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      Charter extends digital service in northern Michigan

      Charter Communications customers in Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Antrim counties now have 100 percent digital service.

      For those who did not have the correct equipment, their signal was lost early Tuesday morning.

      The Charter service center in Garfield Township was crowded Tuesday as people scrambled to pick up their equipment to watch television.

      The digital switch in northwest Lower Michigan is just one step of a larger effort to switch the entire state of Michigan to digital, eliminating analog.

      â??For every analog channel that's on there, which represents our lowest quality signal we can launch four high definition channels or 12 to 14 standard digital channels,â?? said Bill Morand, Charter Regional Communications Director.

      As Tuesday's deadline passed and televisions went dark for some, large crowds of Charter customers lined up to get a digital box.

      â??The day of cut over tends to be the largest customer volume because as I say people wake up and they either forgot about it or they didn't understand that it meant today.â??

      â??I expected a lot more (people), a lot more. My son said you're going to be there awhile. I said I have to get it done. I got to have my TV,â?? said Scott Trainer who was picking up digital box.

      Morand said the switch to digital means more high definition options to customers, a new channel line-up and faster internet speeds.

      â??Yesterday in this area we had 101 high definition channels and this morning when they got up they had 175 available and that number is going to move to over 200 by summer so that's just an example of what the future has in an all digital environment,â?? said Morand.

      Charter is offering one free box per household for one year, but any additional boxes will cost an extra $6.99 per month, per box.

      â??All the cable companies are out to make some more money. That's pretty basic,â?? said Trainer.

      Not everyone was completely ready for the upgrade.

      â??To tell you the truth my wife was the one who really let me know about the whole thing. I was totally oblivious to the whole fact that our TVs wouldn't be working after today,â?? said John Lenzini, who was picking up digital box.

      Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Benzie and Antrim Counties are not the first areas in northern Michigan to experience the switch to digital. Cadillac, Petoskey and Ludington, for example, have already made the transition.