Ideally, cable systems would carry only HD channels (along with those SD channels that aren't available in HD), and send those to HD-capable equipment which can perform downconversion if needed for an old SD or analog TV.
HD channels are included in each of Charter's service tiers; if an SD channel is in a particular tier, its HD version is in the same tier, at no extra charge (for example, TNT HD is in the expanded basic tier because the SD version has been in that tier).
There are a few HD-only channels, but they're part of the service tiers as well, again at no additional charge.
HD channels (aside from local stations) were part of a separate tier, but the new pricing scheme put in...
Veedon, I don't know what TWC's rates are, but for your comparison here's a picture of the Charter's July 2013 rate card for western North Carolina and portions of eastern Tennessee (click for full size):
The Broadcast Surcharge is now $3.50, the Latino Tier is now $6.99, and the Interactive Services Fee is now $6.99 per receiver; all other rates are still current.
Charter has presented a formal offer to buy TWC for $61.3 billion ($49.50 of CHTR stock and $83 cash per share), which has been rejected by TWC's board of directors, which wants at least $100 of CHTR stock and $60 cash per share for the company.
According to TWC's FAQ regarding the new genre-based lineup, the distinction between HD and SD channels in the lineup will disappear, with both being assigned the same channel numbers:What this means is if you tune to a cable channel that has both HD and SD feeds avialable on the cable system, HD boxes will tune to the HD feed, and SD-only boxes and DTA's will tune to the SD feed, something like how ke4pym's got his DirecTV program guide set up, except that the SD...
Charter's going to get rid of the analog channels on its systems in Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Gaston, and Lincoln counties this coming Tuesday, and expects to have all of its systems all-digital by the end of 2014.
If Charter does end up taking over TWC, or at least TWC's systems in the Carolinas, a move to all-digital would likely happen sooner rather than later.
Here is an explanation of the FCC's policies regarding full cable system encryption:
As for cable box/card fees, if you subscribe only to basic cable and none of your TV's are equipped with any boxes/cards as of the day the system is fully encrypted, you can get up to two boxes/cards free for two years (five years for Medicaid recipients).
Otherwise you can get one box/card for one year free, if you have a TV that isn't...