The Other Digital Transition

Posted in Media at 3 pm

So you know all about the Broadcast Digital TV conversion that has happened. The original 2004 deadline was delayed ultimately till June 2009 for mandatory shut off of the analog signals. I had a couple posts about the Set Top “Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes” (aka “CECBs”). These are mandated boxes that allow viewers to convert the over-the-air broadcast signal to a standard-definition analog signal so that it can be fed into analog-based TVs, like every one manufactured since 1928.

(The highest-end versions have two features: analog play thru (APT) and S-Video connections. If you’ve got those, you’ve got the most advanced DTV Converter Box that’s available under the government program.)

However, there’s another transition that is parallel and yet has a completely different set of rules. This is the Cable companies’ transition to Digital Cable. Keep this in mind: Both Broadcast TV and Cable TV are going from All Analog Signals to All Digital Signals, but for totally different reasons. We’re middle of the time where both the analog signals and the digital signals are available. I had wondered when the cable conversion was going to happen since it was basically inevitable. Most digital channels take roughly one-tenth the bandwidth of a single analog channel. That means the cable company can send 10 times more content to the customers.

In Portland, Comcast shut off most of their analog signals in June (except for the most basic channels, 2-31). That means if you want to watch Comedy Central or BET or the History Channel on most TVs you MUST have a converter box. The good news is that the bottom-of-the-line Digital Cable converter box (what Comcast calls the Digital Transport Adapter) is FREE.

In the ’80s and ’90s, the term ‘cable ready’ when applied to TVs meant that the owner no longer had to have a converter box for their analog cable signal. That is now changing again. With the digital conversion, there are no longer any ‘cable-ready’ televisions. At some point I hope this changes, though it may not with a smaller set of cable monopolies with deeper pockets to keep it from happening.

(This post was originally drafted earlier this year. Sorry for any random changes in tense!)

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