Actually, the "lowest tier" is unscrambled. The lowest tier is technically LOCAL ONLY and doesn't require an STB. So while the definition of the lowest tier is way less than your old basic cable, today's lowest tier is not encoded.
I don't understand why Verizon is scrambling channels from the lowest TV package. When I had Bright House i was able to watch basic cable without a STB and with FiOS i only get my local channels. Is ther a chance basic channels like Music Choice, TBS , Fox Sports, etc?
More and more cable systems are scrambling everything.
This is because they can't stop you from stealing cable if the signals are unscrambled.
Verizon can leave the locals unscrambled (so that you can watch on a device that has a QAM tuner) because they can control the TV signal at the ONT.