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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673
802-496-3928
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Waitsfield Cable working to correct digital issues

By Gregg Haskin

In a Valley Reporter article from September, I wrote of some of the struggles we were having in converting Waitsfield Cable from an analog to all-digital system. In addition, I discussed the logistical nightmare of exchanging over 8,000 set-top boxes and the sometimes quirky challenges we faced obtaining programming.

By Gregg Haskin

In a Valley Reporter article from September, I wrote of some of the struggles we were having in converting Waitsfield Cable from an analog to all-digital system. In addition, I discussed the logistical nightmare of exchanging over 8,000 set-top boxes and the sometimes quirky challenges we faced obtaining programming. 

While I'd like to tell you that things have calmed down by now, I cannot. Please allow me the opportunity to explain some of our frustrations, explain some technical reasons for the various outages some customers are experiencing and our plans to correct these issues going forward.

Prior to our all-digital conversion, Waitsfield Cable provided service in both an analog and digital format distributed through an entirely coaxial network. Whenever analog signal levels dropped enough due to one or more possible causes (weather, snow on our receiving dishes, distribution amplifiers out of adjustment, possible customer site cabling issues, re-transmission equipment issues to name a few) the customer would see a picture of grainy or snowy quality. Although not ideal, the picture and audio would still come through. 

After the recent conversion to digital, Waitsfield Cable's network is an all-digital design utilizing a combination of coaxial and fiber-optic cables for a large portion of the network. Signal issues now occur in different ways, as the system is much more sensitive to negative influences. 

"Tiling," a term used in the industry to describe the tiny squares that randomly appear, occurs when a signal is not sufficient to display a clear picture. Freezing, loss of picture (black screens) and choppy audio are other common traits of this issue. With the signal being in a digital format, the TV picture either works or it doesn't. 

Another technical issue that I'd like to explain is that of content aggregation and encryption, set-top box authorization, and channel mapping. Essentially, we are at the mercy of a third-party provider for programming content, encryption and their ability to efficiently manage our "channel map." 

A channel lineup is provided by Waitsfield Cable to this third party, and they're responsible for "mapping" those channels to appear on our set-top boxes in the correct locations, encrypting programming content, and authorizing set-top boxes (which is required by the programmers and set-top box manufacturers) to receive that content. 

We have had nothing but problems working with this vendor and as of the early-morning hours of December 18, Waitsfield Cable has converted to an alternative provider for these services. We are confident that the new provider will eliminate some of the outage-causing issues we've been experiencing the last couple of months. 

One final technical note concerns the condition of customer premise cabling and connections. With the new all-digital service being much more sensitive, it is important to diagnose any possible wiring and connection problems at customer locations. If you continue to experience loss of signal or audio, tiling or freezing, we would like to check your cable TV wiring and connections to rule out that it is not contributing to your issues. 

I want to thank you for your continued patronage of Waitsfield Cable. We understand your frustration and appreciate you hanging in there during and after our transition to digital. We are not at all satisfied with the current conditions and are working diligently to correct these issues going forward. Please don't hesitate to contact us with any remaining questions you may have. Please come by or call Waitsfield Cable at 496-5800. 

Gregg Haskin is the president and CEO of Waitsfield Cable.

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