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Time Warner’s extra charge for public access irks Common Council

Time Warner Cable’s decision to switch from analog to digital format for public access channels, which could cost some customers more, didn’t sit well with Common Council members this week.

“These are the channels that they should make as simple as possible,” said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen.

The lawmakers grilled the cable company’s representative about why people who are already cable customers would be charged a dollar per month to view public access, government and educational programming, and asked the company to drop the fee.

“You’re paying twice for public access,” said Council President Richard A. Fontana of the Lovejoy District.

Letters were sent to Time Warner customers June 21, letting them know that on or about July 23, public, government and educational channels will only be able to be viewed with digital equipment.

Customers who are affected are those who do not have digital television, a digital adapter or a digital set-top box. The company will provide digital adapters and remote controls for free through Sept. 23, but beginning Jan. 1, 2015, each adapter will cost 99 cents per month.

Council members wanted to know how many customers were affected.

Chris Mueller, Time Warner’s government relations director in the Buffalo area, said that about 80 percent of cable customers in the city have digitally capable TVs but that he’s not sure how many people would be affected.