Mediacom will make a big change at the end of November when it switches most of its channels to all digital.
The change will affect people with older analog TVs, but it's not as complicated as it sounds, said Communications Director Phyllis Peters. The advantage will be a larger number of regular and high-definition channels available at no extra cost.
Mediacom will discontinue analog broadcast for channels 23 through 79 for Fort Dodge, Webster City and all points north and west by Dec. 12. The transition has been going on throughout Iowa, beginning in the east.
To get the digital signal, TVs made before 2007 will need an adapter box, which Mediacom will supply.
"It's the size of deck of cards or a cell phone," Peters said. "It converts the signal so the channels will still come in and display on an older analog television."
"There's nothing a customer will lose by making this transition. If people are still using an older TV we have that adapter to take care of them."
The change is part of a transition that began in 2009, when all broadcast TV stations were required by law to switch from analog to digital broadcast.
Mediacom has been sending both analog and digital signal to all of its customers since before 2009, Peters said. All TVs built after 2007 have a digital tuner built in, so customers with newer TVs already been receiving the digital signal.
Channels 2-22 will continue to be available in both digital and analog, Peters said.
After installing the new adapter, customers with older TVs will be able to view channels 87 through 119, which newer TVs already receive.
"Iowa Public Television has channels 118 and 119. An old analog TV doesn't pick that up. Or you see how WHO has a weather plus channel, or KDSM has the country music station," Peters said.
After getting rid of analog, Mediacom will be able to add more channels in both standard and high definition.
"Analog, besides being outdated, it's inefficient, it's clunky. It hogs up the network," she said. "For every analog channel that goes away, we can add three high definition channels, or 10 standard digital."
By around Dec. 22, customers with high definition TVs will start receiving twice as many HD channels.
"That's what we've been doing in a series of counties around Waterloo and Mason City and Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, and now our last corner is northwest Iowa," she said.
"We want our customers in Fort Dodge and Algona and Humboldt to get 100 high definition channels instead of 45 or 46. This is a big, big thing for us, in one shot, to double those channels or more than double them, but we don't change the price."
The adapter is simple to set up, even for less tech-savvy users, she said. To help make things clear for everyone, an open house will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Citizens Central Meeting room, 617 Central Ave., where customer service representatives and technicians will explain the changes and what people need to be do to be ready.
"They will demonstrate how to connect it," she said. "You can ask all kinds of questions."
Customers can get up to three adapters free for all of next year. On Jan. 31, 2014 a monthly fee of $0.99 per adapter will be added to the bill.
Adapters are available at the Fort Dodge Mediacom office, 1225 Second Ave. S., by phone at 800-479-2095 or online at medicomcable.com/order. Shipping is free.