 18-inch satellite dishes have become increasingly popular throughout the nation.

The DSS (Digital Satellite System) receivers are being sold for as low as $200 with more channels than cable, cheaper subscription fees, and some remarkably targeted programming.

DirecTV, a DSS programming provider, recently launched a channel dedicated to farmers and ranchers called Channel Earth.

Illegal cable descramblers won’t be able to decipher the new digital system, leaving all of TCI’s “cable pirates” only one option: ­ to pay for cable.

Fleury said that they are also planning to bring telephone and cable modem services to Bristol.

Cable modems would connect to computers and the cable line coming into your home, he said, allowing subscribers to access the Internet at much higher speeds than can be achieved with a phone line.

Fleury said TCI is already testing these services in other areas of the state.

Television networks, like Bristol’s own ESPN, don’t seem to be affected much by the change.

The only advantage there is for ESPN, according to Mike Soltys, a spokesman for the cable sports network, is that it gives companies “more opportunities for additional networks.”

Currently, ESPN has three channels: ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNews.

ESPNews is not currently carried by TCI, but digital transmitting will allow cable companies the room to carry more special interest channels.

Jonathan Theriault is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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