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Comcast Seeking Buyout of Time Warner Cable Customers in N.Y., New England, and N.C.

Comcast-LogoComcast Corporation and Charter Communications are actively working on a deal to let Comcast acquire Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York, New England, and North Carolina, according to sources reporting to CNBC.

The split-up of Time Warner Cable is contingent on a successful takeover bid by Charter Communications, which would quickly sell the systems in the three regions to Comcast for an undisclosed sum.

CNBC reports Comcast and Charter are close to agreeing on terms, but Time Warner Cable and Charter remain far apart on the terms of Charter’s takeover bid.

Charter_logoComcast’s involvement in the deal could inject much-needed cash into a takeover bid financed largely by debt. It might also prompt Charter to sweeten its offer for TWC.

Comcast’s interest in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region is not surprising. The cable company already has a large presence in eastern Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Time Warner Cable is the dominant cable company in New York, western and northern New England, and North Carolina.

Charter would likely keep Time Warner Cable’s operations in Texas, California, the midwest and south for itself if it succeeds in a takeover.

Charter has reportedly has hired Innisfree M&A, a proxy solicitor, to prepare for a possible proxy fight with Time Warner. Innisfree specializes in convincing shareholders to agree to proposed mergers and acquisitions.

Liberty Media, which has a substantial ownership interest in Charter Communications, is also appealing directly to Time Warner Cable stockholders and is planning to run its own slate of candidates for Time Warner Cable’s board of directors. Should Liberty-nominated candidates attract a majority of votes at the annual shareholder meeting in May, the new board members are expected to quickly approve a sale of the cable company.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Comcast Charter Near Pact on Time Warner Assets 1-27-14.flv

Comcast Corp. is near a deal to buy New York, North Carolina and New England cable assets from Charter Communications, Inc. if shareholders approve Charter’s takeover bid for Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said. Alex Sherman reports on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves.” (3:28)


Time Warner Cable Moves Al Jazeera America Out of Channel Siberia

Phillip Dampier January 27, 2014 Consumer News, Online Video, Time Warner Cable 2 Comments

aljazeera-time-warnerTime Warner Cable customers looking for Al Jazeera America in New York are forgiven if they can’t find it. Time Warner Cable initially exiled the network to Channel Siberia — Channel 181 — between Univision Deportes and Shop Zeal, a shopping network that couldn’t draw flies.

But starting this week Time Warner has agreed to move the news network to Channel 57, evicting a Manhattan public access channel relocated elsewhere. Al Jazeera America’s new neighbor is HLN – home of Nancy Grace and a more irreverent light news lineup.

The contrast between HLN and Al Jazeera America could not be more clear. While HLN and other news channels spent hours covering last week’s arrest of pop star Justin Bieber, Al Jazeera America mentioned the arrest only in passing, noting the network is dedicated to hard news, increasingly hard to find on other cable news channels.

Al Jazeera America’s ratings are still a fraction of other news outlets on the cable dial, but the network is planning a promotional blitz to introduce itself and explain the difference in coverage.

Time Warner Cable currently carries the news channel on its cable lineup only in New York and Los Angeles, but subscribers nationwide can watch the channel on TWC’s TV Everywhere app – TWC TV, available for home computers, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Roku, XBox 360 and Samsung Smart-TVs.


Time Warner Cable Adds Local Stations to TWC App in Los Angeles, San Diego

Phillip Dampier December 18, 2013 Online Video, Time Warner Cable 2 Comments

Time Warner Cable TV subscribers in Southern California can now access local over-the-air television signals on the company’s TWC TV app, expanding the lineup of hundreds of cable channels to now include the major network affiliates — a significant gap in the “TV Everywhere” app for most customers.

tveverywhereResidents in Los Angeles and San Diego join those in New York and Kansas City that can now receive local over the air programming on their home computer, tablet, game console, or Roku box. Time Warner Cable requires viewers to subscribe to both its television and broadband services to watch, and only from your home’s Wi-Fi network.

The service is designed to bring value to Time Warner’s cable TV package and offer subscribers the opportunity to watch cable programming without an additional set-top box. Current licensing restrictions keep Time Warner from offering most television programming while on the go, but the cable company is attempting to negotiate those rights when programming contracts come up for renewal.

The major networks are not waiting for cable operators to negotiate with them, however:

  • ABC: The network’s Watch ABC app has been available since the spring and offers live streaming of the local ABC station in eight major markets including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Viewers must live within the viewing area to watch;
  • CBS: The network has purchased part ownership in Syncbak which specializes in digital content delivery, but the network has not announced plans for a streaming app;
  • FOX: In addition to Hulu/+, FOX wants to adopt mobile broadcast technology using the Dyle Mobile platform, which allows device owners to receive over the air television with the use of a special add-on antenna;
  • NBC: NBC will follow ABC and offer live viewing of local affiliates over an app starting in large cities early next year.

How to Get a Better Deal for Verizon FiOS; $79.99 Triple-Play Offer With $300 Rebate Card

Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan may have to eat his words when he told shareholders he was done giving promotional discounts to customers bouncing back and forth between competing providers. Now Verizon has given Cablevision customers an excuse to say goodbye to the cable company for at least the next two years.

The Verizon FiOS $79.99 Triple Play promotion is back and includes a $300 Visa rebate card and free activation when ordering from Verizon’s website.

fios triple play

The package includes:

  • FiOS TV’s “Prime HD” tier, which includes around 215 channels, 55+ in HD. (See channels);
  • FiOS Basic Internet (15/5Mbps), upgradeable to 50/25Mbps for $10 more per month;
  • Verizon Home Phone including unlimited calling and features including Voice Mail, Caller ID and Call Waiting;
  • a 50% optional discount off HBO and Cinemax for one year.

The fine print:

  • Promo rate shows up on your Verizon bill as a $35 credit during months 1-12 and a $25 credit for months 13-24. That means you will pay $79.99 for the first year, $89.99 for the second. Factoring in the $300 gift card, your rate is still under $88 a month for two years;
  • Offer for new FiOS customers only. (Existing customers – see below);
  • A $230 early termination fee applies to this 2-yr contract offer, with the dollar amount gradually decreasing for each month of service;
  • Equipment costs, a $3.48 Regional Sports Network fee, taxes, franchise fees and other similar charges are extra.

fiosHere are some tips for current FiOS customers:

  1. Current FiOS customers may be able to negotiate a very similar deal (without the gift card) by talking to Verizon’s “Elite Team,” a/k/a Customer Retentions. Call Verizon’s customer service line (1-800-837-4966) and select the option to cancel service and your call will be transferred.
  2. Customers off-contract will have the best results securing a new promotional deal. On-contract customers nearing the end of their agreement can suggest they are willing to pay the last few months of a pro-rated early termination fee to leave if they cannot get a better deal with Verizon.
  3. Let the representative know you can always cancel your existing service and take advantage of a new customer promotion under your spouse’s name, but “to save both of us time and aggravation, let’s work out a comparable deal with my existing service.”
  4. Verizon often has one-year customer retention deals available that do not impose any term commitments. Make sure to ask the representative about no-contract options, if not volunteered, because certain off-contract retention deals can actually cost less. It is very unlikely you will get the gift card, but you might be able to win a one time courtesy credit.
  5. Request a free upgrade to Verizon FiOS Quantum (50/25Mbps service) as part of a retention deal.

Earlier this year, customers told Stop the Cap! they had success securing a 12 month, no-contract retention offer that included a mid-range television package, 50/25Mbps broadband, and home phone service for $95 a month with an invitation to call back and sign up for a similar deal one year later.

Verizon’s pricing is very aggressive and beats both Cablevision and Comcast in the northeast.

Cablevision now offers a triple play bundle for $84.95 a month for one year that doesn’t include installation charges or other ancillary equipment, service, programming, taxes, and franchise fees. Cablevision isn’t offering a $300 gift card either. But the cable company does include a free Smart Router and free Optimum Online Ultra 50 for six months.

A similar two-year promotion from Comcast runs $89 a month in northern New Jersey and includes a $300 gift card and then a nasty surprise after the first year. Once a customer reaches month 13, the promotional rate increases to a whopping $109.99 for the remainder of the two-year agreement — quite an increase. The Comcast promotion also offers far fewer television channels (80+), but does bundle HBO and X1 Advanced DVR service for one year, includes 20Mbps download speeds, and Streampix free for three months. The usual extra fees also apply.


NY Slams Verizon for Excessive Document Redaction; Secret Voice Link Documents May Go Public

Verizon "redacted" hundreds of pages of information about its controversial Voice Link project, including its User's Guide.

Verizon “redacted” hundreds of pages of information about its controversial Voice Link project, including its User’s Guide.

Verizon today lost its appeal to keep company documents about its controversial Voice Link wireless landline replacement away from company critics that allege the company is intentionally undercutting its landline network and redirecting investment towards its more profitable wireless service.

In a 20-page decision published this afternoon, Kathleen Burgess blamed Verizon for hurting its own case with excessive secrecy.

“But for Verizon’s failure to submit documents with fewer redactions, as directed by the Records Access Officer (RAO), it might have satisfied its burden of proof,” that the company would suffer harm if it released proprietary information that could be accessed by competing providers, ruled Burgess.

Burgess took a dim view of Verizon’s attempt to claim blanket confidentiality for its Voice Link project, even including a redaction of Voice Link’s User’s Manual — the same one given to customers subscribing to the service. Burgess noted in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from consumer groups, Verizon responded with “13 documents – 330 pages – with blanket redactions except for the page headings and page numbers.”

Verizon needed to meet its burden of proof by “presenting specific, persuasive evidence that disclosure will likely cause it, or another affected enterprise, to suffer a competitive injury.”

“Verizon apparently believes that it is possible to meet the burden of protecting information under FOIL by providing a cogent and persuasive explanation of how a competitor could use the information and why it is likely to lead to harm,” Burgess observed (emphasis ours). “As an initial matter, [Verizon] has not parsed out each of the 13 documents and demonstrated how each, if disclosed, would competitively injure it. Instead, Verizon is attempting to obtain a blanket exemption for all 13 documents by summarily stating that disclosure would enable competitors to obtain, for free, information on processes that the company developed at considerable expense and effort. Verizon has, however, failed to demonstrate, in adequate detail, how the complete disclosure of all 13 documents would result in substantial competitive injury.”

Verizon hurt its own case by “co-mingling” detailed cost information that might otherwise win confidentiality with the Public Service Commission with less proprietary marketing information and even publicly available documents and then redacted all of them, according to Burgess.

Verizon-logoAs a result, Verizon lost its case:

The Commission recognizes that limiting competitor access to proprietary material is an important policy. Exemptions are to be narrowly construed, however. The entity resisting disclosure bears the burden of proof and, therefore, must demonstrate a particularized and specific justification for denying access to the subject documents. Absent such a showing of competitive injury covering each document that comprises the response, the speculative concerns articulated by Verizon are not enough to sustain the company’s burden of proving that the information should remain protected as trade secret materials.

[...] Under FOIL case law, the burden is on Verizon to demonstrate a particularized and specific justification, supported by evidence, for denying access to the documents at issue and, inasmuch as Verizon has failed to meet its burden, I uphold the RAO’s November 4, 2013 Determination.

Absent a court order or later ruling, full versions of the blacked-out documents may become public two weeks from today.


Verizon Consultant: Voice Link and Home Phone Connect Are Essentially Identical

Verizon's Home Phone Connect base station

Verizon’s Home Phone Connect base station

Despite assertions that Verizon created Voice Link as a solution for customers suffering from chronic landline problems, in reality the wireless landline replacement is nearly identical to Verizon Wireless’ Home Phone Connect and was produced only because of a complicated business relationship the wireless carrier had with its part owner Vodafone.

A Verizon spokesman told Stop the Cap! in June Voice Link was created for use where Verizon’s copper customers had chronic repairs issues:

Verizon will maintain the copper network where it makes customer service and business sense to do so.  Please keep in mind that the vast majority of our copper customers have no issues at all with their service; we are only considering the universe of customers where the copper network is not supporting their requirements.  Again, the exception is the storm-impacted areas in the western portion of Fire Island and a few New Jersey Barrier communities where copper facilities were damaged beyond repair.  In these locations Voice Link will be the single voice option available to customers. Verizon will offer these customers the opportunity to use our state-of-the-art, tried and tested wireless network at the same rate (or better) that they pay today.

Business sense appears to have played a great deal in Verizon’s strange decision to produce and market two nearly identical products. Hired by Verizon, William E. Taylor, a special consultant with National Economic Research Associates, Inc., testified last week that both Voice Link and Home Phone Connect are intended to compete in the landline replacement marketplace:

Home wireless services are a rapidly growing alternative to wireline plain old telephone service for many customers throughout New York State. In competition with Verizon’s Voice Link service, AT&T offers a Wireless Home Phone and Internet service with unlimited nationwide voice service at $20 per month with broadband internet service at higher prices, wherever its 4G LTE network is available. Sprint offers a competing wireless home service at $20 per month, as does U.S. Cellular. Wal-Mart sells its comparable Straight Talk prepaid wireless home voice service for $15 a month together with additional optional prepaid broadband internet access service. These offerings are similar to Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect service, and differ in some features from Verizon New York’s Voice Link service but compete directly with both services.

Thus, one immediate and real competitive effect of the public release of Verizon’s wireline and Voice Link cost data would be to enable these four competitors (and others) to assess Verizon’s price floor for wireline voice service as an element in pricing their wireless home network services and calculating the profitability of expanding their wireless networks to provide wireless home phone service on Fire Island and elsewhere.

Verizon Voice Link

Verizon Voice Link

Taylor’s provided his declaration as part of Verizon’s case not to reveal certain documents (for competitive reasons) to the public about Voice Link deployment in New York and New Jersey. Verizon has offered Voice Link either as an option or, originally, as a sole landline replacement in areas considered uneconomical for landline restoration. But Taylor’s testimony also suggests Voice Link wasn’t necessarily created to solve chronic landline problems or replace landlines in natural disaster areas. In fact, Taylor testified Voice Link is just one of several competitors in the landline replacement market, including one from Verizon Wireless. In 2011, Verizon Wireless began national marketing of Home Phone Connect, a home wireless landline replacement product marketed to cord-cutters.

Verizon Communications chief financial officer Fran Shammo explained why Verizon Voice Link and Verizon Wireless Home Phone Connect both exist during remarks at the Wells Fargo Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Nov. 12. Shammo blamed a complicated business relationship between Verizon, Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone which owned 45% of Verizon’s wireless venture for the near-twin services. The result was an informal “wall” between two Verizon entities, one devoted to landline and FiOS service, the other wireless — both selling essentially the same wireless product.

“The easiest way I can explain this is if you look at our product called Home Phone Connect, which was developed on the wireless side of the house,” Shammo said. “This is the product that you plug into your wall at home, converting the copper wire inside your home to an LTE network for voice. So in essence it is a copper voice replacement product. Now you would think that we would be able to take that same product and market it on the wireline side of the house. But we were prohibited because of governance and affiliate transactions. So the wireline business went out and developed their own product called Voice Link, which now they sell to their copper and DSL customers.”

Shammo admitted creating both Home Phone Connect and Voice Link was “a pretty inefficient way to develop product.”

So when this governance affiliate transaction-wall is taken away, you then can become a much more efficient company to launch one product to your customer, whether it is a wireline product or a wireless product,” he added. Shammo also believes tearing down that wall and tightly integrating Verizon’s wireline and wireless businesses will create “the soft synergies of the new Verizon that we believe we can create here.”

That might be bad news for Verizon’s rural landline customers, because Verizon’s current CEO is no fan of maintaining rural copper landline service when Verizon Wireless can do the job for less money and the open the door to higher profits.

“In [...] areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got [a wireless 4G] LTE built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there,” said Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in June of last year. “We are going to do it over wireless. So I am going to be really shrinking the amount of copper we have out there and then I can focus the investment on that to improve the performance of it. The vision that I have is we are going into the copper plant areas and every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper. We are going to just take it out of service and we are going to move those services onto FiOS. We have got parallel networks in way too many places now, so that is a pot of gold in my view.”

The wall that divided Verizon and Verizon Wireless may eventually be rebuilt between rural landline customers transitioned to wireless service as the only available landline replacement technology and urban and suburban customers offered Verizon’s fiber-to-the-home service FiOS.


Verizon Admits Congestion Problems for Its LTE 4G Network in NYC, San Francisco, and Chicago

They are coming.

Verizon Wireless quietly admitted Tuesday its much-vaunted LTE network is suffering speed slowdowns so serious, some customers in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco are being randomly kicked off Verizon’s 4G network to slower 3G service until congestion eases.

Fran Shammo, Verizon’s chief financial officer, volunteered that online video was the likely culprit and he was surprised by usage growth well in excess of what Verizon predicted.

Current estimates from the company suggest Verizon’s LTE customers are responsible for 64% of all data traffic on Verizon’s wireless network nationwide. But in large cities, Shammo said traffic numbers are much higher.



“There are certain pockets where we’re absolutely going to experience that down tick from the LTE network to 3G because of capacity constraints,” Shammo admitted.

The sudden revelation Verizon now has insufficient capacity for its LTE service is a significant reversal for Shammo, who has repeatedly told investors Verizon has enough wireless spectrum for the next 4-5 years.

In May 2013, Shammo told investors attending the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference:

As I have said before, our spectrum position right now is very good, with the AWS transaction that we completed with the cable carriers last year, with the sale of the spectrum that we are doing with AT&T later this year, obviously giving that spectrum to someone who can utilize it better than we can at this point in time. So I think our holdings are exactly where we need to be. And I have said before we really don’t need spectrum for the next four to five years, with the way that we deployed CDMA and how we will utilize that spectrum from our CDMA deployment over to the 4G network as we need it.

Later that same month, Shammo confidently repeated his assertion Verizon was all set for spectrum at Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference:

Well, we have — from where we sit today, we have a very good spectrum portfolio which is why we went after the AWS spectrum, which is really going to be used for our capacity of LTE. The 700 megahertz that we have contiguous across the United States is used for the coverage piece. So we’re in pretty good shape for the next four to five years, even with reallocating our 3G spectrum over to our 4G network. [...] And we think, look, we think that there will be enough spectrum there. We think that technology change — I mean, people are already talking about LTE advanced. Well, LTE advanced is nothing more than creating a bit more speed on the network. But really LTE advances around being able to utilize the spectrum much more efficiently within the network.

Carriers can boost coverage with additional traditional cell towers, street level picocells, or in-building femtocells.

Carriers can boost coverage with more cell towers, street level picocells, or in-building femtocells.

Some critics suggest Verizon is ginning up a spectrum crisis as new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler begins to look at the current state of wireless spectrum and competition in the wireless industry. They also point to the fact Verizon has so much unused, warehoused spectrum, it has tried to sell the excess off to third parties.

“We have A band [unused spectrum] in our pocket today that we put for auction a year and a half ago and we did not get what we thought it was worth,” Shammo said yesterday. “We brought it back into the portfolio. But we can use that as a trade for some different spectrum. We put it up for auction so obviously it was on the block [and was] never taken off the block. But obviously it is not for fire sale. If a transaction makes sense then we will execute the transaction. If it doesn’t, then we will deploy it.”

In the short-term, Shammo promised customers the congestion issues were already being dealt with by “lighting up” acquired AWS spectrum formerly owned by cable operators, and adding data systems and small cell-type antennas in high congestion areas.

Shammo added that since Verizon was finished expanding its wireless network out to new, unserved areas, future investments would be directed at improving service within current coverage areas.

“I think by year-end you’re going to see us [concentrate] all of our CapEx around densification and then you will start to see us talk about things like VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and multicast (video) and some of these LTE advanced technologies that will come in the next year,” said Shammo.


Verizon Declares Cord Cutting ‘Real’; Under 30 Crowd Doesn’t Care About Linear TV

cablecordCord-cutting is a real, measurable phenomena and is especially common among those under 30 who don’t care about traditional cable television service.

Those are the views of Verizon’s chief financial officer Fran Shammo, speaking this week at the Wells Fargo 2013 Tech, Media & Telecom Conference in New York.

Shammo told investors Verizon FiOS subscriber numbers showed the company has an excellent position in the broadband market because it is the only national provider other than Google offering fiber-to-the-home service.

Verizon TV customers are regularly encouraged to upgrade to 50Mbps Quantum service with a push of a button on their remote control.

Verizon TV customers are regularly encouraged to upgrade to 50Mbps Quantum service with a push of a button on their remote control.

“Broadband is absolutely key,” said Shammo. “Most of our customers are taking our 50Mbps [FiOS Quantum] or higher speed and part of that is because you need that speed inside the home [to support] your wireless devices that run off of Wi-Fi. If you’re running hot water with five people, you are eventually going to slow down the hot water and it is going to run cold. The same thing happens when you are running five wireless devices over your Wi-Fi network.”

Shammo said as more online video becomes available people will gradually shift more of their viewing time away from traditional television.

“We’re also seeing fewer people taking [our cable television] product,” said Shammo. “They really want the broadband speed and if you look at the demographics, those 30 and below don’t care if they have linear TV. They are looking at getting their content through other means.”

Shammo said he doesn’t necessarily have a problem with that because heavy online viewing will stimulate upgrades to faster Verizon FiOS Internet speeds.

“We invested in FiOS for broadband and for television and we think we have a superior product,” said Shammo. “But we’re smart enough to realize that the ecosystem will eventually change and people are bringing content in over-the-top. We want to make sure we have the fastest — the best broadband [...] and we believe we have the best linear TV product but we know that over the top video is going to become more popular.”


HissyFitWatch: Cablevision Ends Discounts for Disloyal Subscribers; One Promotion Per Customer

'Disloyal Cablevision customers looking for discounts are dead to us.'

‘Disloyal Cablevision customers looking for discounts are dead to us.’

Cablevision is fed up with disloyal customers bouncing between the cable company and other providers when promotional discounts expire.

After losing 13,000 broadband, 18,000 voice, and 37,000 television customers, Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan said the company has stopped offering any further discounts to customers that received them once before.

“The customer that has been bouncing from one company to another on promotional/repetitive discounts has hit a dead-end with us,” Dolan told Wall Street analysts during a conference call.

All customers with promotions will now be tracked to prevent extensions or further discounts once the special rates expire. Dolan confirmed the ban will also extend to customer retention offers.

Customers who shop primarily on price in Cablevision’s service area have traditionally flipped between AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and the cable company every few years, usually switching after a promotion expires or rates are increased. Because of fierce price competition, new customers can receive a triple play package of broadband, phone, and television service — including equipment, for less than $85 a month for at least one year. Regular prices are considerably higher.

Cablevision lost most of its departing New York and New Jersey customers to Verizon FiOS, but has been more successful fending off competition in Connecticut, where AT&T has the least capable broadband network among the three providers.

cablevisionAll three companies have attempted price increases over the last few years with mixed results. Cablevision’s eight percent rate hike on broadband this year may have been too much for some customers who shopped around and found a better deal with the phone company.

Despite the loss in customers, Dolan remains firmly committed to more rate hikes, especially for broadband service, noting its speed and features (including an extensive Wi-Fi network) deliver enough value to sustain further price increases.

Cablevision clearly hopes competitors follow its lead and end promotional rate double-dipping as well. If they do, customers will find themselves locked in with regular pricing regardless of the provider they choose.

Some analysts are skeptical Cablevision’s hard-line will last, especially if subscriber losses mount. Cable operators have attempted to restrict promotions in the past but tend to ease them if market share suffers. Despite the third quarter customer retreat, Cablevision’s rate hikes delivered $336 million in broadband revenue during the last three months, an increase from $308 million earned the same time last year.


Time Warner Cable Turns Off Analog in Queens, Encrypts Virtually Entire Basic Cable Lineup

Phillip Dampier November 7, 2013 Consumer News, Time Warner Cable No Comments

scrambledSet-top box-less Time Warner Cable subscribers in parts of New York City will find more than 90 percent of the basic cable lineup missing from their QAM-equipped televisions as the cable company completes a transition away from analog cable television and begins encrypting almost all its digital channels.

The Federal Communications Commission changed the rules last year allowing large cable operators to begin encrypting basic cable, requiring customers to rent cable boxes or CableCARD units to keep watching.

Time Warner Cable began the all-digital, encrypted channel conversion earlier this year in Mount Vernon, Staten Island and Bergen County, N.J., and is now switching on encryption in the New York City region on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

The switch renders televisions useless for receiving cable channels without extra equipment supplied by Time Warner Cable. Encryption is deployed as an anti-theft measure, but it also inconveniences customers who have to rent equipment for each of their televisions. Encrypting basic channels also benefits Time Warner Cable by allowing service authorizations and disconnects to be handed from the office, reducing in-home appointments.

Customers will need a traditional set-top box, a Digital Transport Adapter (DTA), or a CableCARD to get the channels back. DTA boxes are being provided at no charge until 2015, after which they will cost $0.99 a month each.

Some customers also complain Time Warner is testing ”copy protection” permissions, preventing some channels from being recorded. In Queens, one customer noted copy protection was active on C-SPAN, preventing recordings of the network. Some programmers may insist on copy protection technology being implemented as part of future cable carriage contracts. Most expect pay-per-view and on-demand events will be the first blocked from recording, potentially followed by premium movie channels.

At this time, Time Warner Cable says its encryption initiative is limited to the New York City area.


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