I unsubscribed from Comcast's new version of Limited Basic being phased in after January 24, 2012.
Armed with its FCC waiver to use their Digital-To-Analog set top boxes (whoops, I think they want us to call them "Digital Transport Adapters," still DTA though, right ;-), I believe they will finally shrink what was visible with your HDTV's QAM tuner down to: (1) the legally-mandated handful of local broadcast stations; (2) a few public access channels retained as an ongoing sop to local and national politicians who make the rules and approve price increases; and (3) shopping channels they get a cut from. Oh, and (4) a regional sports channel they can exploit for revenue from the Grizzlies and University of Memphis basketball.
This was done to recapture the bandwidth formerly used for their Enhanced Basic product, so they can squeeze more digital channels into their pipe. It will be interesting to see if the federally required-to-be-non-degraded local digital broadcast stations' signals even survive as such via clear QAM.
For the life of me, I can't see how Comcast can describe bringing you local digital broadcast channels as digital when their free, FCC-waivered DTA's only output analog. Let's put it this way: these devices RECEIVE digital; but they only output ANALOG.
Perhaps Comcast will at least leave the undegraded true digital signals from our local broadcast stations on the cable in the locations as listed in another post of mine or some new locations, but I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not going to be doing any testing from now on, because:
I cancelled all TV service from Comcast last week. I figured, with Limited Basic being limited to channels 2-19 and the price going up to $20.95 per month, I'd try plugging a VHF/UHF antenna in and have a look and see how much I missed the public access stuff. I did ask the agent what it would cost to get Enhanced (now renamed "Expanded") Basic, and she told me I'd have to get one of the digital packages, Digital Starter, I think, at $55.00 per month! This was after seeing the better pictures that come to me less compressed when broadcast than when carried over cable's QAM scheme. Here's a list of Memphis TV stations you can receive over-the-air.
Check this out yourself: borrow a VHF/UHF antenna if you have to, unscrew the cable connector from your HDTV, and screw in the antenna connector. Change your HDTV's tuner to Air instead of Cable, let it scan for broadcast channels, and have a look. Wow! And the channels are numbered the way it makes the most sense, the FCC-mediated way, not the greedy cable corporation way: sticking subchannels and even main channels up at some strange ungodly number, and then haggling over numbering, subchannel carriage, and retransmission consent fees with local broadcasters, who themselves are trying to get in on some of the cable oligopolies' gravy from lazy customers, to go along with their traditional advertising revenue that cable cannot deprive them of.
I still have Comcast for broadband and will likely stick with them until AT&T builds "last mile" fiber optic to the customer or a wireless broadband company like Clearwire moves into the market here as it has into Nashville.
Meanwhile, I am WAY happier with the commercial-free movies and documentaries I get over my Roku box and Netflix subscription and the growing multitude of free or reasonably priced à la carte program sources, than I ever was with any of these cable company bundles. Also be sure to look into hooking up one of your PC's to a television and using the Internet to watch thousands of free shows and movies available from the likes of Hulu, ChannelChooser (which has many cable networks), Clicker, Crackle, Fox, PopcornFlix, SyFy, TV.com, CastTV, and even YouTube, as well as your favorite networks and news sites, when YOU have the time and inclination to watch.
It's called "cord-cutting", people; and it's what's happening. Look into it. Save bundles on cable's absurd bundles. Stop renting equipment from them too that you have to have to access all those channels. Oh, and did you know you can buy your own cable modem cheap and Comcast has to let you use it if it's compatible and on their extensive approved list? Read about THAT here!
I've also found the following two TV listings websites to be the best and most customizable to replace cable's program guide offerings. Be sure to sign up for a free account to personalize the channels you want in your guide.
Zap2it (Wikipedia article) (can link to TiVo); and
TitanTV (can link to other Personal Video Recorder devices, such as a PC-compatible TV tuner like Hauppauge with its own software).
Also be sure to check the extent your HDTV's implement the required Electronic Program Guide, which comes across more fully over-the-air than on cable's no-box analog NTSC and digital QAM offerings. Try the Display and other buttons on your HDTV's controls, and you will likely find a description of the current program on the channel tuned in at that moment.
UPDATE: What I describe above was done with an HDTV with the modern, ATSC tuner ready to receive digital broadcasts. The same can be done, however, using one of the broadcast digital to analog converter boxes the U.S. government subsidized to ease the adoption of digital broadcast television. There are lots of those boxes floating around as people replace analog TV sets with HDTV sets and no longer need the boxes.
UPDATE: Here's some advice from Channel 5's engineer on "Choosing and placing your antenna."
UPDATE: Here's the FCC order of October 10, 2012 that lets cable operators encrypt everything, including the Basic Service Tier.