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channels available without a set top box

channels available without a set top box

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Copper Contributor RossDavid
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Registered: ‎02-13-2010
Message 1 of 8
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My parents use Comcast, and on one TV they use the box provided by Comcast (for a monthly fee) to view digital and premium channels.  However, they have three other TVs hooked up directly to the incoming cable with no intervening box.  They can view channels 2-99 (Including ESPN, Comcast Sports Net, etc.) and this is done by simply tuning the TV to one of those channels.  Can I do this with Verizon too?

 

In my efforts to determine what I could get from Verizon while snowed in this past week, it appeared to me that with Verizon I can only get LOCAL channels (no ESPN, etc.), that I need a TV with a digital tuner, and that I need to tune along two dimension.  For example, to get CBS HD, I need to tune to channel 3-1 (not just channel 3 or channel 503).  Why is there this difference?  Why does Verizon encrypt more content, why is the signal in this strange format, and why can't my older TVs receive the signal?  My parents have some very old TVs receiving Comcast's signal without a convertor box.  I don't understand why Verizon makes it so much more difficult to watch TV without a convertor box, especially when all the rest of their services are far superior to Comcast's.

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Bronze Contributor II
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Registered: ‎12-15-2009
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I will try to answer each of your questions. Please tell me if you don't understand or I use too much technical terms.

 

There are two basic things you need to know before I do that though. By "digital" TV, I mean a TV with a digital tuner (basically all flat panels/anything bought after 2004). You can tell if your TV is digital if it says "ATSC" or more simply, if you are able to tune to channels like "3-1" and not just "3" or "4." An "analog" TV means a TV with an analog tuner, basically anything non-flat panel built before 2004 and only able to get "3" or "4," but not "3-1."

 

1) With FiOS, the only channels you can receive are local channels, which are Chs 1-50 on the FiOS lineup. These include basically anything you'd be able to get with an antenna (your local CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, PBS, CW, etc. affiliates), plus local access channels in your area, plus WGN America (Superstation), plus Weatherscan and TV Guide Network. With an analog TV, you are only able to get the analog versions of these stations (i.e. non-HD). With a digital TV, you will also be able to get the HD versions of these stations, if available (I do not believe that includes WGN America HD, though; and TVG and Weatherscan are not in HD).

 

2. The reason why, with Comcast or any other "regular" cable provider, you are able to get "expanded basic" (i.e. 1-99) without any type of set-top box - just wall coax to TV - is because those cable providers have specifically kept those channels in the older analog format just for that purpose. Analog tuners typically only go up to Ch. 125 or so, and can't tune to subchannels (i.e. 3-1), hence the obvious numerical limit on the number of channels available by this method.

 

3. When a channel is in the format "103-3," for example, that does *not* necessarily mean it is encrypted. 103-3 happened to be CBS HD for me back when I had Charter cable. With a digital TV, that channel was available without any set-top box. That is because, by law, providers cannot encrypt local HD channels. This is also the case with Verizon, although typically the HD (digital) version of your locals will be 4-1 if 4 is CBS, for example, but there may be other channels (like PBS subchannel "Create") that are 107-371, for example, which doesn't mean it is encrypted (it's not, you can watch it), but just that's the channel # being sent by Verizon to be turned into "494," for example, by the STB, if present. *Any* cable provider can and will encrypt any digital (naturally HD if available) channels that are not local channels, i.e. ESPN or TNT. Verizon does this, Comcast does this, Charter does this. This means that your TV will not be able to tune to this channel; it can only be unscrambled by a Verizon STB.

 

4. Your options for your parents are pretty simple. It sounds like they have analog TVs ("some very old TVs"). If you connect these directly to FiOS, without a STB, you will only be able to receive the non-HD versions of your local channels, like I described above. If they had digital TVs, they would be able to receive the HD and non-HD versions of the same local channels. Verizon makes it VERY simple, though, to fix this. They offer $3.99/month "digital converter boxes" (similar to what were sold last year when antenna signals went all-digital and thus had to be converted to an analog signal for older TVs). These are the size of a small book and just go wall coax to converter, coax to TV. This will allow your parents' older TVs to receive ALL Verizon channels, aside from the HD channels, since the converter will unscramble all the signals and will offer them in its own graphical interface (NOT the regular program guide, just a Ch. #). With this, you will be able to watch Chs. 0001 through 9999, again, aside from the HD channels. You just have to turn your TV to channel 3, like a VCR.

 

It is important to note that you do NOT need a TV with a digital tuner to view FiOS. An analog TV will work with or without a STB, getting local channels or all non-HD channels as described above.

 

To answer your last question ("why does Verizon encrypt more content"), that's not really the issue at play here. Comcast is still broadcasting channels 1-99 in analog format as a sort of "grandfather clause" that will allow older, analog TVs to work without a converter box. The fact is, Comcast, in some areas, has already made steps to move away from this practice, which is now 20+ years old. There are people that I know who have Comcast and have needed to buy at least a basic digital converter (like Verizon) because Comcast is prepping for their own digital transition, which will eliminate that 1-99 analog channel practice. I also believe that Verizon will soon be dropping all of their own analog signals, which as I mentioned above are just the locals, 1-50. When that happens, an analog TV will need a $3.99 converter to view any channel at all. Verizon was launched about four or five years ago, so it is a new product with a new infrastructure; it would not be sensible for Verizon to offer some sort of "expanded basic" package of ~99 analog channels, because that would be taking a step backwards.

 

The step forward that Verizon instead chose to take is an all-digital system, with an electronic program guide and the other features of a STB no longer just a "premium" sort of deal. TVs themselves, even the most modern HDTVs, are not capable of delivering the typical STB features, which means that they need customers to rent STBs, and Verizon does that, and understands that these are not cheap, and thus offers the $3.99/month digital converters. Now, theoretically, because digital tuners have nearly an infinite amount of channel possibilities, Verizon could offer its entire lineup (or at least selected "expanded basic") channels unencrypted, so that with a digital TV you could watch them without a STB. I agree that would be a *very* consumer-friendly option, but the revenue lost from not renting STBs would be enormous, and would hurt Verizon's capability of providing the amount of channels that they do.

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Platinum Contributor III
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Registered: ‎08-23-2008
Message 3 of 8
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Verizon is and always has been 100% digital and transmits their signal in the digital QAM format. Comcast in some areas has also gone 100% digital, and also announced it was doing so. I have heard that they do provide local only channels in analog to the TV in some locations. I know areas that were aquired by Comcast still broadcast as you have said. So they did not go 100% digital as advertized.

 

Verizon does provide local QAM channels unencrypted as required by the FCC, but you would need a QAM tuner equipped TV to receive them. Digital ATSC TV tuner is not the same a QAM. Verizon dropped their Analog parallel broadcast a couple of years ago. This allowed them more HD capacity. Which is much more than Comcast in my area.

 

Options.

1. Verizon STB either HD or Standard

2. Verizon digital adapter for SD only. (Does Not provide a channel guide, widgets, or video on demand.) $3.99 a month.

3. TV that receives QAM channels. (Local Channels Only. Channel locations could change at random.)

4. Cable Ready TV that will accept a cable card. Same limits as with Digital adapter. (Verizon Supplied Cable Card $3.99 a month)

5. Tivo HD with Verizon cable card. Requires a Tivo subscription and also has the same limits as any device that uses a cable card. No Verizon guide, only Tivo guide which I like better. No Verizon Widgets, No Verizon Video on demand. I like my Tivo, but miss some of the VOD.

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Bronze Contributor II
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Registered: ‎12-15-2009
Message 4 of 8
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prisaz - I am still fairly certain you can receive analog locals from Verizon. I bought an HDTV over the summer, and before I got my STB in the mail, I hooked it up to the wall, and was getting both 3 and 3-1 of a channel, for example. I've heard March as the date for eliminating those, but I have forgotten where I read that.

 

You're right about the ATSC/QAM difference, though, thanks for the clarification. Most TVs these days are both though.

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Nickel Contributor
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Registered: ‎02-10-2009
Message 5 of 8
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Vz absolutely does NOT have any analog channels...

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Platinum Contributor III
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Registered: ‎08-23-2008
Message 6 of 8
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@ekem015 wrote:

prisaz - I am still fairly certain you can receive analog locals from Verizon. I bought an HDTV over the summer, and before I got my STB in the mail, I hooked it up to the wall, and was getting both 3 and 3-1 of a channel, for example. I've heard March as the date for eliminating those, but I have forgotten where I read that.

 

You're right about the ATSC/QAM difference, though, thanks for the clarification. Most TVs these days are both though.


 

 

Verizon phased out Analog broadcast over FIOS in the fall of 2008. Prior to the digital conversion in 2009. This allowed them to be grandfatherd by the FCC in not requiring a detachable encryption device with every set top box. IE: Cable Card and also allowed them to continue the use of the DCT-700 digital adaptor, which does not use a cable card.

 

http://newscenter.verizon.com/press-releases/verizon/2008/verizon-fios-tv-completes.html

 

I can insure that if you had channels coming from the ONT after that date, they were digital.

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Copper Contributor RossDavid
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Registered: ‎02-13-2010
Message 7 of 8
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Thank you everyone for the responses.  I think I understand now.  I appreciate it.  It just seems slightly devious to force customers to pay an extra fee on top of that already paid for a cable subscription to receive any channel that could not be received by simply hooking up a pair of old-fashioned rabbit ears.  I mean, isn't the service fee to pay for their costs and to make a profit?  Yet the service fee only gets me what I could get for free with an antenna.  I need to then pay an extra fee for each TV I would like to receive actual cable content on.  Oh, well, I do suppose everyone does this.  Even Ticketmaster adds exorbinant "processing" fees.  I would rather costs just be straightforward instead of hidden like that.

 

By the way, my parents most certainly do receive ESPN and other cable channels on their analog TVs without a digital adapter (up to channel 99), so Comcast is not encrypting all their cable channels.  They may do so at some point in the near future and move in the direction of going all digital and encrypting everything they are permitted to encrypt.

 

Anyway, thank you for the responses.  They were quite informative.

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Platinum Contributor III
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Registered: ‎08-23-2008
Message 8 of 8
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@RossDavid wrote:

Thank you everyone for the responses.  I think I understand now.  I appreciate it.  It just seems slightly devious to force customers to pay an extra fee on top of that already paid for a cable subscription to receive any channel that could not be received by simply hooking up a pair of old-fashioned rabbit ears.  I mean, isn't the service fee to pay for their costs and to make a profit?  Yet the service fee only gets me what I could get for free with an antenna.  I need to then pay an extra fee for each TV I would like to receive actual cable content on.  Oh, well, I do suppose everyone does this.  Even Ticketmaster adds exorbinant "processing" fees.  I would rather costs just be straightforward instead of hidden like that.

 

By the way, my parents most certainly do receive ESPN and other cable channels on their analog TVs without a digital adapter (up to channel 99), so Comcast is not encrypting all their cable channels.  They may do so at some point in the near future and move in the direction of going all digital and encrypting everything they are permitted to encrypt.

 

Anyway, thank you for the responses.  They were quite informative.


 

 Comcast advertized they were going 100% digital in 20% and then went back and decide to provide Analog locals only. Some areas that were aquired by Comcast still offer what you say. But it is a matter of time. Or Comcast has no intention of doing what they advertized two year ago for all their market areas.

 

 

If you have a Cable Card Ready TV, newer TVs. Cards are available for $3.99 a month, or a digital adaptor for the same price. But will not provide all the features FIOS has to offer.

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