TW Cable Going All-Digital in New York

MSO to Supply Free HD-DTAs To Spur the Conversion and Set Stage for Basic Tier Encryption

Time Warner Cable has launched a plan to go all-digital in its New York region, a move that will set the MSO up to take advantage of new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that allow the MSO to encrypt its basic TV tier.  

TW Cable is starting the conversion in Mount Vernon, Staten Island and Bergen County, N.J., and expects to expand the program  across its New York City region over the summer on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, the company noted on its blog Tuesday

Following a similar cutover completed in Maine, TW Cable will use a new breed of hi-def-capable Digital Transport Adapters  (DTAs) made by Cisco Systems to convert the new digital form of its basic TV tier into analog feeds that can be viewed on older analog TV sets. Time Warner Cable said it will distribute the HD-DTAs for free for residential and business customers through the end of 2014, and a charge 99 cents per month per adapter thereafter. While those DTAs do support HD programming, they don't support an upstream path, so are inherently not capable of handling video-on-demand and other two-way digital cable services. 

"The overwhelming majority of our customers will not be directly affected by this at all," TW Cable's Jeff Simmermon wrote, noting that customers using newer TVs, DVRs or already have a digital set-top or a third-party device outfitted with a CableCARD won't notice a thing during the conversion.

Reclaiming that analog spectrum will enable TW Cable to reuse it toward other services, including DOCSIS 3.0, video-on-demand and more HDTV channels.

But the all-digital move will also put TW Cable in position to encrypt its basic TV tier almost five months after new rules at the FCC paved the way. The FCC lifted the ban in December 2012, agreeing with the cable industry’s argument that lifting the ban on basic tier encryption would help operators cut down on service theft and truck rolls associated with service activations and deactivations. The catch is that cable operators must provide customers with the equipment  necessary to receive the encrypted signal.

Comcast has begun to implement basic TV tier encryption in select all-digital markets. Cablevision Systems received a waiver to encrypt its basic tier prior to the new FCC rule.

A TW Cable official said there are no immediate plans to conduct a similar all-digital transition in other markets.