Knology, a cable and telecommunications company, says it's on schedule to be the first company in the Augusta area to offer digital cable service.
Customers could be getting cable from Knology by late September or early October -- about the same time the company opens its Augusta office off Wheeler Road -- company officials said.
"We've been building the network now since we got the franchise," Knology marketing director Taylor Nipper said. "We're building the network as we're building the office."
Knology may be the first with digital cable, but it will be limited to areas where cable is installed -- downtown and west Augusta.
Only a few thousand customers will have access to the cable service when it is turned on later this year, Mr. Nipper said. Knology plans to offer the service to about 85,000 households in Columbia and Richmond counties within the next three years, Mr. Nipper said.
Jones Intercable, an Englewood, Colo.-based cable television company that also plans to get into the digital-cable act, has announced it will offer digital cable to all its customers in the Augusta area within the first three months of 1999.
Service will be made available to all 90,000 customers in the Augusta area at the same time, cable company spokesman Bill Botham said. The high-tech service will give the company the capability to offer more then 100 additional video and music channels and more pay-per-view movies.
Knology, which held a ground-breaking ceremony in March, is building a $40-million network of fiber and coaxial cable to deliver more than 150 cable channels, local and long-distance telephone and Internet services up to 20 times faster than conventional service over telephone lines.
According to Mr. Nipper, monthly prices will be: $28.90 for 65-channel analog cable; $17.45 for local telephone service, excluding sales tax; and $49.95 for high-speed Internet service. Digital cable will cost $12.95 to $17.95, in addition to the basic price.
Customers who get all three services will get discounts. The costs will be: $26.42 for 65-channel analog cable, $16.58 for local telephone service, and $29.95 for high-speed Internet service.
For comparison, Z-Net, a local Internet provider, offers service for a monthly charge of $19.90 to $25.
Jones Intercable will not offer Internet and telephone service right away. But the company may offer Internet and other high-speed data services sometime in the future, company officials said.
Augusta is the second city where Jones Intercable will offer digital service. The company, which has been in the Augusta area for more than 12 years, first offered digital cable service in 1997 in Tucson, Ariz.
Jones Intercable will continue to carry traditional cable services at the same monthly rates -- $11.70 for 20-channel basic service, and $29.63 for 65-channel "plus" service.
Knology does not offer a 20-channel option.
After Aug. 4, however, Jones Intercable's basic cable rates will drop to $10.95 and more channels will be added to the plus lineup.
Jones Intercable's digital cable service prices have not been determined, Mr. Botham said.