By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Local access cable television channels 6 and 12 in Little Falls have been out of commission since Jerry Abraham left his post running the operation to retire in November 2013.
In March, the city contracted with Great River Arts and the Little Falls School District to run the channels — one as a public access channel, the other as an educational channel for school district activities.
Neither channel is operational at this point — but when they do begin broadcasting, it will not be on Channels 6 and 12 as Charter customers are accustomed to.
The city has a franchise agreement with Charter Communications to provide local access Channels 6 and 12 to city residents who get their cable services from Charter.
Charter requested and received a waiver from its franchise requirement, so it could relocate its public, educational and government (PEG) local cable programming to higher channel number locations.
Charter plans to upgrade the system in Little Falls to a digital platform to add “significant benefits and features for subscribers.”
The current system is analog, which Charter said is “outdated, inefficient technology.”
“As the evolution of television progresses, we are removing the analog version of channels and will exclusively offer our lineup in an all-digital format,” said Kimberly Noetzel, senior communications manager. “Doing so provides our customers with a better viewing experience throughout their homes, enables parent controls and the ability for Charter to provide more On Demand and High Definition programming.”
She said doing away with the analog version frees up a “great deal of bandwidth within the network.” This, she said, enables Charter to add many channels, deliver more high definition (HD) and on-demand programming and increase Internet speeds.
Charter plans to create public service “neighborhoods” — those with similar channel numbers, including the PEG channels, all between 180 – 200, that will be provided as part of its basic package. The change is happening in conjunction with Charter’s move to an all-digital network.
Charter customers received information that they needed to upgrade their equipment to be able to view the new format and were given directions on how to go about getting the equipment.
The switch to digital will take place Tuesday, Noetzel said.
The former Channel 6 in Little Falls will then be Channel 181 and the former Channel 12 will operate on Channel 180.
The Little Falls School District has its equipment ready to go, and is expected to start broadcasting on Channel 181 during the beginning weeks of school.
Great River Arts did not respond as to when programming would begin broadcasting on local cable access channel 180.
Residents with questions about their cable access through Charter can call 1 (888) 438-2427 or visit www.charter.com/digitalnow.
In addition to approving the waiver for Charter, the City Council approved considering a request from Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) to offer video in Little Falls with a franchise similar to Charter’s under the city’s “nonexclusivity” ordinance.
To do so, CTC, or anyone seeking to provide cable service, must submit an application with instructions available upon request at City Hall.
Applications for such requests must be received by 4 p.m., Friday. Sept. 26, with a $7,500 fee. Any applicants must also be present at public hearing, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 6.