Comcast screws me again

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by martinm0, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. martinm0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    So, I'm in VT. We have very few cable and internet providers in the area, so I've been with Comcast for years as I split the signal in my house and run the lines to 5 TVs without using a cable box. Through this set up I get 72 channels, and also the local stations in HD (through the Clear QAM tuner on the TV). For HBO I have to power on the one box I do have from them.

    Over the last few months in New England, Comcast has been converting to an all digital network (like the national move done in 2009). They're offering 2 free digital converter boxes, and any more cost users $2/mo to rent. Just last night they started pulling shows from the analog feed and making them no longer available without a set top box.

    I stopped in the store today to see if I could convince them to offer me more boxes for free to cover the loss of service to the additional TVs I have in the house, and was promptly shot down. I argued that currently I am unable to watch all the channels I pay for on all the TVs I own without having to pay additional monthly fees to keep the service going. Again, I was told to go pound sand.

    Now, here are the things that are really bothering me about this situation:

    -With this switch over I lose all the local HD channels I get locally (ABC, NBC, PBS, Fox). As I learned after talking to the FCC (yeah, I called them too) is that a cable provider only has to to provide local channels if they provide analog service. This switch over cuts that requirement and if I want those HD channels, I have to rent an HD cable box for $9/mo (per box keep in mind).

    -I currently get one cable box free (non-HD) and have 2 other converter boxes they are giving to their customers. If I get an HD box on top of those other three, I then have to pay $9 for the HD box and the other box I have (the one that was free) from then on. So, to get the HD channels I get now, but will lose in the next week, I have to pay MORE money. Even if I went with an OTA antenna to pick up my local HD channels, I'd have to split the line to the TV as (most) TVs only have one coaxial input. Additionally, what's the point of these NTSC/ATSC/QAM digital tuners being built into TVs (I know for OTA, but has the QAM tuner pretty much lost all funtionality?).

    -Even with the basic digital converter boxes they gave me, I now have to power a secondary device and use two remote controls on every TV.

    -And if I wanted to drop cable TV from the package and just keep internet, internet jumps to almost $90/mo, making it more expensive for me to go with DirectTV and keep internet with Comcast due to the lack of providers in the area.

    I'm completely sick over the fact that I have no real recourse other than to either deal with it, drop everything all together and get DSL for internet, or pay more money to maintain the services I already have.

    Anyone else in New England going/gone through this?

    And yes, this has nothing to do with the AppleTV community, but thought you guys would be the right crew to understand my frustration. Apologies to all that get annoyed with the post.
  2. Acidglaze, Dec 7, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011

    Acidglaze macrumors member

    Dec 12, 2008
    The local cable company in Kentucky (Insight) did the same thing here about a year ago.

    What kind of TV's do you have? If they are flat screens, they likely have a digital tuner in them already. If so, you won't need a box, just perform a re-scan of the channels. The down side to this is that the channels will have new digital assignments (what once was channel 10 might now be 18-14, etc).

    If all you have ar CRT TV's, then there's really no way to get the channels anymore without the box.

    I have a small 22" flat screen TV in my bedroom and the digital cable is run right to the TV. I still get all the channels, just have to remember a different channel line-up.

    Let me clarify that 18-14 is a channel. Other TVs may display it as 18.14/
  3. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    Thanks Acidglaze. I have two up to date LCD TVss with the digital tuners built it, but the issue here is that the signal Comcast is sending is encrytped and cannot be decrypted with the TV's digital tuner. They are requiring that I have to use their hardware (the only alternative is a Tivo with CableCard slot, in which I get only once card free and have to pay for the rest).

    I would have thought the digital tuners in the TVs would work for the non-premium channels like I'm currently doing (I get 3-1, 5-1, 22-1, etc), but this is not the case. Comcast is forcing everyone to get digital set top boxes to watch any channel they provide. (Assuming this is to prevent piracy, but in that case they'll still make money by giving the boxes away free to all actual subscribers). And what makes matters worse is that I lose these HD channels I'm getting already because legally they don't have to supply them if they aren't providing an analog signal.

    Anyway, I'm totally floored over the whole situation. I think I have to go back and put an antenna up on my roof...
  4. Btrthnezr3 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2010
    What if you added an antenna with a switcher and could use that for the HD over the air channels, and then back to cable for those?

    I don't have cable or satellite but I use the antenna and set top box combo for crt tvs and just antenna straight in to my one hdtv. Does that make sense?
  5. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I could go with the antenna (and probably will), but just annoyed that what was provided at one point by their service will no longer be available now. And I think I lose Fox HD since it was piped in from out of state and there is no local OTA.

    But in any case I do have other free options I can go into. I just pay way more for internet if I drop the TV which irks me even more.

    Need more providers in my area!
  6. From A Buick 8 macrumors 68040

    From A Buick 8

    Sep 16, 2010
    Ky Close to CinCinnati
    I had the same issue (also with insight) and like you I could not just use the digital tuner on my new TV because of Insight scrambling the signal. That was the last straw for me with cable Tv. So I put an antenna on the roof for local TV and jumped on the ATV bandwagon. It has been over a year now and I am cable free.

    Well with one exception, I still use insight for Internet, but as soon as there is another option I am switching.
  7. jmcgeejr macrumors 6502


    Oct 7, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    I feel for you, where in VT are you? I was over in NEK and I had a hell of a time getting OTA to work, I had a high gain antenna with a preamp etc and the only channel I could get was from hannover, the alternate NBC station. I hope you have better luck where you are.
  8. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I'm in Shelburne. Threw on my Terk indoor antenna in the west side of the house and only picked up PBS from across the lake in NY. I'm sure if I put a high gain antenna on the roof and pointed it towards Mt. Mansfield I'd pull in the local HD OTA channels, but I'm just so damned annoyed by the whole thing in general, most notably the fact the Comcast reps keep giving me mixed info (one suggested that my TVs tuners would work fine), while others keep quoting me all kinds of different rental costs, requirements, etc.

    Really thinking about cutting the cord, but hate the thought of having to pay $90 for just internet (or moving to DSL). Sure its less money monthly overall, but we need some real competition in the area to push these costs down. Ugh.
  9. ljonesj macrumors 6502a


    Oct 20, 2009
    Kingsport TN
    Do like one city did in our area to charter they brought there own cable. my friend pays charter 120-150 were 50 miles away i pay 200 for the same thing he gets
  10. Ecoh macrumors 6502a


    Oct 30, 2009
    I think the cable ready tv sets are able to get the local channels through Comcast, but for other channels you still need the set top boxes.

    We cut the cord with Comcast and got an Apple TV and Netflix subscription. We can get 4 local channels by indoor antenna, DSL which worked fine with Apple TV. Then Verizon FIOS became available in our area. Got offered a 2 year deal by Verizon FIOS that was too good to refuse. Competition is very good. :D
  11. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    Soooo jealous you got FIOS in your area. I'm hoping VZ will extend that out here, but I just don't think they can do it out here in farm land (need a denser population I would think).

    Unfortunately, it does not appear that the TV's tuner will tune anything in from Comcast as they are encrypting it and requiring their own hardware to decode it. The TV's tuner will only be good to pick up over the air channels, and I'm not quite sure what the purpose of NTSC and ClearQAM tuners are any more if I need hardware for every channel (even locals).
  12. gtmac macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2010
    I have mixed feelings I know it's sucks but you were in the stone ages.

    The bright side you get a hell of a lot of cool on demand with those new boxes. Comcast isn't cheap but it is good!!!
  13. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I definitely agree that I've been remiss in taking advantage of full HD channels (vs just my locals), but truthfully I'd rather keep what I have then have to pay any more. I just started trying to cut costs and bought a modem finally to avoid the $7/mo rental fee and then my promotion ended, and now I need to pony up more money just to keep all my TVs connected to the new digital signal.

    At this point I'm looking into Tivo as a Cable Card tuner/intermediary (not gonna pay for the Tivo monthly DVR fee though). First card is free, then they are only a few dollars a month I think to rent and access to everything the rental boxes do, so I think this might be a more economical way to go long term (granted I'm only talking about saving $15-25/mo, but at least Comcast isn't getting it).
  14. From A Buick 8 macrumors 68040

    From A Buick 8

    Sep 16, 2010
    Ky Close to CinCinnati
    Have you thought about satalite to replace cable, still would need DSL for the Internet. As soon as FIOS is avaliable in my area I am switching my Internet to them. The DSL where I live is subpar for the Internet access I need, but as soon as I can jump ship from cable all together I am going for it.
  15. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I have been considering moving over to Satellite, but I'm in the same boat where I need better internet than what FairPoint DSL provides and I have no other alternatives for broadband other than Comcast. Dropping everything and keeping their internet jacks up the price too, and I just can't stomach paying $80+ just for internet from them.

    I think at this point I'm gonna shell out for the HD channels (another $9/mo) and pick up an HD box ($9/mo more) and then grab a CableCard and a Tivo since the CableCard is free and Tivo is about $80 right now. It'll run as a digital tuner, but I won't pay for their DVR service. See if that can work for a bit until I can find some other solutions.
  16. OptyCT macrumors 6502

    Nov 9, 2008
    As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, cable television is the best deal out there. If you breakdown the total number of channels offered, it comes out to a very low cost per channel. Of course, there are millions of people who only routinely watch a handful of channels or shows. In this case, cable becomes very expensive. I also have Comcast. What I do to keep my bill in check is make an annual phone call to them and "play the game". I tell them that my service is too expensive and they usually put me into another bundled plan that saves me $20-$30/month. I hate to have to do this, but an annual 15 minute phone call usually saves me $250-$400/year.
  17. slu macrumors 68000


    Sep 15, 2004
    I feel for you. Eventually we will all be in the same boat. I think it should be illegal to require a set top box for service when there is no option to purchase your own box. It just does not seem right to require someone to rent something forever. The phone companies used to do this and they ripped people off for the phone hardware. I actaully think it should be illegal to require a set top box at all, but that is a different arguement because cable TV is a luxury item.

    Like you, when I had cable I preferred not to have any set top box. It just made things more simple. It would have been nice to have everything in HD, but it was just not that important to me. I have sinced dropped cable altogether. I do miss it for sports and for channel surfing, but it just was not worth the price I was paying. I now have Netflix/Apple TV/OTA and what is available online via iPad/Computer and I do just fine and save a ton of money.
  18. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    I just returned back from Comcast with some new hardware. Things didn't work out exactly as I was planning with the CableCard as the device isn't actually free; rather the first piece of hardware supplied to you is actually free (depending on your package). So, I had them give me an HD box for free (which will replace the non-HD box I currently have), and then rented a CableCard for $4.50/mo. That saves me $4.50/mo in rental fees if I had to actually pay for the HD box. I had them activate the HD channels for another $9/mo, so I'll be shelling out an extra $14/mo (plus taxes, etc) vs closer to $20/mo. Granted I need to pick up a Tivo (have some bids out on ebay right now), so there is more up front costs there than I would have initially.

    If all this works properly for me, I should have full HD access on two TVs, have general digital access under two other TVs and only have one TV (in the guest room) with no signal at all. I think I can work with that for now, or until they raise the prices again in January and I may have another meltdown.

    I will be heavily looking into dropping cable over the next few months, but the lack of alternate internet providers will most likely hold up any changes for a bit.

    I laugh a little over my agonizing. If any of you are like me, I'll not hesitate to spend $100 on an AppleTV2 or buy the latest MBP or iMac when released, but paying even a dime more to cable providers just makes me sick.
  19. slothrob macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2007
    I don't know if there is a difference here in Mass. or if it is just Verizon, but all the local/broadcast network stations are available to the TV tuner without a box. It used to be that way with Comcast, but I dropped them years ago, so I'm not sure what they're offering now.
  20. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    That's good to know. I expect a lot of this is the lack of competition in the area. And the fact that Comcast is the devil...

    I'm still curious what the world has in store for the NTSC/ClearQAM tuners built into all these TVs. Comcast won't be the last cable company to impose restrictions on access, but hopefully it will incentivize competition to make it more available for the rest of us in a simpler fashion. I don't want to be a slave to the TV, but I want reasonable pricing. Heck, bring a la carte to the table and let's see which channel providers no one actually cares about and cut the total cost of programming down significantly.

    Please keep posting your personal experiences with cable costs and upgrades here. Love hearing what others are doing for entertainment (me, I've got almost 1,000 movies and tv shows in my personal collection, so I'm covered for a full year if I cut the cord). I'll report back with updates on HD cable, CableCards and Tivo, and any other shenanigans I can threw in for the MR crowd.
  21. ERIC273 macrumors 6502

    Mar 31, 2009
    How about RCN ( I wish you could get cable vision like I have, but they sold there service to comcast in 2007!
  22. martinm0 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2010
    No luck with RCN. I'm out of their area (up in the northwest corner, 20 min from the border). Thanks though.

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