As of tomorrow, RCN in my area is shutting off all analog signals, and switching everything to digital. Not a problem for the average person, who will either use an analog converter box, or who is already using a digital box from RCN.
Big annoyance for me. I have a home built DVR. I’ve been using the analog tuner in it, but it has a digital tuner, so I should be all set, right? Not entirely. You need something called a CableCard in your DVR or HDTV to get the advanced digital network features, such as premium channels and pay-per-view. I don’t get nor want any of those, and even if I did, TiVo HD is the only non-cable company DVR that can take a CableCard. Because the CableCard folks are… hm…. how should I put this…? Oh yes. Morons. So I don’t need CableCard, because I only want basic channels, right?
No. RCN (and all the other providers are going this way) are now encrypting _all_ their digital channels, and sending none in the clear (Clear QAM vs. Encrypted QAM, vs. ATSC which is what over-the-air broadcast digital is). So now you *MUST* have a CableCard or a sanctioned set-top converter box.
And if I want the true digital set-top box it is an extra $12 a month. And if I want multiple boxes for multiple TVs, anything more than the first is at least $3 a month. Which is one of the drivers behind the change… more rental fees. Plus, with a set-top box, you must change channels on the set-top box. Can’t change channels on the TV, or in my case, obnoxiously enough, on the DVR. So the DVR will have to change channels on the box, using an IR blaster, which is a little like taping the remote control to the computer so it can press the buttons. It’s unreliable, slow, and there’s no communication from the box to the computer, so there is no error correction capability.
So now I’ve been forced to a digital world, but can’t use my digital tuner. I’m still getting converted analog, but can no longer use my DVR the way I built it. I’ll have to splice in a new device, finding another outlet to plug it into (ask me about the wonky electrical wiring in this apartment sometime!), rigging up the IR from the DVR, and hoping that everything works well. RCN’s excuse for all this mumbo-jumbo is that the upstream providers (the TV stations and networks) require RCN to encrypt the channels. And that they are going through with this transition so I can get more channels at the same price. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I don’t want more channels, especially channels like the Horse Racing Channel, that I’m _never_ going to watch. I’d rather have the same number of channels I have now at half the price. Congress and the FCC can’t move fast enough on a-la carte cable for my tastes.
I am *very* tempted to dump the cable TV, keeping just the internet connection. I’ll get what I can from over-the-air broadcast, and have to get all my sci-fi, usa, and other networks through less than honest means on the internet. Because television from the internet has no DRM, no commercials, and lets me watch my TV the way I want, when I want, which is why I built the DVR in the first place. When companies go out of their way to make piracy _easier_ than honesty (and not just more convenient), they really shouldn’t be surprised when piracy increases.
So, now that RCN is persona non grata with me, give me your recommendations for alternate companies, alternate solutions, etc. Keep in mind that I’m poor and cheap.
Originally published at lebor.net. You can comment here or there.