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Is there a way decrypt HD Channels off Comcast Basic Cable?

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Old 11-05-2009, 02:57 PM   #1
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Default Is there a way decrypt HD Channels off Comcast Basic Cable?

Hi Everyone,

I have the cheapest Basic Cable service from Comcast in San Jose, California. I also have a 42" Vizio Gallevia LCD HD TV from Costco for about 3 years now. This TV has a built in QAM receiver that, up until about 2 weeks ago, could decode about 100 Comcast HDTV channels, like 2-1, 9-1, 9-2, etc, as well as receive the old analog channels like, 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. About 2 weeks ago the HD DTV channels went blank. I should be careful to describe what has happened, because it is weird. When I scan for channels, the HD channels like 2-1 and 9-1 are still there, they just display as black with no sound, not snow with static. The old analog channels 2 through 36 display fine as they did before. The QAM tuner is finding the DTV HD channels when it scans, but it can only display them as a black background with no sound.

I have heard that Comcast may now be encrypting the HD channels for Basic Cable subscribers. I know I can spend way more money per month and get their box and solve the problem, but I wonder if there is an external QAM box or equivalent that I could buy that might descramble the signal, assuming that is what is happening. I have seen some external QAM boxes sold on the internet, but they seem more geared to attaching an outside antenna for over the air DTV. San Jose is 55 miles from the TV tower in San Francisco, and antennas can be problematic around here because of the distant tower.

I would like to plug the Comcast cable into some sort of box and then output that to my TV to get the full range of DTV signals as before. Because the current tuner still finds these things, I suspect there must be a way to actually display them.

Have any of you found a solution?

Thanks,
Mark
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Old 11-05-2009, 03:19 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by msweiger View Post
Hi Everyone,

I have the cheapest Basic Cable service from Comcast in San Jose, California. I also have a 42" Vizio Gallevia LCD HD TV from Costco for about 3 years now. This TV has a built in QAM receiver that, up until about 2 weeks ago, could decode about 100 Comcast HDTV channels, like 2-1, 9-1, 9-2, etc, as well as receive the old analog channels like, 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. About 2 weeks ago the HD DTV channels went blank. I should be careful to describe what has happened, because it is weird. When I scan for channels, the HD channels like 2-1 and 9-1 are still there, they just display as black with no sound, not snow with static. The old analog channels 2 through 36 display fine as they did before. The QAM tuner is finding the DTV HD channels when it scans, but it can only display them as a black background with no sound.

I have heard that Comcast may now be encrypting the HD channels for Basic Cable subscribers. I know I can spend way more money per month and get their box and solve the problem, but I wonder if there is an external QAM box or equivalent that I could buy that might descramble the signal, assuming that is what is happening. I have seen some external QAM boxes sold on the internet, but they seem more geared to attaching an outside antenna for over the air DTV. San Jose is 55 miles from the TV tower in San Francisco, and antennas can be problematic around here because of the distant tower.

I would like to plug the Comcast cable into some sort of box and then output that to my TV to get the full range of DTV signals as before. Because the current tuner still finds these things, I suspect there must be a way to actually display them.

Have any of you found a solution?

Thanks,
Mark

To decrypt the HD channels, you will need to rent either a box or cable card from Comcast. Does your TV have a cable card slot?

There is no seperate box you can buy to decrypt them. You could buy a box with a QAM tuner, but you will be in the same boat you are now.

You could buy an HD Tivo as they have cable card slots. But the HD Tivo is a couple hundred bucks and you have a monthly fee for the Tivo service. You could buy a Moxi box for $799, albeit with no monthly fee.

Pick your poison unfortunately.
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Old 11-05-2009, 04:42 PM   #3
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Your TV already has a QAM tuner. Another QAM tuner will do you absolutely no good. It's exactly the same as is inside your TV. There is no box or descrambler that you can legally purchase to descramble the signal. Anything you buy on the internet will do you no good. Don't waste your time or money on these scams. You have to have either the box or the cable card from Comcast in order to descrable the signals. And, don't bother purchasing a Comcast box from someone. The cable companies DO NOT sell these boxes, so any you see for sale are stolen, and will not be authorized by Comcast. They will not work. My cable company scrambled all of their premium digital channels about 3 years ago. It was fun while it lasted.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:24 PM   #4
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Just to be clear, I am not trying to get premium channels, just the DTV versions of the local programming, like NBC and PBS, which worked fine until around Oct. 15th. Isn't there a federal requirement that Comcast provide these channels for no additional fee? I'd rather watch the local shows in wide format 480i (which is still pretty pitiful resolution considering what is being broadcast) but better than the weird analog equivalents they now give on the whole number channels. To get the DTV channels, I have to more than double my cable charges.

Thanks for your opinions on this matter,
Mark


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Originally Posted by HiDefRev View Post
Your TV already has a QAM tuner. Another QAM tuner will do you absolutely no good. It's exactly the same as is inside your TV. There is no box or descrambler that you can legally purchase to descramble the signal. Anything you buy on the internet will do you no good. Don't waste your time or money on these scams. You have to have either the box or the cable card from Comcast in order to descrable the signals. And, don't bother purchasing a Comcast box from someone. The cable companies DO NOT sell these boxes, so any you see for sale are stolen, and will not be authorized by Comcast. They will not work. My cable company scrambled all of their premium digital channels about 3 years ago. It was fun while it lasted.
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Old 11-06-2009, 07:42 AM   #5
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Just to be clear, I am not trying to get premium channels, just the DTV versions of the local programming, like NBC and PBS, which worked fine until around Oct. 15th. Isn't there a federal requirement that Comcast provide these channels for no additional fee?
Analog, yes. Digital, no.

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To get the DTV channels, I have to more than double my cable charges.
Unfortunately, yes.
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Old 11-06-2009, 08:22 PM   #6
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You can get a over the air antenna for your local HD programming.
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Old 11-08-2009, 06:02 AM   #7
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Hey Mark,

I'm sort of in the same boat as you. Here in southern NJ we have Comcast as well, and we have experienced quite a few changes in our "Basic" cable too. When we first got our HDTV about 3 years ago, we got not only some HD channels, but also some On Demand feeds (I think) that others in the neighborhood were controlling. These were always on different channels, and would come and go, but sometimes they paused, fast forwarded, etc. They left about a year and a half ago, no problem though.

We still have our "basic" HD channels in HD, although they have moved from channel to channel. They have been in the same spot for about 3/4 of a year now. Some of the channels we got in HD that we don't anymore still come in -- in that black screen you describe. Others stay black for about 5 or 6 seconds, then display the words "Unauthroized Channel" or something like that. I feel like my days are numbered with the "basic" HD programming. Like you, I don't really want to pay for the $30-$40 cable that will get me HD, especially when I can technically get these channels in HD over the air for free.

Maybe you could call your cable company and find out what's going on? Grab a nice book before you call, you may be on the phone for a bit! I have found that Comcast has really improved customer service at least around here. For awhile, complaints were running rampid and they were getting a really bad name. Now, not so bad.

Best of luck, and please report back with your findings, I'm curious to know what's going to happen where I live in the future!

TomZ
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Old 11-08-2009, 01:43 PM   #8
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The reason for your On Demand is that when someone orders a On Demand program, it sends the program down a lower freq and tells your box whixch freq to to view it on. Since it is a lower digital freq any tv that is doing a full digital scan at that time can pick these up since they are not encrypted.
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Old 11-10-2009, 10:18 AM   #9
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Mark,

Comcast is not legally allowed to encrypt your QAM feeds for local channels, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS etc. THese must be given to you "clear."
However, the rest of your lineup that you are paying for in basic like Lifetime, USA, SyFy etc. CAN be encrypted. I know of no way short of spending a fortune on esoteric special equipment for decoding these other channels if Comcast had chosen to encrypt them.

So, if you are content with the LOCAL channels in QAM clear HD call them and find out why they are breaking the law.

If you want the others, a box will cost about $10 a month for HD feeds.
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Old 11-10-2009, 11:39 AM   #10
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Mark,

Comcast is not legally allowed to encrypt your QAM feeds for local channels, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS etc. THese must be given to you "clear."
Could you please provide a link to back up that statement? I believe you are mistaken.
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Old 11-10-2009, 11:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zip2play View Post
Mark,

Comcast is not legally allowed to encrypt your QAM feeds for local channels, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS etc. THese must be given to you "clear."
However, the rest of your lineup that you are paying for in basic like Lifetime, USA, SyFy etc. CAN be encrypted. I know of no way short of spending a fortune on esoteric special equipment for decoding these other channels if Comcast had chosen to encrypt them.

So, if you are content with the LOCAL channels in QAM clear HD call them and find out why they are breaking the law.

If you want the others, a box will cost about $10 a month for HD feeds.
If you have a digital TV and your cable is ALL digital (like mine is), the cable company MUST provide you with the required carriage channels in DIGITAL format. It does not mean HD.

From FCC 07-170:
. Specifically, Section 614(b)(7) (for commercial stations) states that broadcast signals that are subject to mandatory carriage must be “viewable via cable on all television receivers of a subscriber which are connected to a cable system by a cable operator or for which a cable operator provides a connection.” Similarly, Section 615(h) for noncommercial stations states that “[s]ignals carried in fulfillment of the carriage obligations of a cable operator under this section shall be available to every subscriber as part of the cable system’s lowest priced tier that includes the retransmission of local commercial television broadcast signals.” These statutory requirements plainly apply to cable carriage of digital broadcast signals, and, as a consequence, cable operators must ensure that all cable subscribers – including those with analog television sets – continue to be able to view all commercial and non-commercial must-carry broadcast stations after February 17, 2009.

These channels must be provided with "basic" service. If your TV displays them in SD and not HD, I do not see where you would have a complaint.

Last edited by Rick-F; 11-10-2009 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 11-10-2009, 02:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by deadhead68 View Post
To decrypt the HD channels, you will need to rent either a box or cable card from Comcast. Does your TV have a cable card slot?

There is no seperate box you can buy to decrypt them. You could buy a box with a QAM tuner, but you will be in the same boat you are now.

You could buy an HD Tivo as they have cable card slots. But the HD Tivo is a couple hundred bucks and you have a monthly fee for the Tivo service. You could buy a Moxi box for $799, albeit with no monthly fee.

Pick your poison unfortunately.
on a side note, the Moxi went down in price from $799 to $500.
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Old 11-10-2009, 02:49 PM   #13
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on a side note, the Moxi went down in price from $799 to $500.
Wow. I had just checked their website last Thursday when I posted that and it was $799. Nice sale they're running right now.
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Old 11-19-2009, 12:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
From FCC 07-170:
Specifically, Section 614(b)(7) (for commercial stations) states that broadcast signals that are subject to mandatory carriage must be “viewable via cable on all television receivers of a subscriber which are connected to a cable system by a cable operator or for which a cable operator provides a connection.”
This requirement only applies to local over-the-air broadcast channels that elect "Must Carry". If a broadcaster elects "Retransmission Consent" then the requirement does not apply, and instead what applies is whatever is negotiated between the broadcaster and the service provider.

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If your TV displays them in SD and not HD, I do not see where you would have a complaint.
Very true: Provision of downconverted SD channels has been held to constitute compliance with this requirement, despite other requirements that preclude "material degradation". Evidently, the FCC doesn't feel that downconversion qualifies as degradation.

Going back a little...
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These statutory requirements plainly apply to cable carriage of digital broadcast signals, and, as a consequence, cable operators must ensure that all cable subscribers – including those with analog television sets – continue to be able to view all commercial and non-commercial must-carry broadcast stations after February 17, 2009.
That's not actually the case. There is an agreement between the major service providers and the FCC to comply with something akin to that until 2012, but smaller service providers, like RCN here in Burlington, already no longer comply with that requirement. They offer rental of converter boxes, though. FiOS is similar -- they even include a converter box I think.
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Old 11-24-2009, 10:42 AM   #15
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The reason for your On Demand is that when someone orders a On Demand program, it sends the program down a lower freq and tells your box whixch freq to to view it on. Since it is a lower digital freq any tv that is doing a full digital scan at that time can pick these up since they are not encrypted.
Sykotic,

I don't have a cable box, just the built in TV's tuner. Works the same, I guess. Anyway, it stopped months ago, so no more free "movie de'jure" for the evenings!

It was more frustrating really, watching something half way and then the person watching it decides to pause it and go do something, then I'm stuck.

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