Thinking Tech

DTV Transition: Is TV Better for You Now?

DTV Transition: Is TV Better for You Now?

Posting in Design

My first reaction to installing Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs) for two TVs was, "great, two more things to plug in that will always be on." A quick...

My first reaction to installing Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs) for two TVs was, "great, two more things to plug in that will always be on." A quick check of 7x24 energy-siphoning devices such as cable boxes, modems, routers, DVD players and various gadget adapters brings the number to around 15. It seems a waste even if the output of the new adapters is a mere .7 amps at 6 volts.

Welcome to the digital television transition.

While the government extols the benefits of DTV whose signals over the broadcast airwaves replaced analog TV on June 13, I'm already getting less. We had two TVs where the cable from Comcast attached directly to the TV which worked fine. I even got some HD broadcasts I did not sign up for. I'd hit 4 and get the lower resolution SDTV broadcast, then scroll up and get the same channel in HD. Nice.

Now the HD is gone and I have seemingly have needless DTAs boxes that sit in between the incoming cable and my TVs - hardly the improvement the government is talking about. I have a call into Comcast to explain the rationale for the DTAs, but in the installation guide, it says "to bring you better service...." and to switch completely out of analog which, according to someone at the  DTV hotline, cable companies don't have to do.

The June 13 transition applies only to free broadcasts over the airwaves. So I suspect Comcast used the timing of DTV airwave transition to insert the DTAs to, among other things, stop customers from getting a handful of free HD channels.

In  fairness, DTV should improve TV for many especially those who cannot afford expensive cable packages with like HD, DVR, high speed Internet and movie channels. Much as I diss Comcast for what it charges, the service is well-designed and reliable save some occasional IP phone downtime. There I go being fair again.

But while we're on the topic of expense, let me reiterate: Comcast charges a king's ransom and nickel dimes customers. While its bills have recently become more intelligible, mine still bears 11 separate charges. I love the $1.77 "Franchise Related Cost." I didn't sign up for that.

I tucked one TV converter box under a computer speaker.

A little extra HD seemed reasonable given I was paying Comcast $200 a month for TV/Internet/Phone. By the way, we just negotiated that bill down $40 a month for a year by getting the Triple Play that new customers get. Comcast's largesse is the direct result of Verizon FIOS with increasingly antagonistic TV ads run by both sides ("Are you following me?").

Competition has no substitute when it comes to benefiting consumers. Comcast raised it rates last December which it wouldn't dare do now with Verizon aggressively luring its customers to FIOS. That said, I will carefully analyze FIOS' rates and features before making the leap when it comes to my street this Fall. Meanwhile, the TV ads accusing each other of selling snake oil will keep airing. This is an old-fashioned albeit high stakes dogfight.

Installing the two DTA boxes was easy and they arrived five days after we ordered them. Two DTAs are free given our monthly tithe to Comcast, a third would cost us. The only glitch was trying to activate the boxes online using the Unit Identifier number. Comcast asked for 16 numbers when there was only space for 15 so I activated the DTAs over the phone.

Welcome to the DTV revolution.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure