Charter Communications customers continued to come through the cable company's two Belleville customer service centers Wednesday to acquire a digital box for their TV sets after the company's digital conversion deadline for some metro-east residents passed on Tuesday.
Last month, the St. Louis-based cable company announced that it was converting to an all-digital service throughout the metro-east by the middle of this month. Depending where customers live in the metro-east, they had until last Tuesday or March 25 to make the transition. Those who do not will no longer be able to access Charter's signal.
Wes Shirley, Senior Manager of Communications for Charter Communications in Town & Country, Mo., said that Charter's service area that covers the metro-east is divided in two "nodes." Those living in East St. Louis, Cahokia and about half of those living in Belleville, Fairview Heights, O'Fallon and surrounding communities were notified about two weeks ago about the deadline.
Others also living in Belleville, Fairview Heights, O'Fallon and other neighboring communities have recently been notified that their conversion deadline in next Tuesday, March 25.
On Wednesday morning, about 20 clients were waiting inside Charter's customer service center at 1638 Carlyle Ave. in Belleville to pick up digital boxes. Customers leaving the service center said they waited for about 30 minutes.
Across town, inside the service center at 4650 Magna Drive in Belleville, customers like Belleville resident Tomika Beloch were able to walk in and pick up their digital boxes quickly on Wednesday without much waiting.
"At this location it seems to go pretty smoothly," Beloch said. "I just got here and went in, they took my ID and saw that I need to convert and gave me my boxes."
She said if there was any delay that she noticed, it was those customers who were denied digital boxes because they carried an outstanding balance on their cable bill.
"That may be the reason that some people are standing in line and waiting because they're trying to pay their bill," Beloch said. "You have to have that past due balance paid before they'll even give you a box. So that's good. That makes a lot of sense."
Cahokia resident Renee White said she called the company and was initially told she could pick up her digital boxes although she had carried an outstanding balance. She had arranged to pay the balance this Friday and pick up digital boxes Wednesday morning. When she arrived, she was told that her balance must be paid first before she can receive a digital box.
"I talked to a lady yesterday and they had cut my cable off," White said. "Yesterday was the deadline."
"I said that I could pay the bill Friday, and the lady said I could pick it up today. But they said that I can't do it until I have the bill paid."
Shirley said he was not aware of any delays caused by clients who are late in paying their bill at the company's customers service centers. He said that the conversion continues to go as expected as current customers have been able to find and receive new digital boxes.
He also said the company has increased store hours and added staff at all metro-east area customer service centers, including the two in Madison County at 210 W. Division St. in Maryville and 317 Homer Adams Parkway, Suite A, in Alton.
"We've increased store hours and added staffing at all Charter stores, including the ones in Belleville," Shirley said. "We're trying to accomodate customers as much as possible because we know there will be more store traffic during the all-digital transition."
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Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.