Mediacom digital cable customers will get five new channels in high-definition, while those who have the broadcast basic or family cable plans will gain at least a dozen new channels by using a new, free converter.

The Big Ten Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and Lifetime all are being added to the HD family cable plan, Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said Thursday.

Peters said half of Mediacom's customers have digital capability at present. For those who do not, a new converter box is being added that will give them the dozen new channels.

Religious channels Trinity Broadcasting Network, Inspiration Network and Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, all are being moved from the family cable lineup to a new, digital broadcast basic group. They will be joined by two other religious networks - 3 Angels Broadcasting Network and The Church Channel - that are new to the lineup, as well as ShopNBC. C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3 also will be available to the new plan's customers along with the digital channels of WHBF-TV, which features classic programs through the Retro Television Network; KWQC-TV, which has a local weather channel; and two from Iowa Public Television, IPTV Learns and IPTV World.

The converter box, which is about the size of two cigarette packages, can go on top of the television or be hidden. It also has its own remote control.

The converter box is being offered free to Mediacom customers for the first year with a fee of $1.99 for each additional converter.

Those who have digital TV sets will not need the converter.

There is no other increase in rates with the changes, Peters said. Converter boxes are available at the Mediacom offices in Davenport, Moline, and Clinton and Maquoketa, Iowa.

The changes in the channels are due to informational bandwidth, Peters said. One current analog channel can hold as much information is 12 digital channels or three high-def channels.

"There's so many more possibilities that we can and will do when we get more bandwidth," she said.

The changes are being made in Scott, Clinton and Jackson counties in Iowa and Rock Island County in Illinois.

More HD channels will be added before the end of the year, Peters said, including CNBC, Bravo and Cartoon Network. With the changes, which are scheduled to take place by this weekend, there will be 29 HD channels on the Mediacom system.

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