Sep 10 2011

To expand a bit more on my interaction with TWC staff yesterday:

Late yesterday afternoon, while running errands, I stopped at the Time Warner Cable office in Augusta to inquire and (if they had them) pick up two Digital Cable Adapter boxes. There were some banners on display about the digital conversion and they had a temporary table setup to right hand side as you come in, with two computer stations and two staff members dedicated to customers coming in about the Digital Cable Conversion. Behind the table were a stack of boxes with the adapters.

They asked me how many TVs I had and I said I was just going to pick up two adapters for my analog DVR & DVDR. Both staff members said that everybody needs a Digital Cable Adapter per TV set. I replied asking: Even if I have modern HDTVs with a digital tuner and I already get some digital channels, I will really need on of those boxes? For every TV? They said: Yes, you need an adapter per TV, no matter which tuner it has. They insisted that unless you have one of their big (higher tier) Digital Cable Boxes (pointing to one mounted on the wall behind them) you will no longer get any cable service. Everything that is attached directly to the cable / wall needs an adapter or box. No adapter or box, no cable TV. The guy said Cable TV is going password protected. Etc.

Boxes can already be authorized on the network. I was told to call the number in the box from my home phone and follow the automated prompts.

There was some positive spin of course, that customers have reported they get better service and a clearer picture, etc.

I will try to put that to the test shortly. Stay tuned.

Sep 9 2011

I picked up a couple of Time Warner Digital Cable Adapters this afternoon, so here are a few quick snapshots. I will share more photos at a higher resolution and additional details tomorrow, as I got home late and it is nearly midnight.

I think the photos are pretty self explanatory with a few shots of the box cover, content, manual, wall wart, cables. The cables are a coax cable and an IR cable to control your TV.

The device is a bit bigger than a credit card and quite small actually. The casing is metal. It feels weighted and robust.
The remote is small, basic, cheap … common with inexpensive TVs & the Over The Air antenna boxes. It is capable of being programmed for your TV set.
The wall wart is quite big and will take up a considerable spot on your power strip. Depending on your strip it may need three slots.

Off note: when I picked up these adapter boxes, I was told, more than once, that anybody without a digital cable box will need one of these adapters per tv. More on that in my next post.

To be continued …

Sep 8 2011

We are one of the ‘lucky’ 90000 people in the central Maine area where Time Warner Cable is launching its pilot program Digital Cable Conversion plan on Oct 18th. It will go statewide and then nationwide later. Through the AVS forum, I learned this is going to be true for Comcast subscribers as well and that apparently they are starting this conversion in Maine as well. I think Brighthouse and other providers probably will follow suit as well. If two major players in the industry do it, more will follow.

I learned about this after catching part of little Time Warner Cable ad Tuesday morning, featuring a small cable box that transformed into a flying bot, etc. The TV was muted, so I didn’t catch the audio and I haven’t seen the ad again, to describe in full details.

Summary

Starting Oct 18th, Cable TV as we know it, is going all-digital, starting with central Maine.

Basically, anything with only an analog tuner – older TV, VCR, DVR, DVDR, computer tuner card … – will no longer receive any stations, unless you get the digital cable converter box (( or upgrade to the higher tier digital cable boxes //// or cut cable and go over the air with an antenna and digital antenna box )) and then you still face the hurdle of controlling the channels and programming the devices for recording. Most existing equipment will not know the remote code to transmit a channel change via an IR blaster, if they have one at all. So it is not good for people with lots of money invested in analog recording equipment. You will set your TV or device to channel 3 or 4 and receive cable via the converter box.

Consumer opinion / consensus *

The consensus so far between a few local affected consumers, based on what we have read & learned, seems to be that:

A) Channels 2-24 considered basic cable will be transmitted digitally clear and unencrypted and be receivable with a modern TV with digital tuner, or other device. No digital cable converter box needed, if you have a recent TV with digital tuner. If on the other hand you have an older analog TV, you will need the digital cable converter box. This box is similar to the OTA / Over The Air digital adapter box we learned about a few years ago, but smaller. It needs to be authorized and activated by the cable company and you have to use its remote for your channel functions. The converter box is offered for free, for us, through 2013. Then they will charge 99c/mo rent thereafter, per converter.

B) Channels 25-70 considered expanded cable are most likely to be transmitted encrypted and will require the converter box, per device that you wish to view those channels on.

So, if you have a QAM HDTV and expanded cable 2-70, you presumably (no confirmation from the cable company here yet) will get basic channels 2-24 unencrypted in SD & HD. Then you tune to channel 3 or 4 to get the cable signal from the digital cable converter box for channels 25-70 in SD. Yes. Standard Definition. One tidbit about the initial converter boxes that will be sent out is that they are only capable of standard definition. See FAQ link further.

” At this time, the Digital Adapter does not support HD signals. Time Warner Cable plans to offer HD Digital Adapters later this year. We will provide you with more information once they become available. ”

Brilliant, convenient, eco-friendly and we have to guess that the stations currently on channel 3 & 4 will move elsewhere.

C) Higher end tiers are not necessarily affected. If you already have a digital cable box (more than 100 channels etc) with every TV, nothing changes. Just keep using the rented equipment which does this digital conversion already.

If you do not have a cable box for all additional TVs, then those additional TVs’ reception will be affected as above for the basic and expanded lineup included with your service.

* Consensus noting that:
a) It is just a few consumers’ input so far
b) There is conflicting and incomplete information out there … thank you TWC
c) The TWC FAQ says that if you don’t have channel 122 or hook cable directly to your TV, you will need a converter … but elsewhere excepts QAM TVs … but then doesn’t cover expanded cable.
d) Two people I was in touch with from TWC fell completely out of the air and had no clue what I was talking about
e) TWC has not sent their customers any information yet. This is supposed to happen in about a month, but we have had no communication via the monthly bill or direct mail.

Local News Coverage

Local TV news from WCSH6 on the subject.

http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/171959/2/Time-Warner-Cable-launches-digital-conversion-initiative

At least the Bangor newspaper was aware of this in late July apparently:

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/28/business/time-warner-cable’s-all-digital-television-campaign-starting-in-mid-maine/

Time Warner Cable put a positive spin on it with a few angles (a few more channels, more capacity, better phone & internet, VOD, …) that this is a good thing for consumers but I can’t really see this as good news for anyone. A ton of analog equipment becomes obsolete with this move. People who have chosen the lower service levels and those with more than one TV may be forced into rental fees to continue watching TV where they please in their home. And, one will have the encumbrance of needing to use their converter box and its remote, in addition to your own.

We just went through the digital over the air transition and heard the ‘promise’ that if you had cable, you wouldn’t need a converter box per TV/device like with an antenna. But fast forward a couple years and now you do.

I think we all know everything is going digital and that analog would be phased out at some time, but I didn’t know the end of analog started next month, in Maine.

We are going to be directly affected by some of this, with some of our electronics, so I will be ordering some digital cable converter boxes, I guess. Maybe just one to try it out, and scrap the rest?

Time Warner Cable Website

Time Warner cable has quite limited info about the “digital cable adapter” and who needs it.

Time Warner Cable Digital Adapter Support Page

On the Time Warner ordering page is the only place it showed that basic cable will be received fine on modern TVs with a digital QAM tuner and then goes on to give a few details about QAM. Note that it It doesn’t say expanded … so anybody with 70 channels and multiple TVs is going to be in for some converter boxes, more than likely.

Time Warner Cable Digital Adapter Ordering Page