By Lisa Loomis

"We knew it was going to be the most disruptive thing we've done," explained Waitsfield Cable spokesperson Kurt Gruendling last week, after the local company switched all 3,000 of its analog customers to digital cable.

"We'd been planning it for a year and had it planned in phases or nodes throughout The Valley," he said.


It didn't go as smoothly as hoped -- judging by the lines of people waiting at the cable office and the Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom offices on Thursday, August 28. Whether people had successfully hooked up their new digital cable boxes was the topic of conservation from the Warren Store to Macs to Valero to the Waitsfield Post Office, Three Mountain CafÈ, The Village Grocery and points north, south, east and west.

Cable and telephone company employees by the droves took to the streets and hills, getting the boxes hooked up properly and having the head end of the system send the boxes a second "hit."


As planned, customers were to swap boxes the night before their zone or pod was to switch, and the head end of the system would send a signal, or "hit," to each box during the night. Boxes that were left on and received their hits would begin to synch up with the system, a two- to three-hour process.
Not everyone's new box was hooked up correctly and some didn't get their hits in time and some could not figure out their remotes, hence the diaspora of cable and phone company employees to peoples' homes last week.


Gruendling said the new system would be worth the confusion and said that customers would find it worth it once everything is online and fully functional. The change from an analog system to a digital system means more channel capacity, among other things.
Waitsfield Cable is 1 of 10 (or perhaps 2,000 to 3,000) cable companies in the country to go all digital and Gruendling said the company's conversion was being watched very carefully by industry peeps.


The new cable boxes, he said, are small computers as are the remotes. The larger boxes, for people with high-definition televisions, are an even more complex computer. Gruendling said. The high-def systems are popular he said and all 480 that the company ordered have been allocated.

He said there is some confusion among people about the cable company's change over to digital and the country's change over to digital TV, which will happen in February. In February, people who do not have cable will have to get a conversion box so that their televisions will be able to translate the digital data being sent, back into analog data that their television understands. Those with cable will not need such a conversion box.