[mythtv-users] Nasty shock with Comcast Chicago

Brian Wood beww at beww.org
Mon Feb 13 04:55:39 UTC 2006

On Feb 12, 2006, at 9:07 PM, Dewey Smolka wrote:

> Non-digital not really non-digital
> I don't know if anyone else has seen this, but it came as a nasty
> surprise to me.
> I signed up for Basic Extended service from Comcast Chicago (Zone NW
> 2&3). I told them on the phone several times while ordering that I was
> only interested in analog service, not digital, and that I had my own
> tuning devices and wouldn't need a converter.
> The tech came out to activate the line and the Comcast default channel
> (4) came up just fine going straight into my television. I didn't
> imagine there would be any problem since the analog channels would be
> open and I'd be able to tune them with my PVR-250 and/or television
> with integrated tuner.
> Only that didn't happen. Turns out it's a new thing with Comcast
> Chicago that only the Really Basic Channels are actually analog. The
> 'extended' channels (including all the ad-supported networks you
> watch) are actually digital, and you can't get them with your PVR
> cards without a converter box.
> The first call to Comcast after the installation got me a call-back
> from the tech, who explained that the extended channels were, in fact,
> digital even though I had asked for analog service. I wouldn't be able
> to get the channels without their converter. The one he left behind is
> the size of a briefcase and hums in B flat.
> The sticky part is that the 'extended' channels are not under the
> digital plans, and the work order the tech left behind called for a
> 'non-digital install'. I had asked for and been sold an analog package
> that was in fact digital. All the channels in question were 2 through
> around 90 or so. Analog bands.
> After maybe four calls to Comcast support, during three of which I
> made vague threats of calling the FCC and the Chicago Cable
> Commission, I finally got to speak to some actual managers. They
> couldn't give me a good answer why non-digital channels were actually
> digital other than that "the whole world's going digital".
> I complained that the whole reason why I had bought analog cable was
> so I could use my equipment to change the channels. Their converter
> box gave me no way other than the remote to set channels, etc. I
> They did, however, agree to give me one of their Motorola HD boxes
> with a serial port, firewire port and component outs for six months
> free (after it's $5/mo. I've got an HD set but no HD card; I do have a
> firewire card that I've never tried). They also agreed to refund the
> $50 they had charged for lighting the cable line, only there would be
> another install charge of $15 for the HD box.
> Not the best deal I know, but the Olympic Hockey starts on Wednesday
> and my wife will be extremely disapointed if I don't record all of
> Slovakia's games.
> Does anyone know if Comcast is actually allowed to do this? Can they
> sell a 'non-digital' service that is in fact digital, or to move the
> lower bands to digital at all? I know those broadcast bands are being
> squeezed out but broadcast isn't cable.
> The new box should get here Tuesday morning. How does one go about
> controlling through serial or firewire? I imagine I'll need the box
> model number but where would I find a driver or script that could set
> the channel?
> If I'm using firewire to send commands, can I also use it capture HD
> signals (assuming some are coming through) at the same time? How (in
> general terms)?
> I'm very curious if anyone else has seen this with his or her cable
> company. Is the usefulness of the analog tuner at an end?
> Just thought I'd share.

It's Deja Vu all over again. We all went through this when cable  
systems originally went beyond 12 channels and started using  
"converters" (well, those of us who were alive in 1492 anyway).

I seriously doubt that you have any recourse, legal or otherwise. I'm  
actually astounded that Comcast was as accommodating as they were.  
How they decide to deliver their channels is pretty much up to them,  
and going digital is a lot cheaper than re-building their plant to  
get more bandwidth.

They would argue to the FCC that this is "progress", and probably win  
the right to a rate increase to cover the cost of the "upgrade".

I'd like to see some effort to require consumers to be able to  
purchase their own equipment, with more choices, perhaps with "smart  
cards" from the cable system to control access, more or less like  
satellite systems operate now, but I think the days of unencrypted  
analog video on CATV systems are very limited, it is just too  

Not that I like it though.

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