Okay - Call Me Digital TV Confused


I came across an interesting blog entry in the Seattle Times about the 2009 introduction of digital TV in the Washington/Oregon region for Comcast customers. Apparently, out there, to receive digital television you will either need to have a CableCard device for your television or you will need to get a cable box for every television in your house, including those that are digital or HDTV ready.

Comcast plans to give every one of its customers two converter boxes for free, but will charge $1.99 a month per box for any beyond that (the average number of televisions per household in the US is 2.24).

I was surprised to read this, since I was under the impression from the government digital conversion website site that if you had a digital TV and you had cable, that you would not need a cable box.

Am I the only one surprised by this? And will this happen to all Comcast customers (or with customers of other cable companies as well)?

I am on Comcast, and I haven't heard about this happening in my area.

Any more insight into this would be appreciated.


A friend of mine sent me this link on the digital conversion. It says , "Although the switch-off of analog channels should not affect cable subscribers directly, we expect that some cable companies may use the transition as an excuse to get more of their analog customers to go digital. According to the FCC, 'If a cable company makes the business decision to go all-digital (meaning it will stop offering any channels to its customers in analog), it must ensure that its analog customers can continue to watch their local broadcast stations. This may require customers with analog televisions to get a set-top box." In other words, if you currently get cable by connecting your analog TV directly to the wall, with no cable box, you may be in for some changes yourself. It all depends on your local cable provider, so check with them for details."

In other words, will I need a cable box even for a digital or HDTV? A definitely maybe, as my friend says.

IEEE Spectrum also has a lot information on the change-over here. A story on problems with converting using cable can be found here.

Looks like February 2009 will be a lot of "fun."


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City