Digital cable ready TVS
Charter will require adapter for encrypted digital signal service
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
Photo: Matt Rourke
** FILE ** A cable box is seen on top of a television in Philadelphia in this May 30, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Photo: Matt Rourke
Cable box from Time Warner Cable on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Malta, N.Y. (Skip Dickstein/Times Union)
Photo: SKIP DICKSTEIN
Cable customers in the Capital Region who connect their cable wire directly to their TV will soon be required to get an adapter as Charter Communications converts all channels to an encrypted digital signal.
The adapters will be free for the first year for residential customers, but after that, they will be charged a monthly fee. Charter's current plans are to lease the adapters to customers for $3.25 a month, the same fee Time Warner planned to charge customers starting in July 2017.
The conversion will have its advantages, providing a clearer picture and transmission of more high-definition channels, while also making possible faster internet speeds.
Many customers are already connecting to cable channels using digital technology, either via a cable box or digital converter.
"A large majority of customers in the Capital Region have at least one piece of digital equipment in their homes, " Russell said.
There is no specific timeline for the local transition to digital-only, but Russell said the change will occur "in the coming months" and that customers will be alerted of the deadline well in advance.
Digital adapters will be free for residential customers for one year, Russell said. After the conversion to digital, customers will not be able to access the channels without an adapter, set-top box or a streaming application.
Before being acquired by Charter, Time Warner Cable began to roll out Maxx, its all-digital effort that was intended to reach 75 percent of its customers by the end of 2016, according to the Federal Communications Commission order that approved Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable. But Time Warner Cable suspended the Maxx upgrade process on May 26, about a week after the company was acquired by Charter, according to an internal Time Warner Cable memo obtained by Stop the Cap!, a group opposing usage caps by broadband companies.
The Maxx service, which also increased internet speeds, provided digital adapters to customers for free until June 2017, after which they would pay $3.25 a month to lease a converter box.
Rob Marcus, CEO of Time Warner Cable, said in a Jan. 28 conference call that it is "an interesting question, as to whether or not there is a real aversion to leasing a set-top box, and how much demand there will be for an alternative."
Possible alternatives include streaming television channels on a Samsung Smart TV, Xbox or Roku using the TWC TV app.
In the May order that approved the acquisition of Time Warner Cable, Charter committed to convert "Time Warner Cable and Bright House cable systems to all-digital within 30 months after the close of the transaction."
Charter will be rolling out new Spectrum packages in the coming months as part of the company's conversion to all-digital.