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From my tech blog: Comcast kept telling one thing, my social-media followers another. Guess who is right?

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Being a former cable guy, I've been fielding questions from coworkers for a while now as those digital switch-over letters have been going out over the last few weeks. Even though it appears Clear QAM is safe for now, the analog locals are the channels switching over, it's only a matter of time before the Clear QAM is shut off. The goal of the cable companies with this switch-over is to get to a point where any service over their cable line needs their equipment to access it. This accomplishes two things.

1) With this, they can leave residences always connected to the cable system. They don't have to roll trucks to hook/unhook customers who are moving or non-paying. All they have to do is activate/deactivate equipment remotely. It keeps customers from getting TV that they may not be paying for. They also don't have to hire as many cable guys to do basic jobs that they can pass on to the customers. The 'self-install' kits are an example of this.

2) A required box gives the cable companies a so called 'foot in the door' of the customer's home. With cable ready services, it's a limited set of channels the customer can get without additional work. It's easier to up-sell a customer if you can just flip on channels remotely. Having to set aside time to have someone come out and hook something up will deter an impulse buy. It also allows for on demand services to be accessed. Even if customer doesn't plan on using it, they may if it's there. The cable companies see on-demand as impulse purchases. Can't use it if there isn't a box in the house. 

Personally, I switched to using Cablecard late last year. I went the cable-ready->Elgato EyeTv->Mac back before the standard cable digital switch-over to skip the equipment charges. After having to get a box, my setup became cablebox->Elgato EyeTV HD->Mac. It worked but was not reliable. To many times the cable box got confused or reboot and would not be on the right channel to remotely record. Finally jumped at the HDHomerun Prime and happy with the move. It's a bit complicated to set up, but runs well in my case. The new DLNA beta support is fun to play with too.
Elgato told me via Twitter that my EyeTV won't work anymore unless I get an antenna, but they might be hedging their bets.

This article:

says "The FCC wants to ensure that consumers can still access basic cable services without specifically renting a box from the cable companies. And so the FCC is requiring that the cable operators make the unencrypted TV signals available to third-party device makers and Internet TV service providers."

but I couldn't find out how this is supposed to occur. I sent a comment to the FCC, but all they said boiled down to "if we forbid the cable companies from doing this, it will interfere with their business, which is bad."
+badass jfro: Where do you live? Circumstances may vary from location to location. Here in St. Paul, my Elgato tuner will still work with Comcast via ClearQAM. Comcast had told me otherwise, but the PR people doing so were misinformed.
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