Digital cable finally coming to town

As of tomorrow (Jan. 9), cable TV subscribers in Fort Frances will have the opportunity to go digital.
Shaw Cable has completed its upgrades to the local system and will be holding demonstrations on digital cable at La Place Rendez-Vous tomorrow from 3-9 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and again Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
“Anyone within the Fort Frances cable area will be able to purchase digital cable,” said Mike Keating, regional sales manager for Shaw Cable based in Thunder Bay.
“To bring digital to any one community, the entire system must be upgraded. We’re just completing it now,” he added.
At the information sessions, residents will be able to see what the new service will have to offer, ask questions, and even sign up. But what will you get with the new digital service?
“With digital cable, we’re introducing dozens of new channels for purchase, plus 40 digital, CD quality music channels,” said Keating. “The reception will be crystal clear.”
Also as of Jan. 9, regular analogue cable users will see a change in service. Three U.S. superstations (KTLA in Los Angeles, WSBK in Boston, and WGN from Chicago) as well as StarTV presently on regular cable will move to the digital programming.
But six new stations, such as the Food Network and Bravo, will be added to the regular cable service.
Another switch will see all of the U.S. network feeds (NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and Fox) now come in directly via satellite.
“We were getting most U.S. feeds off microwave but the new feeds are satellite out of either Detroit or Minneapolis,” Keating noted. “[They’ll have] better sound and picture, and be more reliable.”
If you choose to go to the digital format, you’ll get everything you’d get if you already have full cable (all three tiers), plus the music channels, impulse pay-per-view movies, and access to seven movie channels.
“Right now we have available just one TMN movie channel,” Keating said. “Now we’ll have five, plus two new movie MPIX channels that show classic movies.”
Also with the digital format, there will be 30 other channels to choose from, which subscribers can purchase individually or bundled in five-, 10-, or 30-channel packages.
Keating said the most popular seem to be Showcase Action, Showcase Diva, Dejaview, Biography channel, and the Game Show Network. In addition, next year for an added charge, Shaw digital subscribers will have access to NFL Sunday Ticket as a premium channel.
“We suspect we’ll get quite a bit of traffic in those days,” Keating said. “A lot of people in Fort Frances get full cable [all three tiers] and will pay the same for digital cable.”
Right now, full analogue cable costs $43.67 a month while the basic digital cable, which includes what you’d get with the full analogue cable package, will be $43.95.
“And you’ll get the four U.S. superstations, 40 music stations, access to [purchase] seven movie stations and access to [purchase] over 30 other digital stations,” Keating said, adding there is a special introductory offer for January.
“Everyone who gets digital cable will get most of the channels, other than the premium channels, in January,” he said. “It gives people the opportunity to see the majority of our channel line-up.”
So what’s the catch? To get digital cable, you must purchase a Shaw Digital Cable Terminal box for $198.98—above and beyond the programming fees.
“You must purchase a box,” said Keating. “But purchase a box in January and the installation is free of charge, that’s a $39 saving.
“And if you purchase before the end of January,” he added, “you will get a $10 per month programming credit for 10 months as well as a credit for pay-per-view movies if you purchase their total entertainment package.
“There are rental options for $10.95 per month to try it out but the best way is to get the programming credit,” he noted. “In the long run, it’s more affordable.”
Keating said the digital box comes with a five-year warranty and will work in other communities with Shaw digital cable if you move, though he can’t guarantee it will work in cities with digital cable provided by another company.
So what makes going to digital cable better than having a digital satellite system? Keating said digital cable is more reliable.
“Satellite tends to be prone to weather problems but digital cable is much less likely to be affected,” he said. “Service charges are free of charge, too.”
“The dishes are the difference,” said Richard Lee, a Shaw Cable technician here. “It’s the difference between a 14-foot dish and a two-foot dish collecting the signal.”
Lee said the smaller satellite dishes are more affected by heavy rains and thick wet snow. The larger dishes, on the other hand, can see problems if enough snow collects in the dish, but they clean them out when it snows, he noted.
Residents who choose to go the digital route will get free installation of their system, which also might mean a new line to your home and even some re-wiring within your home.
According to Lee, anyone using a cable splitter—even if you aren’t aware of it’s presence behind a wall—won’t be able to use them with the digital signal.
Lee expects to be busy starting tomorrow. He’ll be up bright and early to switch the channels moving from analogue to digital and add the new channels to the analogue feed.
Then it’s on with the installations.