After numerous delays, the Rancho Murieta Association expects to launch new digital and high-definition TV programming over its revamped cable system March 17, the Communications Committee said Wednesday. At the same time, the committee will begin work on "Plan B" -- an alternative to the new system.
On Wednesday, the committee voted to offer residents a 60-day free trial for the services. A brochure with a program line-up will be mailed to residents in advance of the launch.
General Manager David Stiffler told the committee the eight projects that upgraded the system with fiber-optic cable have been completed.
The process of fine-tuning the system that's followed has turned up sections of bad cable and discrepancies between what's in the plans and what's been built, according to Maintenance Manager Rod Hart.
"We still have some things to do, but it's going really well," he said. "The bulk of it's done and we're going to be continuing to fine-tune it."
Hart praised the crew that has worked on the project, saying of the cable technicians, "These guys will stick to a problem till they get it fixed."
At last month's committee meeting, Hart said fiber-optic cable segments increase bandwidth and reduce maintenance demands. The segments serve 250 customers, which will aid troubleshooting and maintenance and make problems "a lot easier to isolate and fix," he said.
At this month's meeting, the committee discussed developing Plan B as an alternative to operating the cable system. "If six months, a year, two years from now we decide we're going to go out of business, how do we get out of it," said Committee chair Mel Standart in describing the board's objective in having a standby plan.
"This is not an easy task and the board is really asking the committee to take a very, very active role," said Stiffler. "... In the interim, we have the opportunity finally to prove our current system ... but we do in fact need to have a fallback position, a Plan B."
The committee also discussed the recent vote to make basic cable service voluntary instead of part of RMA monthly dues. "I think we know how many dishes we have," said committee member Justin Jordan, referring to more than 800 votes for voluntary participation, which was favored in the vote by an overwhelming margin. Jordan proposed looking into "a lifeline service" that would provide a few channels at a reduced cost but still contribute to cable infrastructure.
"If in fact a decision does get made on opting out, it would need to be done sometime when the budget gets put together," Stiffler said.