Originally Posted by Ken H
Nope, if all you want is local HD then a QAM tuner is all you need. All cablecos pass local HD in clear QAM, and in some areas a few other digital channels are in the clear, usually shopping, local access, subchannels, etc.
OK, now it makes sense. I found this too:
"QAM-based HD programming of local stations is sometimes available to analog cable subscribers, without paying the additional fees for a digital cable box. The availability of QAM HD programming is rarely described or publicized in cable company product literature. Cable providers must provide rebroadcasts of locally aired programming in analog (if their plant is an analog/digital mix), but they may also carry rebroadcasts of high-definition digital locally aired programming, in an unencrypted form, that does not require the customer to use leased equipment, per FCC Sec. 76.630 and CFR Title 47, §76.901(a). These usually include the local affiliates for CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and Fox, and the cable providers comply by rebroadcasting them over QAM channels. The law does not require the cable provider to advertise their availability, and the cable customer service representatives are known to unequivocally (and incorrectly) insist to customers that a converter box is mandatory to view any HD channels."
(some other interesting reading in there too)
So after reading the above Wiki excerpt it looks to me that the only folks that need the QAM converter are those that have analog TVs on digital-only cable. But in that case a set-top box (QAM tuner with decrypter) is required to get the rest of the cable programming (although it wouldn't surprise me that the cablecos purposely block the unencrypted stuff from passing through their box in an attempt to make more $).
On the pirating part, I should have said pirating clear QAM. That is, say I sniffed into digital cable then I could get the clear QAM programming without paying even the basic cable subscriber fee. Maybe people in apartment complexes that get horrible OTA reception (not me!