Mediacom's first major all-digital conversion project is underway in a nine-county area of eastern Iowa.

For Mediacom subscribers in areas in and around Cedar Rapids, the switch to all-digital starts March 1 and continues thereafter for a few weeks. Mediacom said the all-digital conversion project would directly affect about 28 percent of its customers in the nine-county area who aren't currently digital tier subscribers or who are using older TVs for viewing.

Mediacom, the nation's eighth-largest cable operator, is offering digital tuner adapters (DTAs) with rent-free leases, and customers can receive them for all non-digital televisions.

Like other cable operators, namely Comcast, Mediacom is freeing up bandwidth by converting some of its analog channels to digital. The end result will be more HD and SD channels, as well as faster Internet speeds, the latter of which appears to be DOCSIS 3.0 tiers.

Cable operators can reclaim between 250 MHz and 300 MHz in each system that goes all-digital. If a typical cable system has 79 analog channels and the operator decides to move 59 of those channels to digital, while perhaps leaving 20 or so as a lifeline analog service for some select markets, it would reclaim 354 MHz.

Given 354 MHz of reclaimed spectrum in the example above – and the fact that, on average, 10 standard-definition MPEG-2 digital programs can be inserted into one 6 MHz slot – this yields enough bandwidth for nearly 590 channels.

"Today's consumers get more value and more viewing choices than ever before," Mediacom regional vice president Doug Frank said. "Now, as we eliminate much of the analog bandwidth from our network, Mediacom customers can be confident that we'll keep pace with their demand for more HD channels and the ultra-fast speeds of our next-generation broadband service."