Comcast ready to go digital – Local upgrades kick in next week |

Comcast ready to go digital – Local upgrades kick in next week

Beginning next week, Comcast Cable’s 10,000 customers in the Grass Valley/Nevada City/Penn Valley triangle will see the fruits of a system upgrade that cost nearly $9 million.

On Thursday, the cable giant plans to activate a state-of-the-art fiber optics system that will give subscribers more digital channels, high definition broadcast capability, digital video recording and high-speed Internet access.

All of this comes at a higher price. The cost of standard cable service will increase 4.8 percent to $42.50. In addition, customers will be charged an extra $5 a month if they want an HDTV or DVR converter, and $9.95 a month for the digital video recording service similar to TiVo.

Installation, service and miscellaneous fees will also increase.

But customers will be getting more for the money, including 25 new channels in the standard cable lineup, said DeeDee Brady, general manager of the North Valley area, which includes western Nevada County.

“Comcast has invested close to $9 million in the Grass Valley area to upgrade our digital system,” said Susan Gonzales, senior director of communications for Comcast in Sacramento.

She said Comcast has dumped a contract customer service operation that was located outside California and has hired 300 service reps for a new service center in Sacramento.

“With representatives nearby, Grass Valley area customers speak to someone who knows the area and can provide better service,” Gonzales said.

The system upgrade will also bring a realignment of channels that Brady said will make it easier for “customers to find the types of programming they enjoy watching.”

All channels that emphasize news, sports, family programming and music will be clustered together under the new arrangement, Brady said. Customers will receive cards with the new channel lineup in letters being delivered early next week.

The new channels being added to the standard cable lineup will include the Food Network, MSNBC, Animal Planet and Comedy Channel. The DMX digital music service will be replaced with Music Choice.

Customers with “HD Ready” or HD Capable” receivers will be able to view four Sacramento stations, four cable channels including ESPN, and four premium channels in high definition, but will need to rent the HDTV converter.

Comcast is also offering high-speed Internet service with download speeds of 4.0Mbps, which it said is up to five times faster than 784K DSL and up to 75 times faster than 56k dial-up services.

The service will be offered at a special rate of $24.95 a month for three months beginning Saturday. After the introductory offer, the price goes up to $42.95 a month.

A video-on-demand service will be offered in the future. Gonzales described the service as a public library of programs, 80 percent of them free. “You can watch the 6 p.m. news at 11:20 at night,” she said. “You can hit the pause button if you’re interrupted.”

Comcast began replacing its old one-way cable system with a two-way fiber optic system last July, and said it would finish upgrading its 238 miles of cable by last fall.

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