By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY April 5, 2002 Its the couch potatos dream.
Time Warner Cable, the company which serves most of Sullivan County, is rebuilding its cable television system.
That means, come this summer, channel surfers will have an improved image coming through their television screen and possibly more than 260 extra channels to flip through.
The companys upgrade comes at a time when cable servers across the country are turning to a digital service, one that cable industry officials say provides an improved picture and greater choice to viewers, but is also more dependable.
According to Brenda Parks, director of government and public relations for Time Warners Liberty-area office, the company is using the upgrade as a way to be competitive with other providers and to improve service.
There are competitors out there, and this will keep us on a competitive front, Parks said.
The upgrade includes restringing cable wire across the county, work that is currently being done by contractors spread out across the area.
Our plant is currently what is known as one-way, Parks explained. We are increasing our bandwidth and making the plant two-way.
The switch will enable customers, who currently only receive their cable signal from the company, to send feedback to Time Warner.
Cable users will be able to dial into cable modems to use the Internet and access pay-per-view movies and shows.
It allows customers to have services that are interactive, Parks explained.
The upgrade also allows Time Warner to deploy a digital product, she said.
Customers who choose to do so will be able to purchase a digital box that can be hooked to their television to access the new channels.
Residents will be given the option of staying with their current service, and the price is not expected to change on existing services, Parks said.
Analog service, which residents across the area currently have, will remain the same, though picture quality should improve for them as well.
The plant is fiber-rich, which makes it much more stable, Parks noted. It makes the picture quality better, and it makes it more reliable.
Currently, contractors are restringing fiber-optic cables on more than 800 miles of roads in Sullivan County.
The upgrade is expected to provide improved services in the towns of Bethel, Thompson, Liberty, Callicoon, Rockland, Fallsburg, Mamakating and Delaware as well as the Village of Liberty.
Theyve been very aggressive, Parks said of the contractors upgrading the system. There are a lot of trucks out there on the roads.
The only reason residents will have to wait until this summer for the new product is because of the sheer size of the cable system that they are trying to rebuild, Parks said.
Time Warners rebuild began two years ago in the Newburgh area.
The Liberty office of the company, which is in charge of the Sullivan County area rebuild, is also responsible for service in Ulster and Orange counties and other surrounding regions in the Mid-Hudson area.
The current upgrade project will also bring cable modems and digital service to residents of the Town of Colchester in Delaware County and the Town of Deer Park and the City of Port Jervis in Orange County.
Service is expected to be improved in all of Time Warners service areas by the time the upgrade is complete.
As for who will be able to sign on to these services? Parks said anyone who has Time Warner cable line currently going past their door will be eligible to sign up for digital cable or high-speed Internet access when the upgrade is complete.
Representatives from Time Warner will be on hand at the Sullivan County Area Expo 2002 on April 13 and 14 in the Liberty High School gym to answer customers questions about the cost of new services and when they might be able to tune into the new digital lineup.