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Delta Stays Analog

3:20 PM -- While operators like RCN Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have evidently had little trouble meeting a temporary set-top waiver condition that calls on them to go 100 percent digital by February 17, such is not the case for Delta Cable Communications. (See RCN Almost Done 'Crushing' Analog and Verizon Gets All-Digi With It .)

Delta Cable Communications is headquartered in British Columbia, but its U.S.-based Delta Cable Vision subsidiary provides cable services in Point Roberts, Wash., a five-square-mile peninsula only reachable by land from Canada.

That small cable system and dozens of other operators were granted temporary Omnibus waivers just before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban on integrated set-tops went into effect on July 1, 2007. (See Verizon & Others Get Their Waivers.)

As for Delta, it obtained a waiver for the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) DCT700 because the operator was successful in arguing that it could not afford to go all-digital using more expensive CableCARD-based set-tops. It turns out that a waiver for Motorola's low-end, all-digital box didn't help much, either.

Although Delta had every intention to deploy digital cable, "Delta has now determined that it is unable even with the waiver to complete a digital transition by February 17, 2009," Delta Cable Vision GM Larry Boulé said in a statement to the FCC dated January 8. "Unfortunately, due to the continuing high price of CableCARD set-top boxes, Delta's only viable alternative to transitioning to all-digital is to offer no digital services at all."

The good news for Delta is that it will likely qualify for a three-year blanket waiver for smaller systems that exempts them from having to deliver "must carry" broadcast TV stations in digital and analog format. (See FCC Details Small Cable DTV Exemption.)

Still, Delta's economic options may improve by the time that exemption runs its course. Evolution Broadband LLC , Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , Transparent Video Systems Inc. (TVS) , and the Comcast Media Center (CMC) are all coming to market with digital cable platforms tailored for smaller MSOs. (See Evolution Thinks Small , TVS Makes All-Digital Pitch , BBT Notches First Install , and CMC, Moto Adapt to One-Way DTAs .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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