Verizon Dropping Analog for FiOS TV in Massachusetts

If you want to watch local TV on a TV hooked up to a FiOS system in Massachusetts without a FiOS set-top box you will soon be out of luck.

Verizon announced this week that it would phase out local analog simulcasts.

“As we phase out our local analog simulcasts this year, we want to make sure that our small number of affected customers can continue receiving this programming on sets they are using without a set-top box,” said Bob Driscoll, vice president of marketing and sales for Verizon’s New England region. “We’re reaching out to those customers now to help them get their free converter box from us so they can enjoy high-quality digital programming on every set in the home.”

While major cable operators agreed to continue carrying analog TV signals for three years after the transition, under FCC rules multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) including cable and satellite are not required to carry analog signals if their system is entirely digital.

MVPDs have a strong incentive to convert to an all-digital plant. In the bandwidth required for one analog TV channel, it can offer six or more standard definition digital channels or two HDTV channels. As I’ve suggested in the past, one way MVPDs can minimize the impact of shutting down analog cable services is to offer local stations on an unencrypted digital cable channel (“ClearQAM”), which many TV sets and newer USB tuners can decode without a set-top box. Relaying broadcasters’ PSIP data would make it even easier to use.