Comcast Says You'll Need An Antenna If You Want Network TV In High Def

Holden, a longtime Comcast customer, recently replaced his decade-old cable box with two shiny new ones. Comcast, unable to let a happy customer be, sent equipment that won’t allow his household to watch high-definition channels without paying for an extra cable package. Customer service’s most helpful response: Hook up an antenna, and switch inputs whenever they want to watch something on broadcast TV! Not helping, Comcast. Not helping.

I’m a Comcast cable, phone, and internet customer in Jacksonville, FL. My family has been with Comcast since they acquired AT&T’s cable operations in the area back in 2002, and we’re still using the digital cable box that AT&T installed. Recently, it started acting up and dropping the picture every few minutes, so we called Comcast to ask for a new box. They said they’d send us two boxes at no cost, more than we expected.

What we received were two of the “DTA” boxes, the ones that convert a digital signal to an analog one for older televisions. We called back at they said we need one of those on every television in our house, even digital televisions, because they’re switching over to an encrypted signal in our area in June. That didn’t fix the original problem – they need to send someone out to “fix” the 12 year old digital box, but we installed them anyways. It made our picture quality worse and we lost all our QAM channels, meaning we couldn’t get any of our local stations in HD anymore.

I called Comcast today and was told that if I wanted to keep receiving local channels in HD, I would need to upgrade to a basic HD package and pay for HD receivers for each digital TV in the house. I told the rep that I was satisfied with that because without upgrading, we’ll be getting less channels for the same amount of money. I asked if there was any way we could still receive our local channels in HD without paying them more money, and I was told to “pick up an antenna and an AV switch.”

I never thought I’d hear a cable company advising me to buy an antenna! Comcast offered to waive the cost of the HD receivers for a year, but we don’t want free HD cable channels. We just want the local stations we’ve been getting in HD since we bought our HDTVs without having to unplug the cable and hook up the antenna every time we want to watch them.

Comcast is effectively taking away some of our channels and expecting us to pay the same amount of money. We wouldn’t have known about this if we didn’t call because they haven’t notified us of the switch, so I imagine this is going to happen to other Comcast customers too.