Spectrum users wake up to limited cable in SETX

Spectrum outage draws long lines

UPDATED: New information includes Spectrum spokesperson Brian Anderson's claims that revealing the number of affected customers is "proprietary," as well as clarifying information to denote the fact that the company's decision to no longer serve its customers with analog programming (instead of strictly digital, which requires fee-based equipment) was solely under Spectrum's purview.

Tuesday, March 13, many of Spectrum Cable’s customers woke up to interrupted service thanks to an FCC- approved change in encrypting digital programming service. According to a Spectrum rep, every TV receiving service in Beaumont must now be outfitted with a cable box or digital receiver to continue viewing Spectrum’s programming. By summer, Spectrum’s liaison advised, all of Texas will be required to be outfitted with a cable box or digital receiver to continue viewing programming. New York has already undergone the change, and California is in the process of making the change, as well.

While multiple reports indicate upwards of 33,000 customers experienced service interference, Charter Communications staffer and Spectrum spokesperson Brian Anderson emphatically denies any significant number of affected clients.

“The vast majority of our customers are not feeling any impact whatsoever,” Anderson said. However, when queried at length about the actual number of customers affected by the change, Anderson became irate, refusing to divulge what he called “competitive information.”

“That we do not share,” he iterated time and time again, while decrying reports from others indicating there was in fact a great number of cable customers experiencing service disruption to one or more TVs in their homes. “That is not negotiable. Customer numbers are a guarded number in the business world.”

Although a line of customers snaking through the door, outside the Beaumont Spectrum store, and around the building, that have been out in full-force since early Tuesday morning into the afternoon hours would support the fact that many people were indeed without cable service – all or in part – Anderson was adamant that the community be aware of his position, without supporting numbers or data, that few people are impacted by this change. Anderson’s version of the facts, though, also hold true the semantic delineation that customers who can no longer view programming on their TVs are not “disconnected” from service, since service is still in the line. The programming just isn't viewable anymore without acquiring additional equipment that Spectrum rents for a fee.

Options other than paying $6.99 per month per added box per TV for current customers to view programming that are not technically “disconnected” from, a Spectrum rep other than Anderson advised, include downloading an app to Smart TVs, or using a Fire Stick or similar plug-in to attach internet to the TV that does not have a box.

“It’s a big change, but it’s mandated by the FCC,” that same Spectrum employee related.

But, according to Anderson, the change is not mandated by the FCC at all. Instead, Anderson said, the change was sparked by Spectrum’s decision to discontinue analog cable in favor of providing a solely digital service. According to Anderson, the change will not only bring the necessity for customers to acquire additional equipment, it will add HD channels and, eventually, support increased internet service.

What is mandated by the FCC, however, is that companies electing to make the changes Spectrum has are required to subsidize additional equipment for certain customers.

If, at the time your cable operator begins to encrypt, you subscribe only to broadcast basic service and do not have a set-top box or CableCARD, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge or service fee for two years from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt. If you subscribe to a level of service other than broadcast basic service but use a digital television to receive only the basic service tier without use of a set-top box or CableCARD, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on one television set without charge or service fee for one year from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt. If you subscribe to the basic service tier without use of a set-top box or CableCARD and you receive Medicaid, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge or service fee for five years from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt.

If you view television over-the-air with an antenna, or subscribe to a direct broadcast satellite service such as DIRECTV or Dish Network, cable system encryption will not impact you, according to FCC information.

This article has been updated to reflect comments from Brian Anderson, Charter Communications staffer and Spectrum spokesperson. The original article is attached below, unedited. 

Original content:

Tuesday, March 13, thousands of Spectrum Cable customers woke up to disconnected service thanks to an FCC- approved change in encrypting digital programming service. According to a Spectrum rep, every TV receiving service in Beaumont must now be outfitted with a cable box or digital receiver to continue viewing Spectrum’s programming. By summer, Spectrum’s liaison advised, all of Texas will be required to be outfitted with a cable box or digital receiver to continue viewing programming. New York has already undergone the change, and California is already in the process of making the change, as well.

Options other than paying $6.99 per month per added box per TV for current customers, the Spectrum rep advised, include downloading an app to Smart TVs, or using a Fire Stick or similar plug-in to attach internet to the TV that does not have a box.

“It’s a big change, but it’s mandated by the FCC,” the Spectrum employee related.

According to the FCC, if you need additional equipment because your provider begins encrypting service, you are entitled to free equipment for a limited time.

If, at the time your cable operator begins to encrypt, you subscribe only to broadcast basic service and do not have a set-top box or CableCARD, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge or service fee for two years from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt. If you subscribe to a level of service other than broadcast basic service but use a digital television to receive only the basic service tier without use of a set-top box or CableCARD, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on one television set without charge or service fee for one year from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt. If you subscribe to the basic service tier without use of a set-top box or CableCARD and you receive Medicaid, then you are entitled to a set-top box or CableCARD on up to two television sets without charge or service fee for five years from the date your cable operator begins to encrypt.

If you view television over-the-air with an antenna, or subscribe to a direct broadcast satellite service such as DIRECTV or Dish Network, cable system encryption will not impact you, according to FCC information.

For more information, or for assistance in navigating the change, contact Spectrum at (866) 874-2389.

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