GLENDALE — The embattled cable television company serving Glendale has begun work on a $15-million system overhaul that is expected to nearly double the number of available channels in about two years, city officials said.
A handful of homes in the north Glendale area have already been hooked up to the new fiber-optic system Sammons Communications is installing throughout the city. The new equipment, which will be installed in four phases over the next two years, will improve picture quality and reliability, as well as increase the system's channel capacity, officials said last week.
The Glendale-based Sammons, often criticized for offering too few channels, is also polling its Glendale subscribers on what stations they want added. But officials warned that even though the new cables are already being installed in some areas, it will be a while before more selections appear on the dial.
"These developments are very exciting, but just because you have the fiber optics doesn't mean you have more channels," said Ritch Wells, city spokesman and cable television coordinator. "The additional channels are going to be decided at a later phase, and there's still a lot of work before they can be added."
The system upgrade is part of a recently approved franchise agreement between the city and cable operator that took two years to hammer out. City officials wanted the system rebuilt after fielding a steady stream of customer complaints about local cable television, and after a 1992 city survey indicated many residents were dissatisfied with the service.
Sammons, which has 43,000 subscribers in Glendale and another 35,000 in Burbank, offers 41 channels, while providers in nearby areas typically offer 60 or more. The company has also been criticized for service interruptions and poor customer service, city officials said.
Under its new contract, the firm will use fiber optics to raise its capacity to 78 channels. The 10-year agreement also calls for service evaluations after five and seven years, with Sammons facing financial penalties if it does not measure up to cable TV service standards in comparable cities.
While the cable system is being rebuilt, Sammons and its affiliates in 18 other states are in the midst of being acquired by Dallas-based Marcus Cable. But officials with both companies said the ownership change, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will have little effect on the work.
Joseph Camicia, a Marcus Cable spokesman, said subscribers can expect customer-service improvements once the new owners take over.
Each phase of the system overhaul will affect a different section of the city, and residents may experience temporary lapses in cable service during rebuilding. Sammons officials said they will notify residents when workers will be in their areas. Sammons will also post status reports on the reconstruction on Channel 15, officials said.