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Digital cable/digital TV

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by saichele, Dec 15, 2007.

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  1. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    OK, so I just got a notice from Comcast saying that they're switching a bunch of the local access channels to digital, and we should call to find out more info. Wife calls (she like to keepan eye on what the township board is tryingto get away with) and discovers
    1) have to subscribe to digital cable to get these services
    2) have to get an analog to digital converter box
    3) as of Feb 2009 no more analog cable.

    Now, I understand (not necessarily agree, but understand) the FCC's move to take TV to digital and free up spectrum. But cable obviously isn't broadcast. So I poke around in the internet and discover some conflicting material (go figure)
    1) cable companies are required to continue analog transmission until Feb 2012
    2) local stations are required to end analog transmission by Feb 2009;
    3) cable companies aren't allowed to down convert the digital (from local stations)

    So I'm hoping there's someone else out here who has already moved through the enraged/appalled phase I'm currently wallowing in to actually find some meaningful/authoritative information, and may be willing to share it.

    Thanks
    Steve

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Doesn't tell you much - we just switched to digital, and our monthly bill went DOWN. They have package prices, and since we get our net and phone from the, it works out well.

    Better service, digital and analog channels, and a built in DVR (tivo-type) all for less money.

    Given that, I will stop asking questions......the stuff is really too confusing to understand. In our case (charter), the guy told me that the channels below 100 were analog, and most above were digital, and then way up they are HD (which is digital, but higher res, often wide screen, etc.)

    Basics also are that your DVD player cannot play HD.......

    We finally made the switch on our main TV....got a 37" Toshiba Flat Screen - reasonable in price, but very high quality. For that size, there is no real advantage in 1080 (res), so this is 720.

    The only shows that will really take advantage of it are HD, but it does a great job of "knowing" what the other channels are and displaying them properly. I doubt we will buy an HD DVD player since this had on-demand and other stuff - not worth the money for me to get HD DVD player. If anything, I'll eventually buy an "upcoverter" DVD player, which fakes it.

    OH, many video consoles can also take advantage of the digital inputs on the TV - you can also plug your computer into there if you really want it displayed perfectly on a giant screen.
  3. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
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    1,438
    Loc:
    Delaware, Ohio
    There is so much misinformation (and hype and "fearmongering") out there regarding the digital broadcast changeover. I hope I can clear some of it up. It is not going to be as bad as many people would like you to believe it will be.

    1) The digital changeover ONLY affects people who rely on an antenna (rabbit ears or roof top for example) to receive their television signal.

    2) If you have cable TV, you will NOT be affected by the change. Your TV will continue to operate exactly as it did before. Your TV signal comes over a wire and is not being broadcast over the air. In fact, as stated above, it is true that cable companies are REQUIRED to continue offering analog channels on their cable TV systems.

    3) If you have satellite TV, you will probably NOT be affected by the change either. Satellite signals are in a completely different part of the radio spectrum and are not affected by the switch. There is one catch with satellite TV. There were a few older satellite receiver boxes that may be affected. These particular boxes relied on an antenna to pickup local channels (see #1) before the satellite carriers began carrying local channels through the satellites. Many of these boxes are still in use, but are no longer relying on the antenna to pick up the local channels. As long as your local channels are being supplied by the satellite signal (which is true for most customers), you will NOT be affected.


    The whole matter revolves around the local TV stations being mandated by the FCC to stop sending analog signals over the air from their broadcast tower. They will be required to send out digital signals only, which make much more efficient use of the available radio spectrum. This is scheduled to happen on February 17th, 2009. Digital lets local stations broadcast multiple programs at once, if they choose. Digital also lets the local stations use less power to transmit their signal to their market. Digital also does not suffer from degrading picture quality as you move away from the tower (not to the degree that analog does, at least). The error correction that is built into the digital broadcast standard will allow for weak signals to still produce a good picture with no snow/static. The drop off as you move out of range of a digital tower happens very quickly, all at once instead of gradually getting worse as the distance is increased.


    Now, if you DO rely on an antenna for your TV reception, all is not lost! You will simply need to connect a small digital receiver box to your TV. Your antenna will connect to the receiver box, and the receiver box will output a signal to your TV much like a VCR or a DVD player does. The government is planning on offering $40 vouchers to people who need to buy these converter boxes. Receivers are currently available for less than $200, and by the time the digital switch happens, they should be available for much less. I am predicting that they will be available very close to that $40 price point.

    Where I live, I could not get TV reception without static/snow on the screen, even using my rooftop antenna. I went to one of the big electronics stores and purchased a digital tuner (some times referred to as HD Tuners for early HDTV's that could display an HD picture but did not have a digital tuner built in) and hooked it up to my almost 20 year old TV. Now, I get DVD quality TV from the local broadcast stations. The tuner box that I bought is actually smaller than my DVD player. It even has an on screen channel guide that uses data that is being broadcast from the tower.

    Personally, I think that those people who rely on antennas for their TV will be pleasantly surprised by the improvement in quality that the digital broadcast will give them over the analog signal that they are used to, even on a regular old TV. It may not be HD, but the picture will be sharper, and the colors will be more vibrant.

    If you have any questions about the switch, please ask me. Send me a PM or post back in this thread. I want to make sure that everybody is working with good information.

    -SF
  4. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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  5. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Delaware, Ohio
    Nope... they're feeding you, and the rest of their customers a line to try and get you to upgrade to their digital plans. I'll guess that the digital cable is a more expensive plan, so it would make sense that they would want you to upgrade.

    You're actually not the first person that I've heard from who has been told this by Comcast. It's too bad they're using this tactic.

    I suppose this is the real rub though, where they may not be 100% lying to you.

    They are required to keep analog channels on their system until 2012, but... WHICH channels they carry are up to them. I suppose it's possible that their analog lineup could consist of the water polo network, the chess channel, Lifetime, and a few other select networks. They would technically be abiding by the law, but offering a service that nobody in their right mind would ever want.

    It would be a really crappy thing for them to do, and somehow I doubt that they actually will, but I guess it is a possibility. Eventually, they'll get everybody upgraded to digital cable. They just want to scare everybody they can into paying more for the service first. They're praying on lots of customers who have only heard bits and pieces of information regarding the switch.

    -SF
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