TRAVERSE CITY — Charter Communications’ television customers who still use analog cable will have to pay more as the company switches exclusively to a digital signal, even as Charter saves money by saying goodbye to analog.
Charter will drop its analog service in the Traverse City area on March 25. Customers must use a digital converter box for each household television in order to receive cable after that date. Each customer who switches to digital service will receive a converter box free for a year, but converter boxes for additional televisions will cost an extra $6.99 per month.
The Federal Communications Commission in 2009 ordered major TV stations to broadcast only in digital. Cable television providers like Charter since paid to downgrade the digital signal to an analog one. The FCC allowed TV providers to cut analog service in 2012, but doesn’t require them to do so.
Bill Morand, Charter Communications’ director of Northeast Michigan, said Charter uses money it will save by no longer converting programming into analog signal to invest in areas like faster Internet service and more high-definition channels.
“We’re investing what has been committed to the analog portion of our business into the digital portion of our business,” Morand said.
Morand said over 90 percent of Charter’s customers already have digital signals. Those who already pay for multiple converter boxes won’t be affected by the switch.
“If you already have a box in your living room and a box in your den and you’re wondering what’s going to happen to you – nothing,” he said.
Those who have one digital converter box will have to pay $6.99 monthly to use any additional televisions in their homes.
Lou Finch is CEO of TV Plus LLC, a Traverse City TV sales and repair shop. His business’ phone rang for two days after Charter’ recent letter to customers about the change. Customers called the store to ask questions, among them if buying a digital TV means they don’t need a cable box -- the answer is no, a converter box is necessary -- and to vent frustrations.