Operators who made a firm commitment to go all-digital in the near future got special consideration from the FCC on CableCARD waiver requests. But there’s another reason to push digital penetration rates to 100%. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is now floating a proposal to mandate that cable companies transmit so-called “must carry” channels in both digital and analog format after February 17, 2009. Martin’s argument is that homes still tied to analog cable systems will not have access to the digital must-carry channels, which consist primarily of local, public television content.
Of course, the cable industry isn’t thrilled with this proposal given the bandwidth implications. Ultimately everyone wants to go all-digital as a way to reclaim bandwidth. But while that transition takes place (tens of millions of customers still have to make the digital switch), cable companies could find themselves facing even greater bandwidth pressure.