The first one should definitely be free. All you need to do is walk into a Comcast Service Center and ask for one. I've heard they can't/won't mail you one.
If you run into activation troubles like I did, call the 2nd tier Comcast support number at 1-877-761-5015 (number obtained from the SiliconDust cablecard activation forum here
. Inevitably, you will most likely be connected to an engineer named Derek, who is one of 2 engineers who actually knows about cablecards (according to the rep who initially took my call).
Based on Internet research, I was prepared for 'issues' activating the card. I did have some issues, but not nearly as bad as some others.
First hurdle was the required Digital Cable Advisor was missing from Extras in Windows Media Center (Win7 x64). Seems to be a common problem. Common solutions like 'start /wait mcupdate -u –nogc' didn't work. I found this guy's blog
where he has the direct links to the x86 and x64 versions.
Once I got past that, and was actually able to run the DCA, I called the national 800 number at the 'now activate your card' step. Curiously, the rep never ask me for any info about my card (serial number, device ID, etc.). She put me on hold for a bit, then said I was activated. I *think* everything was OK at that point. However, I had other things to do, so I left it at that.
The next day, when I was looking at things in earnest, things were definitely not OK. Others on the Internet reported similar "I was OK, but then I wasn't" issues due to post-activation firmware or other updates to the card that change one or more of the IDs associated with the card, which then breaks the activation/paring. I'm not sure that happened to me, but in the end, it definitely wasn't working. The card was apparently activated, but not paired (another common problem). I tried http://www.comcast/activate
several times to no avail, and eventually called the 800 number again. The rep put me on hold for a while again, tried some things, and when I told her that the activation/paring didn't happen, she gave up. She offered to send a technician out to my house that I would pay for. Even if it was free, I would be reluctant for a tech to come out because there's no way he's going to dig my setup (an HDHomeRun Prime connection to a Windows PC running NextPVR). I would be better off just taking the card back to the Service Center and rolling the dice with another one.
Finally, I found that SiliconDust cablecard activation forum, and called that 2nd tier 877 number. No voicemail maze; a guy just answered. I told him my problem, he gave me a case #, but said he would need to transfer me to Derek. I left Derek a message, and he called me right back. He asked me for all of the identifiers associated with my card. A couple seconds later, the light on my HDHRPrime flashed a couple of times, and then I was successfully activated AND paired.
So, in the end, not too bad, but not as carefree as it could have been.