TOWANDA - Comcast Corp.'s upgrade of its Towanda-area cable TV system, which will provide customers with dozens of additional channels, is underway, a spokesman for the company said.

"This is a great upgrade for the customers," said Robert Grove, a spokesman for Comcast.

The upgrade will convert all analog channels to digital channels, and those customers who have only been receiving analog channels until now will need to acquire a cable box or digital adapter in order to receive the digital channels, said Robert Grove, a spokesman for Comcast.

The upgrade affects Comcast's customers in Towanda and Monroe boroughs and in Asylum, Monroe, North Towanda, Towanda and Wysox townships, he said.

As a result of the upgrade, which will be completed in the second quarter of 2014, "we will be delivering all programming in a digital format" and all Comcast channels available locally will be digital channels, he said.

Customers need to know that each television needs a piece of equipment - either a cable box or a digital adapter - in order to receive Comcast's digital channels, he said.

Consequently, as a result of the upgrade, customers will need to have a cable box or a digital adapter for each of their televisions in order for their cable TV channels to work, he said.

The elimination of the analog channels allows more channels to be offered locally, he said.

One analog channel consumes the same amount of bandwidth as 10 digital channels, according to Comcast.

Comcast customers who subscribe to the company's Digital Preferred service have already received a free, upgraded cable box as part of the upgrade, Grove said.

But until now, subscribers to Comcast's Limited Basic and Expanded Basic cable TV services have not needed a cable box or a digital adapter, because the Limited Basic and Expanded Basic cable TV services have had all analog channels, he said.

As part of the upgrade, Comcast is providing free cable boxes and digital adapters to all customers who need them, Grove said.

Expanded Basic customers will want to have the new equipment in place by April 1, because that's when the lineup of Expanded Basic channels will start to be converted from analog to digital, Grove said.

Eight Expanded Basic channels will convert to a digital format on April 1, eight to 10 more Expanded Basic channels will be converted to digital later in April, and the rest of the Expanded Basic channels will be converted to digital in May, he said.

After the Expanded Basic channels are converted, the Limited Basic channels will be converted to digital channels, he said. The conversion of the Limited Basic channels will occur during the second quarter of 2014, probably in May, he said.

Comcast will provide Limited Basic customers with up to three digital adapters - one for each of their TVs - free of charge, he said. Expanded Basic customers will be provided with one cable box and up to two digital adapters, all at no charge, he said. However, after 12 months, Comcast will charge Expanded Basic customers $1.99 per month for each of the digital adapters, he said. Additional digital adapters are available immediately, at $1.99 per month, he said.

Digital Preferred customers will be provided with up to two digital adapters for their extra TVs, at no charge. However, after 12 months, the digital adapters used by Digital Preferred customers will each cost $1.99 per month, he said.

More channels

By acquiring a digital adapter, Limited Basic customers will immediately receive two new channels, Grove said.

And by acquiring a cable box and any needed digital adapters, Expanded Basic customers will immediately receive 27 new channels and 50 music channels, with more channels to be added at a later time, he said.

Comcast's upgrade will provide 28 new channels to Digital Preferred customers, with more channels to be added later, he said.

"Following the upgrade, Comcast will launch additional high definition channels (for the Towanda-area system)," Comcast explained in a press release that it issued earlier this month. "In the coming months, (Comcast) will deliver up to 80 new high-definition channels."

Comcast will also be offering a "Sports & Entertainment" package locally, whose lineup will include NFL Network, NHL Network and other channels, he said.

To obtain the cable boxes and digital adapters, go to Comcast's office at 8 Main St. in Towanda, Grove said. Alternatively, you can obtain cable boxes and digital adapters by "calling 1-800-XFINITY and we'll ship it to you free of charge," Grove said.

Cable boxes and digital adapters "are pretty easy to hook up. Most people hook them up themselves," Grove said. Comcast is also offering to install the cable boxes and digital adapters, but would charge a fee for the installation, he said.

Comcast customers have all been notified by mail about the upgrade, Grove said.

"They have been sent multiple notices" telling them about the new equipment they'll need and how to get it shipped to them, Grove said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.