CABLE NJ - New Jersey Cable Telecommunications Association CableTechTalk Blog

Reference Guide

Broadcast Digital Transition

Internet Safety


A quick reference to terms and definitions used in the cable industry.

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Access Channels: Channels set aside by the cable operator for use by the public, educational institutions, municipal government, or for lease on a non-discriminatory basis.

A la Carte: The ability to price and order channels individually rather than as a selected bundle. Some believe that allowing all channels to be purchased "a la carte" would be a preferable option. However, both independent and industry studies have concluded that a la carte would offer no benefit to the vast majority of consumers and would, in fact, result in higher prices, less choice, and less programming diversity. For more information visit and click on "A la Carte."

Bandwidth: A range of frequencies that can be used to distribute telecommunications services. The high capacity bandwidth of the New Jersey cable systems allows for the distribution of multiple telecommunications services like HDTV, on demand programming, broadband Internet, and digital voice. (See also: Digital Compression)

Basic: The lowest tier of service offered by a cable company, which includes local television stations and PEG channels.

Broadband Internet Access: Often shortened to "broadband Internet" or just "broadband," broadband Internet access is a high data-transmission rate Internet connection. Modern consumer broadband connections are several hundred times faster than those that were available when the Internet first became popular. "Broadband" in this context refers to the relatively high available bitrate, when compared to connections such as dial-up with lower bitrates (which could be referred to as narrowband).

CableCARD(TM): The cards provide secure access to encrypted digital cable programming. For example, if a consumer purchases a set top box or an integrated digital TV (DTV) in New York and then relocates to Los Angeles, that set-top box or integrated DTV will be operational on their new regional cable network.

CableLabs(R): Founded in 1988 by members of the cable television industry, Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs(R)) is a non-profit research and development consortium that is dedicated to pursuing new cable telecommunications technologies and to helping its cable operator members integrate those technical advancements into their business objectives. For more information visit

Cable System: Communications and entertainment system that distributes television, data, and telephone services by means of fiber optics and coaxial cable.

Channel Capacity: The number of channels that can be simultaneously carried on a cable TV system.

Coaxial Cable (Coax): Copper or copper-sheathed aluminum wire surrounded by an insulating layer of polyethylene foam used by cable TV systems. The insulating layer is covered with tubular shielding composed of tiny strands of braided copper wire, or a seamless aluminum sheath,and protective outer skin. The wire and the shielding react with each other to set up an electromagnetic field between them. This system reduces frequency loss and gives cable its great signal-carrying capacity.

Competition: Today's telecommunications marketplace is intensely competitive, offering consumers more choices than ever before. The large and growing number of competitors includes: DBS companies DirecTV and Dish Network; telephone companies like Verizon; broadcasters; web video; wireless broadband; home video; and more, all competing with local cable operators every day.

Digital: Information that is encoded into bits and bytes, or packets (0s and 1s, in computer binary language). Generally perceived to be an advanced communication form, offering clearer signals and increased transmission capacity.

Digital Compression: An engineering technique for converting a cable TV signal into a digital format, which may then be processed in a manner that requires less bandwidth for its transmission. This compressed format allows many channels to be carried in the bandwidth normally required for one signal.

Digital Television Transition: A U.S. government-mandated transition of the country's television broadcasting stations from analog to digital technology by February 2009.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR): A consumer device that uses a hard disk drive(s) to record television programs. Also provides DVD style functionality such as the ability to pause live television.

Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS): System for transmitting television signals via satellite to a home receiving dish. DBS providers DirecTV and Dish Network collectively serve nearly 30 million customers.

Easement: The right to use land of another for a specific purpose, such as to pass over with or bury cables within the property.

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Facilities-Based: Telecommunications networks that are owned by a provider, as opposed to leased. A "facilities-based" provider owns the entirety of the network on which services are delivered. All of New Jersey's cable operators are facilities-based providers.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC): An agency established by Congress in 1934 to implement the nation's telecommunications laws, allocate spectrum, and regulate service providers.

Fiber Optics: Thin, pliable tubes of glass that use light to carry signals. With nearly unlimited bandwidth, fiber optic cables have much greater capacity than other transmission lines.

Franchise: An agreement between a cable TV operator and the governing cable authority. A franchise agreement is essentially a license to operate.

Franchising Authority: For purposes of state and federal law the franchising authority in New Jersey is the Board of Public Utilities, Office of Cable Television.

Headend: An electronic control center - generally located at the antenna site of a cable system - usually including antennas, preamplifiers, frequency converters, demodulators, modulators, and other related equipment that amplify, filter and convert incoming signals to cable system channels to be sent to customer homes.

High Definition Television (HDTV): A television signal with greater detail and fidelity than current digital TV systems. Digital TV currently uses a standard called NTSC. HDTV provides picture quality at twice the visual resolution of NTSC, as well as CD-quality audio. New Jersey cable TV operators offer a wide variety of HDTV channels over their broadband networks.

Homes Passed: The number of homes that could potentially be hooked up to an existing cable system.

Interactive TV: Any service displayed on a television that allows consumers to interact with it as opposed to viewing only. Examples include video on demand and interactive program guides among others.

Internet Protocol (IP): The computer network (or Language) that is used both on the Internet and in private networks to facilitate communication. Internet Security - See: Parental Control

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Leased Access: Commercial channels made available by a cable operator to third parties for a fee, as required by the Cable Acts of 1984 and 1992.

Local Origination Channel: A channel on a cable system (exclusive of broadcast signals), which is programmed by the cable operator and subject to its exclusive control.

Modem: An electronic device (modulator-demodulator) that allows users to connect computers and other equipment in their homes, schools, or businesses to a cable television system for the purpose of broadband Internet and voice communications.

Multiple System Operator (MSO): A cable company that owns more than one system or group of systems. MSOs include Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.

Must Carry: Federal law requires cable operators to carry the primary signal of broadcasters who elect to have their signal carried by cable systems in their primary coverage area. Cable's current "must carry" obligation pertains to the primary analog signal, but it will switch to the broadcasters' primary digital signal in February 2009 when the digital conversion is complete (See Digital Television Transition). The FCC has twice ruled that cable carriage of the primary broadcast signal refers to ONE channel, in either the analog or digital world.

National Cable Telecommunications Association: The National Cable and Telecommunications Association is the principal trade association of the cable television industry in the United States. For more information visit

Net Neutrality: Proponents of net neutrality would allow the government to regulate the prices, terms, and conditions of broadband services. Many net neutrality proposals seek to specify which business models are permissible, and which ones are not. They would impose regulations that benefit established Internet companies like Google, Amazon, and Yahoo! to the detriment of network operators (including cable) and new Internet service providers. The cable industry supports Congress's longstanding policy of leaving the Internet unregulated. This "hands-off" regulatory approach to broadband - in place since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 - has been a success and has encouraged private investment in new services and infrastructure (more than $100 billion by the cable industry alone since 1996).

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Parental Control: Technologies that help parents protect children from television or Internet content that they may deem inappropriate. Parents can filter content based on various criteria such as ratings and prevent unauthorized access to programs or services. For more information visit

PEG Channels: Public, educational, and governmental access channels.

Quality of Service (QoS): The standards that enable broadband service providers to give customers a high level of service.

Streaming Video: Sending digitized, compressed video over an IP enabled network to a PC or other device that can be played without being downloaded to the device.

Tier: A package of television channels offered to customers for a single price. Most cable systems have more than one tier: e.g., a "basic" package including local broadcast stations, and one or more "expanded" tiers featuring popular cable program networks. In addition, cable operators offer "premium" subscription services such as HBO and Showtime and "pay-per-view" events such as movies, boxing matches, and concerts.

Triple Play: The product bundle of video, broadband Internet data, and digital voice service that cable companies are in a technical position to offer their customers. By upgrading their network to fiber optics in the 1990s, cable created sufficient bandwidth to carry hundreds of video channels, provide broadband Internet access, and offer digital voice service.

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Video On Demand (VOD): A method of providing video content that allows the customer to select, at any time, the video content they wish to view from a large selection of titles and categories stored on a remote server. Service may also provide DVR-like functionality (stop, pause, rewind, etc.), which allows the customer to control the "playback" of the content via the remote control.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP services): Also known as digital voice service, VoIP provides voice telephony via the use of IP networks (not the Internet) rather than traditional circuit switches.

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