If you’re a Time Warner Cable customer in Northeast Wisconsin, you may have recently received a letter or an email about the company’s upcoming transition to an all-digital system. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from customers about this change and what it means to them. We want to help you understand what this transition means to you as a cable customer, and help you take any needed steps to continue enjoying your TV subscription.
Why are they changing to an all-digital system?
Think about what your cable lineup looked like fifteen years ago compared to today. In that time, we’ve been introduced to dozens and dozens of new cable channels. That’s saying nothing about other advancements like on-demand programming and high-speed Internet.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, but you didn’t always need to have leased equipment like cable boxes or DVRs to watch your favorite channels. Back in the day, it really was plug-and-play: you plug your cable into your TV and you change channels with your TV’s remote.
Today, there are still many channels you can receive without cable equipment. Most of these are standard definition analog channels, and they take up a substantial amount of bandwidth on a cable system. By eliminating them and transmitting all channels digitally, Time Warner will be able to offer expanded services and increased Internet speeds. Many other cable providers around the country have already phased out analog channels.
Transforming into an all-digital system is not new or unique to Time Warner Cable. Many other cable providers around the country have already phased out analog channels for the very same reasons. While it may be an inconvenience in the near-term, it should ultimately result in an improved customer experience in the future.
When are they turning off analog channels?
According to the letters Time Warner has been issuing to customers, analog channels in the Appleton and Green Bay markets will go dark on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.
Will I need additional equipment to watch my shows?
If you already have TVs with set-top boxes or digital adapters connected, these TVs will not be affected. Likewise, if you have a third-party DVR that utilizes a leased CableCARD (like a TiVo), they will continue to function without any additional equipment.
On the other hand, if you still have an older analog TV, a VCR or DVD recorder plugged directly into your cable line, you will need a set-top box or digital adapter from Time Warner to continue to receive TV channels.
I have an HDTV and just get the local channels. How will I be affected?
In addition to turning off all analog channels, Time Warner Cable will start encrypting “Starter TV” – their low-cost tier with local channels, EWTN, WGN America and others – on September 13, 2016.
If you have a TV with a digital tuner (such as an HDTV purchased in the last few years), you will still be able to tune your Starter TV channels without separate equipment up until that date. After that, you too would need to get a set-top box or digital adapter.
What equipment options do I have for my TV?
Time Warner provides a few different options.
- Set-top boxes and DVRs
These are the traditional boxes that Time Warner has been issuing customers for years. These devices provide on-screen guides and other interactive features, but they typically add monthly fees per box onto your cable bill.
- Digital adapters
For those customers who connect their TVs directly to their cable lines, Time Warner is issuing small “pocket-sized” digital adapters with remotes. They are providing them for free for a certain period of time. These devices simply tune channels and do not feature on-screen guides or interactive features. The digital adapter connects to both older and newer televisions. If you have a newer HDTV, it would connect via an HDMI cable to provide high-definition programming. For older TVs, they connect via coaxial cable just like a VCR.One thing to note – digital adapters only tune channels that are included in the Starter and Standard packages. If you have a Preferred TV package, many of your channels won’t be available with a digital adapter – or may only be available in standard definition. The Preferred TV tier includes many sports and premium movie channels. If you subscribe to Preferred TV, you may want to go with set-top boxes for the best experience.
- Third-party CableCard devices
If you prefer to buy your own equipment, there are great choices out there. TiVo pioneered the DVR, and their latest model – the Bolt – is a definite upgrade from the traditional cable company DVR. If you have a number of TVs in your house, TiVo makes a lot of sense. Even though you still have to rent a CableCARD from Time Warner (at a very nominal cost), you pay one low monthly subscription fee for TiVo instead of leasing each cable box individually. Stop in and tell us how many TVs you have and we’ll do the math for you!
What does a digital adapter cost?
As part of the digital transition, Time Warner is providing these digital adapters free of charge for a certain period of time, depending on your situation.
- If you currently subscribe to TV service with leased equipment (a set-top box or CableCARD), or you have Standard TV service without equipment, you qualify for free digital adapters through October 6, 2017.
- If you have Starter TV with no TV equipment, you qualify for two free digital adapters through October 6, 2018.
- If you have Starter TV, no TV equipment and receive Medicaid, you are entitled to two digital adapters for up to five years.
Customers must order their digital adapters by January 29, 2017 to be eligible for these free adapter offers. After those cutoff dates, each adapter would be subject to a small monthly lease fee per device (currently $3.25 each). Adapters must be leased from Time Warner, as there is no option to purchase them.
How do I get an adapter?
You can call 1-844-210-2718 or order online. Adapters will arrive in the mail in a “self-connection kit” that includes a remote and connection cables.
I really only want local broadcast channels. Do I have any other options?
If you have an HDTV or other TV with a digital tuner, you may want to explore getting an antenna. Most Northeast Wisconsin residents can enjoy up to 18 channels of free local programming over the air with an antenna. The number of channels and the quality of reception will vary depending on your location, the antenna’s characteristics and how it’s installed.
If you go with an antenna, you may lose a few channels from the Starter TV package like EWTN, C-Span, Telemundo, WGN America and public access. On the other hand, you may pick up a few of the local digital subchannels that aren’t carried on Time Warner Cable, like MeTV and Ion TV. You can see the full lineup of free over-the-air Green Bay TV channels on our antennas page.
Suess Electronics carries a variety of outdoor antennas designed for optimal reception and we are specially trained and equipped to help you get a great signal. To learn more about antennas, stop by our store or give us a call at 920-733-6464.