Charter digital conversion in southern Wisconsin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Charter digital conversion in southern Wisconsin

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FITCHBURG (WKOW) --  If you have cable television and watch analog channels get ready for some changes.

Charter Communications is going all digital, which means customers without digital boxes will have to get one for each television in the house. Those who do have the boxes on each TV won't see any changes. Analog channels will be going away, those like WKOW on cable channel 7, and digital channels can only run with a set-top box.

Charter is offering the boxes for free during a promotional period, but eventually customers will have to pay $7 a month for each television.

Charter's regional communications director Kim Haas tells 27 News the change will free up bandwidth and allow the company to provide faster internet, more high definition channels and "On Demand" service for every customer. Customers do not have to sign a contract for the boxes.

Haas says 90 percent of Charter's customers are already digital and the company wants to offer more services to customers.

Customers can visit any Charter store to make the switch or call Charter's customer service line. Customers can also get a new digital box shipped to them free of charge.

"With change like this comes questions and so we have an opportunity to talk to our customers, explain how the offers work, talk through the benefits and the features of all digital," says Haas.

Some customers who have contacted 27 News are unhappy with the changes and additional costs, but others say it's the price to pay for service.

"It costs a lot of money to operate an organization like this and give us all the things we want and I'm willing to pay a little extra for the box," says Richard Beckwith, from Stoughton.

As a preventative measure, Charter has contracted with local police departments to have an officer on hand during business hours. Fitchburg police say there were no incidents in the area, but the step was taken just in case to ensure safety of customers and employees and discourage people who may act out of line during the transition. Police say the officer's time at the store is paid for completely by Charter. Haas tells 27 News the effort is for crowd control.

Haas says Charter has doubled staff at many locations to minimize wait times because the transition is already rolling out in our area.

Barry Orton, a UW-Madison professor and expert on telecommunications and cable TV consumer protection tells 27 News the industry is going in the same direction as Charter. He says analog uses up too much bandwidth and is being watched by fewer and fewer people, so companies are working to find ways to use bandwidth more efficiently.

"Analog is the past," Orton says in a phone conversation with 27 News. "It's something that's happening that you have to deal with one way or another."

Orton says now there are so many alternatives to cable TV that users have choices.

In March, the following communities' Charter users will have switched over to all digital:

Barneveld, Black Earth/Mazomanie, Dodgeville, Lodi, Portage, Poynette, Prairie du Sac, Mineral Point, Mount Horeb, Richland Center, Sauk City, Spring Green, Waunakee, Windsor, Albany, Brodhead, Edgerton, Evansville, Janesville, Monroe, Milton and New Glarus, Belleville, Blooming Grove, Burke, Fitchburg, McFarland, Monona, Oregon, Stoughton, Verona.

Expect changes in April if you live in:

Baraboo, Beloit, Clinton, Lake Delton, Lyndon Station, Reedsburg, Rock Springs, Wisconsin Dells, Cross Plains, Madison, Middleton, Shorewood Hills, Springfield (town of) Bristol, Cambridge, Columbus, Cottage Grove, Deerfield, Deforest, Maple Bluff, Marshall, Medina, Oakland, Sun Prairie, Aztalan, Darien, Delevan City, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson City, Johnson Creek, Koshkonong, Lake Mills, Oconomowoc, Palmyra, Sullivan, Waterloo, Watertown.

Charter's goal is to have all its customer base transitioned by the end of 2014.

For more information on the transition and to find your new channel listings, visit Charter's website.

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