The cable question is: how is it that I can view cable directly through my television.
The situation: My tv is approximately 10 years old; I'm a subscriber to basic Time Warner Cable using an analogue box. Recently the analogue box no longer filtered the cable channels into my tv--only able to receive the TW's tv channel guide. I then decided to take TW cable line and attach it directly into the back of my television--walla, I have basic tv again (ch 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13).
I now have a choice of either giving back the cable box and remote (since my remote tv changer works), and ask for a bill reduction, or upgrade to TW's digital box.
As I understood the switch from analogue to digital conversion, the digital box is supposed to convert the feed into my tv. So why is it that I can still watch tv without a conversion box. And since this is so, why would it be necessary for me to purchase my own box and an antenna, if I decided to stop subscribing to Time Warner. Wouldn't a coaxial antenna be enough to pick up basic channels.
Over-the-air analog television no longer exists, save for a few smaller market low-power UHF stations and maybe some repeaters, largely broadcasting religion or home shopping. Major OTA stations are now completely digital. Therefore if you canceled cable, you would no longer receive any channels.
Cable companies are still operating some of their lower tiers with analog feeds (which they are required to do by law for a few more years), thus the reason you're getting 2-13.
You don't need to subscribe for anything for over the air TV. If you have a digital box (the government was giving them away coupons for them last year or the year before) you can watch the digital OTA signals on an analog TV.
If you have, or get, a new TV (all TVs have to be digital compatible now) all you have to do is put an antenna on the back and you can get digital signals. One with a signal booster (all "digital antenna's" have one) would be better as you need line of sight to the broadcaster's antenna for the best signal and one with a signal booster can improve your picture if you have a bad signal.
Unless I misunderstood the sales rep at Best Buy, I was under the impression that if I bought a box and antenna, this would eventually fail to work since my tv is not new. We didn't go into my purchasing a new tv (although I knew this before entering the store) because I was discussing on how to cut (or dropping) my cable subscription. The salesman was more inclined with my speaking to a TimeWarner rep in the store, who had left a hour earlier, so he learned when we looked for him.
Then perhaps it would make more sense (especially since flat screen prices have come way down) to buy a digital tv and antenna.
So there are two different tracks here that we can look at:
Option 1: Stay with the cable company Option 2: Go with free, over the air TV.
For Option 1, you have an older TV. It is only going to be capable of tuning any channels they send out using analog. If your analog box recently stopped working, that's a sign that they are trying to move away from this technology.
The reason for this is pretty straightforward. The cable company has a certain amount of bandwidth (it is measured in MHz and is usually 550 or 750 for a decent sized city that has Internet, phone and cable TV offered by the cable company). Each analog channel takes around 4-5 MHz to transmit, so in a fully analog system the cable operator is limited to about 100 channels + High Speed Data.
As cable companies have moved to offer more services, they have needed to start to compress the signal. This is where digital comes in to play. Most cable operators are fitting 3-5 channels in that same amount of bandwidth that they used to use for one analog channel. They do this by using digitial transmission and compressing the data (Like when you download a file from the internet and then have to decompress it before using it),.
What it sounds like to me is that your cable operator is moving more of the older analog channel space into their digital space so that they can offer more services. This may or may not be the case, though.
So, the likely answer from the cable company would be to do one of the two things:
a) You could get service from them with the digital box that they offer. This will likely be $7-10 per month for the box rental. This box would connect to your TV and would fix your access problem, and you'd probably get Music Choice or some other digital music service as an added extra. You may be able to get DVR service (Think of TiVo) for a small additional fee, which is very nice since you don't have the upfront expense of buying the box.
b) You could buy a new TV that has a "cable card" option, and then rent the card from the cable compnay. This would allow you to use all of the features in your TV without having two remotes. This is an option at most cable companies, but they don't want to push it since it's kind of a pain for everyone until it is set up. You won't get all of the digital features that the other customers get, either. It's kind of a bad compromise.
OK, so that's the cable option. What about Option 2?
Option 2: Over the air
Free, over the air TV is available in most larger markets. I live in a small town with just repeater signals from Portland, OR - so this is not an option for me. My in-laws in Seattle get around 25 different channels over the air - and I feel that the signal is just as good as with cable or Satellite. They have a 10 year old TV but they purchased the digital converter box at Radio Shack for around $40 last year, and just use an antennae they had around. This solution should work as long as there are OTA (Over the Air) signals - which should be forever*. I'm not sure why the BB guy would tell you it wouldn't work - he probably gets a commission or you two thought you were discussing the same thing, but in reality one of you didn't fully get what the other was saying (happens to me when I'm distracted near big shiny electronics)
Of course, if you buy a new TV, you can just hook up an antennae and that should work just fine. The new TV broadcasts are digital, so if there is enough signal, it will be bright and clear without snow or interference. Low signal can cause tiling (squares of the picture don't show up correctly) or stuttering. You'll know right away if it isn't going to work.
What I would do if I were you:
I would find a store with a good return policy, speak with the employee and tell him/her that you want to buy a digital box and antennae to test out your reception at home, and make sure it won't be a problem to return it if it does not work. Be upfront about what you need to do and give them the option of telling you no. Someone will want to make that sale - so you can ask a few folks. Radio shack should be a good place to try if you don't have any place in mind.
If you get a good number of channels and are happy with the quality, I'd say cut the cord. Basic cable TV service probably isn't worth the recurring charge now with the quality you can get OTA.
First, thank you one and all for your input and ideas.
Mr. Zim, I'm not sure either what BB guy meant, but perhaps what he was getting at was if my old tv died, I'd have to buy a digital tv in the end. I didn't even think to question him, since I was focused on figuring out how to cut or lower my cable bill "today".
Quite frankly, since I only watch basic tv these days, its a waste of money to pay TW for basic service--movies I can always rent, or view on Hulu. By the way, I live in new york, manhattan, so there shouldn't be a reception problem receiving basic with a newer tv and an antenna. Since TW cable service is also used for surfing the web, I'm considering switching to Verizon Fios (if they've expanded into Southern Manhattan area yet). I've been seeing ads for $19 a month (sure tax and whatnots not included in price), but still would probably be a tad cheaper than Time Warner's Earthlink.
Everyone here has given me lots of insight (and straight talk)--just need to make a decision. Have a good day everyone.
Yeah, I was going to recommend you check out antennaweb.org or tvfool.com to get an idea of the over the air channels you might receive, but seeing you're in NYC I'm going to say you'll have plenty of choices. TVFool lists 21 distinct frequencies that you should be able to get with an indoor antenna#, and several of those frequencies have two or more channels. Some of them are going to be of no interest to you (like 66.5, which is audio of Radio Taiwan International), but there you are.
# I'm not sure how buildings affect TV signals. I had difficulty with the one VHF station that is in my area. I could only get it in when I had an antenna in the window that was facing the direction of the station (i.e. line of sight with the tower). Might have just been coincidence though.