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Comcast cable subscribers, have you noticed any channels have disappeared from your lineup?
You may have, if you have analog cable rather than a digital cable package.

Reader bryanintimonium mentioned that the latest station to go MIA was the Cartoon Network. Bryan has digital cable but uses analog for other televisions in his home. When he called Comcast, he was told that the government was to blame for the change, and that all the cable networks would migrate over come June.

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Let's shed some light on this: Comcast *did* migrated the Cartoon Network over to digital service last month, said spokeswoman Alisha Martin. So have as other channels such as G4 and AMC. Other Consuming Interests readers first noticed cable networks such as G4 or AMC disappeared last year due to a similar switch.

So, fans of shows on Adult Swim must upgrade to the cable company's Digital Starter package to continue watching those shows (available at the same price as analog service -- $57 in Baltimore, $56 in Anne Arundel County, about $61 in Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties and $59 in Carroll County). PBS station WETA has also moved digital-only on Comcast.

But to be perfectly clear, these changes have nothing to do with the government-mandated digital television transition.

Comcast has pledged to continue to offer analog versions of broadcast channels --- the ones available via "limited basic" service --- beyond 2009. However, the choice to move *cable* channels from analog to digital is up to the company.

Why do it? Comcast's Martin says analog takes up a lot of bandwidth, and they say digital offers consumers more options.

"Today everything is digital, from consumer electronics and TV sets to music and movies — and we are helping customers move into the digital environment in which we now live," Martin wrote in an e-mail to me. About 80 percent of Baltimore-area customers already have digital cable service, she said.

But Comcast spokeswoman Jaye Minnen also said that no other networks are scheduled to transfer to digital-only availability next month.

If you don’t already have a digital box, Comcast will give you a free one for 12 months. The cost of renting one box is included in the cost of the Digital Starter package, but any

cost $4.99.

(photo: sbocaj, via Flickr)

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