Should you buy that new giant TV for the holidays? What Comcast isn’t telling you:
By Robert McMillen
Black Friday has come and gone, and maybe you are holding off a little while longer before you buy that new LCD or plasma TV. Then again maybe you didn’t. Is there a mistake in buying one this year as opposed to next?
Question- Should I buy a flat panel TV to replace my big heavy TV? What are the advantages?
Terrell J. Portland, OR.
Well, there is quite the controversy here and I am hoping to hold off on too much hate mail from Portland retailers and Comcast cable TV, but….
Here is the lowdown- and pay very close attention. In February all analog signals for TVs with rabbit ears are going away. We all have heard about this and it isn’t what this article is about. We’ll save that conversation for another week. Comcast is leaving a little detail out about how this change will affect you.
Here is where the conspiracy comes in. There have been many commercials from Comcast about their customers having nothing to worry about if they are cable subscribers because their service won’t be affected by the February change. That’s true for now, but in the very near future, after that fateful February date, Comcast will be exiting from analog signals themselves.
You may not know it, but the first 99 channels from your cable TV provider (satellite not included here) are analog. If you want the other 200 or so channels you pay extra for the digital convertor box, but that comes with an additional charge. Comcast and other cable providers have a huge problem with providing analog signals in the long term.
You may have heard about a growing service called FIOS from Verizon. Fiber coming from FIOS allows for all digital TV and internet service, unlike Comcast. This provides them with no analog signals, and their internet service will always be much faster than cable.
In order to compete with FIOS, Comcast is pulling a shell game. First, they are saying they’re a fiber company, but compared to FIOS they aren’t. FIOS is fiber all the way to your door, and Comcast is cable. This provides a lot less bandwidth for cable customers using internet service. So Comcast needs to get rid of the analog channels and bond two cables together just to compete with FIOS.
This will allow a theoretical maximum bandwidth of around 150 Mb of speed compared to around 8 Mbs today. That may sound like a lot but in a few years it will likely be the standard. FIOS, however, can do more than ten times that with the flick of a switch whenever they choose to. Fiber has a pipe the size of Niagara Falls compared to Comcast’s which would be the size of a garden hose.
So what do televisions have to do with all of this? Once the analog signals are gone from both the airwaves and from Comcast’s service, every TV hooked to cable- both great and small and old or new- will have to have a cable digital convertor box. This will add a cost of an extra $5-10 per month per box! OR they will have to have a new technology from Tru2Way that will allow your television to have the cable digital convertor built into your TV.
Tru2Way is a technology that allows a small chip to be installed into your TV that does all the digital converting for you instead of that big ugly set top box you currently use. This is a little different than the current “CableCard” technology that does the same thing if you have a third party DVR like Tivo. Those cards come with a monthly fee from Comcast but the Tru2Way would not. Some new TVs in the store today have the slot for the CableCard product but not the Tru2Way.
So if you buy a TV this year you will have to rent the convertor box (or CableCard) for the life of the TV. That can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per TV set over a ten year lifespan! The estimated date for the arrival of sets with the Tru2Way convertor will be the end of next year.
FIOS users may also benefit from the new TVs with Tru2Way because they have convertor boxes with monthly fees as well. There is no word yet if Verizon will support Tru2way when the TVs start rolling out.
According to Gizmodo.com both Time Warner and Comcast (the two biggest cable companies) have agreed in principle that this will be the technology they will likely go with. Now it’s up to the TV set makers to build in the new chip. The FCC will also likely have a say in this, and that should speed up the process and assure compliance to a standard format.
So, should you buy a TV set this year or not? If the price is rock bottom and you just can’t wait, or if you use Satellite then I say go for it. But if you plan to stay with Comcast I suggest you wait until next Christmas. After all, the Seahawks aren’t going to be in the Super Bowl in February anyway (ouch), so what’s the compelling reason for Comcast subscribers to buy now?
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