Comcast Jumps On Basic Cable-Encrypting Bandwagon

For years, if you had a cable connection running into your home, you could just plug the cable straight into your TV, call your provider and get the most basic cable channels without the hassle of a set-top box. Heck, you could usually score a handful of unscrambled channels without paying anything. But a recent FCC ruling gave providers the go-ahead encrypt their basic cable signals, meaning they can require you get a set-top box.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, and third-place finisher in this year’s Worst Company In America tournament, announced last week that it will be rolling out this encryption in various markets around the country. Customers with set-top boxes leased from Comcast don’t need to do anything about it. People without boxes or who use third-party devices will probably need the adapter.

Kabletown will be allowing affected customers to get up to two adapters at no extra charge, but as we’ve seen, Comcast has a way of deciding to charge for these sorts of devices a few years later.

GigaOm reports that Comcast has made a deal with Boxee so that its encrypted signal will work on certain of that company’s boxes, though Boxee’s older dongle will not be compatible.

Comcast recently posted an FAQ page on the topic, presumably so customers don’t have to deal with getting bad information from Comcast customer service reps.

Meanwhile, the folks at LifeHacker have posted a round-up of other options for potential cord-cutters who no longer want to deal with Comcast (at least for cable service).

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.