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Posted on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 6:17 p.m.

Comcast network upgrades could leave some customers without cable

By Nathan Bomey

Comcast expects to upgrade its cable network Tuesday in a switch that requires customers to have appropriate digital equipment to avoid interrupted service.

The switch, which affects Washtenaw County customers, is part of a phased transition as Comcast upgrades its network from analog signals to digital technology. The upgrade is not related to the previous federally mandated digital transition this year.

Many customers need digital set-top boxes or digital adapters to smoothly make the transition. 

Comcast customers can get free digital equipment for up to three TVs, said Mary Beth Halprin, vice president of public relations and community affairs for Comcast. 

For more information, go to, call (877) 634-4434 or visit the Comcast office at 4659 Washtenaw Ave. The switch does not affect limited basic cable customers.

On Tuesday, the telecommunications giant’s network upgrades will affect 13 channels, including AMC, Travel Channel and Animal Planet. Another 31 will be upgraded by Nov. 12 at the earliest. Customers who don't have digital capability will lose access to those channels when the upgrade occurs.

“Our company is enhancing our network to ensure that our channels are provided in a digital platform for customers in order to essentially bring more services and products, channels and faster Internet speeds to our customers,” Halprin said.

Comcast has notified its customers about the switch with letters, door-to-door communication and calls.

But it’s unclear how many residents will be caught off guard.

Deborah Eisler, an Ann Arbor resident, said she received letters in late September but has not received her equipment.

“I’m in a pickle that I think maybe many people are in in this city. Anyone who is a Comcast subscriber would be affected,” she said. “They were far too stingy with the time they put out the notice, and obviously tomorrow is way too short. They’re going to be creating problems for people.”

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.



Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 7:30 p.m.

This whole digital convertion is garbage and we end up with no service. The government promised better TV with digital, that they were forcing the broadcasters to do it for us. They forced digital to clear the way to sell the analog to other companies. We in A2 are in the middle of nowhere when it comes to digital TV. Without spending even more money for an outside antenna, I get 2 channels with my government issued digital box. I do have limited basic Comcast, but they have no plans to give me the free digital channels, only the higher paying customers get those. So I either get 2 channels, purchase and run wires for an external antenna, or buy more expensive cable. How is the digital conversion better for me. The government is full of it!


Sat, Oct 17, 2009 : 8:21 a.m.

I have had Dish satellite for several years. I deal directly with the company. I have NEVER ever had a problem with it or them, and when and if reception goes out it is usually back in a few minutes. I got rid of Comcast - their constant price increases angered me.


Thu, Oct 15, 2009 : 5:29 p.m.

I find it problematic that they are allowed a monopoly for a service area. I get that wires "owned" and the connections to the poles are "rented" from DTE. But I think its appropriate to say that the monopoly in this area prevents any pressure on Comcast to get better with their service. Comcast has to go but then you have to "choose" various service providers for internet, phone and tv. Its a game of screw the customer and I, for one, will be ending my interaction with Comcast as soon as I get a service provider I can stand.


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 1:06 p.m.

First I want to state that I really liked Comcast; and thought they did a pretty good job in handling all kinds of issues. Now, the but two weeks ago, my mother who is on limited income was contacted by Comcast and was told that she will lose her service if she does not switch to Digital cable. She had limited basic Plus which translates to $15.99 for basic service with added of 3 channels of Weather Channel, WGN, and TNT for additional $3. In total she was paying for 18.99 and she was happy with it. Here is the dishonest part about all of this: they told her that she would get Digital Cable at no extra charge. She would continue to pay 18.99 per month. I called too, and they told me the same story. Guess what? Now they are stating they plan to charge her $59.99 for digital package that she does not want. And come to find out that she can still keep the analog basic package for $15.99 without the three extra channels. To me, thats a dishonest practice that is being perpetrated on elderly folks. My opinion of Comcast is changing.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 10:29 a.m.

I only use Comcast for internet anyway. You can watch a lot of TV shows on the internet (Hulu, various networks' websites, etc.) or just rent season DVDs from Netflix. You can even hook a computer up to a TV and watch TV shows from the internet on your TV. Saves messing with cable boxes, DTAs, and the extra expense of TV with your internet service.

Marvin Face

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:41 p.m.

I switched from Comcast to ATT U-Verse in the spring. Easiest set-up ever. Guy came in, hooked up everything (VOIP Phone, cable, wireless internet) and I have not ever had any problems. Not one. Even during power outages I'm A-OK. Internet is as fast as I need it but then again, I don't need like a hundred jiggawatts or whatever of speed.. The biggest drawback? Getting used to the new and different channel numbers after 20 years of Comcast.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:19 p.m.

@treetowncartel: over-the-air HDTV is the gold standard, 20Mbps MPEG2 video. Some cable companies will recompress that to fit more channels into their underpowered networks but near as I can tell Comcast doesn't do that. Verizon FiOS definitely doesn't. Satellite has to. U-verse is the worst since they have 27Mbps of bandwidth total running to your house to share between multiple TV channels and Internet, so they recompress that 20Mbps HDTV channel into 5Mbps or so, severely degrading the picture, and take away Internet bandwidth as needed. That's why you can only watch 2 HDTV channels at a time, last I checked. Phone wire was never designed for high bandwidth applications. Verizon ripped out their old copper in favor of fiber optic. THAT works wonderfully. @D: No, I have a much smaller computer grade monitor and I know what OTA HDTV looks like. And I know when AT&T employees are making stuff up. I'll take 22M/5M or 50M/10M DOCSIS 3 Internet from Comcast, coming soon, over AT&T's slow and ugly kludge any day. U-verse is maxed out until they run fiber.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 7:12 p.m.

KILL YOUR TELEVISION. Just forget about it. I was a tv junkie up until one year ago when I marched down to the Comcast office and turned in my digital box. I missed TV for about 2 weeks. Then I realized that none of it mattered. I mean really NOTHING ON TV MATTERS. Suddenly I had and have money to go to concerts and enjoy more local live events. I reconnected with my fellow Ann Arborites. I am in better shape. I read more (for those whose eyes are failing try books on tape). My bill went from $120 a month to $42 as I did keep the internet service (which is horribly overpriced to say the least). Also I have found that if I really need to watch a movie or a specific show (which is hardly ever) I can find it on the internet. You can go to your favorite channel's website and for the most part watch what ever you want, when you want, usually with little or no advertising. I hear Hulu is great if you are hooked on a series. I say don't give Comcast any more money than you have too.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 2:10 p.m.

They did send out a letter, but it really did not command your attention. they should have posted the notice on TV, utilizing that annoying beeping sound that sends my dog into the basement whenever it comes on. Also, I heard the new trend is over the air HDTV, the signal is supposed to be better than cable or sattelite. Start buying those old dinosaur looking attenas when you see them, they actually provide a better picture.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 2:03 p.m.

So much for Comcast's "if you have Comcast, you're good to go!" sales pitch/ lie to non-subscribers last fall as they tried to scare analog TV customers into buying cable- they had to have this transition in the works by then. Now I'm stuck with crippled VCR functionality, substandard quality, internet that goes out and has to be reset daily, and paying for an added box for my 4th TV- if I ever get it. I ordered and received my two little "free" converter boxes pretty quickly, but since I was stuck paying $2 for the 4th box decided to pay a couple more bucks for another full digital box- still waiting on that a month later. Doubtless it'll require a call, an agent that will imply it's my fault they screwed up my order, and an hour standing in line at the Comcast office with a hundred other people picking up boxes. Tried to switch to U-Verse and they are just as inept; turns out that when they ran new lines in my denseley populated neighborhood, no one bothered to consult a subdivision map to make sure everyone was covered, so I wasted half a day waiting on their installers, only to be told that I can't get service because the antiquated branch line serving my home snakes 1/4 mile through my sub and Im too far from the source to get a usable signal. That brand new main line that you just tore up my side lawn (and never restored) to install a year ago, 30 feet from my house with a vault cover I can see from my living room? Oh, that serves the subdivisions on the other side of the road, we're not allowed to tap into it.

Nathan Bomey

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 1:49 p.m.

I followed up with Comcast about the TiVo issue. Comcast said it was not previously aware of TiVo problems, but TiVo's Web site indicates otherwise.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 1:38 p.m.

Comcast handled this pretty poorly, but really, you can't blame them for switching to digital and trying to phase out analog. They can fit a heck of a lot more channels in the pipe, with better picture quality. They're offering free equipment to let people continue using their old TVs, and newer TVs that already have digital tuners are compatible. This isn't really a big deal, just a messy implementation.

A Pretty Ann Arbor

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 12:20 p.m.

Oh forgot to mention - the only way they planned to "help" me was to increase my rate considerably. You know I can go online and watch TV...why should I stay with them or AT & T for that matter. hello Hulu and other internet stations!

A Pretty Ann Arbor

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 12:12 p.m.

I hope the Cable Commission reads all of these complaints. I have the basic basic service and woke up this morning to notes on the tv screen that my channel had been digitized and now I couldn't get it. I just called Comcast - the "alpha idiot" I got on the phone made me even madder. I think AT&T just got my business. I have been with Comcast for a long time (30 years or so), but this was the last straw. I NEVER GOT ANY NOTIFICATION OF THIS SHUT OFF OR CHANGE. This should be illegal to do to customers!


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

I don't think that frustrated Comcast subscribers are overreacting. Comcast has handled this conversion terribly, and their communication has been abysmal. We installed our two DTA boxes on Sunday and things are still not right. We spent hours on the project and talked with no fewer than 5 Comcast techs (plus one who disconnected our call somehow) and never got the same answer twice. When asked about VCRs that no longer record, we were told that it's not their fault, it's OUR equipment that isn't compatible. They gave us a toll-free number to call Philips (our VCR brand) to get a "code" that will make it work with the DTA box. Philips knows nothing about this and there is no code. Comcast knew that VCRs would no longer work when you want to watch one show while recoding another, and yet their instruction sheet tells you how to install the DTA with a VCR but doesn't mention it won't work correctly any longer. And if there's a way to fix this, they haven't told us. Two days later, our two new Comcast remotes still don't work correctly. We were told that if they had to send someone out to "fix" them that we would be charged (again, our equipment isn't compatible). Huh? Oh, and occasionally we lose sound on some channels and they are "sorry about this glitch that sometimes happens". I talked with my elderly aunt who called Comcast yesterday about having them come out to install her boxes(she's willing to pay for this). It took her 20 minutes to get to a live person, only to be told they can't schedule service until they have a record that she has received her boxes (she has had them at her house for a week now but Comcast doesn't know that and won't take her word for it.) So the benefits of this "upgrade" haven't yet thrilled me since the process has been terrible and the bugs are not yet worked out.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 11:40 a.m.

Is there a way to order these without waiting in line or using the phone, e.g a website or e-mail address?


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 11:28 a.m.

I think you are all overreacting. This switch will provide more bandwidth and room in the feeds for far more services(specifically more HD channels which everyone seems to want). Comcast does provide 2 free DTAs(one-way digital converters) and 1 DCT(two-way converter). These are compatible with all VCRs and Tivos.. and if you have a specific DVR or Tivo you want to use with dual tuners then comcast has cable cards available! Look in to what's available from the company.. there is always something to meet your needs, as long as you actually know what it is you need. Good luck!


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 9:39 a.m.

re: Comcast & TIVO's: We have several TIVO's in the house, with lifetime contracts, and therefore want to continue using them. With our HD TIVO, dual tuner, the change did not cause any concerns. For our single tuner TIVO's, I got 2 DTA boxes, connected them in 10 minutes and via great instructions on the TIVO site, was able to reprogram the TIVO's. Only downfall is on the older TIVO's, cannot any longer watch one program & record another...


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 9:14 a.m.

My favorite part is how Comast said that the converter boxes would be available "at no charge" and yet raised my rates anyway just after sending them out. Not to mention that you can no longer conveniently use older Tivos, VCRs, and DVD recorders with the converters.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:57 a.m.

FWIW, I ordered new boxes from, received them a few days later, plugged them in and one was DOA. Comcast sent me a new one along with a return UPS label for the dead one. When they had trouble configuring the new one they sent a technician out within hours. While there shouldn't have been a problem in the first place they did take care of it reasonably well. Comcast has a large customer service center in Scio Township and service has become considerably better since they built that. My major complaint about Comcast is the expense. AT&T U-Verse, OTOH, was awful. Their HDTV channels look terrible compared to Comcast or even satellite. AT&T is too cheap to do the job right like Verizon did with FiOS. AT&T's network is physically incapable of providing the high speed Internet service that Comcast will be offering soon after this digital transition is completed. I've been unimpressed but ATT's customer service too. Comcast is far superior in comparison. AT&T just doesn't want to do the hard work of properly upgrading their network infrastructure, as I'm sure iPhone users can attest.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:56 a.m.

Got the following e-mail from a Comcast customer today and thought it worth passing on. FWIW, I reached the Comcast "Escalation Person" yesterday. He is: Terrence Ogden (734) 254-1708 If customers call this number, Mr. Ogden will be able to help them - maybe. With regard to a VCR, Ogden told me that to record, people should set the VCR to Channel 3, since the new signal will be coming down Channel 3. Set the new Digital Transition Adapter (DTA) to the channel you want to record. Program the VCR to record at the appropriate time. Big Problem: There is no way to program the VCR to record one show at one time on a given channel, and another show at a different time on another channel! So the programmable feature on the VCR has been crippled. With regard to a TiVo, Ogden had no Comcast documentation to work from, only documentation he got from the TiVo website! He was not familiar with the set-up details. He *thought*, based on stuff from a TiVo forum(!), that a 2-tuner TiVo would lose some functionality even with a Comcast "digital box" (a step up from the DTA). He thought that you could still record two programs on different analog channels at one time, but not two digital channels (the upper register). A Comcast technician came to our house yesterday afternoon. He said that the techs had *not* been trained on TiVos (even though he had dealt with them), and that they were going to have a brainstorming session with the supervisors. We rescheduled our appointment for when these folks figure things out. So - for folks with either VCRs or TiVos (and presumably other DVRs), Comcast's "upgrade" is actually a downgrade. The towers have fallen into the moat.

Some Guy in 734

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:27 a.m.

Re John Galt... I'm reluctant to say this so bluntly. I'm a gigantic fan of privacy, and I say this with a heart full of respect for engaging discourse. All that said, when I read your comment, all I could think was... So? Look, this is Comcast we're talking about. I've had a dealing or nine with them in my day, and I highly doubt there are many (or any) in their employ who could figure out what to do with that data. But suppose they can. That information in the aggregate can be useful to them. If a wise company making this type of transition knew which channels had the least viewership, they could start first with the least-viewed channels. Or is the concern not that they'll know what you're watching, but that they'll know what *YOU'RE* watching? Like, at your next dinner party you'll be all ready with some prize bon mot about something you saw on "Nova", and then some dude in a black and red striped embroidered polo will pop up and call you out on it, because both of you know you've only been watching the Miss Bliss episodes of "Saved By The Bell" on TBS? I'm thinking of the entirety of what's available on cable, and I can't think of anything that would be particularly damning to have associated with my name. Now, yes, when I've--uhh... I mean, if I ever ordered an ad-dult program, they'll know it. But they've been able to know that all along, in order to charge you. I'm not quite willing to say "no foul" yet, but I still need to be convinced away from saying "no harm".


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 8:06 a.m.

I got the wrong power supply with my digital converter box. I was #20 in line at the Comcast office... took a half an hour of waiting for my 30 seconds of getting the right power supply. After 3 more phone calls, I finally got both TVs to work.... the "On Demand" feature STILL does not work, and now my VCR won't work anymore, either. Here's to phone call #5.....


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 7:38 a.m.

This switch would have "broken" our Tivo... as a result, we've just become Limited Basic customers, saving 50 bucks a month plus the 200 it would have cost to upgrade the Tivo. It's been a couple weeks, and we haven't missed it yet. The test will be this weekend, when the UM game isn't on network...

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 7:17 a.m.

If you live in a condo or apartment complex that includes cable, the letters sent to your homes had the wrong phone number on it. My son was on the phone for an hour, unable to get his address verified because there was no bill with an account number. Then he was told he'd have to call another number. At that number, he was told that he could not get the digital box that included special features, even though the letter told him he could get it. Rather, he could only get the small converter box that did not have On-Demand. Comcast is really out of touch with their clients. Imagine elderly people and those that throw away letters from Comcast because their cable comes "free" with their rent or condo fees. It is too early to make a switch. People need a good 6 months like they had with the other digital switch.


Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 6:08 a.m.

Each company has one thing they're really good at.COMCAST THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY EXPERT AT SCREWING THEIR CUSTOMERS.

Paul Taylor

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 2:26 a.m.

To be honest, Comcast has been a terrible service provider for years, and this sucker punch to their long-time customers comes as no great shock to me. When the switch was made in my house to AT&T, I was torn--AT&T is a somewhat evil company, but at least they have their act together. Comcast jumped the shark years ago, and is well overdue for some evolutionary market pressures.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 12:55 a.m.

The sad truth: we who are stuck with Charter envy those of you with Comcast. Charter is the only provider that consistently ranks last in everything.


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 10:38 p.m.

Comcast sucks. I can't wait for HBO to be available via internet subscription...then it's over for Comcast and me.

needed perspective

Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 9:08 p.m.

yep---good ole Comcast...after I switched to ATT (digital)---they asked why...I told them...they said...yep you were just on analogue, no wonder!!! could just asked, we have digital...Comcast is customer service driven and on top of customer satisfaction!!! NOT~


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 8:43 p.m.

I better not be charged for the channels that Comcrap is eliminating for people without a digital tv. Secondly, where is my letter? My box better be up to date since I had this crap installed in July!


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 7:54 p.m.

Wow too bad those service interruptions have already started...and been going on for well over a month now.


Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 7:10 p.m.

Just FYI. The letters and sales calls are just a disguised "sales pitch" to try and sell you services you most likely don't even want -- not to mention even afford. Good time to switch to a new service.. AT&T or WOW!

John Galt

Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 5:56 p.m.

Just FYI. The digital boxes also make it possible to track what you are watching in real time.