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06 January 2009 @ 04:42 pm
cable: uh oh  
So recently RCN in somerville decided to abandon any of their customers that didn't want to have cablebox.

I just saw a comcast ad, talking about the dtv change over that said, "you're find if you're a comcast customer and your TVs are connected to a cable box." Does that mean they're planning on forcing people to have boxes too? My concern is that this will likely make my replay DVR unhappy and my little TV which I use often. Anyone have any real information?
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Jacob: tankkvarko on January 6th, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
I believe that pretty much every cable provider is moving towards all-digital. In fact, I think Comcast may have done it in this area before RCN did. So I don't think switching providers is going to help you at all.

All-digital doesn't necessarily mean that you need a cablebox; if you have a device which takes a CableCard (or two) then that device can act as the cable box. For instance, I have an HD TiVo and RCN service but I don't have an RCN cable box. Instead of renting a cablebox from RCN, I rent two CableCards from them, and they plug into my TiVo, which then serves the purpose of the cable box -- no need for an IR connection between the TiVo and a cable box, which never worked right anyway.

If your DVR supports CableCards, then you're fine, switch to that. If not, then switching to another provider is unlikely to help. I believe that your options are to rent the provider's DVR or get your own DVR that supports CableCards.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on January 6th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
I never mentioned switching to another provider. I'm currenly a comcast customer with no cable box. Things right now work great. I was just using RCN as a example of a possible future for comcast, given the omen in that commercial.
Jacob: tankkvarko on January 6th, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, sorry! Anyway, my assertion still stands that I bet Comcast will be going all digit at some point. I tried to do a web search to get some concrete info about Somerville, but I'm not having any luck. Plenty of bloggers claiming the same thing, but nothing official from Comcast (other than that they went all digital in Chicago as early as 2007) and certainly no mention of a date. Article in the Globe just indicates that Comcast is still offering analog in Somerville for now.
Jacob: tankkvarko on January 6th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, USA Today article from June suggests that Comcast is "leading the charge" to digital, specifically to convert 20% of their markets by the end of 2008 and achieving 100% through 2010.

Erikavacon on January 6th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
I think RCN is giving free cable boxes to customers?
Comcast will likely do the same thing as each analog channel they can deprovision
gives them enough bandwidth for a bunch of digital channels, allowing
them to give you more channels you likely have no interest in watching.
The cable box probably helps for your little tv, but would only help
for your replay if it can control that model cable box.
(I have this problem with all of my old analog TiVos now
and should probably cancel their accounts.)
Nathannathanw on January 6th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
There's a FCC mandate to cable providers to let customers continue to use RF-input, analog-tuner-only TVs until 2012, so cable providers that go digital will be bound to provide boxes with such an output until then.
Binkbinkbink on January 7th, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)
They continue to offer the analog service here (Pittsburgh-McCandless) but are cutting down the channel selection by the salami method. I suspect they intend to reduce the analog lineup to the point point no one will want it.

I believe local law requires them to provide the three major networks and a few other stations such as the local access in exchange for being allowed to provide service. I expect the law to change, however, soon after the air goes digital.

The waiting list for coupons is now 6 weeks, so a lot of elderly, poor, and rural customers will soon be without any tv (even if they do figure out what they have to do) while the coupon agency catches up. I expect a similar problem when the cable companies switch over.

In the end, I'll know, but on the way, I wondergorgo on January 6th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Isn't the "you're fine if you're a Comcast customer and your TVs are connected to a cable box" line about the transition to digital broadcast in February? My assumption/understanding is that what they're saying here is that their cable boxes can do the digital->analog translation, so it's ok if you have an analog TV hooked up to your cable box. If you just use a "cable-ready" TV that connects directly to the cable line from the wall, then Comcast can't make any guarantees, as they don't know whether your TV can parse digital cable.

I think what you really need to know here is whether your Replay can handle digital cable input directly, which I don't know the answer to. I have one of the newer TiVos that takes the CableCards, and it works fine with digital cable, but my thought is that you'd be better off checking with Replay about this.
Nurghringrose on January 6th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that you can get a replay IR blaster to make it change the channels for you if Comcast forces you to get a box.

Honestly, when we get to that point we'll probably spring for a HD PVR which understands the digital signal.
In the end, I'll know, but on the way, I wondergorgo on January 7th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)
Yeah, the Replay IR blaster (basically a little IR lamp with a sticky pad to let you glue it over the remote sensor on your cable box) works pretty well. I used one for years in Champaign, and the only problems were that the sticky pad didn't stay so sticky after a few moves and pack/unpack cycle and that having your Replay downstream of the cable box means you can't record one channel and watch another one live.

I switched to the TiVo when I moved because I got an HDTV, and it works great with the CableCards. I find the better interface of the TiVo worth it as compared to the DVR in the set-top box I originally had, and the CableCards make the whole thing seamless.
Nathannathanw on January 6th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
I think gorgo is right; this is just about the DTV issue, and doesn't really speak to their long-term plans.

I suspect that long term, all cable providers will push as much as they can to require a box, though. Continuing to keep the CableCard mandate is about the only long-term strategy for boxes we control having reasonable access to the video stream.
Derekwarlord_mit on January 6th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
I'm still waiting for a CableCard-capable MythTV, but I'm not holding my breath because I dont think it will ever happen.
chenoamegchenoameg on January 7th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
I'm seriously considering trying to switch to over the air for my replay and then buying cable shows online.

It would cost about the same as what we have now, but be way less annoying that a constantly degrading comcast signal.
Erikavacon on January 7th, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Does the Replay have an over-the-air QAM (ie, digital) tuner? If not, you'll stop being able to get analog broadcasts over the air next month without a box.
Binkbinkbink on January 7th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
I thought QAM was cable and ATSC was over the air digital.
Binkbinkbink on January 7th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
I would like digital cable but their pricing structure is so complicated, I am afraid to ask for it, for fear I won't be able to afford what actually shows up on the bill.

And when I am forced to get their box, I don't know where to put it. My tv is about the size of a hard drive.

MegaZonezonereyrie on January 7th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
Analog cable is being phased out in general - sooner or later - the bandwidth of each analog channel can hold up to six digital SD channels or two digital HD channels (more if they compress them too much) so as cable systems add channels and content options they need the space. Plus analog is just more of a pain to deal with for them - going all digital allows them to use less expensive all-digital set top boxes. No analog tuners, no encoders for DVRs, etc. Big savings all around.

If you have a ReplayTV it can control a cable box using IR blasters. As others have said, another option is to switch to a cable DVR (bleh), or a TiVo HD with CableCARD which can tune the digital cable signal without a cable box. And it has a LOT more features than the old ReplayTV, since RTV has been defunct for several years now.