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 (sunjournal.com/city/story/1087371), 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 (sunjournal.com/node/291096).
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, email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.