Letter: Spectrum cable plan will cost subscribers

Spectrum cable plan will cost subscribers

To the editor:

Spectrum Communications, formally Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, is set to begin to impose a plan with serious consequences and eventual costs to subscribers. The changes will affect those who have basic service the most, though changes will be made across the board.

When Charter Communications was seeking approval from the towns of Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Sheffield and Stockbridge for it to assume the existing Time Warner Cable license agreements, we were told that "no changes" would be made if the deal went through. No objections were raised at that time based on the public assurance, voiced at an open public meeting.

But, sadly, Charter has announced a very significant change. The newly formed Spectrum, previously Time Warner and Charter Communications, will be encrypting its signals and all subscribers will soon be required to have converters in order to watch TV. Subscribers who replaced their old, analog TVs with digital sets in order to watch TV without converters when the FCC shut down analog transmission, will no longer be able to do so.

This change will affect all cable subscribers in our towns and well beyond.

The most significant and deleterious effect will be on those who have what is now referred to by Spectrum as "starter cable," previously called "basic cable." Spectrum plans on supplying the converters free for two years, after which it will charge $6.99 per month per television set thereafter.

Subscribers will be required to rent signal converters for all sets, which is tantamount to an unapproved rate increase. On a single set, that would amount to a 50 percent or more monthly increase in that lowest tier; on two sets, 100 percent and so it goes for each additional set.

Spectrum's cost for each converter is less than that $6.99. The company will not be offering them for sale, nor will there be any compatible converters available in the consumer electronics market due to proprietary decryption software. We find this is unacceptable.

The Five Town Cable Advisory Committee (CAC) will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. at the Great Barrington Firehouse. The CAC is charged with oversight of the cable licensee's performance and compliance as stated the existing agreements.

This meeting is part of a schedule review process and is open to the public. It offers an opportunity for subscribers to have their voices heard by Spectrum on this as well as other cable matters.

Linda Z. Miller, Lenox The writer is chair of the Five Town Cable Advisory Committee representing the towns of Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Sheffield and Stockbridge.


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