Reader wants alternative to digital cable

DEAR SUN SPOTS: First, thank you for all you do for the community. We all turn to you first for help. I have Time Warner Cable and have just been informed of a change: They will be going to digital TV. So everyone will need this box that will eventually cost 99 cents a month for every piece of equipment you use it with —  TV, VCR, DVD player, etc.

I am asking is there another company in the area that offers TV coverage, not including the dish networks. Thanks so much for your help. — No Name via email

ANSWER: According to a story by Sun Journal reporter Dan Hartill on Sept. 14 (, the change to all-digital on Oct. 19 will not affect you if you already have a set-top box (such as a DVR) or if you have a newer TV with a built-in QAM tuner and only get the Basic channel lineup (Channel 2 to 22).

If those exceptions don't apply, you will need a box if your connection is direct from the TV to wall plug. For a while the boxes will be free, and you can pick one up at the Time Warner offices. The 99-cent-per-box fee will not go into effect until 2014, so you have some time to make a change.

Sun Spots has gotten many questions about cable (and satellite) television, and she has come to the conclusion that while they vary by a few dollars here or there, none of them are cheap. As for an alternative to Time Warner, Sun Spots didn't find one. Most cable companies have a virtual monopoly. There used to be a few smaller companies offering cable such as Oxford Networks, which left the cable business in 2009 (

Sun Spots does not watch much TV and only has an old-fashioned antenna that picks up public television and one or two other stations depending on the weather. But Mr. Sun Spots was hankering to watch more golf, so he did some research.

While all the local companies (Time Warner, Dish and DirecTV) offer cheap packages to lure you to their services, after an initial period of low fees, they all shoot up to the same basic level. If you were interested in switching to satellite service, you could change and save money for a while, but in the end you will probably end up paying about the same.

This could change. More and more TV shows are available online every year. Sun Spots just recently read a story about how many students at an Ivy League college didn't even bother bringing TVs for their dorm rooms. As younger views move away from traditional TV viewing (as they have abandoned landline phones), the pricing structures may change.

Ultimately, the march to digital everything seems unlikely to end. Digital signals take up less bandwith, so with more and more demand for bandwith to be used instead for the Internet, streaming movies, etc., change seems inevitable.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: First I would like to thank you for the great service you provide to our community! I am hopeful someone out there might be able to help me. I am a woman of limited means and am wondering if anyone out there might have a working digital converter box for the television that they are no longer in need of?

I would like to cancel my basic cable service and need a box in order to do this. If anyone has one they might be willing to sell for a modest price, please contact me. I'd much appreciate it! — Lori,, 782-0310

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won't use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



Gary Ham's picture

Check out They have links to some pretty interesting alternatives to Cable or Satellite TV.

Andrew Russell's picture

Basic customers need adapters for Oct. 19 switchover

Andrew Russell here from Time Warner Cable. You can find out more about our all-digital transition at www.timewarnercable/GoDigital. In the meantime, I'd like to clarify a few points in this article:

1. All Basic and Classic/Standard customers will need a digital adapter or a set-top box to continue receiving channels. The only exception is if you have a newer TV with a built-in QAM tuner. That TV will continue to receive the Basic channel lineup (2-22) without an adapter or set-top box. You will need a digital adapter to continue receiving the Classic/Standard channel lineup.

2. The first channel switchover to all-digital is scheduled for October 19. Customers should call us at 1-855-TWC-DIGITAL to make sure they've got their adapters and don't miss any programming. Once the adpater is attached, Basic cable customers in the Lewiston-Auburn-Oxford area will receive an additional 14 channels (including C-SPAN2, MPBN and EWTN) and Classic/Standard customers will be able to watch an additional 19 channels (including the ones listed above plus CMT, Oxygen, Travel, TruTV and Speed).

3. Time Warner Cable does not require customers to sign contracts.

 's picture


Does this mean that only customers in the Lewiston-Auburn-Oxford area are getting the extra channels now.
Customers in the Rumford area are not getting them now that the adapters are connected.


Thank you

Thank you for clarifying that information for our readers. We have made note of it and will be running the correct information in tomorrow's Sunspots column.


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...