High definition TV may be on tap for residents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A Charter Cable representative recently told the Columbiana City Council and Columbiana citizens that she hopes the glass is &uot;half full&uot; with regard to future for cable service in the area.

While she could give no specifics, Christina C. Mosca, government and public relations manager for Charter Cable’s Gulf Coast Region, said if the law requires cable systems to offer high definition television, the Columbiana system will be rebuilt to comply with that law.

Charter Cable plant manager Fred Smith of Talladega told citizens that equipment is on order to add Turner South to the Columbiana cable channel lineup.

Turner South is a channel which features among other programs, Atlanta Braves baseball.

The information on the future of Charter Cable in Columbiana was provided during a public hearing held in a suspended portion of the April 6 regular Columbiana City Council meeting.

The hearing was a part of the process leading to the July 2006 Charter Cable franchise renewal date.

Also on hand was Kevin Walton, local technical support representative for Charter.

Smith said once the equipment is received, and a 30-day notification period has passed, Turner South will be added to the Columbiana lineup.

In answer to a question from Bob Sauers about the government’s pending mandate that cable systems provide high definition TV, Mosca said, &uot;We will follow whatever the law tells us to do.&uot;

Carol Seale said when Charter changed to a digital signal, she lost the ability to use the picture-in-picture feature on her TV and the ability to video-tape one channel while watching another.

Lowe asked if Charter had any long-range plans to which Mosca replied not by specific system and not city by city.

She said, however, if required by law (high definition TV), the company will have to rebuild the Columbiana system.

Councilmember Tom Seale said, &uot;We are looking at a cable (franchise renewal) in three years, and you can’t tell us what you are going to do today.&uot;

Lowe also pointed out that Columbiana has a rural cable system but is not paying a rural rate.

He said Columbiana is paying the same rate as Pelham.

And Mosca confirmed, &uot;You are paying as much as the greater Birmingham area and you have less channels.&uot;

She said, however, there are other areas in exactly the same place.

She explained that Columbiana wants an upgrade of its cable system but doesn’t want to pay more for the upgrade. And the cable system must wait until it can pay for the upgrades.

Mosca said that due to the financial situation, the company had to stop its upgrades of smaller areas. However, she said, she asks for small system upgrades every year.

When Seale asked why the city should renew the cable franchise, Mosca said to continue service and for the possibility of future service.

She also said in two years time, the conversation in Columbiana over its cable system might be entirely different.

&uot;I hope the glass is half full. I hope I am not having the same conversation.&uot;

Lowe also said he has also seen &uot;no evidence of community support&uot; from Charter. Mosca replied that the company is hiring a public relations manager.

&uot;My goal is for that person to get involved in the area,&uot; Mosca said.

Smith said Columbiana residents with area calling may call their complaints to 362-6155. But he said that number will eventually roll to Birmingham