Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Bolingbrook, IL
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Analog feed is the signal that doesn't require special equipment. I.E. A typical "cable ready" TV will be able to decode these channels fine without a "box" up to say about channel 100, depending on what your local cable company provides.
An old TV that isn't cable ready will be able to decode them to say, about channel 40 or 50 I think, after which the channel/frequency assignments begin to fall outside of it's tuning range.
The HD channels (CBS-HD, NBC-HD, etc.... but NOT "premium" channels like SHO-HD, HBO-HD, etc.) would be decodable without a special box as well, so long as your TV can decode 256QAM which is the format used. Comcast will rent you a Motorola DTC5100 for $5.00/month, however, if your TV doesn't have the appropriate built-in tuner or you don't otherwise have a box that can decode 256QAM.
This all assumes the cable company doesn't have any filters that block a particular range of channel frequencies. It is not uncommon that if all you have is the basic package a cable company will put a filter on the cable before it enters your house to block all channels above a certain number.
A "digital" package as described by a cable company, is yet another source of signal over the same cable, but it is fully encoded. You must rent a decoder box from your cable company which they then activate for you to receive the service. Whether the signal integrity and therefore picture quality is any better, is debatable. But this is what most cable companies force you into if you have any premium channels like HBO, SHO, etc. as well as maybe ESPN, Golf, etc. if not included in the basic packages. Personally I think it's just a way to a) force you into rental of equipment and b) give you an opportunity to purchase pay-per-view stuff.
Internet service rides on the same cable at yet another set of frequencies and requires appropriate equipment to access.
Comcast also offers telephone service over the same cable. I currently have it but am switching back to Ameritech. My wife told me Comcast called today asking if they ever burried my cable. Yes, after 6 months of phone calls they finally burried my cable about 3 months ago, by hand, because their machine was broken. Ameritech is waiting for Comcast to release my phone numbers back so they can provide service again.