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Customers crowd Charter store after switchover
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Darryl Hudson leaves the Charter Communications store with a new digital set-top box after his TV went dark on Monday. The Gainesville Web designer said the cable provider shouldn’t charge for the now-mandatory boxes. A steady stream of customers came out of Charter on Wednesday with new boxes. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The doors of Charter’s store off Thompson Bridge Road have been swinging since Monday, when the company switched to all digital, causing any TVs without digital boxes to go dark.

Many customers coming in to get their new equipment were surprised to find the line longer than they expected.

“Yesterday when I pulled up at 2:30 the line was out the door, down the sidewalk,” Charter customer Shaundra White said. “So I left.”

If not deterred by the wait, other customers were deterred by the conditions.

“My dad just had back surgery and he had to stand out there. When he asked about the line, they just told him he could come back, so we came back today,” said Lauren Bishop, who was standing in line for her father.

On Wednesday, the line was contained to the inside of the store, ushered by Charter employees taking down customer information to help move it along. Most customers waited less than an hour to be seen.

“I told myself that if I came in and the line didn’t move in 10 minutes, I was leaving,” Laurinda Hubbard said. “I was in the line for 30 minutes, at the most. It was moving pretty fast.”

Lines aside, much of the grumbling was about the digital switch itself. Customers were still not convinced about the necessity or extra cost of the upgrade.

“The main thing I’m concerned about is they’re going to charge us after this year. After a year, we’re going to have to pay another $7 for the upgrade,” Flowery Branch customer Jeff Farmer said. “You know, $7 is $7, but I’m already paying $145. And that’s without premium channels.”

Even if they oppose the upgrade, Charter customers who want to watch TV will have to get the new set-top box. Otherwise, they’ll be watching an empty set, like Gainesville customer Darryl Hudson.

“My TV went blank Monday morning,” he said. “I woke up and my fiancé said ‘something happened to the TV,’ and I said ‘What do you mean? It was working last night.’ So I went in there and there was a blue screen and it said I had to call in.”

Hudson, who’s been a customer of Charter’s for the past 30 years, said he doesn’t “feel they should charge people to upgrade to something they don’t want. To me, it’s not right.”