Mediacom planning dramatic upgrade here: New cable TV system, high speed Internet, phone service to

Mediacom planning dramatic upgrade here: New cable TV system, high speed Internet, phone service to be offered by David Lias Editor's note: This story is the first in a series describing planned improvements to Vermillion's telecommunications system by Mediacom. The major topic of this week's article is cable television. Future stories will describe high speed cable Internet and phone services that will be offered here.

Fuzzy cable television pictures and slow Internet service may soon be something of the past in Vermillion.

Mediacom, Vermillion's cable franchise holder, has placed the community high on its priority list, and is planning several upgrades to create an entirely new telecommunications system in the city.

When all of the work is completed, Vermillion will be home to a new 750 megahertz cable television platform that will allow Mediacom to offer not only digital cable television, but also high speed cable modem access to the Internet, and eventually phone service.

"Our immediate plan is to get the system upgraded to a 750 megahertz platform," said Tom Bordwell, Mediacom's director of public relations from Prior Lake, MN. Mappers have already begun work in the city, he said, and the process of obtaining needed permits is under way.

"Some of the pre-construction work has already started, and we would expect that people will visually be able to see work being done sometime in

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August," Bordwell said. "Our finish date is probably mid-November."

That finish date, he added, is the time when all Vermillion cable subscribers should be hooked to Mediacom's new 750 megahertz network, and will be receiving crystal clear television reception.

"Once we run the trunk cable that will feed individual homes, all the home connections are inspected, and the lines are inspected," Bordwell said. "If it passes the 750 megahertz signal, there is not a need to do additional construction right up to the home. If it doesn't, however, then obviously we have to replace that cable or fittings or whatever it to takes to make sure the customer is going to benefit from the new system."

Vermillion cable television viewers will notice a marked difference once Mediacom's new system is on line.

"The picture quality and the reliability of the system as breaking down and needing adjustments and those types of things are both vastly improved after the upgrade," Bordwell said. "The fiber allows us to carry a stronger signal much deeper into the system."

That means amplifiers can be removed from the system. Amplifiers are causing some of the woes to Vermillion's present cable system.

"Every time you put an amplifier in place on the old system, you would have some sort of distortion," Bordwell said. "With the fiber system, the signal at the end of the line is just as strong as if you were taking the reading right at where it originates."

Once the cable television upgrade is finished, Mediacom plans to add new channels to its basic package, and probably will be in position to launch its digital product in late 2000 or early 2001. "I think if we did a side-by-side comparison with our digital versus a dish network, I think customers would be very pleased with our product and price on that," Bordwell said.

He added that high speed cable Internet access will be available in the first quarter of 2001.

"We are trying to deploy Internet services as quickly as possible," he said, "after the system is upgraded."

The high speed Internet, he added, is at least 10 times faster than typical dial-up service using a 56k telephone modem.

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