If you believe the internet:
If you have a digital TV, you may be able to view broadcast stations through your cable system without additional equipment. You should ask your cable company about the equipment options that may be available to you, including any options to purchase equipment from a retailer if you do not wish to rent equipment from your cable company.
This is primarily due to cable companies having the option to make the digital transition. The FCC mandate did not apply to them. However, most of the major ones did transition all their customers to digital. And, depending on who you believe, cable companies may or may not be required to make broadcast channels available without a converter box. Remember the old cable ready moniker on TV sets. Well now in the digital era, this is replaced with, you guessed it, digital cable ready.
Are you ready
As you may imagine, digital cable ready, means different things to different vendors. To some it may be support for CableCARD and to others it is including a built in tuner that decodes QAM, cable’s technique of transmitting programming digitally.
Cable is well known for encrypting or scrambling its signals. They use this to control access to premium content and and offer different tiers of service. The signals corresponding to the OTA broadcasts will not be encrypted. They are passed in the clear, hence the term Clear QAM.
The easiest way to take advantage of clear QAM is to make sure you have:
- an HDTV with a built in QAM tuner
- basic cable service
- a comfortable place to watch
That should be it. Just sit back and enjoy any channel that is broadcast OTA without any worry about trees, buildings, and other obstacles. It may be argued that there will be some degradation due to cable having the ability to compress it further since they control the transmission system, but it will still beat Standard Definition!
Give the people what they want
“But what about my DVR?” is no doubt the next question. Sure, jettisoning your cable box may mean throwing the DVR “baby” out with the bathwater, so you have a few alternatives:
- Home Theater PC, like Scorecard, with an HDTV Tuner card
- TiVo, preferably the HD XL model
- Digeo’s HD DVR: Moxi
All, depending on how much you want to spend, may run no monthly fee. Some require CableCARD and that will have a fee.
TiVo is pretty well known, but new comer Moxi has garnered some very good press since its inception in 2004. It has support for every major cable system, customizable internet connectivity, and service to Netflix, Hulu, Flickr, and a growing list of existing providers.
One major advantage Moxi has over other scheduling systems, remote or otherwise, is automatic conflict resolution. Hurrah for that! How long did this take to make its way into the mainstream? They even offer a payment plan. Multi-room capability is due soon. Stay tuned and remember, you get what you pay for!