Digital TV transition leaves some without LRTV

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

If you plan to upgrade to a digital TV anytime soon, and you have cable service, make sure it has a QAM tuner.

That’s the best advice Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz could offer Tuesday, in response to complaints some residents have made to the town that they no longer receive the signal for the local access channel and cannot watch local meeting coverage.

If the TV doesn’t have a QAM tuner, you can still watch LRTV. But — like those with older, analog TVs — you’ll have to use a conversion box, and it will cost you. Time Warner provides the boxes for free now, but after Jan. 1, 2015 the company will begin charging around $1 a month for their use.

Contrary to some residents’ beliefs, the town has no control over Time Warner's conversion, he said, which comes as a result of the nationwide change, imposed by Congressional order dating to the Clinton era, from an analog to a digital television format. It was done to receive more bandwidth, he said, adding, “Although I won’t go into a conspiracy theory of the marketplace.”

The bottom line is, said Berkowitz, selectmen have “no choice, no authority, no leverage” to intervene in the digital transition. But the town can try to answer questions for residents. Berkowitz talked with LRTV Director John Likshis prior to the meeting, and reported his advice in this week’s manager’s report, posted on the town’s website.

Most cable subscribers who have a cable box now should not be affected. “It would only affect those subscribers of the basic channel service that are likely to have the problem,” he said.

“Simply, the older televisions require the conversion box, since their ‘tuner’ does not work with digital format. The fix is to ask your cable provider for a box for each television that you use. At this point there is no monthly charge for the conversion box. However, by January 1, 2015, the monthly fee for the conversion box, with taxes, will be about $1.10.

"The alternative is to buy a new television, since these are now manufactured with the correct tuner. You should ask your sales representative if the television you intend to purchase has the QAM tuner, which is what you want. As a matter of history, the cable companies have been converting digital programs to analog for several years and are now transitioning to strictly digital format.

Berkowitz said residents can still access the select board meetings by going to the LRTV website, and clicking on the tab for select board meetings. But for that, high-speed Internet access is required.

Chairman Doug Taft said dial-up Internet isn’t fast enough to catch the streaming signal.

“The number of people affected (in Bridgton) is very small,” Berkowitz said. Still, Taft said he has received some calls from residents.


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