The lowest basic service in my area doesn't require the converter box, but the expanded basic requires the converter box. When digital cable came out in my old neighborhood in 2000, my mom looked into getting it, but backed off from it when we found out how much it would cost. Back in 1999/2000, it was AT&T at the time, & they charged whatever the subscription fee is for 1 TV to each TV, along with renting the box. For 2 TV's, it would have costed us over $150 a month, while what was $60 from DirecTV, plus just a $5.00 a month fee to mirror the other box to the account, & I was paying close to $75 a month for 2 TV's to be hooked to DirecTV. Back then, I had to buy my own equipment, while now, it's leased. I don't know the cost now, but since Comcast bought AT&T cable, some fees went down, but the bulk of the channels now require the converter box, & more & more, the local channels are being moved to the digital tier. The HD versions of the local channels are exclusively in the digital tier in my area.