Time Warner has created a phone line, 1-855-892-3444, to answer questions and has listed more information on its website at: timewarnercable.com/godigital.
LEWISTON — Time Warner Cable plans to turn off its analog TV signal for about 90,000 Maine subscribers in 105 communities, forcing many to get set-top converter boxes to continue seeing their favorite shows.
The change affecting the Lewiston-Auburn, Augusta and Rumford-Mexico areas is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19.
"We're planning to cease carrying analog feeds of all programming," said Andrew Russell, spokesman for Time Warner New England. "We're shifting to an all-digital format."
Letters were sent to subscribers this week.
For some people, the change will make no difference. If you are a subscriber and your only TV already has a set-top box, you're all set.
However, most TVs that receive the cable signal straight from the wall outlet will need the new converter. The only exception will be for people who subscribe to the most basic cable plan (channels 2-22) and who have a newer TV with a digital tuner.
All others will need a set-top box for each TV.
For a while, those boxes will be free. Subscribers can pick up the boxes at a Time Warner office. Beginning in 2014, the cable company plans to charge a 99-cent monthly fee for each box.
In a way, the change has been inevitable.
In 2007 the last analog, over-the-air TV signals were turned off in Maine, part of a nationwide transition to all-digital broadcasting meant to make room in the radio spectrum and improve the quality of the pictures going into homes.
Satellite TV services made the switch, too.
Now, cable TV companies are moving in the same direction, partly to improve the quality of TV pictures and sound. Perhaps more importantly, going digital makes room in the cable entering the home for more TV channels, on-demand programming and Internet bandwidth, Russell said.
Digital signals aren't as big as their analog counterparts, he said.
In the space required for each analog signal, either 10 to 15 standard-definition digital channels or two high-definition channels can be transmitted, Russell said. It will also free up space devoted to the Web for subscribers who receive the Internet and their TV over the same cable.
"The digital world has changed a lot," Russell said. Streaming Internet TV programs and home Wi-Fi systems were rare only a short time ago. "Customers increasingly want faster speeds over the Web. If you look at the way people use the Internet now, it's different from the way people used it three years ago."
Time Warner is unsure how the conversion will be accepted by the public. This region — from Camden to Waterville and Carrabassett Valley to Poland — is the national company's first to make the switch. Other markets, including those in the rest of Maine, will follow, Russell said.
Meanwhile, no one knows for sure how many boxes will be distributed or whether people will accept the fees when they begin in 2014.
From the cable company's perspective, the fee is nominal. Similar conversion boxes, which only convert digital signals and don't unscramble them as Time Warner's do, cost $40 to $60 at local technology stores.
Russell said the company is doing all it can to alert people of the change.