Charter Starts All-Digital Shift In SoCal

Charter Communications has kicked off its all-digital shift in Southern California, teeing up an upgrade that will clear the way for a total of 200 HD channels, faster broadband speeds, and a VOD library stocked with about 10,000 “options.”

Charter said it will begin the process in the market in late March, and wrap it up in early September. Communities targeted in this round up upgrades includes Monterey Park, West Covina, Azusa, Norwalk, Pasadena, Cerritos, Ventura, Malibu, Whittier, Riverside, Victorville, Hesperia, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Turlock, Escalon, Gilroy, Watsonville, California City and Porterville.

Once the upgrade is complete, Charter will also double residential Internet speeds (downstream) from 30 Mbps to 60 Mbps at no additional cost.

“By removing outdated analog signals, we regain bandwidth in our network enabling us to provide more HD channels and open the door to faster Internet speeds and future innovation,” said Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge. “This upgrade speaks to the fact that Charter is providing our customers with the very best products at the very best value, and we’ve invested more than $2 billion in our fiber-rich network to make that happen.”

Southern California is just the next stop of many as Charter moves ahead on a plan to go all-digital across its 29-state footprint by the end of 2014. The MSO has already kicked off similar efforts in parts of Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, California, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Missouri.

Charter had completed all-digital upgrades in 15% of the MSO’s footprint by the end of 2013.

Charter is using two-way, VOD-capable boxes to fuel its digital transition (rather than simple downstream-only Digital Transport Adapters), and will be urging affected customers to  obtain free boxes within one month of their scheduled upgrade. Charter said more than 90% of Charter customers in SoCal already use a digital cable device for at least one television in the home.

To fuel that effort, Charter is deploying dual-security boxes that support an integrated version of its legacy conditional access system as well as a new downloadable encryption platform. The new downloadable system is expected to support a new IP-capable “World Box” under development that will take full advantage of Charter’s cloud-centric apps platform.  Charter is also working with ActiveVideo Networks on a new “Sky” guide (here's a glimpse of it) that will be made to run on the new boxes as well as legacy set-tops that don’t speak IP.

To help with that transition, Charter has received an FCC waiver that clears the MSO to deploy dual-security boxes that use an integrated form of its legacy conditional access system and the new downloadable version.  According to FCC documents filed January 31, Charter had deployed 85,575 integrated security boxes subject to the waiver as of Dec. 31, 2013. Charter also reiterated that, per the conditions of its waiver, it has entered “good faith negotiations” with a CE manufacturer that intends to develop a set-top or a comparable video device to be sold at retail that utilizes the MSO’s downloadable security.