Apparently HDTV is so popular in NYC they do not have enough HDTV boxes so there is a waiting list.
Haven't solved the TWC HDTV mystery myself, but as a 3-decade cable customer in Manhattan, without practical access to DBS, here's a few suggestions.
I'd probably research as you're doing, but sign up for the package you outlined ASAP. If you'd need to get a non-HDTV box first (SA2100, I think) then that's the way to go. I'd suggest the d'ultimate(?) package, BTW, slightly more expensive but worth it, IMO, to get all the premium-movie channels plus Road Runner. Then I'd immediately get on the waiting list for a HDTV converter (SA2000HD or upcoming SA3100HD). These HDTV cable converters from Scientific Atlanta, required for NYC's cable system, seem scarce nationwide judging from other posts.
While waiting, you're a lot better off than many urban dwellers since you can get HDNet and HBO etc. via DBS. In addition, if you have an OTA HDTV tuner or module, you could get CBS HDTV as an OTA-type 8-VSB signal via a direct-cable hookup and 1-GHz splitter. You could/can get CBS OTA, too. If you got a HDTV cable converter fairly soon, you'd receive HBO, CBS, Showtime, and NBC as cable's 256 QAM signals (WNBC-DT was destroyed 9/11 but TWC has a fiber link to NBC's studios). TWC, nationwide, has been better than most systems adding HDTV, although NYC hasn't matched Houston yet--or some Canadian systems using U.S. channels available to TWC! Seems likely ABC, PBS, Fox (no HDTV), and perhaps others will soon join the list.
Some of the latest cable news was discussed in this thread
, including a chart I ran indicating how NYC's TWC seems to be using its 750-MHz+ hybrid fiber/coax bandwidth. Seems crucial, since that bandwidth appears almost 'full' unless more space is found by digitizing more analog channels or other techniques.
And hopefully such techniques won't involve continued MPEG-2 'squeezing' of digital channels (not HDTV) until artifacts become very irritating. You see pro and con views on this problem with DBS. I often comment TWC's fidelity seems excellent. In recent months, I've noticed excessive MPEG-2 compression on a few channels, and hope to determine how much the programmer, such as Sundance or IFC is at fault, or whether TWC, perhaps using a Cisco video router
or other hardware is contributing to apparent overcompression. Last night, the Mystery Encore channel replayed a BBC film about a woman police DCI, and even moderate movement within scenes created 'stuttering' blurred images. HDTV channels, in my experience, come through nicely without any tinkering. -- John