Mediacom to make digital-only switch in May

Mediacom customers in seven DeKalb County communities may have to upgrade their television receivers by May 15 in order to keep receiving all of their channels.

Currently, the company broadcasts channels in its Family Cable lineup in both analog and digital format. It is eliminating the analog signals and switching to digital-only for channels 23 and higher. Newer televisions are already equipped to receive both signals, so those customers will see a change in channel lineup, but will continue to receive all channels. Older televisions without digital tuners, however, will show only a black screen on digital-only channels.

Channels lower than 23 will continue to be broadcast in both formats.

People who don’t want to buy a new TV can obtain digital adapters from Mediacom. The adapter is about the size of a deck of cards and translates the digital signal from the cable into a signal the television can recognize. If plugged into a newer TV with a digital tuner, it will keep the channel lineup from changing.

Until May 31, 2014, the company will provide up to three adapters per household for free. After that date, customers will pay 99 cents per month, per adapter.

Local communities affected by the upgrade are Cortland, Hinckley, Kirkland, Malta, Shabbona, Somonauk and Waterman. Customers who will be affected by the change are invited to meet with Mediacom representatives and pick up adapters at an event from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, at the Waterman fire station, 160 N. Cedar St. in Waterman.

Broadcasting both analog and digital signals for a single channel “clogs up” the network, Mediacom representative Phyllis Peters said. Digital signals are more compact and efficient, so for every analog channel that goes away, the company can add 10 digital channels or three high-definition channels. In June, the company plans to add more high-definition channels, bringing its HD lineup to 100 channels.

Analog channels will be phased out in two parts, beginning May 15-21. In the first phase, fewer than a dozen channels will stop coming through in both analog and digital and will go digital-only. Two weeks later, in phase two, all channels from 23 to 78 will go digital-only.

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