So about this broadband thing–Part I

Posted on June 16, 2011

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Rumors are rife along the shores of Lake Michigan. My assignment is to sort them out and tell people what their internet options might be in the near future over here in western Antrim County—most particularly in the orphaned territory that lies along US-31 between Elk Rapids and Charlevoix. (Those of you from Away may find this post baffling, but bear with us. Dog antics and wildflowers to return tomorrow.)

First up, the scoop on Charter’s 2011 upgrade

Bill Morand, Senior Communications Manager for Charter Communications, spent a lot of time this week answering my questions about the upgrades in Torch Lake Township (and a corner of Banks Township and another corner of Central Lake Township). I appreciate it, and I’m going to do my best to tell you everything I learned, starting with that interesting looking map. The yellow highlighting shows where there is existing Charter cable that will be upgraded. Before you go clicking on the map to see what’s what, a disclaimer is in order. Bill reviewed the image and said “The map is correct. If anything, it understates the upgrade – particularly above Golden Beach Drive north of Creswell.” The map is also imperfect, because I did the highlighting on an Antrim County roadmap and I did it manually. Plus we all know I never learned to color inside the lines.

What does the upgrade involve?

  • The upgrade is just that. It is not an extension. If you have, or could have, Charter cable TV right now, the upgrade scenario applies to you.
  • The upgrade is to the Charter equipment that serves the highlighted area right now.  Charter is in the process of examining all of its equipment in the covered area in order to determine if it needs to do any repairs to the cable.  Beyond that, it will be installing the repeaters that are necessary to bring the digital signals to your house and–and this is important–send them from your house to the video service and to the internet.

When will it be finished?

  • Bill said, “We hope to have it done before the first frost.”  I suggested that the first frost could come surprisingly early in Torch Lake Township.  Bill allowed as how Charter was thinking in terms of the end of October if all goes well.  If things don’t go as well as hoped, it might take until next spring, but Charter fully expects to have the upgrade implemented by the end of 2011.
  • Two other people who are not authorized to speak for attribution but who are in a position to evaluate the situation on the ground believe that the end of October is realistic.

What services will be available?

  • Television: An analog option will remain.  Over and above that, the digital upgrade will allow you to take advantage of standard and premium HDTV programming and features like video on demand and pay per view.  (See Charter TV Overview.)  Bill says that you will be able to order the same lineup that is presently available to subscribers in Traverse City.
  • Internet: The standard residential cable modem option will closely resemble what Charter calls Internet Express on its website.  That would mean that you could attend an online seminar, download a movie or navigate your favorite websites without developing an ulcer.  The Ultra-60 option will be available as well.  (See Charter Internet Overview for descriptions of these options.)
  • Telephone: Digital telephony may not be part of the initial rollout, but the capability will be there when all the usual regulatory issues are ironed out.  (I am not getting into explaining telephone tariffs.  If this part of the deal is really important to you, you probably already know more about it than I do anyway.)
  • You will be able to order individual or bundled services.

What will it cost?

  • Charter is “still building packages” and is not ready to release those prices just yet.  You’ll hear the minute I do.  Bill says the individual services will be priced as they are in Traverse City.

Next up, the scoop on wireless and DSL

Yes, next week there will be a Part II and a Part III, because wonder of wonders there will be still more options.  This year, not “someday.”  Stay tuned.  Things are looking up.

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