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Time Warner Prunes Analog on Staten Island

Time Warner Cable last month completed an analog-reclamation project in its Staten Island, N.Y., system that freed up enough bandwidth for 100 HD channels.

Director of corporate communications Maureen Huff confirmed that the project was completed in March, but she did not provide the number of channels retired from the analog tier. Huff added that 1.1 million of Time Warner’s 1.4 million customers in the New York/New Jersey region subscribe to digital cable.

The project’s disclosure was buried in court documents Time Warner Cable filed as part of its false-advertising lawsuit against DirecTV.The cable operator was attempting to demonstrate that it was able to match DirecTV’s capacity claims by pointing to the Staten Island analog-reclamation project.

Senior network engineer Ron Boyer, in a declaration dated March 4, described the Staten Island project as expected to yield enough bandwidth to carry as many as 100 new HD channels. “TWC is not limited to approximately 30 HD channels, even in the near-term, because it may readily redeploy some of its existing bandwidth to accommodate more HD channels,” he said.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain, in denying Time Warner Cable’s request for an injunction blocking DirecTV’s HD ads, noted, “TWC was unable to state affirmatively that the reclaimed bandwidth [in Staten Island] would be used for increasing HD capacity, as opposed to other uses.”

Boyer’s reference to 100 HD channels indicated that the Staten Island system -- which serves an estimated 100,000 subscribers, according to research firm Backchannelmedia -- ceased broadcasting at least 30, and perhaps as many as 40, analog channels.

The project mirrored a similar migration underway by Comcast in Chicago, where some number of the area’s 1.8 million subscribers will be forced to install Motorola set-tops by July 1 to continue receiving the expanded-basic channel lineup.

Comcast has said that a “distinct minority” of subscribers are affected. In Chicago, Comcast is eliminating 38 channels but keeping a basic 34-channel analog tier that comprises local broadcast, public, educational and government channels and a smattering of others.