Charter Starts Down All-Digital Path in SoCal

Charter Communications is set to start an all-digital migration in parts of Southern California that it expects to wrap up by October.

The conversion, to get underway next month in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank, will enable Charter to recoup valuable analog spectrum that it will reuse to add dozens of new HD channels.

When Charter completes the move, it will add 80 new HD channels in Glendale and Burbank and 79 in Long Beach, for a total of 185 in each area. HD channels poised to join the Charter lineup include Disney Junior, Hallmark Movie Channel, DIY Network, FX Movie Channel, CBS Sports Network and FOX Soccer.

“By removing outdated analog signals, we gain back a tremendous amount of bandwidth in our network,” said John Owen, vice president of Charter’s Southwest Region, in a statement. “In the space we previously needed for a single analog channel, we can now provide multiple standard definition digital channels or HD channels. It’s a great opportunity for us to maximize value for our customers.”

Rather than fueling the all-digital cutover using one-way Digital Transport Adapters, a device Comcast has leaned on for its massive Project Cavalry initiative, Charter is using more traditional two-way digital boxes outfitted with CableCARDs that are capable of tapping into the MSO’s VOD service, which currently offers more than 10,000 on-demand “options,” including more than 1,800 in high-def.

Jean Simmons, VP and GM for Charter California, noted in a statement that more than 93% of the MSO’s customers in the state use digital devices for at least one TV in their home.

Southern California is the next stop on Charter’s all-digital tour. The MSO wrapped up its first all-digital conversion, in North Texas, in June. 

Although CableCARD boxes are playing a big role in the early phases of Charter’s all-digital plan, the MSO is also preparing to use a new type of dual-security box that supports an integrated version of its legacy conditional access system and a new downloadable version.  

In April, Charter secured a conditional, two-year waiver from the FCC that cleared the MSO to use boxes with integrated security to assist the MSO with its all-digital transition and its migration to the new downloadable system.  Charter argued that developing dual-security boxes that relied on CableCARDs would be prohibitively expensive and delay its all-digital migration unnecessarily.

But the plan is getting some static. TiVo has asked the FCC to reconsider and modify the waiver in a way that would require Charter to continue to supply and support CableCARDs to customers who use retail devices. The Consumer Electronics Association, meanwhile, has asked the Federal Communications for a full review, arguing that the commission’s Media Bureau did not have the authority to grant the waiver.