The Charter Communications cable switch to high definition service throughout Jackson County this month was not exactly drawing huzzahs from customers picking up the required digital converter boxes, one for each screen.
"It's a rip-off of the public," said Harry Tinnin, emerging Wednesday from the Charter store on Riverside Avenue in Medford. "It's a bunch of B.S. They can put this box where the sun don't shine."
Charter is shifting to all-digital television here through the end of April, a move that requires each television set to have a digital converter box to pick up Charter's encrypted signal. The boxes are free during the first year or two of the promotional period, depending on your service package, but will cost $6.99 a month after that.
The upgrade will enable 190 digital channels, almost doubling the present number, which is just over 100, said Charter spokesman Jack Hardy in Vancouver, Wash. It will also deliver a sharper Internet image and offer 12,000 movies on its Video On Demand, all paid for as part of the service package, not pay-per-view. A fourth of them will be high definition.
"I'm not very happy about it," said Billee Stemple of the Applegate. "After a year I'm going to have to pay for it, this after getting it free forever. We have four TVs, and only two will be working at the end of the month. It's going to be $14 extra per month. I don't need 200 channels. I only use six. ... We never watch movies because I don't appreciate the language in 99 percent of them. We had no say in this change. I can say no and not watch TV."
With four televisions, Alvin Brandon of Medford said down the road it will cost him an extra $20 a month, forcing him to plan a switch to satellite service.
"The fee sucks, but the savings for this coming year is significant," says Brandon, adding that Charter has the best Internet service in the valley and it will be hard to give it up.
Forrest Bohall of Jacksonville says, "It's free for a year, and the new benefits grab me, but the $7 a month fee adds up to $84 a year. They nickel-and-dime you and, no, I can't watch 100 channels. It's just more stuff to plug in."
Pete Walford of Medford was unfazed by the changes, noting, "It's good. We're in the 21st century here. ... It will take most of the evening to go through the channels to find what I want. The fee is OK with me. I only have one TV."
The changeover will not require anyone to come to your house and work on anything, says Hardy. Customers can pick up a self-installation kit for the set-top box at the Charter store — 765 Riverside Ave. — or order them on the Internet or by phone at 888-438-2427.
Charter Communications supplies cable TV, Internet and phone service in 29 states in the western, central and southern U.S., and is rolling out HD in all sectors.
"By removing outdated analog signals, we regain bandwidth in our network, enabling us to provide more HD channels and open the door to faster Internet speeds and future innovation," said Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge, in a statement. "This upgrade speaks to the fact that Charter is providing our customers with the very best products at the very best value, and we've invested more than $2 billion in our fiber-rich network to make that happen."
The HD changeover will allow the Charter TV signal to play on handheld mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads, after users download a free app, says Hardy.
Customers should be able to install the new box fairly easily but can call out a Charter technician for $29.99.
Present Charter customers should see the 85 new channels now, depending on their service package.
There will be no fee increase with the new HD system, he says. The changeover started April 21, and should be done in all of Jackson County, except Shady Cove, by the end of the month.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.