What is the status of negotiations with Comcast and Verizon?
September 1, 2009 - The Board of Selectmen has signed a contract with Verizon New England, Inc. that will allow Verizon to provide cable television services in Easton. Access Information about cable services in Easton through this link - and read about the formation of the non-profit ECAT Corporation that will provide non-commercial (Public, Education, Government) programming in Easton.
August 11, 2009 - The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a public hearing to be held on Monday, August 31, 2009, at 7:30 pm in the Selectmen’s Hearing Room at the Easton Town Hall, 136 Elm Street, Easton, MA 02356. The purpose of the hearing is to consider the cable television licensing process in Easton and the application for a cable television license received from Verizon New England, Inc. Applications, reports and statements filed or prepared pursuant to Massachusetts cable television licensing regulations are available for public inspection at the Town Clerk’s office during regular business hours and for reproduction at a reasonable fee. For more information on the hearing, interested parties can call the Board of Selectmen’s Office at (508) 230-0501.
June 25, 2009 - The Town has signed its new contract with Comcast with an effective date of July 1, 2009. The new contract calls for the community of Easton to establish a non-profit access corporation. This non-profit will be funded in part by the contract and will be responsible for providing local government, education, and public access programming in our community.
In the near future, the Town will begin the process of establishing the public access non-profit, Easton Community Access Television, Inc. (ECAT). The ECAT will be looking for community members with energy, expertise, and vision to contribute to the development, implementation, and programming for the new station. Please feel free to call the Selectmen's Office (508) 230-0501 if you have any questions.
The Cable Advisory Committee has begun contract negotiations with Verizon as Verizon would like to provide cable service to our community. A completed contract is anticipated by September. Prior to a contract being signed with Verizon, there will be an advertised public hearing. At this hearing, residents will be able to voice comments, suggestions, and concerns. When a contract is signed and a license is issued, all FIOS services (phone, internet & television) will then be available in Easton in areas where Verizon has completed fiber installation. Installation may take longer in areas in Easton where utilities are underground. Therefore, FIOS services will not be available immediately in all sections of town.
Why can't I get some Boston based HD channels on Comcast?
This is an important issue to many Easton cable subscribers. We want to take some time to explain the relevant issues just so you understand why most believe Easton residents are not getting the channels they want and the channels that they believe serve them best.
The starting point is the DMA that Easton is in. What is a DMA? Well, that is our problem. DMA is short for Neilsen Media Research Designated Television Market Area. DMA's are generally split up according to county. Easton is in Bristol County. A good part of Bristol County is actually considered part of suburban Providence. Therefore, Easton, although not a suburb of Providence, is in the Providence DMA. All cable providers must carry the primary channels that serve a DMA. At present, Comcast must carry Providence DMA stations. There is an effort underway to move towns inside of Route 495 into the Boston DMA. We will petition the FCC for this change.
But the greater issue here is whether Comcast chose to eliminate Boston channels in High Definition or whether they had no choice. For the most part, this is a Comcast choice. The Town of Easton and our Cable Committee, unfortunately, cannot force Comcast to provide Boston channels in High Definition. Along with the concept of DMA, there is also the concept of "Significantly Viewed" channels in an area. This is another FCC concept which relates to stations not in the local DMA which may be referred to as "distant signals". A "distant signal" is one that originates outside of a satellite (or cable) subscriber’s local television market, the DMA. In addition to stations in their DMA, satellite (cable) subscribers who receive local-into-local service may, under certain circumstances, receive individual stations from markets outside their DMA that are deemed “significantly viewed” in their community. It is up to the satellite carrier whether or not to offer significantly viewed stations and a subscriber must be subscribing to local-into-local service in his or her DMA to be eligible to receive significantly viewed stations. The determination of whether or not a station is significantly viewed in a community depends on several statutory factors.
The FCC has posted the list of stations that are eligible for carriage as significantly viewed signals and the communities in which they are significantly viewed. Seehttp://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-05-187A2.doc .
The following is the list for Bristol County:
WLNE-TV, 6, Providence, RI (formerly WTEV)
WJAR, 10, Providence, RI
WPRI-TV, 12, Providence, RI
+WNAC-TV, 64, Providence, RI
WBZ-TV, 4, Boston, MA
WCVB-TV, 5, Boston, MA (formerly WHDH)
WHDH-TV, 7, Boston, MA (formerly WNAC)
WSBK-TV, 38, Boston, MA
WLVI-TV, 56, Cambridge, MA (formerly WKBG)
So, Comcast has every right to provide the above channels (which include 4,5, and 7) in High Definition. It is their choice not to do so. You may ask why Channel 25 is not on the above list and that is a great question. But the answer is that the determinations for this list were made a long time ago when Channel 25 was owned by religious broadcasters. That is how outdated all of these rules are. It is also the reason that Comcast is forced to black out FOX 25 network programming.
There may be an alternative to Comcast in Easton by the end of the year. We are going through a licensing process with Verizon. They want to offer Fios tv, internet, and phone in Easton by December. It is all of our hopes that Verizon will provide the channels that you are looking for and that competition will benefit all cable tv subscribers in Easton.
For further information please contact the Comcast Customer Care line at 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278).
Does the DTV transition affect TV sets that are connected to cable services?
No. If you subscribe to cable service, the DTV transition should not affect any TV sets that are connected to your cable services. The DTV transition applies only to full-power broadcast television stations – stations that use the public airwaves to transmit their programming to viewers through a broadcast antenna.
Is the FCC making cable companies switch to digital service?
No. Cable companies are not required to switch to digital service. Cable companies may choose to make their service all or partly digital, but they are not required to change from the analog service they offer today. In fact, the FCC requires cable companies to continue to provide local stations in analog as long as they provide any analog service, even after February 17, 2009
Comcast will carry analog for three more years and Verizon will be entirely digital.
Can my cable company make me get a box to receive the cable channels I receive today without a box?
Some cable companies have decided to switch to digital service. This is a business decision made by the cable companies and is not required by the federal government. Your cable company may decide to move certain cable channels off of its analog service tier and onto a digital service tier, or it may decide to switch to all-digital service at once, so that there is no analog service tier for any subscribers. If your cable company decides to move some or all of the channels it provides onto a digital service tier, it may notify you that you need to get “digital cable” equipment to continue receiving that cable service. This may include renting or purchasing a digital cable set-top box or purchasing a digital cable ready TV equipped with a “CableCARD” slot. The digital cable equipment is different from the digital-to-analog converter boxes that are used to receive over-the-air broadcast signals.
Verizon will be providing two free converter boxes to its Massachusetts customers.
Will cable customers with analog TVs have to buy or rent a set-top box from their cable company? If so, how much will it cost?
First, it's important to know that the February 17, 2009 deadline for the digital television transition only applies to full-power broadcast stations. Cable companies are not required by the government to transition their systems to digital, and can continue to deliver channels to their customers in analog. Cable companies are actually required by FCC rules to continue offering local broadcast stations to their customers in analog as long as they offer any analog service.
This requirement will continue for at least three years after February 17, 2009 (applies to Comcast and not Verizon).
The Commission will decide in 2011 whether the requirement should be continued beyond February 17, 2012. This means that customers who receive analog cable service (without a cable set-top box) will be able to continue to do so.
However, for business reasons (among other things, digital is much more efficient than analog), cable companies may be interested in transitioning their systems from analog delivery to digital delivery. If a cable company makes the business decision to go all-digital (meaning it will stop offering any channels to its customers in analog), it must ensure that its analog customers can continue to watch their local broadcast stations. This may require customers with analog televisions to get a set-top box. If the cable company provides the customer with a set-top box, any costs related to it will be determined by the cable company. Therefore, it is recommended that analog cable customers contact their cable company to ask if a set-top box will be needed, when it will be needed, and if there will be a cost.
It is also important to note that a cable set-top box is different from a digital-to-analog converter box. A digital-to-analog converter box is necessary only for analog televisions that receive their programming over-the-air using a rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears" connected to the set. A digital-to-analog converter box is not necessary for a TV connected to a paid television service such as a cable or satellite TV provider. Information on any set-top boxes needed for a paid service such as cable or satellite should be obtained from the service provider.
What is the Converter Box Coupon Program?
To help consumers with the DTV transition, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce, administers this program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. Beginning in January of 2008, the NTIA has begun accepting applications for coupons. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. (Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing). Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit www.dtv2009.gov, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).
I have an old antenna that attaches to my TV with two wires. Will I be able to use a converter box with this antenna?
Yes, but you will need to get two adapters (also called "baluns" or "matching transformers," which are pictured below). Unscrew the existing twin-lead antenna wire from your TV “Antenna In” twin-lead terminals. Attach the existing twin-lead antenna wire to the twin-lead terminals on the twin-lead adaptor (first picture below). Then plug the twin-lead adaptor’s coaxial connector into the “Antenna In (RF)” port on the Converter Box. Using coaxial wire, plug one end into the “Out To TV (RF)” port on the Converter Box. Plug the other end into a coaxial adaptor (second picture below). Then attach the coaxial adaptor to your TV “Antenna In” twin-lead terminals.
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