Why do I need a converter box for my HDTV if I have cable TV?

E

Ed J

Guest
#1
If digital TV is so high tech, why do I still need a cable box if I have a digital HD TV?
I purchased an LCD 1080p w 120 Hz, digital tuner, etc. I thought I could get the signals
directly from the cable. NO! I still need a cable box to "decode" the digital signal or I
need a "cablecard". What gives? Wait until members of congress try to watch their
favorite show on their new digital TV and discover that they can't get a picture. Wha??!!
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#2
That is how the cable company enables itself to make more money through rental fees. It also helps make cable theft more difficult. Of course, if your part of the 90% of the American population that live in high signal strength areas, you can still get your local stations free over the air in HD using an antenna.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#3
What DKreichen said and the fact that each cable company uses a proprietary signal to keep people from stealing cable too. With each set top box the cable company can authorize a customer based on what channels they're paying for plus the box will act as a converter for digital signals if a owner is only using an analog TV.
 

SWHouston

Moderator
Staff member
#4
Ed,

Welcome to the Forum, please register with us, ok ! :welcome:

I think you have a misconception about what a new DTV is for.
It in no way is intended to bypass the encryption of Cable Companies,
but only to enhance the picture quality of what is being sent out,
via Cable, or Over the Air (OTA/Free TV).

Now, if you have your TV hooked up to Cable, via their Box,
that's about as good as you're going to get, or
if you want to get set up to receive Free TV, we can help you.

That's about it though.
 

n2rj

Moderator
Staff member
#5
To add what everyone else said -

Cable channels are carried in digital form as a digital stream (MPEG2 transport stream) on cable using something called QAM. The data itself is encrypted. The CableCARD is used to decrypt the signal and allow an authorized subscriber to access it.

Many TVs made these days can receive QAM signals but they cannot do the decryption. Why is this? Signal theft. It is not like long ago where the cable company could just filter out a block of channels using a trap. Today they put channels all over the place and to filter them out would be impractical. So they encrypt (scramble) the signal. It also saves the cable company from sending out a truck (costing them money). Yes, there is also a certain element of control that the cable companies like too, which is why they prefer you to have a box.

The FCC basically made them reach a compromise with CE manufacturers and thus CableCARD was born. But the problem is that they let the cable companies control the certification of the devices. So this means that each company wanting to put a CableCARD slot in a device has to pay $100,000 to certify the device. After they do a few they can certify the devices themselves. TiVo in particular has taken lots of pain to get CableCARD right, and I believe they can self certify their own devices. But it took them a few years. TV manufacturers simply gave up, since there was not a lot of demand for CableCARD anyway. Most people would just get a box, mostly due to CableCARD not being adequately promoted, as well as outright lies and misinformation from the cable companies regarding availability and pricing. The other issue is that CableCARD was not two way because the consumer electronics manufacturers and cable industry could not agree on a standard so they all went their own way and two way support was not mandated by the FCC. This meant among other things, no ondemand or interactive content and that CableCARD devices were not required to be able to communicate back to the headend. CableCARD worked well for a lot of people but for others it was a complete nightmare.

As if that weren't enough, the cable companies threw yet another wrench in the works by deploying switched digital video, or SDV. This made every channel that is an SDV channel available only on demand by the requesting device. It is seamless to those with cable company issued settop boxes but a total pain for those with CableCARD devices. A solution was developed for TiVo in the form of a tuning adapter which communicated the SDV requests back to the headend (taking care of the two way part). It connected to the TiVo via USB. TiVo, Microsoft, Moxi (Arris), ATI, Ceton, Silicondust and I believe a few others developed support for the tuning adapters in their products.

SDV brought its own set of headaches as the tuning adapters rarely worked well, and made the CableCARD woes go from bad to worse.

TV manufacturers simply gave up because many TVs had no USB ports and could not be retrofitted for the tuning adapter. They also did not want to deal with the support headache.

And this is how we are where we are today. No TV manufacturers want to include CableCARD in their devices, and apart from the cable box vendors (Motorola, Cisco, NDS, Pace etc) TiVo, Moxi and Microsoft (Windows media center) are pretty much the only software vendors really supporting CableCARD.

On the horizon, cable companies are going to be deploying a gateway device called AllVid which is like a home TV router. It will receive the cable company's signals and convert them to a streaming IP format that any consumer device can use. But there is little to no idea when this will be done, and if it will ever be done. Cable companies love the status quo, which is charging you up to $30 per month to rent a crappy DVR with an undersized hard disk and no ability to carry your shows with you, or implement any cool plugins or third party software. A few cable companies (Verizon, AT&T) seem to be embracing apps on their hardware somewhat but they're not as open as TiVo or media center.
 

n2rj

Moderator
Staff member
#6
By the way, your local channels must be "in the clear" on cable. It is how the cable companies choose to interpret the FCC rules about material degradation for must carry signals, and ensuring that all subscribers can receive must carry signals.
 
G

Guest

Guest
#7
Converter Box

I have Dish Network and my local station was just taken off the air because of negotiations. Can I use a converter box to pick up this station?
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#8
I have Dish Network and my local station was just taken off the air because of negotiations. Can I use a converter box to pick up this station?
If you are using an older TV (tube type or some pre-2009 HDTVs) you will need a converter box. Otherwise, if you have a HDTV or (S)DTV, you can simply connect an appropriate (VHF and/or UHF) antenna to your TV, point the antenna in the direction of the broadcast towers, and scan for "antenna" or "air" channels (vs. cable) in your television's set up menus.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#9
Wait until members of congress try to watch their favorite show on their new digital TV and discover that they can't get a picture.
//begin rant
I'm quite sure our illustrious members of congress get enough "contributions" from the cable industry to pay for as many cable boxes as they want. Our CongressCritters care not for average citizens, only wealthy citizens and corporations that feed their campaigns.
//end rant.

Okay, back to the subject at hand. YES, you can probably get the channel you want free with an antenna, and as Dan said, if you have a modern (digital) TV you won't need a converter box. It would help us help you if you could go to TVfool, enter your data, and post your results back here so we can recommend an antenna that would be best for your location.
 
#10
SDV brought its own set of headaches as the tuning adapters rarely worked well, and made the CableCARD woes go from bad to worse.
Hahahahahaha... I read that far and had to stop and laugh for a couple. Let's count the numbers of players in this fiasco -- the FCC, the cable industry, the TV manufacturers, the Cable Card manufacturers, TiVo, the USB port manufacturers and standard setters, Microsoft, Moxi (Arris), ATI, Ceton, Silicondust, "a few others," cable box vendors (Motorola, Cisco, NDS, Pace etc), Verizon, AT&T ...

Every one of these corporations have microprocessors running programs in RAM in the devices hooked up to millions of receivers, and if ONE BIT (one-eighth of a byte) gets flipped from on to off or vice versa, anywhere in the chain, somebody loses their signal -- which is exactly what happened to a fellow recently in another thread. In fact, there is something called a glitch which happens occasionally even on PCs equipped with 128-bit CRC checks. None of the devices mentioned above are so equipped (except possibly the cable cards), though most of them presumably have some proprietary system.

Even without the glitch possibility (any strong magnet can do that), with a dozen or more agencies, each with their own politics and profit margins to address, collaborating to get every TV to work, you have a recipe for disaster. DO WE REALLY NEED THE HEADACHES?? Before the digital revolution, we used to have some semblance of c-o-n-t-r-o-l.

Maybe one day the entire human race will rise out of their recliner loungers and throw all the TVs into the Pacific Ocean :flush: just to show we're still in charge. :applause:

Rick
 
#11
By the way, your local channels must be "in the clear" on cable. It is how the cable companies choose to interpret the FCC rules about material degradation for must carry signals, and ensuring that all subscribers can receive must carry signals.
No longer true. In late 2012, after extensive lobbying by all of the cable companies, the FCC revised its regulations and repealed the provisions requiring non-encrypted QAM transmission of local broadcast OTA stations carried by cable ops. The industry convinced the FCC that this "regulatory reform" would "benefit consumers" by reducing "theft of service" by persons subscribing only to Internet but not to television, by streamlining activation and de-activation of customer's accounts, and by otherwise "improving" the consumer's user experience with cable television. Over the past year, nearly all Comcast Cable systems have encrypted their formerly non-encrypted Clear QAM channels. This requires a Comcast subscriber to either rent a Comcast-supplied DTA or set-top box, or to activate a CableCard.
 

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