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Adelphia Talking Digital Simulcast

Another cable company is making plans to offer a digital simulcast of its analog programming.

Adelphia Communications Corp. has told federal regulators it plans to “to take several of its systems digital, in order to recapture analog spectrum” and make room for more HDTV services and more digital-tiering options.

A cable-industry source said Adelphia was referring to a digital simulcast, and not a complete conversion to digital that would reclaim all analog spectrum and require analog customers to obtain digital set-tops.

Adelphia disclosed its digital-simulcast plans in a Dec. 15 meeting with Federal Communications Commission officials that also touched on the company’s opposition to the July 2006 ban on cable-operator deployment of new integrated set-tops. Analog-only boxes are exempt.

Last week, Comcast Corp. chief technology officer David Fellows said his company would launch a digital simulcast across most systems by the end of 2005. Comcast is the largest U.S. cable company, with about 21 million subscribers.

Like Adelphia, Comcast is opposed to the integrated-set-top ban, saying that it would raise consumer-equipment costs and frustrate the company’s transition to an all-digital-transmission system.

If the ban goes into effect, cable operators would have to provide customers with set-tops with CableCards, devices that authorize receipt of encrypted programming services. Thousands of cable customers are using CableCards with their plug-and-play digital-TV sets.