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RCN To Roll Out All-Digital Cable In N.Y.C.

RCN will begin switching its New York City video service to all-digital starting next month, officials said Monday.

RCN executives said the change, which the company has already enacted in Chicago and Boston, will enable it to reclaim existing analog channels, improve picture quality, make the network easier to maintain, and dramatically increase the number of standard and high-definition channels it can offer to subscribers, to more than 75 in HDTV.

The upgrade will intensify the consumer battle in the Big Apple, where FiOS TV, which received approval in July to begin marketing video services in New York City, is engaged with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp.  

“At launch, we are able to increase our HD channels to more than 75 channels and are positioned to make good on the promise of offering approximately 100 HD channels or more in the future," RCN CEO and president Peter Aquino said in a statement.

In addition, RCN is increasing its video-on-demand content, including hundreds of hours for free, as well as more subscription and pay VOD programming. RCN also said that customers will have more flexible channel packages, so they can customize a package that’s right for them.

The conversion will enable RCN to deliver up to 10 standard-definition digital or three HDTV channels per analog channel, with better picture quality, and use some of the reclaimed spectrum to support growing high-speed data services demand. The conversion will begin in Queens and will continue over the next four to five months. All RCN subscribers will be notified before their service area is converted.

"Our move to an all-digital network frees up bandwidth so we can provide our New York City area customers with an explosion of entertainment choices and have more expanded basic digital TV channels than ever before,” RCN vice president and general manager Anthony Ontiveros said in a statement. "Once converted to all digital, RCN's New York City customers will need at least a standard digital converter box or cable card to view the new line-ups. HD and HD/DVR converters can also be used and are necessary to view HD channels.”

He said a concerted effort is underway to get the word out to RCN customers to make this transition smooth.

In the New York DMA, RCN serves much of Manhattan and the Queens communities of Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Jackson Heights, Kew Gardens, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park, Sunnyside and Woodside, as well as parts of downtown Brooklyn and Brighton Beach.