Friday, January 09, 2009

Bye Bye Cable

Here's a question posted to Comcast's customer service forum:

What's the story with Comcast and the digital TV switch-over that's coming in Feb 2009? According to the various gov sites, if you have cable TV, you're not affected. So I called Comcast and the rep told me that they will discontinue all analog channels in Feb 2009 as well and that the cheapest digital package starts at $55/month. So what's the real story?

I'd prefer to just keep everything "as is", but if Comcast is going to dump all the analog channels, I guess I'll have to dump Comcast cable (I guess I'll drop Comcast internet too if I can get DSL in my area) and try using one of the new coupon boxes instead, however I don't know if I will be able to get it to work with my ReplayTV boxes.

So, does anyone know if Comcast really is going to dump all the analog channels?

First, I would like to apologize for any confusion.

Please allow me to clarify. Comcast's relocation of analog channels to the digital tier does not have anything to do with digital switch over in Feb 2009. The digital switch over is only for off the air channels (local and basic channels available through antenna) being transmitted from analog to digital. If you are a cable customer, you do not have anything to worry about. We got you covered for the switch over in 2009.

Currently on some Comcast markets, channels are being relocated from analog to the digital tier. The main purpose for us doing this is to free up space. For every analog channel, we can fit in more digital and High def channels. If you do not have a digital converter, you may not be able to view the transferred channels becuase they are now in the digital feed. As a result, we are currently offering a promotion for customers who are currently not subscribing to our digital service.

I hope my expanation helped. If you have additional questions or need further assistance, please feel free send me an email with your best contact number. I will be happy to assist further.

Best Regards,

Mark C.
Comcast Corp.

...even though in theory cable users are not affected by the OTA switchover, there's nothing stopping the cable companies using this occasion to move all of their analog channels up into the digital range too. If you're already using a cable box, this probably won't affect you, but if (like me) you have the cable going directly into your TV, it is a concern.

Basically, if you have a basic cable package (like Ron and I) we are getting some cable channels through the analog tier (via our cable). It's confusing to me as anything, but I can almost wrap my mind around it. We pay for a certain number of channels and get others we're not supposed to (Comcast knows this occurs, and we're not manipulating any equipment etc.), and so Comcast is moving them to the "digital tier" (huh) because analog broadcast take up about 10 times as much space (on the frequency spectrum) as digital broadcasts use. The FCC wants to trim down the space required for TV so that they can sell the rest of the spectrum. They also need a dedicated emergency band that doesn't conflict with any of the cellular phone companies. Yada yada yada, we'll have to start paying more if we want to continue seeing all the channels we currently have. I can see both sides, but I think Comcast is being a bit sneaky about it.

For the past year we've heard all about this switchover to digital broadcast and been under the impression we're ready and nothing is going to change. Well, technically we are ready. Our TVs are ready, and we're not receiving a signal through rabbit ears, right? However, that doesn't mean that our monopolistic cable company isn't going to pull a fast one. We've looked into it a lot (per my extreme skepticism and Ron's desire to watch more ESPN) and spoken to actual humans from Comcast on the telephone, and this is reality, not some Internet hoax. Therefore as of tomorrow we are no longer going to be Comcast TV subscribers and are going to the dish. We'll have about a trillion channels for the same cost as Comcast's lowest price digital package ($55). I just hope that we don't become TV-aholics. I'm actually most excited about the Satellite radio channels, and MTV2. Our Internet connection is DSL through AT&T.

It's hard to sift through the rumors and reality online, and at first I was very skeptical about this issue, because I was of course thinking that our TVs are really new, and our connection is cable, and the screen was green, and so forth. We are ready for the switch, but around the same time our cable service will be changing. I'm not sure exactly what date that's occurring, and in my opinion Comcast is being very misleading by using the OTA switch as a kind of distraction. Perhaps a lot of people (like me) are unaware that some of their channels are going to be moved, if they didn't realize they were analog channels being received through the cable. I don't know. I'm sure a lot of confused angry old people will be clogging up Comcast's customer service lines so if you think this might affect you, look into it and get er done early.

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