(Copyright 1997. The Tattoo. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

March 31, 1997

300 channels and nothing on? TCI is going digital, offering more

Tattoo Staff Writer

  Soon TCI of Central Connecticut, Bristolís
cable company, will be upgrading to a new
digital system the company says will provide
viewers with clearer pictures and more channels.
  With the new system, known as "All TV,"
customers would see the channels they have now ≠
and then some.
  Matt Fleury, spokesman for TCI, says that the
new system will make it easier to add channels
in the future.
  Current customers in West Hartford, where the
new system is already in operation, have access
to 36 Pay-Per-View channels, assorted movie
channels, 15 specialty channels, and 40 channels
of music.
  Digital TV can pack anywhere from 15 to 20
digital channels into the space of one normal
analog channel.
  Programming packages start at $35 and run as
high as $65 a month, according to TCIís customer
service center, all of which include digital and
non-digital (analog) channels.
  Digital cable box rentals are higher than the
rate for the current boxes, which are rented for
$2.46 a month. The first digital box is $3 a
month, with additional boxes for $8 a month.
  The All TV boxes provide users with on-screen
menus and program listings that can be browsed
from their remote controls.
  The program and movie listings menu, known as
Prevue Interactive, can be searched by channel,
time, and  by the name of the show.
  Another menu lets subscribers order new
channels and Pay-Per-View movies. Orders are
sent back to a computer at the cable company.
  The All TV boxes can also tune in standard
analog channels so thereís no switching between
equipment when going from one type of channel to
  The new system wonít be a mandatory switch.
Cable subscribers will still be able to view all
the channels they get now without going digital.
TCI has already started upgrading Bristolís
system, but the company hasnít said when the
upgrade will be completed.
  This move to digital comes after 18-inch
satellite dishes have become increasingly
popular throughout the nation.
  The DSS (Digital Satellite System) receivers
are being sold for as low as $200 with more
channels than cable, cheaper subscription fees,
and some remarkably targeted programming.
  DirecTV, a DSS programming provider, recently
launched a channel dedicated to farmers and
ranchers called Channel Earth
  Illegal cable descramblers wonít be able to
decipher the new digital system, leaving all of
TCIís "cable pirates" only one option ≠ to pay
for cable.
  Fleury said that they are also planning to
bring telephone and cable modem services to
  Cable modems would connect to computers and
the cable line coming into your home, he said,
allowing subscribers to access the Internet at
much higher speeds than can be achieved with a
phone line.
  Fleury said TCI is already testing these
services in other areas of the state.
  Television networks, like Bristolís own ESPN,
donít seem to be affected much by the change.
  The only advantage there is for ESPN,
according to Mike Soltys, a spokesman for the
cable sports network, is that it gives companies
"more opportunities for additional networks."
  Currently, ESPN has three channels: ESPN,
ESPN2 and ESPNews.
  ESPNews is not currently carried by TCI, but
digital transmitting will allow cable companies
the room to carry more special interest