There's good news and bad news for high-def junkies in Brick.
Comcast says it will bring expanded HD offerings to its three Ocean County systems starting next month, bringing to fruition an expansion project that has been delayed since the spring. But Verizon's FiOS TV service, available in a few sections of Brick, will not be expanding its service to the rest of town any time soon.
Comcast to Expand, Tweak HD Lineup
Comcast will bring its "World of More" channel lineup – essentially, 51 additional high-definition channels – to Brick starting next month, according to Alisha Martin, a company spokeswoman. Comcast currently carries a number of high-definition channels in its lineup, from the mid 190s to the high 200s channel range. The new lineup will see all of the HD channels move into the 800 range.
In order to fit all of the new high-def channels, however, Comcast will have to get rid of its legacy analog channels. That means those who don't have either a digital cable box or a digital transport adapter (basically, a pint-size cable box that provides only basic channels, often called a 'DTA') will have to pick one up at the Comcast office in Brick soon. All televisions will need some type of box to decode the all-digital signals.
The reason? Think of the overall cable system like a computer hard drive. There's only enough room - called bandwidth - for so many channels. The analog channels, which can be received simply by plugging a cable wire into a television set, come with bulky signals. Comcast can fit 10 digital channels or three high definition channels in the space of each analog channel, Martin said. Customers who subscribe to Comcast's Limited Basic package can get three DTA boxes for free. Expanded Basic customers may claim one traditional digital box and two DTA boxes for free. The DTA boxes are compatible with older televisions and will probably provide basic customers with a better picture than they had before, said Martin.
"Eighty-five percent of our customers are already digital," Martin said. "If you have that equipment on your TVs, this will not impact you."
The analog cuts, and high-def channel additions, have been promised for some time in Comcast's three Ocean County systems; notices were sent out to customers about the changes early last spring, but the projects have been continually delayed. Martin said the "seasonal nature" of Ocean County is to blame for halting the changes until after Labor Day.
The phase-out of the analog channels and launch of the HD channels will be completed in phases beginning Sept. 8, Martin said. Some local systems, such as Comcast's Long Beach Island system, have already had most analog channels cut. Brick's first round of significant cuts will come next month.
Comcast has released its new HD channel lineup for its Ocean County system on its website.
'No Timeframe' for FiOS Expansion in Brick
While Toms River residents can expect additional areas of town to be wired for Verizon's FiOS TV service, Brick residents won't be so fortunate, according to the company.
Blame it on Toms River claiming the title of county seat. When Comcast first received a statewide license allowing a single, blanket permission to wire each town, rather than applying for town-by-town permits, called franchise agreements, state officials set several conditions. Verizon was required to first offer its service in 70 specific municipalities – mostly large ones in North Jersey – throughout the state, plus all county seats, according to Lee Gierczynski, a Verizon spokesman.
While Toms River is a "required build town," Gierczynski said, Brick is not.
So as Verizon works to fulfill its obligation to the 70 required municipalities by a state-imposed 2015 deadline, "there is no specific timeframe for FiOS deployment in that community," Gierczynski said, referring to Brick.
"Verizon's build obligations are prioritized as a matter of state law," said Gierczynski.