ND - Cable TV users get a surprise

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Thursday, August 24, 2000

Cable TV users get a surprise MARK HANSON, Bismarck Tribune

A number of cable subscribers who live just south of Bismarck got a bit more than they bargained for Tuesday. Those who wanted to watch a few music videos around 11 p.m. were instead tuned to a documentary about strippers.

Midcontinent Communications was doing some work in the area, which included switching MTV from channel 2 to channel 40 and the movie channel HBO from 40 to 2. But in the process, the device that scrambles HBO from nonsubscribers was deactivated by accident. And it led to a surprise that didn't please one family in that area.

"I was in the bedroom flipping through the channels and saw it and couldn't figure out what was going on," Roxi Miller said. "It's extremely upsetting. I'm sure our kids weren't the only ones to get an eyeful last night without their parents knowing."

Miller said her 15-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter saw part of the program, which included plenty of nudity, before she realized there was a problem with the cable system.

Darrell Wrege, regional manager for Midcontinent, said he called Miller to apologize and said the last thing Midcontinent wants is unwanted programming going into houses unexpectedly.

"They did call (Wednesday) morning and said they have it scrambled, but they can't scramble it from my children's brain," Miller said. "We work so hard to keep our kids protected from things like that. There's so much garbage on regular TV and then to have something like that come on I"

Miller said if her kids had come across an R-rated movie and gotten an earful of nasty words, it would have been something she could deal with, but coming across something she called pornographic is a different matter.

Cable subscribers who receive HBO, as well as other premium channels, will be in for a change within the next month. To comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations, Midcontinent must replace the Zenith converter boxes with a digital device to receive premium programming.

The cost is $3.50 per device and the change has to take place by Sept. 30.

The new device will give subscribers access to multiple movie channels, specialty programming, increased pay-per-view services, digital music and an interactive program guide.

Subscribers received information on the change with this month's bill. Subscribers who receive the basic 59-channel lineup without a converter box will see no change. Subscribers can call 800-456-0564 for more information.

Midcontinent has completed its change-over to optic cables in Bismarck, Mandan and Lincoln, which offers digital services and high speed Internet service. The company is doing a feasibility study to see if that type of service can be offered to outlying areas.

"We have a lot of area outside of Bismarck and it hasn't been rebuilt because I the number of miles of cable to the number of subscribers is low," Wrege said.


-- Doris (reaper1@mindspring.com), August 25, 2000

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