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Sidestepping A-to-D Convertors For Town Government's Cable TV?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the creative-solutions dept.

Television 539

jake-itguy writes "I am the IT guy for a small town municipality. Comcast called me the other day and told me I had to have a digital-to-analog converter for each TV in the municipality, as Comcast is turning off analog cable in September. I did a quick count, and we have 32 TVs across 6 buildings (22 being in the police and fire departments). Most of the TVs are hung on the walls. I told Comcast having a box for each TV was not acceptable and wanted a different solution. Comcast told me there was no other solution." Read on for more details of the situation, and to see if you can offer Jake any advice for distributing cable service within his Indiana town.jake-itguy continues: "They told me they have been putting these boxes on every TV in each classroom in each school. I laughed when I heard that. I said, 'Do you know how much electricity is going to be needed for each box?' They didn't know the answer. I was bumped up to the next guy in the Comcast hierarchy, who said there was no other solution and I had to pay $3 per month for each box. Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

I know there is a solution, as hospitals and hotels don't have little boxes next their TVs. Unfortunately I haven't found a specific answer to this problem so I am asking Slashdot. Is there a box that can be put in the basement of the town hall that will convert the Comcast signal into a regular digital signal? Most of the TVs in the town have digital tuners per last years a2d conversion of the airwaves. I would be willing to replace the few analog sets with new ones if there is a good solution for this. Each building's cable feed is fed from the town hall. We have a nice big 1-inch cable coming into the building with some splitters coming off the line. Each building gets a 1/2 inch cable. Is there a box that will convert the Comcast signal to analog for the schools? I am sure the schools don't have TVs with digital tuners."

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539 comments

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So? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829238)

So why are they special? The rest of America had to switch...

Re:So? (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829294)

Different problem - the rest of america made the switch from analog BROADCAST to HD. This is Comcast's cable system which switched from analog tuning to a special digital tuning box (that seems to be fairly proprietary and the one I got doesn't work well with a lot of programmable remotes). The purported reason was to free up bandwidth, but the real reason was probably to kill the ability to split the signal.

Re:So? (3, Informative)

LocalH (28506) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829524)

Analog broadcast to digital you mean, HD doesn't enter into it. If a station wanted to broadcast multiple SD channels instead of HD, they would have the FCC's blessing.

Sorry to nitpick, but too many people think the digital transition was all about HD, when it was in reality nothing to do with HD.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829312)

He's talking about analog being distributed by Cable (most of them still do this), not over the air.

Yes. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829246)

Yes.

Are they all tuned to the same channel? (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829248)

If you don't mind them all being tuned to the same channel, you only need 1 converter box per building. Might also need an RF amplifier to help with distribution since by definition splitting the signal attenuates it.

Re:Are they all tuned to the same channel? (3, Insightful)

ooji (1471967) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829390)

Or if you use a modulators as well you can then have one box per channel per building and have multiple channels.

Haft inch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829252)

If you use haft-inch and one inch do describe coax cables maybe your not the best guy for the job.

Re:Haft inch (5, Informative)

jmanforever (603829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829394)

If you use haft-inch and one inch do describe coax cables maybe your not the best guy for the job.

Half inch, 1 inch, and "625" (which stands for 0.625", or 5/8 inch) are all industry-standard ways to specify the different sizes of 75 Ohm CATV coax Mr. anonymous dumbass. Yes, I am a CATV engineer.

Wait, you have ASTC TVs? (1)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829266)

Isn't digital cable ASTC compatible if it is not encrypted?

Re:Wait, you have ASTC TVs? (4, Interesting)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829400)

In the US, afaik, no, they use QAM encoding, same as cable modems. However, many TV's can tune 'Clear' (unencrypted) QAM and ATSC, and all channels that are available over the air (OTA) should be unencrypted on Cable (I believe it's a legal requirement, but cable co's continueally 'accidently' encrypt channels

Re:Wait, you have ASTC TVs? (5, Informative)

dsgrntlxmply (610492) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829560)

U.S. digital cable is not ATSC (8-VSB modulation) over-the-air broadcast signal compatible. Instead, the main MPEG2 payload is carried in 64-QAM or 256-QAM modulation, within RF channels that fit the usual US-standard 6 MHz spacing. Alongside this, are one or more "out-of-band" carriers that use a different modulation format and lower data rate, that carry channel maps and other administrative information. Finally, there is an upstream (settop box to head-end) channel in RF bands lower in frequency than the downstream RF, that is used for administrative purposes and for pay-per-view.

The signal structures are described in published standards freely available from SCTE. The out-of-band and reverse channels have two different standards, reflecting the original developments by General Instrument (now Motorola) of one standard, and by Scientific Atlanta (now Cisco) of the other.

Much (but not all) of the content is covered by "conditional access" (encryption), the details of which are of course unpublished.

Re:Wait, you have ASTC TVs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829586)

Yes and no. With Comcast, the digital tuner will receive local channels via the cable line plus a few others. Not many at all (at least in the State College area of Pennsylvania). So yes, you can hook your ASTC TV into the cable jack and it *will* work, but your channel choices will be severely limited.

Government waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829272)

That a "mere" 22 tvs out of 32 are being used for non-education purposes is absolutely shameful.

Why do you need cable? (2, Insightful)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829276)

Get antennas and cheap converter boxes. Or get a Channel Plus 3025 and only buy one cable box per building and pay $3 a month per box forever.

advice: (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829278)

write a letter of resignation.

Re:advice: (5, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829424)

Better advice: sue. The FCC is requiring cable providers to maintain analog cable until 2012 [arstechnica.com] unless they provide converters for their customers. Unless I'm misunderstanding, charging their customers to rent the boxes was NOT one of their options.

Re:advice: (-1, Redundant)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829546)

Exactly where in the 'article' is the information about Comcast charging? It's not.

Last time I used cable, the box came free with the service. If you wanted a better box, you paid more. ($10 more for HD, or DVR, or HD-DVR. Yeah, they were all the same.)

Re:advice: (3, Informative)

Elros (735454) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829598)

...who said there was no other solution and I had to pay $3 per month for each box.

About the third line of the second quoted section.

Re:advice: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829600)

How long ago was it when you last had cable? And from where? I get a monthly $5 fee for "renting" my cable box, and another $3 or so for "renting" my modem from Comcast.

Re:advice: (1)

blizz017 (1617063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829644)

Exactly where in the 'article' is the information about Comcast charging? It's not.

Last time I used cable, the box came free with the service. If you wanted a better box, you paid more. ($10 more for HD, or DVR, or HD-DVR. Yeah, they were all the same.)

Right around here:

"They told me they have been putting these boxes on every TV in each classroom in each school. I laughed when I heard that. I said, 'Do you know how much electricity is going to be needed for each box?' They didn't know the answer. I was bumped up to the next guy in the Comcast hierarchy, who said there was no other solution and I had to pay $3 per month for each box. Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

Re:advice: (2, Insightful)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829616)

The problem isn't with his employer, hence no point resigning. Me I'd rather have people in government who in the interest of reducing government expense would actually care enough to doubt what some kid at Comcast says and look for advice elsewhere, despite the hordes of idiots who would surely be jerks when given the opportunity.

Time to whip out the old "do not hire" list...
Name : Larry Bagina.
Reason: Quitter, can't read, anti-social dispenser of useless advice.

Place them "elsewhere" (4, Insightful)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829282)

You could always just place the A-to-D box "upstream" of the TV set - several feet away - in a closet - wherever. It doesn't have to be right on the wall. Use the same Coaxial cable and splice the box in elsewhere. (I am assuming you don't have to change the channels often on these boxes.)

If several TVs are tuned into the same channel in a building, you could use one box at the point-of-ingest into the building.

Re:Place them "elsewhere" (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829596)

Well I guess it depends on the location of the TV. There may not be a closet nearby. One question is whether each TV needs to be tuned separately. i.e. one is set on weather but needs to change to local community TV during certain times, etc. Then the cable box needs to be line-of-sight.

Re:Place them "elsewhere" (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829656)

One of the poster's complaints was the 3.2 kW of extra power usage (assuming about 100W per box). This doesn't solve that.

department of redundancy department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829286)

So the rules the government makes they can't comply with?

Re:department of redundancy department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829466)

So the rules the government makes they can't comply with?

What are you talking about? There's nothing in the article about any government rules.

Why haven't we heard about this? (0, Flamebait)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829290)

So our analog TVs are going to stop working soon? Why haven't we heard about this? It seems like they would have talked about it in the press or something.

Seriously, dude, I hope you haven't been in your job for more than like 6 months, otherwise this is all on you. Cough up $1600 and get 32 $50 converters. Or tell Comcast you want them to donate them. You have a franchise agreement you can allude to, right?

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829392)

So our analog TVs are going to stop working soon? Why haven't we heard about this? It seems like they would have talked about it in the press or something.

Seriously, dude, I hope you haven't been in your job for more than like 6 months, otherwise this is all on you. Cough up $1600 and get 32 $50 converters. Or tell Comcast you want them to donate them. You have a franchise agreement you can allude to, right?

Go easy on him. As per the summary,

Read on for more details of the situation, and to see if you can offer Jake any advice for distributing cable service within his Indiana town.

He lives in Indiana, that's punishment enough. They just got the internet like 3 years ago. This is coming from a former "hoosier" someone who escaped Kokomo, Indiana several years ago.

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829482)

I'm not sure I'd suggest Kokomo is like any other part of Indiana, minus Muncie. Both are microcosms of the stereotypical Kentucky image.

Oblig Beach Boys Reference (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829558)

I thought Kokomo was off the Florida keys...

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829406)

way to confuse the government mandated OTA switch from analog to digital with Comcast's decision to turn off analog cable. You even managed to sound like a pompous, condescending ass while being completely wrong.

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829442)

You are using the terms "Comcast" and "donate". I understand those two terms on their own, especially where "donate" refers to giving some entity some product or service without immediate compensation, but I cannot in any way comprehend the context presented. Why are you putting the term "Comcast" anywhere near a not-negated form of the term "donate"? You are talking nonsense.

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829480)

Comcast is switching their TV network to what's called "switched digital" to free up bandwidth for IP services - the problem is that this requires a tuner to "ask" the network for a certain channel. This has nothing to do with the Analog to Digital over-the-air conversion that happened last year.

Re:Why haven't we heard about this? (2, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829650)

Well, the analog over the air signal was phased out already. OTA should be digital now. The federal government gave coupons for free D-A converters for older TVs. That does not affect cable. Cable has capacity for both analog and digital; however, if a cable operator decides to switch to all digital, then that's a dispute between the cable operator and its customers.

Hotels (5, Informative)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829292)

Hotels frequently have a bank of converters, each tuned to a different digital channel. The outputs of all of the converter boxes are put onto separate analog channels, multiplexed and fed through a distribution amplifier.

You would need a box for each channel you wish to receive. While this may work with a hotel where they own all of the premise wiring to the rooms it would be impractical for a widespread system across a city.

Re:Hotels (1)

one2wonder (1328797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829348)

Hes got thick coax already in place between the buildings. I would think that should do the trick for distribution unless that is owned by the cable co.

Re:Hotels (1)

woob (939992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829518)

This is what we do at university too.

A little box that doesn't use electricity... (4, Funny)

human-cyborg (450395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829306)

and provides an alternative to Comcast digital cable?

Hmm, sounds like a book to me.

disconnect the tv's (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829310)

If they're not interested in providing you the service then find someone else.
The police and fire department really shouldn't be watching TV at work anyway.

Re-distribute necessary channels yourself? (2, Informative)

one2wonder (1328797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829314)

Why couldn't you get a few tuners for the channels you want to distribute - and then modulate them on analog/digital channels and run your own signal? I'm pretty sure this is what hotels/hospitals do.

How many TV's?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829324)

Small town government with 32 TVs? Exactly what function do they serve? Is there a reason that a small town government needs this many (any?) TVs? A government has really lost touch when that many TVs is considered essential. Are you paying your politicians & police officers to watch TV? That's really messed up.

Re:How many TV's?? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829470)

Man, what in the god damned hell makes you think you know anything about running a city?

Anything at all? Any experience in the matter, relative who's done it who you've talked to, basic understanding of how humans and human institutions work........ anything?

Maybe the Digi TV's are already compatible? (4, Interesting)

stevew (4845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829326)

Couple of points - a "regular" signal is defined as digital! The other is that I would imagine that if you are only watching "basic" cable, then your digital tuners should cover the same frequencies. So there likely isn't any conversion for the digital TVs you already have.

As for the Dig to Ana converters - remember the ads the cable TV folks ran - "You won't have to change a thing if you have cable because we'll keep the analog signal around." Well - Comcast lied! I have to rent 6 (*^#(#^^ boxes for my house!

What? Comcast lied?!?!?! (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829472)

You seem shocked about that! It's about the only thing they can do right! Hell, even their HD picture is so pixelated, you can usually find higher quality video online.

Re:Maybe the Digi TV's are already compatible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829640)

I have to rent 6 (*^#(#^^ boxes for my house!

No, you really don't. Also, you probably shouldn't....

Yep there's a solution but you won't like it (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829328)

I know there is a solution, as hospitals and hotels don't have little boxes next their TVs

Having run into this before, you're right, those places don't have little boxes next to their TVs. They do however have RACKS of them in utility closets where the feeds are split out from the main lines to the sets.

Sorry dude, you may be SOL.

Re:Yep there's a solution but you won't like it (1, Redundant)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829478)

Yep. Those D-to-A boxes function as the tuner for the TV. Places where you can change the channel have one box for every channel you can choose, with more gear to recombine all the channels back into an analog cable on different analog station numbers (plus amplification) so cable channel 142 is TV channel 3, 248 becomes 4 and so on.

Your alternative is to get CableCARD TVs and hope comcast and CableCARD play nice in your region (hint: comcast doesn't get to soak you for settop box rental if you use cablecard, so they're especially disinclined to make it work). Otherwise, get one box and an amplifier and everyone in the building watches the same thing.

franchise agreement (5, Insightful)

jemtallon (1125407) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829340)

You may want to check the exact wording of the franchise agreement. Depending on how it's worded, if they are required to provide you free access to basic cable and they no longer offer that option, you may have some leverage with them. If nothing else, you may persuade them to give you the hardware at no cost.

Re:franchise agreement (2, Informative)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829408)

It looks like Comcast is trying to make the tradition "boxless cable option" disappear.

I say: the city should push back on this. If nothing else, there should be a boxless cable
option for any TV that can tune into digital signals with a built in tuner. A special cable
box should simply not be required.

There should be some cable package that can be used without a box.

Basic cable from Comcast should be tunable with an HDHR or a naked HDTV.

Get satellite (4, Interesting)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829352)

I witnessed, many many years ago, a satellite setup for an apartment complex that used a Big Ugly Dish that muxed into a matrix of little individual tuner devices, the signals were recombined and then fed into the local F-type cable netwok, with repeater/amps behind that most likely. I wish I could tell you the brand names of these devices but I just don't remember. Let it be said; Comcrap is not the way to go, you could do much better with Dish/DirecTV (or anyone else's) service, I would suspect, and those companies would be much more helpful than your current "provider." Don't let your F-type cable go to waste, ditch Comcast and mux in the channels to your cable network from another vendor.

Outlaw digital encryption (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829354)

Get all of the police and firemen to go to the city council and demand they end the Comcast monopoly and while they are at it, have the city council ban encryption of the digital signal.

Without a doubt, Comcast will find a solution for you!!!

Re:Outlaw digital encryption (1)

jemtallon (1125407) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829454)

this

Pretend you're a small cable company. (3, Informative)

falzer (224563) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829360)

Get a converter for every digital channel you care about and retransmit on analog channels. Don't interfere with other channels. You can do this per-building or for the whole town if it's small enough.

Actually, don't, since that would cost too much for the little benefit you would gain.

Put just a few converters in each building and have a remote switch to pick your digital channel and analog channel.

This is the box you're looking for (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829362)

http://www.vecima.com/products.php?line=1026&item=1083

It does the digital to analog conversion in one spot, and is used to handle doing so for large buildings such as hospitals or apartment blocks.

Re:This is the box you're looking for (5, Informative)

KnightElite (532586) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829618)

Logged in as non-AC and updated with an actual clickable link:
http://www.vecima.com/products.php?line=1026&item=1083 [vecima.com]

Disclaimer: I work for Vecima networks, but this system does do exactly what you want, and is already being used in that capacity in many other places, including some hotels.

Cut the cable (-1, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829364)

Why does a city government need cable TV in the first place? Save the tax payers some money and get rid of it.

Re:Cut the cable (3, Informative)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829438)

If you bothered to read the complete submission, you would have noticed it's free to their municipality due to an existing agreement.

"Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982."

At this point, he's trying to stop from using taxpayer money to pay for and run the cable boxes. Hence the point of the submission.

Re:Cut the cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829556)

No. What the hell are city employees doing watching TV. Shut them off and get back to work you leeches.

Re:Cut the cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829444)

Nicely done on reading:

OP: " Being a municipality, we are entitled to ree expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982."

Keyword is FREE, ie, not spending any tax payer money

Re:Cut the cable (1, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829578)

It is spending taxpayer money. In fact, it's making Comcast into a private tax collection agency. Comcast gets an exclusive deal, allowing them to price their service above the rate that a free market would define and the government gets services provided.

Re:Cut the cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829462)

Why does a city government need cable TV in the first place? Save the tax payers some money and get rid of it.

From the article:

Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

They're not spending tax money on it, and he's trying to avoid spending tax money on $3 a month converter boxes all over the place (as well as the electricity to power them.)

Re:Cut the cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829468)

Maybe you missed the part about how it's FREE:

Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

Re:Cut the cable (5, Interesting)

alangerow (610060) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829474)

In the summary it says: "Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982." Ditching basic cable will save the tax payers a whopping $0. Comcast signed a deal ... their town granted Comcast a monopoly on cable infrastructure, in return for free service. Now, it looks like the municipality is learning the joys of monopolies. They don't like Comcast's new policies, yet their own policies prevent competition from stepping in and offering them a solution. Now, they have to come to Slashdot for help.

Re:Cut the cable (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829576)

crap, mis-modded you redundant so this post fixes that :-(

Re:Cut the cable (3, Insightful)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829476)

Reasons for TV in a City:
City/Police/Fire - Weather Disasters
Fire - 24 hr shifts.

Re:Cut the cable (2, Informative)

Adaeniel (1315637) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829496)

The following was stated in the description of the problem:

Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

They are not 'paying' for the cable TV.

Re:Cut the cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829506)

RTFA. They get the cable TV for free.

Re:Cut the cable (1)

Trolan (42526) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829514)

As he noted, they have free basic as part of their franchise agreement with Comcast, so there's no out-of-pocket from the city budget for this service.

As to why they need TV: on-duty firefighters between calls, idling in the station, waiting rooms in city offices, conference rooms with local/national news, TVs displaying city meetings over the city channel, etc.

Re:Cut the cable (1)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829528)

Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

From the summary.

Re:Cut the cable (4, Insightful)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829540)

Enough of this shit. I want my cops & fire department on break to feel like they're well-trained and compensated, trusted professionals, not slave-wagers in the "all your base are belong to the company man" plan. (Also, I want tough and transparent oversight.) Otherwise you get the TSA.

Re:Cut the cable (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829622)

Why does a city government need cable TV in the first place?

Well, if they're like my small town, it's very handy to have the regional (and cable only) news network available to the police, fire, and other emergency during severe weather conditions. This lets them both learn about conditions across the region, but what other cities in the region are doing. During winter severe weather, it's handy to make sure school closures and shelter openings information is going out properly (on local news providers). I.E. as a backup and supplement to the official channels.
 
Plus, he specified it's in the fire stations, where it will also provide entertainment during off-times.
 

Save the tax payers some money and get rid of it.

If you actually bother to read TFA, they get it for free. (I wish my town had been so far sighted.)

IPTV over Multicast (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829376)

What you want is IPTV over multicast. A number of universities have done this - one is the University of Wisconsin at Madison [wisc.edu] , which has a pretty bare bones approach using IP multicast and Apple Quicktime. They are also pretty good about giving technical clue if you run into trouble and ask nicely. If you want to spend more money, there is the HaiVision Video Furnace [haivision.com] , which is used by, e.g., Brown University [brown.edu] .

I have no idea if your contract with Comcast will let you do this, but I believe that the Universities do it by restricting use to only people on campus, so you might be able to do the same.

DCR? (1)

DenaliPrime (6153) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829386)

Do the TVs you use say they are "Digital Cable Ready" or that they have a QAM tuner?

How to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829404)

You need one converter per channel that you need, plus one modulator. The converter provides analog output to the modulator, which puts the analog on the output channel.

You also need splitters and combiners, along with the cable to interconnect them all, and it's a good idea to use un-occupied channels for the modulators. (That's *real* channels, not "fake" digital channels. No channel under 6 is "real").

                                                        -> modulator ->
Cable -> splitter(s) -> modulator -> combiner -> your internal cable system.
                                                        -> modulator ->

Cable companies use lots of modulators around here, where many cable subscribers continue to use their old sets. They're going to become common on the used market, as other companies do what your cable company is doing. Also available online.

Good luck - and I'm sure there's someone in the tech department at Comcast who knows this stuff.

Good riddance to analog cable (-1, Troll)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829414)

It's actually very good that Comcast is doing this since it allows them to speed up internet access. Analog cable takes too much bandwidth. NYC recently allowed the cable companies here to shut down analog and it couldn't have come too soon.

Re:Good riddance to analog cable (1)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829534)

A Very selfish attitude. "Give ME fast internet and to $%^ with those poor people who have old TVs"

Re:Good riddance to analog cable (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829612)

digital cable boxes will work just fine on old CRT TV's. all they do is understand a different signal. and in NYC digital cable has been the same price or cheaper for years. only reason people stuck with analog is the ability to use pirated boxes that get every channel

A-to-D Converter won't work (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829418)

Let me get this straight, you have 32 Analog TVs and a Comcast is going digital. So you need D-to-A converters, i.e. Digital (Comcast) to analog (TVs) converters. Am I missing something?

Cable feed... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829430)

Since all the other users are fed from your town hall, why feed them comcast cable?
Receive comcast at the townhall, and then transmit analog cable down the lines to all your other locations?

Most hotels do this, they have a single feed into the building and then handle their own feeds into all the sets via various methods (some hotels use iptv for instance).

No Set Top Box == QAM or CableCARD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829432)

QAM [wikipedia.org]
CableCARD [wikipedia.org]

Solution (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829434)

You tell Comcast you want the boxes at no charge, or you'll be in touch with the city attorney. Electrical consumption is negligible next to the television that is displaying the signal.

Re:Solution (1)

anotherdjohnson (1239132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829570)

While I agree that the amount of power used by the box is negligible compared to the TV when it's on, the TVs are probably off a good amount of the time (especially at the schools), and so the amount of power the boxes use suddenly becomes more significant.

Quit your Gripe'n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829446)

And welcome to the "real world" the rest of us have had to deal with. FCC mandated an OTA (I know, not cable) change from analog to digital some time back. All us "normal" folks had to get boxes - add them to our "TV stacks". In spite of "coupons" from the Uncle Sam (Obama's stash?), many of us still had to drop coin to maintain a current level of functionality. (ie. No ROI on this deal, if you conveniently ignore the plan for public safety spectrum).

I run into this mentality every frack'n day. Municipalities and their employees who feel that somehow they deserve "special" treatment because they're "the City". I can see now why some shops won't do business with municipalities. Damn near as bad as trying to do business with some churches.

What on earth does city hall need with all those TVs on the wall anyway? How about patching a few potholes instead of staying up to date on , eh? If they're in the jail - been to Arizona lately?

Another solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829484)

Any way these boxes can be mounted behind the TVs? I work for a cable company (not Comcast) and our Motorola models are the size of a small cable modem. They can usually be angled somewhat so the IR sensor is still in range.

Hotel solution? (1)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829508)

Surely your town has a hotel. Every hotel I've stayed in for the last 15 years (mostly Hampton Inns) has had an analog TV with a fancy remote that looked like a digital interface. Once I saw "rain fade" revealing it was Dish Network behind the covers. If you have credentials to prove you work for the municipality, stop by a few hotels and ask if you can see the equipment that drives their TV system.

And while I'd think it would be nice to cancel the cable and save the town some cash (like another poster suggested), I would expect the fire department to have cable to keep the firemen sane. Well, as "sane" as you can get and still run into a fire.

Doesn't sound free to me (1)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829510)

If Comcast agreed to give you free cable then I say they should give you free cable. If they are not honoring their 1982 agreement then maybe you could threaten to break that agreement. Try to see if some slightly less evil cable company can come in with a new franchise agreement that includes actual free cable to older government tv's with analog sets. Maybe those other companies will just give you the digital box for free?

Maybe you need D-to-A converters (1)

hashish16 (1817982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829512)

Seeing that the input signal is DIGITAL cable and the output is Analog TVs, I would start with D-to-A converters and not A-to-D.

In addition to the technical solution (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829526)

Being a municipality, we are entitled to free expanded basic cable as a part of the franchise agreement back in 1982.

Sounds like you may need to have a quick chat with your city's lawyer about whether Comcast is trying to do an end-run around that agreement. That section may make your problem their problem instead.

Comcast did this in our area as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829536)

For those who know nothing about it, check out comcast.com/digitalnow

From what I understand, they are still going to allow your old analog cable tuner to tune into channels 3 to 30 (at least in our area, yours may vary.)

All other channels are being compressed into a digital stream, to take less cable bandwidth, and will be converted on a channel by channel basis by these Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs). You need 1 DTA on each TV you don't have a cable box on IF you want to watch channels above 30. You are now allowed 1 cable box and 2 DTAs free of charge, with each DTA costing $1.99 per month.

This saves them bandwidth for other things (on demand, cable internet, etc.) and essentially upgrades their bandwidth and network without any new hardware along the way.

I believe this is what your looking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829542)

http://www.rldrake.com/catv-hospitality.php [rldrake.com]
These are essentially units that pull in all the data at once and allow you to redistribute it without the encryption on the signal.

Is nobody watching football (soccer) right now??? (-1, Offtopic)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829544)

For those who haven't made the switch yet - it's 0:0 to Spain.

Yes, you can do that, but you don't want to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829552)

You would basically have to build your own cable head end, where there is a digital receiver (the D-to-A boxes, so to speak) for each channel you want in your cable system, a modulator per channel which takes the (baseband) output from the receiver and modulates it onto a channel, and a multiplexer which takes the modulated channels and combines them. That signal is then distributed like normal cable. You can take the original signals from digital cable or you can get them by satellite. This is all going to cost more and use more power than just 32 converter boxes. When you next replace the TVs, get ones with integrated digital tuners. Until then, get D-to-A boxes, but buy them instead of renting them.

Call the lawyers for a chat... (5, Informative)

mhkohne (3854) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829554)

If the franchise agreement really says you get expanded basic in exchange for them getting the franchise, then I'd have a word with the township's lawyers. Depending on how the deal is stated, it's probably Comcast's problem to make this work, not yours. I suspect that if the town's lawyers had a word with Comcast's lawyers, then someone in Comcast's engineering department would sort things out right quick.

headend (1)

disciple8959 (1141583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829574)

If all of the cable feeds for the other buildings run back to city hall, why not make city hall a mini headend with X number of cable tuners that are each tuned to one channel, then mux that signal into the cable feed to service the analog TVs. Blonder Tongue is a manufacture that we use at my work place.

Personal CATV system? (1)

KC1P (907742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829604)

Remember back a couple of years ago when the cable industry ran those ads (on Comcast here in W. Mass.) reassuring us all that we didn't have to worry about all this digital nonsense because they had our backs? And here we are a short time later, where they've deleted 3/4 of the channels and reduced the signal quality of what's left. Thanks a ton guys, and you're welcome for all that money I've sent you over the years. I refuse to get their digital box because I don't want Comcast always knowing what channel I'm watching (the one good thing about analog TV is privacy!), and anyway their cheapest digital plan is 3x the price of basic (analog) cable and wouldn't work with my DVRs.

One of my DVRs does have a digital tuner and it picks up *nothing*. Everything is either "Scramble Program" or else a blue screen -- not the one my TV generates on no signal and I don't *think* the DVR does either -- so is Comcast really broadcasting a blue screen 24/7 on the unencrypted channels? Seems a little spiteful even for them.

ANYWAY -- does the town's free cable deal include free broadband? Maybe this has already been done but if not it might be a really interesting project (even if it's not practical for a town): put together a box which decodes video off Hulu/etc., not just into a single NTSC video-out (there are plenty of boxes for that), but with RF modulation to the usual CATV channel numbering system so you could use it to drive a local piece of cable (within a school), and put in a schedule of which videos get played at what time on which channel. That way you could keep your existing TVs and not have to put a 20-watt set-top-box on each one.

Cable TV changes going on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32829608)

If you are interested in following what's going on, the AVS forum (www.avsforum.com) is a great place.

What is happening is that "SDV" (switched digital video) is coming. What it amounts to is that only the selected channel is sent to the box. This frees up bandwidth for more services and channels.

I _DO NOT_ speak for Comcast, just have been following this for 2-3 years. They have a policy of keeping the local HD channels in "clear QAM". Thus, your digital tuner (if QAM is included, pretty certain since 2007 or so) will get your local channels. The conversion is happening gradually, not just with Comcast, but with TW and Charter too.

For folks with BASIC, they provide, as I remember, a 2-13 converter to analog. AIUI, the TV does all of the tuning. Local HD via QAM is there.
For folks with EXPANDED BASIC and higher services, they provide a tuner box and remote control. Tuning is done by the box. Local HD via QAM is there.
For folks with HD, they provide a tuner box and remote control. Tuning is done by the box. HD follows the channel numbers in most newspaper listings and goes above 200. Nothing above 200 relates, AIUI, to any frequency, just to their own policies ... IOW, 2 different cable systems in different towns could have the same TV channel (say 21 for example), on different places, say 733 in one town and 744 in another.

When you have the franchise agreement, I suspect they maintain that your box will be free. I doubt they will pay your power bill . Keep us posted.

Here in Greenville County SC schools, Charter has put multiple (I _THINK_ 8) receivers in a rack. The receivers can be set for which channel they get. The school video distribution system can select which receiver goes to which locations. I believe that, at present, it is SD on channel 3, kinda like VCRs of old.

Being ridiculous (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829614)

Of all the objections to make, this one is silly:
'Do you know how much electricity is going to be needed for each box?'

Cable boxes run pretty warm, but nothing compared to almost any sized CRT TV.

I'm assuming you don't have LCDs or plasmas hung on the walls, since most of them have included Clear QAM support since their prices became reasonable.

If you want encrypted channels (basically anything other than the broadcast networks), you need a cable box, period. (Yeah there is CableCard, but CableCard was an epic failure and CC-ready TVs are rare. You still need to rent the card anyway.)

If you want to have your TVs able to individually tune channels, you either need to switch to Clear-QAM-capable TVs (and forgo encrypted channels) or give in and get boxes. If you don't need individual tuning, a single box and then an analog distribution network will do the job. However this might prove more expensive than just getting a bunch of boxes until the TVs get replaced.

Campus Cable systems... (1)

iccaros (811041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32829632)

You will most likely need a few signal combiners, and few boxes as source and a distribution switch. you will need one box per channel you want to broadcast to your tvs. of course you can time share, example from 1pm - 4pm channel 3 is cnn and the rest of the time is another channel. but this will require planing and probably cost more up front than just using a box at each TV, but in the long run you would be able to handle changes better than you do now with what I assume you are just amplifying and routing the raw cable to each TV. something like this http://www.campuscablesystems.com/system.php [campuscablesystems.com]
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