OT - very - Comcast "service"

Below is the text of an email I just sent to Comcast. Actually it's a little longer because I had to trim the Comcast one to 1500 characters. Apparently nobody has a complaint that should take longer than that!
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We have three pre-digital TVs. When the analog to digital conversion took place, we got 3 converter boxes from Comcast. One full capability one and two smaller less capable ones.
Yesterday we purchased a new TV to replace one of the ones with a small converter box. Since it has a digital tuner, I assumed I wouldn't need the converter, but I called Comcast to be sure.
I was told I still needed it to get any channels other than the networks. I said thank you, hung up, and thought about that.
Surely the signal coming through my cable was digital? So I called back again.
Different rep. This time I was told that all TVs made since 1975 were digital and that I would get a digital signal out of the cable. Oh, really.
So I hung up again, connected the new TV to the converter box, and told the TV to do a channel scan. As I suspected, it found one analog channel (the box) and no digital channels. Sigh.
One more try - yet another different rep. This young lady informed me that yes, it was an analog signal but I needed that because some of the stations were still broadcasting in analog. Oh, really? They're contravening federal regulations that required digital since sometime in 2009? I needed converter boxes back then because the stations were NOT changing? Bye.
So now, as well as being quite irritated, I'm shaking my head in disbelief. Where do you get these people? Is their primary mission to say whatever they think will make the customer happy? Are they paid based on how much misleading information they can give?
When you get through answering those questions, please find a technician who can logically explain why I need a digital to analog converter box to receive digital signals on my digital TV. Thank you.
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I wonder if I'll get an intelligent answer this time?
--
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw

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I was told that the digital signals for all but the broadcast stations are scrambled and the boxes unscramble them. The boxes are addressable by comcast and can be set to unscramble whatever channels you are paying for. Don't pay your bill and they can cut you off without having to send a tech to your house. Art
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On 2/17/2011 10:11 PM, Artemus wrote:

If you have a digital TV and you plug the TV directly into the cable you will get some digital stations. However to get all of the digital station on the cable you will need a new box to decode the digital channels and feed them to your set.
If you subscribe to the cable the appropriate box should be provided by the cable company.
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Charter Cable broadcasts all signal on ch 2 through 77 as analog signals. No box needed. To get any digital signals, you gotta get a box and pay extra for the digital stations.
I think it sucks, my self. Problem is, that we are too far away to even get broadcast digital with any reliability.
--
Jim in NC


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When the change to broadcast digital went in effect, my cable company gave us an analog signal and nothing had to be done. Then they upgraded their system and every set had to have a box of one type or another and they provided them. Unfortunately, even after a big upgrade, they still did not offer my favorite stations in HD, like History and Travel channels. Now I have DirecTV and very happy and saving money to boot.
To answer your question, "it all depends" I guess. Good luck.
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On Fri, 18 Feb 2011 02:59:02 +0000 (UTC), Larry Blanchard

went thru something similiar and they wanted me to take an entire day of work to be available for tech to maybe show up. Just said good by to cable. I can get what I need from DSL.
MikeM
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You now have a digital TV capable of receiving digital over-the-air broadcast (ATSC). This is *not* the same as digital cable. Digital cable is a lot like the digital internet signals going to your computer. If you have a digital TV with a cable card slot, you *may* be able to get a card from the cable company (probably not, I'm guessing). Another downside to over-cable digital TV is that it might not be in the highest definition your TV can use. (480 vs 720 vs 1080). If you're lucky enought to live in a cty where the broadcast station's antennas are in the same general direction*, you might be able to build a Gray Hoverman anyenna out of scrap you have laying around. Careful attention to detail can yield an antenna of surprising performance.
*check out http://www.tvfool.com/ for coverage in your area...
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On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 21:44:54 -0800, lektric dan wrote:

Agreed. The question is why the Comcast service reps couldn't provide a nice coherent answer like yours :-).
--
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw

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On Fri, 18 Feb 2011 18:04:21 +0000 (UTC), Larry Blanchard

Hey, whaddya want from computer-unsavvy folks who are paid minimum wage and given 1 hour of instruction on the HelpDesk software prior to their starting to "help" customers?
Remember folks, if in doubt, immediately say
"I'd like to speak to your supervisor, please."
or
"Please have your supervisor upgrade me to advanced technical support. Thank you."
It _sometimes_ helps.
-- Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. -- Storm Jameson
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Because, it _is_ "complicated".
There are, these days, at least *four* kinds of TV signals floating around 1) NTSC -- the old 'analog' standard, and which some TV stations _still_ broadcast with. What's known as 'low power' TV stations were *not* required to shift to 'digital'. Many did -not-. 2) ATSC -- the new digital HDTV standard. You find this almost exclusively on over-the-air HTDV broadcast signals. 3) QAM -- the standard 'digital cable' signal, as it rides _on_the_cable_ itself. It comes in two varieties: 3a) _unencrypted_ QAM -- "any" QAM tuner will decode a usable signal      from the QAM signal -- maybe NTSC, maybe ATSC/HDTV, depending on      what the input signal is. 3b) _encrypted_ QAM -- only a QAM tuner with the right 'decryption key'      will be able to decode a usable signal.
Early 'digital' TVs had the ATSC (and _usually_ NTSC) capabilities only.
The newer models have QAM tuning as well -- but they only handle unencrypted QAM signals.
The latest models are required, by law, to have a place to plug in a standardized 'decryption' module that can be purchased, or sometimes rented, from your cable company.
The cable companies _usually_ carry one 'pure analog' channel on the 'digital cable'. This allows one to establish -- with a non-QAM capable tuner -- that there _is_ a signal from the head-end to the premises. It usually is strictly a running 'ad' from the cable company announcing that you have to have a 'box' to see the cable signals on that set.
Lastly, your _set_, *assuming* it =is= QAM capable, will have to be 'told' explicitly (on one of the set-up menus) to search for QAM channels. The menu item will be something like "tuning band', and should have settings for 'broadcast' and 'cable' (at least).
I don't know how much of the content Comcast is encrypting -- it is a 'sure thing' that everything not in the bottom-level services tier -is- scrambled, and the bottom-level channels *may* be. the QAM 'decryption' module (TV add-in, or dedicated 'cable box') is capable of receiving instructions from the cable 'head-end', with regard to -which- channels to decrypt, with _which_ decryption key. The actual keys are changed regularly, too. Downloaded from the cable head-end, based on the unique 'address' coded into the decryption module.
Depending on _exactly_ how one asks the question about whether or not one needs a 'box' to recieve/view the cable channels, the customer service reps can easily draw the wrong conclusion about 'what you need' to make things work with your particular TV.
You need to 'read the manual' for your TV sets, to make sure they are "QAM" capable.
NEXT you need to check how to switch the TV to that mode of operation.
_Then_ you can hook the set up to the cable, and tell it 'siccem' to find channels. You may get a surprise. <grin>
*IF* you have the TV configured for QAM, and it still doesn't find any displayable channels, the cable company is apparently scrambling 'everything', and you'll have to see about a decryption module for the set, _if_ the set supports it, *or* use an external converter box from the cable company. For some reason, they want to charge extra, per month, for boxes that output an ATSC signal, vs those that output only NTSC. Then you usually get to pay extra for the 'bundle' of HDTV channels, over and above what you pay to get those same channels in 'standard definition'.
Now, aren't you sorry you asked? <wry grin>
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On Thu, 17 Feb 2011 21:44:54 -0800 (PST), lektric dan

For Comcast I believe you can buy a Tivo DVR and get the cable card also.
Mark
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Not from Comcast!
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On 2/18/11 5:34 AM, in article ijli00$h2i$ snipped-for-privacy@news.eternal-september.org,

helpful Comcast techs. But the ones who first answer the phone are often useless. And, as the OP found, inconsistent.
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First, the obvious -- call center people aren't domain experts. The people who know all about cable can get better pay in other positions. So to a randomly selected call center person, all cable boxes may well be the same.
[BTW, I'm no expert either.]
There are two devices still perhaps needed, depending on the system.
One is a digital decryptor. Some cable signals are encrypted, and you need either a cable box or a Cablecard to decrypt them. My provider (TimeWarner, Dayton) appears to scramble all the digital content. I recently upgraded my TiVo to start the crawl into the modern age. A channel scan finds all the digital channels (at least the standard, non-premium ones). However, tuning in any of them tells me that I have signal but it needs to be decoded.
The second device is a Tuning Adaptor. Digital cable is a big pipe, but no pipe is ever big enough for everyone. So some cable companies multiplex only the channels they know are being watched. So something (cable box or Tuning Adaptor) needs to send a signal saying "need Foo-HD."
Casual hanging around in TV related discussions says that, especially in times of system transition, getting clear answers about which devices you need is difficult. IMO, it isn't helped by the fact that the cable companies love to keep renting you some box or other for $5/month.
An extra layer is that the national cable companies (Comcast, TimeWarner) don't operate as national systems. The systems are regional at best. Any information you get online about Comcast in NY will be meaningless in Atlanta.
--
Drew Lawson | Radioactive cats have
| 18 half-lives
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I have a Comcast customer service nightmare story that I will leave for a different day. Needless to say I will not EVER do business with that piece of shit company ever again, ever. I am a real free market type of guy but that rancid organization is a monumental stinking pile of crap to the worst that corporate America can possibly foist on the nation that makes me wonder if someone should pass a fricking law to run them out of business. I wish they would choke on their own vomit, figuratively speaking, I don't wish any harm to any individual, just the evil corporation, ok maybe a few board members.
I realize that may be a bit ambiguous so just to be clear I really don't hold them in very high regard.
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On 2/18/2011 4:03 PM, SonomaProducts.com wrote:

I've never been so glad to pull the plug on company as I was with Comcast ... well, except maybe WorldCom, as a T1 provider.
--
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On Fri, 18 Feb 2011 14:03:32 -0800 (PST), SonomaProducts.com wrote:

Hey, that makes them almost as bad as Directv, I've had Directv since they launched their first satellite, there is no end to their BS. They once tried to charge me $5.00 for talking to customer service. When I explained that they could remove the charge or turn the service off, whichever they wanted and at any rate I would never pay the $5.00. They removed the charge, but I have to wonder how many customers paid the $5.00 without being aware of it.
basilisk
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And if think you are having problems now, Comcast recently aquired NBC from GE.
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