Ask The Consumerists: When Is Hi-Def, Not?

Like many others, Andy’s not getting that amazing hi-def signal on his hi-def TV. His 42 inch, plasma, 2 grand plus, hi-def TV.


After running a long and useless troubleshooting gamut with Panasonic, TimeWarner and Scientific Atlanta (the cable box makers), he finally got a TWC tech who found the problem. The cable box is failing HDCP authorization, a new copy protection standard, resulting in substandard image quality.

This was apparently a “known” issue, though nobody else at the trifecta of companies knew about it, nor were any solutions available.

As we make great pains to point out, we know jack all about anything, especially techno-gadgetry.

Is there anything Andy can do or buy or is he totally screwed until TimeWarner feels like doing something about it?

Andy’s letter, with all the relevant product numbers and such, inside.

    “Hi, I read about your site in my local news paper. I’m hoping you can publicise a problem I had with my new HDTV and the hdmi (digital) connection to the cable box.

    I recently bought the Panasonic TX-42px60U. My cable tv provider is Time-Warner. The cable box I rent from Time-Warner is a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300 HD. This is all new equipment.

    I was disappointed to find that the hdmi connection did not work reliably. That means the high def picture is not as high def as it should be.

    The service folks were pretty much clueless.

    Time-Warner sent someone to the house with component video wires to hook me up and make me happy. That didn’t make me happy. I already had it hooked up with component video. But I’m a computer programmer and understand that requires a transformation from digital to analog back to digital. I can see the difference in the picture quality. I want the HDMI connection to work reliably.

    I called Panasonic support. They offered to come pick up the TV at my house to take it back to their lab to troubleshoot the problem. I told them it was not my particular TV. It was the entire line of TVs. They could shoot the problem without taking my new TV away from me.

    Eventually the Time Warner technician and I found a diagnostic that indicated its a copy protection issue. The cable box reports that its blocking hdmi because HDCP authorization failed. HDCP is a new protocol that enforces copy protection.

    Eventually I reached someone at Scientific Atlanta who indicated it was a known problem. He didn’t know when a fix might be available. I was running the latest software for the cable box. Other people I spoke to at Scientific Atlanta were unaware of the ‘known’ problem.

    Time Warner and Panasonic are both unaware of the problem even though I reported it to both of them.

    Its nasty because you have 3 companies all claiming their product works and its someone else’s fault.

    I’m basically very annoyed that I’m paying extra for digital cable and not getting the full service I signed up for. I’m also annoyed that I payed a lot for the hdmi cable and it doesn’t work.

    Its been a few months and there’s no fix available yet. There’s not even general acknowledgement that the products are flawed.

    I hope that if you publicize this they’ll feel the need to fix it. As it stands, the cable operator is a monopoly and doesn’t feel the need to respond by fixing the problem.”

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