Cable channels 23 through 78 won't vanish immediately, but Mediacom is advising its customers who lack digital-ready TVs to prepare for the transition.
Beginning in August, Mediacom will no longer simulcast analog and digital signals in Dubuque and Jo Daviess (Ill.) counties. Subscribers with older TVs that cannot receive digital signals will lose those stations.
"If you use cable and still have it connected to an older TV and you want to get these channels, you need to act," said Phyllis Peters, Mediacom's communications director.
Mediacom is making digital adapters available to its subscribers free of charge until June 2013, after which a 99 cent fee per month will be assessed.
Mediacom Regional Vice President Doug Frank said 70 percent of area subscribers already receive digital service for at least one TV in their house, but many people have older TVs that have been relegated to the basement and back bedrooms.
"We're not advocating that non-digital televisions go to a landfill," Frank said. "Instead, we're providing a solution to transition consumers into the world of digital television where they will gain more viewing choices and greater value."
Peters said the digital transition already is under way in 10 southeast Iowa counties and 27,000 adapters have been distributed.
Analog transmission requires greater bandwidth and the federal government asked broadcast stations to drop analog transmission in 2009. Since then, Mediacom and other cable providers have simulcast analog and digital programming. The cable industry is now catching up.
"The mathematics for us is we get three high-definition channels and 10 digital channels for a channel that leaves analog," Peters said. "Not everyone cares about high definition, but a lot of people do, and one of the reasons for doing this is we will offer 101 HD channels by the end of August. It's a dramatic ramp up with continued capacity to do more HD and at any moment to double the speeds of our Internet. All of that happens by clearing the lanes of those analog signals that are hogging the way."
There is no rate increase associated with the change and channels 2 through 14 will not be affected.
"The next message people will get is on Aug. 14 they will notice 10 channels are not available," Peters said. "One week later channels 23 to 78 will not be available."