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Posted June 10, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Cable and satellite providers use DTV push to add subscribers

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

For more than a year, cable and satellite providers have been telling their customers they're ready for the transition to digital-only broadcasting, while at the same time using the push to woo new subscribers.

Comcast, the cable provider in Frederick, Warren and Clarke counties, is offering "low-cost solutions" to those who still aren't prepared for the transition, which will take place Friday.

The company is offering free basic cable -- 20 to 30 channels, including the major networks and public television -- for 12 months to those who sign up for at least one additional Comcast service, such as digital cable, digital voice or high-speed Internet.

New Comcast customers who choose not to subscribe to additional services can get basic cable for $10 a month for a full year.

Current Comcast customers can add basic cable to additional TVs at no extra cost.

The company announced earlier this month that it has assembled "rapid response installation teams" around the country to assist with the DTV transition. Through Friday, consumers who order Comcast cable by noon can get same-day installation.

"Whether they're daunted by what they have to do, or they're having reception issues with their new digital receiver or digital TV," the rapid response teams will ensure that Comcast customers' service continues, Senior Vice President Derek Harrar said in a statement.

Shentel, the cable provider in Shenandoah County, is also promising a seamless transition. The company made a commitment to cable last year with the purchase of 17,000 customers in parts of Virginia and West Virginia from Rapid Communications, and its revenue grew by approximately $800,000.

Satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network are encouraging customers to add local channels to their packages to take advantage of the DTV transition. Those satellite customers who live in areas where the companies offer local channels can simply add them to their package, while those who live outside such areas will need to get a digital receiver, or buy a digital TV or digital-to-analog converter box. Local channels -- mostly out of Washington and Hagerstown, Md. -- are currently available to satellite subscribers in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

As a low-power, Class A station, WAZT in Woodstock is not required to go digital by Friday's deadline. The station, which airs Christian programming and family-oriented shows in syndication, broadcasts in the central and northern valley on both Comcast and Shentel cable, and over the air.

ABC affiliate WHSV in Harrisonburg will switch to digital at 2:30 a.m. Friday. The station has been broadcasting in both analog and digital since 2002, while sister station TV3 in Winchester broadcasts exclusively in digital.

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