Comcast Digital Change Sparks Frustrations

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council expressed their own concerns as well as the residents’ frustration this week about the digital migration of Comcast’s cable service in Ocean City.

Comcast Area Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs Tom Worley explained during Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting that there are a few reasons behind the transfer from analog channels to all digital.

“The analog signal was the original signal that video TV was broadcast on back in the late 40’s…the advanced signal that is used by almost everyone now is digital and our customers expect us to provide our services in the most advance way we possibly can,” Worley said.

Worley added the digital service gives a much crisper picture and better sound than analog. Another reason is Comcast has to keep up with its competition that is also switching their services completely to digital. But he said the most important reason for the transfer is because the system is congested.

“For every analog channel we convert to digital, we gain enough space to add up to 10 digital channels,” Whorley explained.

When it was the council’s turn to speak, officials expressed some concern over the process in which it will take for Ocean City to make the transfer to all digital, but most of the frustration rang loud and clear when it came to the customer service the company has been providing or lack thereof in some minds.

“We have had lines,” Worley said. “People started coming in earlier than expected.”

Worley reported additional staff and office space will be allocated during the transfer period.

“Trust me, you do have a customer service issue,” Councilman Joe Hall said. “You need to do what you can to get that office open as soon as possible because I know a lot of people have been in that line and are very unhappy.”

Council President Jim Hall suggested for the Comcast office to provide large golf umbrellas, ice water or even lawn chairs for those who have to wait in the extensive line outside of the office door.

“It is hot and those people are lined up and it was pretty nasty,” he said. “This is very confusing and I don’t think you all handled this at all well. You all knew this was coming, you all knew there was going to be a line and to have two or three clerks trying to handle 1000 people is just craziness.”

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin said the council has received “tons” of complaints and hopes the council’s concerns over customer service has been well received. He also suggested for Worley extend the office hours of the Comcast office in town.

“People work during the same time you work and then when they get off work, or take off a day of work to get to you that makes it more inconvenient,” he said. “You need to be open later or have some hours where it’s not so hot. If you have to be there until 8 or 9 o’clock, it would be nice to see that.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said change is difficult and television is important to everybody but the most important aspect of the digital transfer is to provide efficient customer service.

“However many more [customer service representatives] you were going to add I think you ought to add a couple more,” the mayor said. “It’s not just people there to service the people who come in but you need additional people to answer the phone because when you can’t get through to talk to someone for instructions you become very frustrated.”

Meehan explained to Worley the reason the Comcast service center in town has had an early response is because it is a resort town.

“You have people who own condominiums who are down here and also rent those condominiums and they know they need to make that change over before the season starts,” he said.

The mayor added there are 8,146 condominium rental licenses in Ocean City.

“These are our people and they come to us and we come to you and somebody has got to answer the damn phone and you have to have a live voice without waiting so long,” Jim Hall said.

On Monday Senior Manager of Public Relations Alisha Martin explained Comcast’s “World of More” digital service enhancement has been rolling out neighborhood by neighborhood across the country and has now arrived in Ocean City.

“In order to make that possible we are moving our analog channels to digital delivery,” Martin said.

Comcast’s analog channels will be delivered exclusively in digital format and digital equipment will be needed in order to view those channels. The plan is to launch more than 30 new HD networks for Ocean City customers in the coming weeks. Martin added that once a customer installs the new digital equipment additional channels will be instantly added to the service.

“There are those immediate benefits but then down the road through this initiative we are going to be able to keep delivering more to our customers,” Martin said. “We will continue increasing internet speeds and expanding on demand.

Martin said Comcast is providing customers up to three pieces of digital equipment at no additional monthly service charge.

The analog channels will move to a digital delivery in three phases. The first phase will occur on July 12 where some of the standard/expanded basic channels will be moved to digital. The second phase will occur on Aug. 16 where the remainder of those channels will be moved to digital. The third and final phase will occur on Oct. 5 and the limited basic channels will move to digital.

Customers can order a “simple self-install kit” at no cost to hook up a new digital device by calling 1-877-634-4434 or visiting www.Comcast.com/digitalnow.

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