Comcast has embarked on an upgrade of its cable service, switching customers’ accounts from analog to digital one house at a time.
“We’re taking it slow because we don’t want to risk the quality you’re getting,” said Valerie Gillespie, vice president and general manager of Comcast’s Chattanooga office.
Earlier this year the company began testing all-digital channel lineups at employees’ homes to check for video and audio quality, she said. Now, Comcast is doing analog-to-digital conversions at customers’ homes whenever the company performs a service call, she said. All accounts will be converted sometime next year, she said.
Mrs. Gillespie did not say what the digital conversion costs, but said Comcast has invested more than $40 million in its cable, phone and Internet services in the past five years across Southeast Tennessee.
Comcast is doing the digital conversion to free up bandwidth and provide higher quality video service, Mrs. Gillespie said. The conversion is being done at no cost to the consumer, she said.
Cable companies have invested about $1.2 billion in the past decade across the state, said Stacey B. Briggs, president of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association. The upgrades were to switch from analog to an interactive system capable of offering digital video, telephone and high-speed Internet service. The industry continues to spend $200 million each year, she said.
Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton--Comcast headend technician Phil Coulter talks with a field technician about static in feed coming into the system from customer modems. The engineering team is constantly looking for disruptions and large amounts of traffic in specific lines to improve service to customers.
HD channels have become more available because the number of HD programs have dramatically increased in the last two to three years, Mrs. Briggs said.
“It’s more viable now to push HD to the home,” Mrs. Briggs said.
Most of Comcast’s network is made of fiber, and the company only uses coaxial cable in the final stretch to a house, Mrs. Gillespie said.
“We’re putting more fiber out there,” she said. “We’ve always had fiber.
The freed-up bandwidth will allow Comcast to offer more HD channels, video-on-demand programs and faster Internet service, Mrs. Gillespie said. An undetermined number of HD channels will be added to Comcast’s 28 HD channel lineup this fall, she said. Comcast also will be able to offer more video-on-demand selections.
WHAT IT IS
Comcast is slowly eliminating analog channel use to free up bandwidth to offer more services. Customers will receive digital channel service at no extra charge. Comcast will offer more HD channels this fall.
Source: Valerie Gillespie, Comcast vice president
Comcast’s conversion is not tied into the pending conversion of broadcast television signals from analog to high-definition, she said. Customers using cable or satellite service will not be affected by the government-required HD conversion, she said, but people using antennas will need to buy a conversion box or subscribe to cable or satellite.
In June, Comcast announced an upgrade of its high-speed Internet service. The Performance package previously had upload speeds of 6 Mbps/384 Kbps, and tripled to 6 Mbps/1 Mbps. The Performance Plus package went from 8 Mbps/768 Kbps to 8 Mbps/2 Mbps, according to Comcast.