Charter’s Gainesville customers still using analog cable boxes will find their screens have gone dark June 17 as the company’s conversion to an all-digital system takes effect.
The darkened screens shouldn’t come as a surprise, though.
“We informed our customers through direct mail messages, phone calls, bill messages and forced tune. When they turn on their TV set we’re automatically putting one of our commercials in front of them,” said Patti Michel, Charter’s Southern director of regional communications.
“And we did that 30 days plus in advance of this cut over.”
Despite the multiple warnings, there is still a winding line of confused customers at the company’s store off Thompson Bridge Road.
Tommy Hudgins, one of those in line Tuesday, is an independent technician working at Lanier Village Estates. He has seen the same response from the community’s residents.
“It’s very confusing for them, mainly because they’re elderly,” he said. “They don’t understand the need for it. They were very happy with what they had. Now I’m having to explain to them why.”
There are a few reasons for the upgrade, Michel said.
“I think the good thing about it is that we are going to be able to bring more programming choices to our customers. This will give us the ability to bring more services to them: clearer picture, faster Internet speeds. With the all digital, customers can obtain about 10,000 video-on-demand titles.”
They will have access to all of these features as soon as they get the new digital box, available at the Charter store or, for customer convenience, it can be shipped directly to their homes.
Those who already have switched are seeing it’s easier to install than anticipated.
“It’s easy. It was a snap. It only takes 10 minutes,” said Bob Lomax, who already has three digital boxes.
“My grandmother could do it if I had one. It’s just that simple.”
Customers can call the 24/7 support number, 1-888-GET CHARTER, with questions about installation or request a technician to come out if they aren’t as handy as Lomax.
Charter’s site, charter.com/digitalnow, has information on installation as well as specifics on pricing, which depends on customers’ existing service packages.
“We want our customers to have a great entertainment experience and we’re encouraging them to give us a call,” Michel said.
Charter has already converted other towns in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
By the end of this year the company hopes to complete the conversion of its 29-state footprint to all digital.
“We’re always looking for innovations here at Charter and we are bringing those, with this digital product, to our customers,” Michel said. “We have all sorts of great things that are out there now.”