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Are You Being Cheated by Digital Cable?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the every-bill dept.

Television 291

Lauren Weinstein writes "Even though your cable company may claim that a channel is in a digital tier that you're paying for, they may be sending it to you in analog form, with associated negative effects. Surprise! Are You Being Cheated by Digital Cable? 'You're paying for digital, you should get digital. Outside of the lower video and audio quality that can be present on many analog feeds, third-party devices (like cableCARD TiVos) which could otherwise record a digital signal directly, will be forced to re-digitize an analog signal, with inevitable quality loss in the process. But how to know for sure if a channel is digital or analog as received?'"

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291 comments

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Very interesting ... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621719)

and it doesn't surprise me ... I finally dumped cable because too many channels came in looking like fuzzy analog channels, even though they were supposed to be all digital.

Re:Very interesting ... (0, Offtopic)

freyyr890 (1019088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621741)

This is the first comment. How is it redundant?

Re:Very interesting ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621791)

Because it contributes nothing to the conversation and content-wise is only half of a step above 'me too'.

xoxo
-Your Friendly Nieghborhood Moderator.

Re:Very interesting ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621809)

I agree, that comment did little more than restate part of the summary and didn't add anything to the discussion.

We definitely don't want comments like that on Slashdot.

Re:Very interesting ... (5, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622311)

I second that.

Re:Very interesting ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622513)

me too

Re:Very interesting ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621907)

It sounds like somebody peed in a certain moderators Cheerios this morning.

I'll give a hint to future moderators on how to fairly moderate. If it is interesting, insightful, funny, etc., then moderate it as such. If it is redundant (consult a dictionary if necessary) then moderate it as such. If it is a troll or flamebait then moderate it as such. If you don't like the content and feel that you need to be a content policeman--then go fuck yourself and stop moderating.

Re:Very interesting ... (2, Interesting)

patrixmyth (167599) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621775)

Lucky me, I know my cable is digital because instead of static, I get freeze frame, skipped frames, and cube shaped anomalies on the picture. I'd rather have a little static, please. As for the cable provided "DVR", I'd be better off with a programmable remote and a double deck VCR set on extended play recording. Why do I keep it? Actually, since moving and packing away my two Directivos, I have lots more time to read and don't find I really miss having 18 hours of programming recorded daily. If I REALLY want to see something, I go through the 8 steps to make it record every Wednesday, and if it records an hour of black screen (which happens roughly 20% of the time, I'm really not the worse for wear.) Hey, it made me miss the "Britney VMAs", so that's a plus right there.

Re:Very interesting ... (5, Insightful)

Maller (21311) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621975)

Why does everyone assume digital means better? In my experience "fuzziness" with cable is usually cause by horrible wiring (no grounding, split many times, etc.) within a house/apartment, not an inherently bad signal. Cable companies still have a significant portion of their customers using the analog signals because they either don't have digital cable or have more than one TV but don't want to have multiple cable boxes. Thus, the analog signals tend to be relatively clean. The purely digital channels, on the other hand, look to be encoded at such a low bitrate that one can easily see macroblocks continuously.

Shocking? (3, Funny)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621721)

Does this surprise anyone?

Re:Shocking? (0, Redundant)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621779)

Replied the same time as the first guy. So how is this redundant?

Re:Shocking? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621825)

For the same reason the first guy was marked redundant. It contributed nothing more than "me too".

Re:Shocking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622095)

I agree.. I mean me too.. nm

old news (2, Insightful)

zof888 (1149007) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621753)

this message brought to you by direct TV and dish network, losing signal from thunder storms and tree branches for over a decade!!! Seriously this was news like a decade ago.

Re:old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622283)

news from 1997... in ten years after digital cable is invented, the cable companies will just continue to send analog and call it digital.

Re:old news (3, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622317)

Your post reminded me of the stupid TV commercials from a while back that featured "humorous" do-it-yourself satellite installations gone awry: a dish balanced on the top of a bookshelf or duct-taped to a cinder block, a hole bored through a tree to improve reception, or featuring the same football game on every TV in the house. And satellite advertisements claiming their over-compressed digital signals were somehow magically better simply because they were digital.

Both cable and satellite providers effectively called their viewers "idiots" with these spots, yet they continued to run them. I found their race to be the lowest common denominator personally offensive. (Almost like a political campaign.)

Re:old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622877)

I expect many commercials to be stupid. However, the cable vs satellite commercials are the only ones I can remember that insulted me with their stupidity (especially the ones for Comcast cable). I find them more offensive than political campaigns because I expect to be insulted by politicians.

If you can't tell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621789)

If you didn't notice anything was wrong, who cares?

Re:If you can't tell... (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622293)

If you didn't notice anything was wrong, who cares?

It doesn't matter if they can tell the difference. They signed a contract agreeing to digital cable and they're not getting it.

At the very least it means they could be paying $xx less a month for the same thing. Not to mention the cable companies committing fraud and using false advertising.

Audio (2, Informative)

thebear05 (916315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621797)

The point about audio is very important the digital picture quality does vary mine is somewhat close for sd programming but the audio quality that goes to a receiver from the digital channels vs the analog channels is night and day in my market some networks are digital some are analog and the difference is very noticeable. I assumed using optical or coax from my cable box to my receiver all the content would be at least digital stereo not only available through the rca jacks in an analog format.

Re:Audio (1)

kakalaky (902350) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622035)

Not here. I just don't get a signal on the digital audio outputs if the channel is not digital.

Re:Audio (2, Funny)

duck0 (1073338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622433)

Holy semicolon, Batman! I'm out of breath after just a few words!

Re:Audio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622521)

Doesn't make jack shit a difference if the cable in your house is age-old copper 59 or the like. Most cable companies would rather "use it if it works" then spend hours rewiring your entire house.

Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621805)

We have cable (Tivo HD with 2 cableCards, plus an MCE for our XViD movies and playing DVDs) and we're transitioning away quickly. Our cable bill is ridiculous, and more often than not, we'll download torrents of shows we want to watch rather than wait for them to be recorded by the Tivo.

Honestly, I'd rather pay a la carte for shows we like than deal with the cable mess. A la carte would mean better handling of their massive bandwidth, and a better distribution of proceeds for shows. No need for Nielsen when advertisers will know exactly who is buying what.

I think we'd honestly pay $5 for a 30 minute show -- what does it cost in our time preference to sit down for 30 minutes? I'd pay less with ads. If we liked the show,we'd pay for an annual subscription -- giving shows the chance to continue even without massive ad-funding (see: Firefly).

With our 8-12Mbps Comcast Internet (not oversold in our neighborhood, yet), we download moves quickly enough to make it worth the wait. If we like the movie, we'll buy it, but I have no problem reimbursing even without a physical medium to save it.

I can't figure the TV distro system out, really. Sure, the powers-that-be are paying millions (or more) to keep the monopoly they have, but as the next generation ages, I'm sure the old system will hit the toilet, to be replaced by what? Hopefully more a la carte.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (3, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621937)

I think we'd honestly pay $5 for a 30 minute show [...] I'd pay less with ads.

A 30 minute show, without ads, is a 21 minute show.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622059)

A 30-minute show sans ads is a 17.5-minute show. Sometimes.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622063)

so 3.5$?

heh.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (3, Insightful)

jim3e8 (458859) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621999)

Transitioning to what? Illegal downloads? Cable is too expensive compared to simply stealing the stuff?

What you're saying, I hope, is that for now you're willing to be behind on your shows, and you'll instead buy or rent entire seasons on DVD, or just stick to rented films, until legal downloads / a la carte cable becomes available. I'd suggest iTunes at well under your $5 an episode target, but I assume this is too low-quality for you.

Or maybe you'll just steal it.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622159)

How about broadcast TV?

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

jim3e8 (458859) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622409)

You're right, that's certainly an option and if you can get HD broadcast, it'll probably look a lot better than cable anyway.

It sounded like the parent poster watched non-broadcast channels, though.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622443)

If you live near a big city, you can probably get a decent number of HD channels over the air. I get about 10 and they all look 5 times better than any channel the cable company offers. Cable companies compress the hell out of their HD signals.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622309)

This is insightful? He sounds like he's trolling.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

jim3e8 (458859) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622429)

No, not at all, and I don't see why it would be construed as such. I just think you should find legal ways to obtain content, or boycott it if the available options are unacceptable.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622349)

I transitioned from Cable to Netflix. Now I get my shows a season late but I watch them when *I* feel like it and I save at least $30 per month.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

glindsey (73730) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622387)

If my Tivo records an episode of Heroes on NBC, and I fast-forward through all the commercials, how is this different from my downloading a torrent of the last episode of Heroes? Or if I watch a syndicated rerun of Stargate SG-1 on a broadcast station, again, how is this different from grabbing a torrent and watching it?

If they're already providing the show to me for free, it shouldn't matter if I'm getting it for free via some other source. Maybe they can pull some legal bullshit about it being a "derivative work" since the torrent will have the commercials edited out, but other than that, it's the same thing, for the same price.

Now if you're talking torrents of cable shows, then yeah, maybe there's an argument to be made. But otherwise you can just STFU about how grabbing a torrent of something that is already available for free is "stealing."

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

jim3e8 (458859) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622477)

Now if you're talking torrents of cable shows, then yeah, maybe there's an argument to be made. But otherwise you can just STFU about how grabbing a torrent of something that is already available for free is "stealing."

In fact, I was talking about torrents of pay cable shows, and that is precisely the argument.

Neither the parent nor I mentioned broadcast, and it's a safe assumption that if your cable bill is outrageous, you're not just watching local broadcast on it. And if you're already getting it for free, it has nothing to do with your outrageous cable bill, anyway.

I'm not sure why you used Heroes, as it's a bad example--being not only available for free over broadcast, but even officially available online.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (0, Flamebait)

jotok (728554) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622457)

First, you need to learn the difference between "theft" and "violation of access controls."

Second, I pay for cable and regularly download shows that I miss.

Think about it: You pay for Comedy Central. They show South Park. You missed it last night, but you can just download it from somewhere. Comcast is not losing revenue, especially since I also paid for their internet service to download the episode.

Now, they believe that what I'm paying for is the right to view shows on their schedule. This is bullshit, and I see nothing wrong with going elsewhere for content for which I've already paid (read: I may get the DVD for the sake of convenience or to support a show I like, but otherwise, yeah, I'm going to go "steal" it).

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

jim3e8 (458859) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622515)

Second, I pay for cable and regularly download shows that I miss.

Yes, exactly. You pay for cable. The parent indicated he was "transitioning away" from cable, at which point I would hope he would stop torrenting non-broadcast shows.

I have no problem with your argument, as it's not related to mine.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622175)

I think we'd honestly pay $5 for a 30 minute show

I'd rather wait and buy the season box set that's mine to keep indefinitely for less than half that much a few months later: $5 x 24 eps/season = $120 while box sets often retail for less than $50.

With our 8-12Mbps Comcast Internet (not oversold in our neighborhood, yet)

If you knew the insides and outs of bandwidth oversubscription, you would know there is no such thing as non-oversubscribed bandwidth. Congestion between your modem and the head-end is easily cleared by reallocating upstream/downstream channels within your HFC node. If Comcast does a proper load-balancing job, you should never (or very rarely) notice any bottlenecks between you and Comcast's servers. At the higher network tiers, bandwidth is more closely tied to static physical links and it is when these links start struggling that ISPs start kicking (ab-)users off their networks and rejig their ToS - it is the simplest* and most cost-effective* way of maintaining the illusion of non-oversubscription for the rest of the user base.

(* assuming the ISP does not get class-actioned or other legal troubles over the legality of changing the ToS for existing subscribers on an on-going service contract.)

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622325)

I think we'd honestly pay $5 for a 30 minute show

Currently there's Sanctuary [sanctuaryforall.com] which has 15 min webisodes (say 14 less intro, no ads, credits in pdf) which in bundles work out to about $3.30/21min content which is what you get in a 30 minute show. More like $4.50 if you want 30 mins of content, but then it's a 45-50 minute show.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (2, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622541)

The down side of ala carte is there are no guarantees so it's a major risk to produce content. When they do a series say Firefly there's a major investment in just doing the first episode. Generally they can't repay the first episode with one showing so they do it by getting an 8 to 12 episode guarantee. If there's no guarantee of a return then they'll be hesitant to do a pilot let alone a season's worth. Without a guaranteed time slot they have to heavily advertise so people will even know about the show. It means more money not less. Commercials suck and there's too many of them on current television but commercial contracts and guaranteed broadcast slots make producing a series possible. Sure some shows can be done that way but without guaranteed revenue most shows won't get made. One of the favored examples Firefly was considered a marginal show and was only produced because Joss had a solid track record so they were willing to take the risk. In an ala carte system they never would have taken the risk. Don't worry about producing numbers to show fans could have supported it. Go back in time and assume you'd never heard of Firefly. Will you put money up sight unseen to promise to buy the show without seeing an episode? Studios finance pilots all the time and few get produced as a series. I understand people think an ala carte system will save them money but the truth is radically less content will be produced and some of the things not produced are likely to be the next Firefly. The system is broken but there's no ideal solution.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622733)

I can't figure the TV distro system out, really. Sure, the powers-that-be are paying millions (or more) to keep the monopoly they have, but as the next generation ages, I'm sure the old system will hit the toilet, to be replaced by what? Hopefully more a la carte.
Maybe it's because you have a poor grasp of math?

I think we'd honestly pay $5 for a 30 minute show -- what does it cost in our time preference to sit down for 30 minutes? I'd pay less with ads. If we liked the show,we'd pay for an annual subscription -- giving shows the chance to continue even without massive ad-funding (see: Firefly).
Your setup looks pretty high end--at least, it's HD and you have two CableCards. My assumption is that you watch quite a bit of TV.

Most seasons are 22 episodes long. 22*$5 = $110. Assume 12 shows (the average American watches something like 4 hours of TV a day so this isn't unreasonable--in fact, it's probably lowballing it), and we're at $1440 per season.

Around here, at least, the extended cable package (without premium channels like HBO) is around $60/mo. For 12 months, that's $720/year. Almost half. Adding HBO, Showtime, etc. tacks on about $30/mo, bringing it to 1080/year.

So I guess that you're right--the powers that be don't get it at all. They should be milking the hell out of people like you who are willing to pay up to twice as much for their shows.

I'm not passing judgement, but I am genuinely curious to know the general area you live in where cable costs so much more. I live in a town where we have a single provider, so aside from satellite, it's a monopoly. That generally causes prices to /increase/, but maybe we're just lucky and it's lower.

Re:Got cable, but slowly transitioning... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622753)

Just rechecked my math, and I obviously got it wrong--it's $1320/season in my scenario. Apologies, but it really doesn't affect the discussion in this case.

On Comcast it's easy (4, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621821)

On Comcast it's easy to tell analog from digital feeds: on digital cables the S/PDIF signal is present, on analog feeds it is not, so on the analog feeds I need to switch my audio receiver to use the line-level input instead of digital.

Re:On Comcast it's easy (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622087)

I'm puzzled by the story submission. One major selling point on the cable provider side is that digital saves bandwidth or allows them to push more channels down the cable. What would have been one analog channel can be partitioned to maybe four digital channels instead, and still get good quality. Digitizing an analog signal doesn't save any bandwidth.

Re:On Comcast it's easy (1)

TClevenger (252206) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622881)

No, but it saves money on reception equipment. Our local Charter cable (San Bernardino mountains to Victorville) receives the local channels over a bent-up set of rabbit ears, and then digitizes them for its 'digital cable' service. At least, that's what I've surmised from the snow and static in the signal for those stations.

Analog is better here. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621859)

I don't know about other places, but the cable company here compresses their digital channels so much that they look worse than cable analog channels (although better than over the air). Furthermore, it is much harder to record digital channels using cable card than it is to record analog channels using a plain old tuner.

As far as I am concerned SDTV is just a means for the cable company to free up bandwidth for other purposes, not to provide better service. I could see pushing the cable company to ditch analog to improve your cable modem bandwidth, but not to improve TV quality.

Re:Analog is better here. (1)

Sventek44 (1096655) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621979)

I find the same problem for HD channels. Sure it's big and huge, and the resolution is better, but that can degrade quickly when it is so compressed. But the compression may not be all the cable companies fault. A lot satelite feeds are compressed to the point that the pictures looks horrible. I work for the local cable company, and can view the feed directly off the satelite, and it can still look bad.

But that being said, there is a limited amount of bandwidth and all the channels we expect to have take up a lot of space. HD is even worse, it eats up bandwidth and processing equipment.

But I shouldn't complain... I get it for free.

Re:Analog is better here. (4, Informative)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622335)

But that being said, there is a limited amount of bandwidth and all the channels we expect to have take up a lot of space. HD is even worse, it eats up bandwidth and processing equipment.

Bandwidth is not really a problem for HDTV: from what I read, most current HDDVD and BluRay titles are encoded at less than 10Mbps total. Since a DOCSIS modem can pull over 40Mbps from a single 6MHz NTSC channel bandwidth, a digital cable box should be able to squeeze at least three very good quality HD channels in the same bandwidth as one analog channel. With about 900MHz worth of usable downstream bandwidth on coax, there is room for up to 450 high-quality HD channels. Of course, about half of that spectrum is used by analog channels, SD/ED digital channels and cable-modems so there should still be room for 150-200 HQ-HD channels.

As for the processing equipment, the heavy-lifting is at the source where initial encoding is done and at the head-end if there is transcoding to be done. The rest is standard fare digital broadcast over an HFC network just like it is for all other digital cable broadcasts. Since head-ends already have quite a bit of equipment dedicated to each channel they support on their networks, having an extra transcoding/scaling unit in loops that require it is (usually) a minor hurdle.

Re:Analog is better here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622275)

I get the same for cable here in montreal, the comparison between digital and analog channels. except for over the air, depending on where you live in the city, those channels can be much better than any NTSC signals the cable company sends. Over the air has always been the best quality that could come from outside my home, unfortunately there are only a handful of channels but at least they play the daily show ota :-)

I'd just be happy to just get the channels . . . (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621871)

Seriously, with Cox Cable (digital) in Phoenix, Arizona, I notice that at varying times during the day, certain channels are just not accessible,... for example, CNN or Comedy Central or some other channel, will just blank out completely for a couple of hours, then come back later. It's kind of hard to file a report on this, since you call them saying CNN doesn't work, and when they finally send somebody out, it's working again. I haven't complained too much since I don't really give a flying fark if I can't see Anderson Cooper on CNN at some random time, but the moment it blanks Sci-Fi during Doctor Who, there'll be hell to pay (fortunately, this hasn't happened yet)!

Re:I'd just be happy to just get the channels . . (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622233)

I notice that at varying times during the day, certain channels are just not accessible,... for example, CNN or Comedy Central or some other channel, will just blank out completely for a couple of hours, then come back later.

I think that is just how cable is. Usually 99% reliable. When I had cable, every once in a while it would poop out. Sometimes just some channels. Sometimes a few minutes, and sometimes a few hours. I remember a few times they would skip parts of a movie, and then backtrack. It depends at least partially on where you live. Sometimes they might even mess up your favorite show. Fortunately, sci-fi shows, like Doctor Who, are easily accessible via bit torrent.

From my experience, 99% of the time when you switch the channel, that channel will be working fine.

Incessant whining! Argh! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621877)

Ummm, Lauren Weinstein, you might want to look this up to verify it for yourself, but if you have a full bandwidth NTSC signal as your input and convert it to digital, the result is poorer quality (even if you convert it to a high quality digital format with no compression). This is basic physics at work. Feel free to look it up and try to prove me wrong, you won't be able to.

Now, if we're talking about a signal that originates as digital, then converting it to analog will produce degredation. While a lot of stations might be broadcast this way, not all are. Your History Channel probably is. Your local news probably isn't.

If you are getting a crappy picture on the analog stations on your cable that originated as analog, you need to phone up your cable company and complain about the installation of your cable feed as it's not done correctly. There's plenty that are like this, so you're not in the minority. They'll either fix it, or you can live in the all digital world of satellite TV (Because it looks so much better in digital, right? VC-II+ customers are obviously insane!)

If you're getting a crappy picture on analog stations originating as DIGITAL, however, you should still call. It is unlikely the output from the CableCo's DAC is going to be bad enough to be perceptible by you or your TiVo!

Your excuse that your equipment sucks for the ADC on your part is really not the CableCo's problem; although their having sold you a (possibly) better quality signal for what they advertised as a shitty over compressed signal is technically false advertising (that would be the actual problem). However, when I get a Lexus for the price of a Corolla, I just keep my mouth shut. Feel free to do otherwise.

Re:Incessant whining! Argh! (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622245)

One of NTSC's weaknesses is poor color rendition. Given enough bandwidth, an SDTV stream's colors will be richer and more stable-- akin to those of a DVD. Of course, sufficient bandwidth is rarely supplied.

Most locals should be digital anyway---given that there's a FCC deadline.

Re:Incessant whining! Argh! (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622747)

The deadline has already come and gone. I forget when, but there was a low power compliance period and then a full power dead line. If I recall correctly, June was the deadline for full power ATSC transmission. There were very few exceptions granted or rather some stations may simply have not elected to stay in compliance.

The new deadline is the analog cutoff for full power licenses and that is about 2 years away. So at this point, if you can receive the NTSC signal of station then they should have a digital foot print to match.

There are not a horrible amount of guide lines as to what should be aired and as such the transmission could just be a simulcast of the analogue feed converted to digital. This at least gives a studio feed level of quality and it can be a bit of a jump.

However, a great deal of syndicated content still comes down over analog satellite transmission. So, surprise surprise, that SD ATSC feed simply eliminates the issues that crop up with the transmitter and your receiver.

All in all, the only shows that really benefit are those that travel along an all digital path. (This is gaining more ground with syndication, but it is still not the primary means of transportation for many shows.)

Re:Incessant whining! Argh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622873)

>Given enough bandwidth, an SDTV stream's colors will be richer and more stable-- akin to those of a DVD

That is true for a raw SDTV capture, if the colours are mixed with the signal on the analog and there is noise and attenuation present (this is likely, so you do win a point on that!)

However, DVD being an MPEG 4:2:0 profile means lots less colour definition than the theoretical maximum of raw SDTV. Here's [stason.org] the gory details. Specifically, brightness is given a 720 x 480 resolution, whereas colour is given a 360 x 240 resolution, meaning colour gets 1/4 of the pixels dedicated to it as brightness gets. Professional MPEG broadcasts (like you might pull off an uplink) are in a 4:2:2 profile, which returns the same number of lines of colour resolution as brightness (the most important thing is usually lines in a broadcast like this, although horizontal resolution matters, it is technically infinite in an analog signal and that means it's unquantifiable... and not worth oversampling! :D ). At the 1/4 mark, that is about the same as, or perhaps less than what NTSC's colour system [lonestar.org] can do with a combined colour carrier. Colour separated out and in a lab environment, NTSC analog still beats all NTSC digital simulations.

Compare a DVD to a laserdisc and you will see how the above actually does make a difference... :-) IIRC, some early Criterion Collection DVDs are captured from the Criterion Collection laserdisc, nothing more than a pure NTSC analog signal (or PAL, depending on what standard they are encoding for).

Re:Incessant whining! Argh! (3, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622375)

If you are getting a crappy picture on the analog stations on your cable that originated as analog, you need to phone up your cable company and complain about the installation of your cable feed as it's not done correctly.

I had this problem a few years ago and called the cable provider. The technician who came out identified a simple barrel connector in the cable demarc box was attenuating the signal by about 12 db instead of the expected 0.5 db. It took him just minutes to trace out the wires and replace the connector (he also replaced the cable ends while he was at it,) and it didn't cost me a cent.

So I agree that you should do a bit more investigation before calling shenanigans.

Look at the noise (4, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621883)

But how to know for sure if a channel is digital or analog as received?'

Look at the noise characteristics. Analog and digital respond to noise differently. Digital pixilates and stutters but otherwise displays a perfect picture. Analog ghosts and snows.

If you're not getting enough noise to tell the difference then smile and be happy because you have a better cable TV signal than most of the rest of us.

Re:Look at the noise (1)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622853)

I honestly can't believe that in this day and age you should be having to perform any manual switching at all.

quality (4, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621887)

I think the analog vs. digital argument is a bit off-target. The point isn't the type of signal, it's the quality. I've heard people complain about artifacting in their TV shows because cablecasters are using low bitrates or are cutting the S/N ratio too close. I'd much rather have a good analog signal to encode than a crappy digital signal even I could tap it directly.

How to know... (4, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621901)

But how to know for sure if a channel is digital or analog as received?'"

Begin unscrewing the coax cable from your cable box. As you very, very slowly pull it away, if the signal starts to fade/shows static/etc., it's certainly analog. If, instead, it suddenly goes from perfect, to black, it's digital. Also, in the latter case, it will probably start to show artifacts, perfectly square 16x16 pixel macroblocks that stand out in sharp contrast to the rest of the picture.

Easy all digital cable (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20621919)

I have ALL digital tv over cable. It's called bittorrent.

Comcrap is moveing all of the channles to digital. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621931)

Comcrap is moving all of the channels to digital in some area and if don't have a box you get the locals only.

first they started to move some there Local channels on basic to digital forcing to pay for a lot of other digital channels that people may not want just to get what they used to get and now this crap.

They want you pay per box or per cable card with little to no support for them.

Just wait for Ipv6 they will likely only give you 1ip and make you pay more too hook up more then 1 system on a per ip fee.

Re:Comcrap is moveing all of the channles to digit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622221)

Yeah, Charter in St. Louis is simulcasting all of the analog channels in digital, but they are taking away the analog channels one by one. G4 was the first to go, not that I miss it that much.

Clear QAM (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622259)

Use a Clear QAM tuner. You'll be able to get all stations on basic cable in digital, via your own tuner - not some cable box you have to rent.

It serves well to get local channels in HD even if you don't have good OTA HD reception, and you get a number of other channels as well.

You'll miss out on some premium content, like Discovery HD and other things. You can find other ways to get at those shows if you need to, from iTunes to torrents.

Who actually pays more for digital cable? (4, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#20621987)

I only wanted analog cable, because I have two Series2 TiVos, but I ended up getting digital cable because it's cheaper and still includes all the analog channels. (It's a promotional price, but I'm still saving $12/mo for N months.)

When the promotion expires, the price is only $1/mo more than plain analog cable. At that point, I'll give back the cable box -- it isn't even hooked up, but Comcast insisted I take one -- and save a buck a month by going back to analog.

See, when you sign up for digital cable, you're doing them a favor. They want you to have digital cable so that (1) you'll be tempted to buy On Demand movies, (2) you'll have to pay them to lease that godawful box, (3) you'll be tempted to pay for one of their DVRs because third-party ones don't fully work with the box(*), and (4) once everyone is a digital subscriber, they can switch off the analog feeds to free up bandwidth and sell you more services.

(* Yes, there are DVRs that accept CableCards, but they're prohibitively expensive, you have to pay for the cards, and we've all heard how much trouble it is to get a CableCard installed correctly.)

You're sure not helping yourself. Anyone who's ever used a cable box knows how much they blow. Changing channels is slow; and if you use a cable box with your own DVR, you can only record one channel at a time, your recordings will have cable-box banners all over them, and you'll have the ghettoest house on the block with that little infrared "blaster" dangling around.

And what do you get in exchange for that hassle... marginally better picture quality? Maybe not even that, because you're just trading analog noise for MPEG artifacts and blocking. Even if you do get a better picture overall, how long will that stay exciting? A week? After that, you won't notice the picture quality, but you'll be dealing with the drawbacks of digital cable forever.

Re:Who actually pays more for digital cable? (3, Informative)

benh57 (525452) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622261)

The new HD Tivo is not 'prohibitively expensive' at all. In fact it's the same price as your Series2 was. The OLD HD Tive was 'prohibitively expensive', though.

I think I'd prefer analog (4, Interesting)

BiggerBoat (690886) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622007)

I get so pissed off at compression artifacts (mosquito noise; banding; blocks in fast-moving, busy shots) that I think I'd *prefer* analog (this is probably a curse of too many years in video post-production where I was paid to notice problems in video). Back when I had analog cable, I almost never had the noise associated with over-the-air analog broadcasts, and of course I didn't have compression artifacts. Alas, that was a long time ago. It really annoys me when cable companies (and others) tout "digital quality!" as if that means anything by itself.

In fact, this is why I haven't bought into HDTV yet -- if I spend a couple grand on a TV and extra per month for HD channels only to see compression artifacts in high resolution, something's getting sent through the front window.

Hear, hear - S-VHS v DVD as well | More cheating (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622801)

Yes, DVD is convenient/etc. and I buy them aplenty. But the artifacts from the MPEG compression are sometimes simply teeth-gnashingly awful. Compare an S-VHS versus a DVD of movies with lots of water/ocean in them... Waterworld, Titanic, etc. I can nearly guarantee you that you'll prefer the S-VHS in terms of picture quality.. then hug the DVD because you can skip the awful, awful scenes (content-wise) in them.

That said, I'm sure the content mastering teams are to blame there. There's more than enough bits available to compress even the most difficult shots into perfectly good MPEG, switch to an all I-frame build-up if need be. But that actually requires them to do that work, and they tend to be too lazy. Having executives say "stick trailers for other movies, the leaders, the menus, 3 different audio languages, commentaries, cinematic trailer, making of, [voice fades as listing continues] .. onto the same DVD", cutting down the amount of space available to the actual movie, doesn't help.

HD-TV suffers from the same problem; Nobody tells the HD-TV broadcasters to actually use the bandwidth they have for a single show. They're perfectly welcome to splitit up into separate channels* and get multiple avenues for revenue; guess what they're more likely to do? So yes, you'll just get the same compression artifacts in high resolution.
(* http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/article.asp?section_id=82&article_id=2061&page_number=1&print_page=y [soundandvisionmag.com] )

nevermind 1 trillion spent in iraq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622017)

and the subprime lending scam artists that are getting off scott free, while the world economy goes down the toilet.

the real problem? digital cable! thank god for slashdot.

wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622315)

the real problem is apple locking linux out of the ipod. THINK OF THE CHILDREN

Minimum Bitrate Guarantee (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622079)

Around my area it's obvious Comcast is cutting bitrate on digital channels.
One might argue it's to squeeze more channels in the same space but I think the secondary premise is to make HD look better than it really is by giving people a lousy stream to compare against.

I really think there ought to be a declared minimum average bitrate for every audio/video format. (I also think 4:2:2 color should be the minimum. And many more things.) And there needs to be minimum guarantees for error correction.

DVD, IMHO, is still a pretty crappy format. You can fit maybe an hour per layer at the peak bitrate, and even then a professional MPEG2 encoder can barf on noisy video. Fitting a 6 hour VHS tape on a DVD just looks like blocky VHS.

By contrast, if you follow ATSC, you get over 19 mbit/sec, or only about double the peak DVD bitrate.
2x the bitrate either for 6x the resolution (1080i is a blocky mess) or up to 6 480i channels at 19/6 mbit/sec. And I'm sorry, but if I'm complaining about DVD's PEAK bitrates, no way 3 mbit/sec MPEG2 will cut it.

In this day and age of MPEG4 and especially the H.264 extensions of course it becomes a _little_ less painful to watch but you still have unique MPEG4 artefacts. (Namely, a certain blurry and pasty quality that H.264 exacerbates if you use the in-loop deblocking filter. Flesh tones never look quite right even on Blu-ray bitrates.)

So here I am complaining about the most modern codecs at 40 mbit/sec, and yet Comcast can deliver whatever crap bitrates they want. I want a minimum guaranteed quality so I know what I'm paying for.

Re:Minimum Bitrate Guarantee (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622939)

If you expect a digital cable provider to send you SD at better than DVD quality and you're complaining about H.264 at 40Mbps then I'm sorry to say that you're in the extreme videophile category and no cable company is going to give two hoots over what you want because 99.9% of the population isn't nearly so pedantic. Bitrate is also a poor quality guideline. Variation in the allowed bitstream features can easily vary the required bitrate for equal quality metric by a good 20%, and bitrate required to achieve a certain quality value (based on some metric) changes with the type of content being encoded (and varies much more). For broadcast you'll also find various encoders use very simple but predictable rate control methods, whereas media optimized for DVD/BluRay/HDDVD tends to be produced with more flexible rate control that in turn means equivalent overall quality can be reached with lesser average rate.

I would, however, agree that cable companies are artificially restricting the quality of SD content to sell more HD packages. This really ought to be illegal. If we're going to impose quality guarantees choose a metric with some meaning behind it with respect to quality - "You must achieve 32db PSNR or greater end-to-end for SD channels" or something similar.

pfft.... (1)

Cycline3 (678496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622101)

My cable is my MOST expensive bill... and I don't even like TV! But my girl can't live without it so.... but in general I'd sum it up as ... su$$s service and features for MAXIMUM OUTLAY of cash. Hmm..... I wouldn't doubt this at all....

Get a dish! (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622107)

DirectTV has much, much higher quality feeds than my local Time Warner affiliate. Or go to a bar that has a DirecTV setup and compare it to your experience with cable -- in my area, the DirecTV signal is always better.

Re:Get a dish! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622307)

Great! Now tell me how I can record satellite HD with a TiVo. (Hint: the answer is not a DirecTiVo, those only do MPEG and DTV is transitioning to H.264 for its HD streams)

Just ask... (1)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622183)

Here in DC Comcast doesn't keep any secrets: there's a range of analog channels, a range of digital channels, a range of HD channels, and so on. They're more than happy to let the customer which is which.

Antenna HD rocks (3, Insightful)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622201)

My antenna gives me what is really a wireless video stream of 19 Mb/s in MPEG-2.

It's not like in the age of BitTorrent that you really need to be beholden to the cable companies, unless you have a real need for college football or MLB.

Don't forget what uncle Milt Friedman taught us: people vote with their feet. If you don't like what the cable company is doing to you, get a dish, an antenna or just download the shit out of everything you want.

Between my antenna and BT I'm pleased as punch paying practically nothing for the few TV programs I bother to watch. As long as the NFL stays on local TV, I could care less. And MY HD is just gorgeous.

Re:Antenna HD rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622903)

s/the NFL/Hockey Night In Canada; s/local TV/CBC/; says your clone to the north

The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (5, Interesting)

teebob21 (947095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622237)

Disclaimer: As mentioned before, I do work for a cable company.

Americans can get their traditional TV through a number of different providers, but it boils down to just a few methods of delivery: direct from the broadcasters over the air, from a satellite, via fiber owned by a telephone company, or via a hybrid fiber/coax network owned by a cable company. Of these options, cable providers are caught in the crossfire of regulatory demands and consumers who don't know enough about the technology itself to know what they really want. You never hear these complaints about satellite/FTTH (FiOS), only because the nature of their medium requires all digital transmission. But is 100% digital always "better" for the consumer? The answer is clearly no, not always.

As I'll explain later, much of the FCC's time is spent regulating the coax providers to help the "smaller players". Really, now...AT&T and Verizon are small players? When will the FCC step in to help the smaller players in the landline voice business, such as Vonage and VOIP? (Hint: they won't.)

Cable has been the incumbent for so long that they have become the Microsoft of TV. If there is any complaining to be done, lets complain about the cable company. But as I said, most consumers don't know what they are complaining about. Let's look at the ramifications if every cable company switched to 100% digital tomorrow...which seems to be to be what people want. Let's do a step by step breakdown:

The infrastructure in most cable systems does not need a rebuild for digital, just a little headend work and some maintenence in the field to fix issues that will visibly affect digital but not analog (CPD, microreflections, etc...). So, BAM! Cable is all digital. What happens the next day?

Firstly, ALL TV's without a digital tuner go dark. Great-aunt Maryrose and Gramma Clara turn on their perfectly good 1988 Zenith, and get static. They now have to go buy new TV's to use cable service, because consumers demanded digital transmission. In fact, this WILL happen when the OTA conversion happens in 2009, but OTA viewers may get subsidized boxes. (It will be interesting to see the FCC enforce the separable security statute with that one.) Cable companies get to eat the cost. In fact, this week the FCC guaranteed that cable companies eat the cost for an additional 3 years. They mandated that all cable providers (coax based only) provide a viewable analog OR digital signal to all subscribers until 2012. Linkage (pdf warning) [fcc.gov] It would be easier to comply by sticking with analog signals for the mandate, but customers (and the FCC) are demanding digital broadcast.

"But wait," you say, "they can get a digital cable box and keep the older TV!" Well, sure, but then we get to hear about how the cable company is bleeding it's customers dry by charging for equipment. I call horseshit on this one. Cable companies charge an average $7.50 monthly lease fee for the box that costs them $300 upfront, plus maintenance and repair. In "only" 40 months of maintenance free operation of that box, the cable company breaks even. Yeah...that's certainly not what I would call milking the customer.

"Why can't they use a third-party box, like a TiVO?" you might ask. They certainly can but to access encrypted channels, the box will need CableCards, the abomination of technology that they are. I work in the billing department and since they are authorized through our billing software, I support and troubleshoot CableCARDs on a daily basis. They have potential, and would work SO much better if manufacturers would standardize on a set of firmware...but I'm diverging from the point. Besides, the bigger question is "WHY DOESN'T ANYONE ELSE MAKE A 3RD PARTY BOX?!" Personally, I think there is not currently a market for cable boxes. How much money did TiVO lose last quarter [google.com] ? Ah...only $17 million.

The other complaint is that cable companies advertise digital but you get analog. Ok, I admit, some MSOs must get a little shady on this one, but most don't. The example TFA of the CableCard that picks up analog History Channel (CH39) on digital channel 212 is something I have never seen in the field. At the same time, customers complain with a digital tuner because they don't understand the technology. "Whaaaah? Why is channel 470 really on CH 68?" (Or even better, 68.3) Truth is, there is NO channel 470 in the cable RF spectrum. [jneuhaus.com] Any channel in a cable lineup above 125 (usually above 100) is a virtual channel number that has no corresponence with the EIA channel it lives on. Customers just can't grasp that. You want digital; ok, but RTFM. Learn how it works and stop crying.

The same goes for complaints about recording on CableCard TVs. Sorry, mate, but that restriction comes from the manufacturers and the content providers. If you want to record every channel you subscribe to, and make copies and resell them...it will NOT be the cable company coming after you. We couldn't care less about recordings; we get paid for the service, not the content.

I can go on if you like, but hopefully you understand my point by now. Last-mile infrastructure in the cable word is ready for digital. Until the last-foot infrastructure of the system -- the customer's equipment -- is updated, there is no reason to push to a digital mode of transmission. Cable companies are caught in the catch-22 of being demanded by customers to provide digital signal, then foot the bill of making that signal watchable by all subscribers.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (1)

HairyNevus (992803) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622415)

If you were trying to paint the cable companies in a good light, you screwed up by calling them the Microsoft of T.V. (this is Slashdot remember). Oh, and your part about "there is no channel 470" totally blew my mind as I was watching HBO.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (1)

teebob21 (947095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622529)

I was merely trying to explain the position coax-based TV providers have been put in. I failed to expand on the Microsoft comparison, though. I had intended to add that just like Microsoft, cable companies get dragged through the mud even when actually trying to help the end user experience.

Then again, if cable = Microsoft, this would be Soviet Russia...TV watches YOU!

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (1)

jotok (728554) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622525)

That all sounds very reasonable. I have a whole 'nother world of complaints about cable companies, though, so I'm going to continue to dick them over with every opportunity.

What we need is true subscriber/a-la-carte programming. Can you explain to me why I have to pay $40 a month for cable...which then has advertisements? I'm pretty sure that we have the technology so that, say, if I JUST want to watch Stargate or Rome or South Park then I should be able to pay for specifically what I want. Hell, I would pay the same price if I could just stream the shows I want to see...without ads, that is.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (3, Interesting)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622699)

While I can relate to the bulk of your post, I just wanted to touch on one thing you mentioned:

Cable companies charge an average $7.50 monthly lease fee for the box that costs them $300 upfront

Maybe I'm crazy, but after several decades and millions upon millions of cable boxes having been manufactured and distributed, they want us to believe that those things cost more than 40 bucks up front? That's hard to swallow. I work in an industry that requires the assembly of customized electronics equipment and while the prototypes might cost $10,000 or more, the mass produced units are ALWAYS less than a hundred bucks. I have a feeling the cable companies are doing just fine for themselves on that equipment lease fee.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622815)

And then there are customers like me who have had the same cable boxes for 10 years. I've paid for those boxes several times over. Maybe a rent-to-own plan would be more fair.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (1)

romiz (757548) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622861)

"But wait," you say, "they can get a digital cable box and keep the older TV!" Well, sure, but then we get to hear about how the cable company is bleeding it's customers dry by charging for equipment. I call horseshit on this one. Cable companies charge an average $7.50 monthly lease fee for the box that costs them $300 upfront, plus maintenance and repair. In "only" 40 months of maintenance free operation of that box, the cable company breaks even. Yeah...that's certainly not what I would call milking the customer.

Your numbers are wrong.
A zapper box for broadcast digital TV is well below $50 in retail, and that's including the margin for way too many middlemen. Except the operation frequency range, and a more complex encoding on broadcast compared to cable, there's virtually no difference with a cable zapper box. As a mass buyer, the cable operator can get much better deals than retail, so yes, the cable operator is most probably milking its clients if it says it cannot provide a zapper box for its consumers with an old TV for $3 a month.

Re:The Catch 22 of being a cable MSO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20622961)

ok - I wear the other hat .... I design boxes and wrangle cable protocols - I get to see all the plants - there are indeed places where 470 maps to analog 88 or whatever - it's not common but it's not that rare either - there are even places where analog 66 maps to analog 88 etc

Usually it's a result of adding something to the lineup and '88' is already taken for a digital service, not wanting to upset the customers with a change they just remap stuff elsewhere - over time that sort of stuff just builds up. Remember a lot of plants these days are the result of the amalgamation of many small plants - each has it's own public access/city/even apartment building channels - some have 100s of channel maps on the one plant (HiTS of course has 1000s)

Does anyone still watch TV? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622255)

I woulda thunk that everyone on Sloshdat would only watch torrents with their c0mp00ters...

Missing the point (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622273)

If you can't tell the difference by watching it, who cares? Analog vs. digital is an implementation detail. Is the end product good video or not?

Re:Missing the point (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622331)

Misleading advertising is the point. The reality is that all so called "digital" products contain A/D conversation at more then 1 point in the chain. The problem is that cable company's are selling a product at a higher price, claiming it's something it's not.

Re:Missing the point (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622609)

In either case, what is fed to my televison (or PC TV tuner card) is NTSC, so either way it is low-def, and high-def doesn't make crappy shows any betters, so analog or digital to the converter box is fine by me. Want to know why I subscribe to digital cable? The guide. The guide is fantastic and I can browse the guide while the show is still displaying in the upper-right corner of the screen. I wouldn't care if the 300 channels or so I get were all analog, as long as I get a usable guide with the system.

HDTV? I have a few 1080i movies I bought in PC format to watch on my 24" monitor. I have to say that the difference is not enough of an improvement for me to dump a perfectly good NTSC television for HDTV any time soon. I will upgrade to a nice 1080i LCD television when my Sony 36" CRT dinosaur dies, but I watch television for entertainment and news, not pixel peeping. I have to be critical of illustrations and photographs at work. When I am home, I don't want to worry about it. I just want to enjoy what I watch.

Shove that up your advertising-hole, Adelphia. (0, Flamebait)

Jenerick (717200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622295)

Disadvantage: cable.

I'm pretty sure I'm being cheated, let's see: (2, Funny)

ChangeOnInstall (589099) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622321)

  • RST packets in my Torrents
  • 2gb/month Newsgroup Access Limit
  • $120/month to get an HD DVR, Cartoon Network, SciFi, and Comedy Central

Currently shopping for alternatives.

Re:I'm pretty sure I'm being cheated, let's see: (1)

teebob21 (947095) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622613)

I agree with you mostly, but it seems to me that 2/3rds of your complaints lies with the ISP. With the current trend of packet-shaping and bandwidth caps from almost all major ISP's, how is that the cable company's fault? They are no more or less guilty of these un-customer-friendly practice than other ISPs.

On your third point, my employer would charge just $62.50/mo for the options you've described. $42.50 for basic (includes 6 unencrypted HD channels: ABC/NBC/FOX/CBS/ESPN/ESPN2), $19.95 for the DVR. The actual DVR monthly cost is $10, plus $9.95 for digital access, which pays our expenses for the license fees for the on screen guide and the 42 music channels/5 extra HD's (A&E/Discovery/NatGeo/2 which I can't remember) which come included. That said, I don't know who your provider is, but maybe I can guess. Cough...Comcastcough!

Are you sure you didn't mean $120/mo for HDDVR + basic cable + Internet + (possibly) phone?

Re:I'm pretty sure I'm being cheated, let's see: (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622727)

$120/month to get an HD DVR, Cartoon Network, SciFi, and Comedy Central

You definitely are getting ripped off if you're paying $120/mo for that. I pay slightly less than $100/mo for the same plus HBO and Starz (don't care about Starz but it came with the package, but I keep HBO around for Big Love now that Sopranos is done). Are you sure you're not rolling in the cost of your internet connection as well? Either that, or you have multiple HD DVR boxes at $10/box.

Feel the signal. (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622361)

But how to know for sure if a channel is digital or analog as received?

I feel the cable to see if the signal is rough and bumpy, or smooth and wavy. Why, how do you do it?

Put out my Television in 1998 and did not regret. (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622629)

I lived in Germany the biggest part of my life. Sometimes in 1998 i decided that the quality of the TVC program has dropped so much that it is a waste of time and space in my room. I go to cinemas often and rent DVDs. Overall i would say that in the last 8 years i approximately watched 30 Movies per year in the cinema and maybe added another 20 Movies per year watching on DVD. Since a few years I enjoy to watch some video news on the internet and i can only say that this perfectly fits my needs. I was hoping for a long time now for online movie services, but they either dont work on linux or have a really crappy selection of b-movies.
I am willing to pay, however the service should work around the world (right now i am in Japan).

I do not understand why a thing like DVB exists. Multicast procotols in the internet have exactly the same advanages as cable digital television, but on the long term they will be cheaper. So i strongy hope that there will be a "IP over DVB" standard soon, because i will preferably buy services, which provide me an internet access of some kind, even if it is restricted and only uses IP this would be fine for me.

In my opinion Television as we know it anyway is as dead as it can be. Look at the media consumption among young people.

One of the many reasons (2, Interesting)

TheQuantumShift (175338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622749)

When I had digital cable with comcast, I used hdmi for audio and video. Regular cable channels (2-100) Were 480i mono sound. The "digital" channels (which actually looked worse) were 480i stereo. The only watchable channels were the 10 or so HD channels (5 of which I get free OTA). The absolute worse offender though has to be comedy central. I don't know who exactly to blame, but when I can catch low bitrate degradation on an analog station on an analog TV (It almost gave me motion sickness on the HD) it's really bad. Combined with the fact that I just can't find enough content I actually want to watch to justify the extra $70/month, I recently went cable free and couldn't be happier.

Both analog and digital? (2, Interesting)

Ambiguous Puzuma (1134017) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622817)

My cable company is Time Warner. As far as I can tell, all (or at least most) of the channels that are offered in analog format are also offered in digital format on a separate channel. Some are offered a third time in high definition.

Example:
Channel 27 = TNT analog (confirmed using analog-only TV tuner card)
Channel 401 = TNT digital (has visible artifacts when the signal is weak)
Channel 1827 = TNTHD

All three channels have the same programming at the same time.

If you can't tell.. (2, Insightful)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 6 years ago | (#20622849)

I'm not condoning actions such as delivering a channel in Analog that you are paying to receive in Digital, but my question to you as Devil's advocate is this: You ask how you can be sure you are receiving the channel in digital; if you can't tell the difference, can it really bother you that much?

And I'm not talking digital as in ATSC (HDTV), because there's really no way to fake that; I mean the regular cable channels that get broadcast in "digital" format but really there's not much difference.

Aikon-

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