Answers to your digital-cable questions

Warren Epstein

I have seen the future of cable TV, and it’s very cool and very expensive.

Adelphia Communications announced Wednesday the immediate launch of its digital-cable packages.

This will enable subscribers to choose from more than 260 channels.

It’s enough to make you dizzy.

Here are some answers to questions subscribers may have about the new digital TV service:

How much does it cost?

It depends on how many channels you want. If you want basic digital access, which will give you 40 channels of digital music and the capability of ordering 14 more pay-per-view channels, it’ll cost you $4.95 (for one TV set) on top of your monthly bill.

If you want one of the three basic digital channel packages, which include a “Variety Package,” “Sports and Info Package” and “Movie Package,” it’ll cost $7.95 on top of your bill. For all three packages (a total of 44 channels), it’s an additional $11.95.

Premium packages offer the best values. They cost $11.95 for one package of expanded HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. The HBO package alone includes 12 HBO channels.

Ten international premium channels from such countries as Scandinavia, Japan and the Philippines are available at $10 apiece.

Fare for the serious basketball and hockey fans are available in packages ranging $49 to $109.

If you’re an independently wealthy couch potato, you can buy every one of the new channels for $413 a month (on top of your regular cable bill).

Are there any hidden costs?

You betcha. You have to pay $3.50 for each remote, plus $4.95 for “digital access” for each TV set. (That latter cost is waived if you get one of the basic digital channel packages.)

How does it compare to a dish service?

If you add three of the basic digital packages to your full- service programming tier, your Adelphia bill will be about $50 per month.

You can get get roughly equivalent offerings from the Dish Network or DirecTV for about $30.

It’s true that the dish services don’t yet offer local channels here. But it’s possible that you can pick them up clearly with an antenna. Or you could get those channels by subscribing to basic cable for about $13.

But where the new digital cable really shines is in the premium packages, which offer more for about the same price. So if you’re really into cable movies, this may be the way to go.

The digital cable also offers more international offerings than I’ve seen on the dish. So transplants from other countries may get an important connection to their homelands through the new cable service.

Besides all the channels, what do you get for your money?

One new digital-cable function, already found on some satellite services, is an interactive on-screen menu called “The Navigator.” Rather than just surf through the channels, you can scroll through the guide and click on what you want to watch. You also can customize the guide to present only your favorite channels and screen out unwanted programming with a sophisticated parental-control function.

The digital service also will allow you to order pay-per-view channels with a click of the remote. You won’t have to call Adelphia.

What about picture quality?

Because of the fiber-optic network still under construction, picture quality should improve dramatically, not only for digital- cable subscribers but all Adelphia subscribers.

Who can get digital cable TV?

The digital cable packages are available to subscribers in the 80906 ZIP code and parts of 80909. They will be available, after a gradual rollout, to all Adelphia subscribers by early 2001.

Digital will be added in a roughly a counter-clockwise direction from the 80906 area (southwest Colorado Springs).

If you want the digital package, you must subscribe to the standard or full-service cable tier.

What will this mean for HDTV?

It means that when local TV stations and cable networks broadcast a high-quality digital signal, Adelphia will have the technology for carrying those signals.

But before we get these signals in our home, Adelphia will have to work out contracts with each station and network to carry them.

What won’t you find on the digital lineup?

Curiously, several popular cable channels didn’t make the cut. They include Telemundo, a Spanish-language channel; the Food Network, featuring America’s best cooking shows; Noggin, a kids’ network that includes classic “Sesame Street” shows; Oxygen, Oprah Winfrey’s women- oriented channel; and Court TV, which had been dropped from the lineup.

Another conspicuous absence from the digital packages is an NFL Ticket, available on DirecTV, that allows football fans to get all the games by their favorite teams.

Local Adelphia officials say more channels may be added later.

Copyright 2000

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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