Cable, HDTV and Must-Carry

In your opinion, what will the changeover in 2009 mean

> for local access (PEG) stations? Will they have to > convert to digital over cable? Will they have to (or be > allowed to) convert to HDTV? Or will they be the only > analog stations left standing?!

A PEG channel is not a "station"; it's simply an NTSC analog signal. The cable company modulates it onto some carrier and inserts it into its analog distribution network.

A PEG channel will become digital at such time as the cable company wants it to be digital. But that doesn't mean that the PEG producer has to convert its production facility to digital; it simply means the cable company will digitally encode the analog signal at its headend. Some cable companies are already doing so. According to Stephen Schneider, of Sunflower Broadband in Lawrence, KS:

Where I work we have all of the PEG channels in > their original analog NTSC format, and have encoded > them into our all digital lineup at the headend too.

As to HDTV, I rather doubt that many PEG operations will provide HDTV. I can't imagine that any level of government would *require* HDTV. And I doubt that any cable company would want to dedicate that much bandwidth to a PEG.

But I'd never say never. The cable companies are looking at IPTV just as the telcos are. The day will come when cable companies provide some (possibly all) programming via IPTV. If/when that happens, capacity will be virtually unlimited. Looking to the future, this may sound like a pipe dream. But as I look back on my experiences in the cable industry, many of the things that have happened once seemed like pipe dreams.

Indeed, the first time I built a satellite earth station (to receive HBO in 1978), I couldn't imagine that we'd ever have to receive more than 12 channels with it. Boy, was I ever wrong!

Neal McLain

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Neal McLain
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