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