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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in Maryland and get Comcast Digital Cable TV and Comcast Cable Internet. I have two televisions, each with a Comcast DCT 2224 Digital cable box. I also have a Panasonic DMR ES45VS which is several years old and which I use primarily for backup and occasional extra recording. I also have a Magnavox H2160MW9A which I just got (and which I love) and which gets the bulk of my recording work.


I have about 15-20 channels which are currently only available through the cable box and most of which (such as SPEED channel) I pay an extra premium to receive. There are a few channels (such as TruTV) that are included with my basic service but which are encoded and which I have to use the cable box to receive.


There are maybe 50-60 channels in my basic service which I currently don't need the cable box to receive (I believe these are QAM channels). I have the H2160MW9A connected directly to the cable input (without the box) and can record directly from cable using the Magnavox recorder's tuner.


If I want to view a channel which needs the cable box to receive, I simply switch my tv to the cable box input using the remote control. No problem. The problem comes when I want to record a channel that needs the cable box. I have a feed from the cable box to the Panasonic recorder input and can record those channels as long as I manually select them on the cable box (obviously, neither the Panasonic or the Magnavox's tuners can receive those channels directly).


Some people in other Comcast areas have said that they can program their Comcast DCT 2224 boxes to automatically change channels which solves that problem of having to manually select channels for recording from the cable box. I have examined my cable box in great detail and could find no way to program it automatically. I could only conclude that there is that service is not offered in my Comcast area hence the need for me to manually select the cable box channels when recording.


Now, to further complicate matters, I have just received a letter from Comcast saying that they are about to upgrade cable service in my area and that I will soon need a Digital Transfer Adapter for any TV (and presumably recorder) NOT connected via a digital cable box. The following words from Comcast's FAQ regarding the transition are key:


Question 4. What if I don't do anything?


Answer: Any TV connected directly to Comcast service without a digital device will eventually lose access to some of the channels it currently receives (bolding is my addition). You'll keep the 15-30 Comcast Basic Cable channels, (local broadcast TV stations, plus local government, education and public access channels) but you'll lose all Expanded Basic channels, like Disney, CNN, Lifetime and 30 to 50 others.


Since the digital transfer adapter apparently needs a remote control just as the cable box does, this means to me that I am about to lose the ability to program the Magnavox tuner for recording different channels and times directly from cable (except for local and government channels) and will suffer the same restrictions to recording to it that I now face with the channels I have to manually select through the cable box. If I am correct, that means the only remaining alternative to programmable recording for basic channels like CNN, MSNBC, A&E, etc. will be to rent Comcast's own programmable recorder (at about $16.00 per month) or get TIVO, which is equally unappealing to me.


Is this true? Have I interpreted this change correctly? Even though there is no extra charge for up to two of the adapters, I am tired of Comcast taking away yet another capability I currently have under the guise of an improvement. Also, I have already contacted my state legislators and they are receptive to learning more about the problem if what I have described is indeed the case.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16983891


Answer: Any TV connected directly to Comcast service without a digital device will eventually lose access to some of the channels it currently receives.

The QAM tuner in the Magnavox is a digital device. It should receive anything the DTAs receive.


Any TV or recorder that doesn't have either a QAM tuner or an attached cable box will not work with the digital signal now coming in. So if you have an old analog TV somewhere you might take advantage of the free DTAs, but for your Maggy recorder or the cable box equipped TVs you should be fine.
 

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"Digital" cable converter boxes like the Motorola DCT2224 have "digital" tuners but have only composite (yellow video, white/red audio) S-Video and (threaded) RF outputs providing analog signals only.


Digital/HD cable converter boxes provide analog signals through composite, S-Video or RF outputs, plus "digital and HD signals" through component (red, green, blue) and HDMI outputs.


Clear QAM tuner equipped devices such as the Magnavox 2160 and most recent HD TVs will tune clear QAM sub-channels when connected directly to the cable company coax cable feed. (My original 2160 models of May and December 2008 manufacture each receive around 110 clear QAM sub-channels through our local Comcast service.) Cable installers are told not to provide this information to customers. Cable companies prefer to rent or lease upgraded converter boxes to customers. Why? Answer: $$$$$$$


Once a clear QAM tunered recorder is enslaved to a cable company converter box or DTA one loses the ability to record digital signals as recorders are limited to recording from analog inputs. Welcome back to the Analog Age!


(Digital broadcast stations may be recorded as "digital signals" received through an antenna with the Magnavox 2160 model's ATSC tuner. My Philips 3576 receives more than two dozen local ATSC sub-channels.)


Scrambled cable signals require the cable company provided converter boxes or Cable Cards (for use in certain devices designed for Cable Cards) in order to unscramble encoded signals. These devices also "map" the cable "services" to various "locations" according to the cable company numbering scheme. These "locations" are not actual "channels." While these "services" may be "mapped" to high numbers--our local Comcast service "maps" their cable assignments as high as the 950s--all these services are actually located in the many hundreds of QAM sub-channels in the 2-135 range.


For more information concerning the Motorola DCT2000 series converter boxes see the link to the Owner's Manual in mbernste's post found here:

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,12865751


For more information and recent discussions of clear QAM tuning issues with Magnavox 2160 "A" versions see these two threads:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940657

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1054933


Addendum 1: A couple of months ago I read your post concerning the "chase play" glitch causing your DMR-ES45V to freeze up. I routinely give advice concerning these great Panasonic ES series machines. (I own six 2006 DMR-ES35V models, two 2005 DMR-ES30V models and two 2006 DMR-ES15 models,--all fully functional--and a "dead" 2006 DMR-ES46V model and other "parts machines.") Since I've never used the "chase play" feature (and some other features) and I don't give speculative advice, I had nothing to contribute. I thought someone would have responded to your post by now.


Addendum 2: I briefly describe the activation routine for the Comcast Pace DC50X DTA in this post:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...2#post16962322
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa /forum/post/16984086


The QAM tuner in the Magnavox is a digital device. It should receive anything the DTAs receive.

Not completely true... Comcast is encrypting the digital channels beyond the "limited basic" programming tier.


So a built in QAM (digital) tuner will not tune every channel a DTA will.


It has already gone in effect here and I can only tune channels 2-24 on a QAM tuner.


That's just the local stations, Discovery, PBS, Northwest Cable News, and a handfull of shopping channels
 

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They need an FCC waiver to do that, and I didn't hear about them getting one yet; that would have been big news here. It sounds like a mistake by Comcast locally or testing. Regardless, they almost surely will get a waiver soon, as another MSO already did. If they has distributed CableCard boxes, instead, then they could encrypt the channels.
 

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Indeed, Comcast has not yet gotten a waiver. I haven't tried myself, but in preparation for the switch to "all-digital" here in October, apparently they've stopped encrypting the ADS channels, and perhaps even expanded basic. I'll have to hook up the QAM tuner and check it out.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by QZ1 /forum/post/16985121


They need an FCC waiver to do that, and I didn't hear about them getting one yet; that would have been big news here. It sounds like a mistake by Comcast locally or testing. Regardless, they almost surely will get a waiver soon, as another MSO already did. If they has distributed CableCard boxes, instead, then they could encrypt the channels.

I believe as long as they provide DTA boxes free of charge they can encrypt and do not have to distribute CableCard boxes.

Here is the article they ran in our local paper last May

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Comcast customers: You need converter box regardless of TV

JOHN STARK - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD


Like most Comcast cable television users, Willis Brunelle of Ferndale thought he was all set for the nationwide conversion to a digital broadcast system, because the company had repeatedly reassured its customers that they would not have to do a thing.


So Brunelle felt downright cheated when his apartment manager told him otherwise: He would soon need a converter box to continue watching most Comcast channels.


"The thing that's so upsetting is that they advertised for months that you don't have to do anything," Brunelle said. "I was surprised, angry and upset."


No so fast, said Steve Kipp, a Comcast vice president for communications. As Kipp explained it, Comcast was correct in telling its customers that the nationwide conversion to digital broadcasting would not affect them. But in the months ahead, Comcast is doing a digital conversion of its own, freeing up bandwidth to offer customers more high-definition channels as well as faster Internet.


Comcast's move won't affect those with limited basic service, but everyone who wants to continue watching channels 30 to 74 will need digital conversion hardware for each television in the home, even if they have an HDTV. The company will mail the devices to those who don't want to pick one up in person.


While a customer can get up to three set-top boxes or digital adapters free, there is a $15 service charge for people who want to have the devices installed by Comcast personnel.


"We're finding that the vast majority of people are installing these on their own," Kipp said.


The conversion is already under way in some areas of the state. Comcast customers in those areas got phone calls and letters alerting them to the change.


That hasn't happened yet in Whatcom County, where the change won't begin in earnest until some time in the fall, Kipp said.


But many local customers got the news a few weeks ago when they tried to watch the Country Music Television and Oxygen channels and instead saw only white letters on a black screen, notifying them they needed a converter to see those channels.


For now, Kipp said, those two channels are the only ones affected in Whatcom County, but by the end of the year, everyone here and elsewhere in Washington state will need the boxes to continue to get expanded basic channels.


Kipp said the conversion will improve picture quality. To sweeten the deal further, Comcast will also offer 23 FM radio stations and 14 new channels once the conversion is complete: Sprout, Discovery Kids, Bloomberg Television, G4, C-SPAN3, Science Channel, WEtv, Lifetime Movie Network, C-SPAN2, Leased Access, KCTS Creates, Q13 Fox First Forecast, Retro-Television and V-Me.

TO GET YOUR BOX


Where: Comcast Bellingham office, 400 Sequoia Drive, Bellingham. Take Cordata Parkway north past Horton Road. Turn right on Sequoia and left into the first driveway. Comcast customer service office is on the Cordata side of the building.


When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.


Why: Converter boxes will be required for channels 30 to 74 before the end of the year.


But: the company will mail the converters to customers who prefer.


Questions: Call 1-800-Comcast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by 11001011 /forum/post/16984981


Not completely true... Comcast is encrypting the digital channels beyond the "limited basic" programming tier.


So a built in QAM (digital) tuner will not tune every channel a DTA will.


It has already gone in effect here and I can only tune channels 2-24 on a QAM tuner.


That's just the local stations, Discovery, PBS, Northwest Cable News, and a handfull of shopping channels

Contrary to the earlier post in this thread that said my Magnavox should be just fine, this is what I am afraid we are heading for here. There are maybe 5 or 6 channels between 30 and 70 in "expanded basic cable service" that have already been "encrypted" recently and which I can no longer receive on my Magnavox (these include TruTV, TNT, the movie channel and several others). I can only receive these now through the cable box. From the sounds of Comcast's message, there are probably many others sure to follow.


This is obviously a confusing area, as evidenced by the conflicting threads in this post alone.


Footnote: I just called Comcast's "customer service" and received a recorded message saying that if I had a question that their automated response system couldn't handle, I could talk to a live "account executive" for a $4.95 charge!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by DigaDo /forum/post/16984179


Addendum 1: A couple of months ago I read your post concerning the "chase play" glitch causing your DMR-ES45V to freeze up. I routinely give advice concerning these great Panasonic ES series machines. (I own six 2006 DMR-ES35V models, two 2005 DMR-ES30V models and two 2006 DMR-ES15 models,--all fully functional--and a "dead" 2006 DMR-ES46V model and other "parts machines.") Since I've never used the "chase play" feature (and some other features) and I don't give (speculative) advice, I had nothing to contribute. I thought someone would have responded to your post by now.


http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...2#post16962322

Thanks for your response. I never could get past that problem, Panasonic has had no solution for it. That's why the unit has now been retired to back-up and replaced with the Magnavox, which I have found far superior for my specific purposes. Unfortunately, it looks as if Comcast is about to take away a large portion of the Magnavox's usefulness and force me to rent their own unit.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 11001011 /forum/post/16986655


I believe as long as they provide DTA boxes free of charge they can encrypt and do not have to distribute CableCard boxes.

Without a waiver, DTAs cannot decrypt, so if they cannot get a waiver (and Comcast has not, yet), and they're going to encrypt (as you posit), they're going to have to either provide, perhaps charging extra for, STBs (either old inventory, or CableCARD boxes), for the encrypted services -- not DTAs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16986879


Contrary to the earlier post in this thread that said my Magnavox should be just fine, this is what I am afraid we are heading for here. There are maybe 5 or 6 channels between 30 and 70 in "expanded basic cable service" that have already been "encrypted" recently and which I can no longer receive on my Magnavox (these include TruTV, TNT, the movie channel and several others). I can only receive these now through the cable box. From the sounds of Comcast's message, there are probably many others sure to follow.


This is obviously a confusing area, as evidenced by the conflicting threads in this post alone.


Footnote: I just called Comcast's "customer service" and received a recorded message saying that if I had a question that their automated response system couldn't handle, I could talk to a live "account executive" for a $4.95 charge!

$4.95 to talk to someone at Comcast? YIKES!


The question becomes, how long will Comcast continue to deliver clear QAM channels through their raw coax cable feed?


This post has my listing of Comcast's Portland Oregon clear QAM sub-channels currently tuned by my Magnavox 2160 recorders:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...0#post16965450
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by bicker1 /forum/post/16986977


Without a waiver, DTAs cannot decrypt, so if they cannot get a waiver (and Comcast has not, yet), and they're going to encrypt (as you posit), they're going to have to either provide, perhaps charging extra for, STBs (either old inventory, or CableCARD boxes), for the encrypted services -- not DTAs.

They have already encrypted some free QAM channels in this area (for example TruTV, TNT, A&E, and a few others and say that by this fall, they will have encrypted all of the remaining ones except for a few local and government type channels.


Comcast *IS* providing digital set top boxes (up to 2 at no charge and which I already have) so that you can receive the encrypted channels. So, I can receive the channels OK, the problem is that my DVD recorders can no longer be *programmed* to receive those QAM channels after they have been encrypted since the recorders must be fed by the output of the non-programmable desk top box in order to receive the encrypted channels.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 11001011 /forum/post/16984981


Not completely true... Comcast is encrypting the digital channels beyond the "limited basic" programming tier.


So a built in QAM (digital) tuner will not tune every channel a DTA will.


It has already gone in effect here and I can only tune channels 2-24 on a QAM tuner.


That's just the local stations, Discovery, PBS, Northwest Cable News, and a handfull of shopping channels

On the contrary here in Spokane. I subsrcibe to the lowest tier "digital starter" package (no premium channels) and my 3576 will tune all of the channels that my DTA will tune.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16987337


They have already encrypted some free QAM channels in this area (for example TruTV, TNT, A&E, and a few others and say that by this fall, they will have encrypted all of the remaining ones except for a few local and government type channels.

Any channel they encrypt will need their equipment, but the DTAs don't currently support encryption from every source I've seen (they can't hold a cableCARD.)


Pretty much any channel that isn't a local or "must carry" is fair game for encryption. It just depends on how generous they are. Writing your congressperson may be your only recourse, but who knows when and if they can accomplish anything. (I don't think state legislatures may make much of an impact. I'd write to your federal officials.)
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16987337


They have already encrypted some free QAM channels in this area (for example TruTV, TNT, A&E, and a few others and say that by this fall, they will have encrypted all of the remaining ones except for a few local and government type channels.

They've always been encrypted here. What I was telling you was that they will have to un-encrypt them if they want to use DTAs, instead of more pricey STBs, and don't get the waiver, which they haven't gotten so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16987337


Comcast *IS* providing digital set top boxes (up to 2 at no charge and which I already have) so that you can receive the encrypted channels.

If that is true, it is very different from how they're doing things in this part of the country, where what they're providing non-digital tier customers are two DTAs not digital set top boxes that support decryption.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_111 /forum/post/16987337


So, I can receive the channels OK, the problem is that my DVD recorders can no longer be *programmed* to receive those QAM channels after they have been encrypted since the recorders must be fed by the output of the non-programmable desk top box in order to receive the encrypted channels.

That's assuming that your DVD recorders have QAM tuners. Which ones are you using?
 
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