Last month, Discount Diva Samantha Christmann reported that some Spectrum Cable customers in the City of Buffalo would start seeing their bills increase. The cable company is requiring customers to install and lease a digital converter box for each TV in a household that isn't already hooked up to a set-top box. Christmann also identified ways to avoid paying to lease Spectrum's digital converter.
Spectrum has begun to roll out the digital converter boxes and is working on the City of Buffalo right now. Readers had a lot of questions, so we reached out to Christmann to learn more about Spectrum and the switch to all-digital.
From Chris Kosinski: I don't understand why you need a box or boxes to get the HD channels. Aren't the TV's already HD? Shouldn't the programs be coming in as HD? Why the need for a box to "unscramble" the HD process? Why can't you just get one box for the entire house?
This switch isn't about HD or high-definition programming; it's about digital signals. As Spectrum shifts to an all-digital transition, the channels are delivered in an encrypted, digital-only format. So even if you have an HD television with an integrated tuner, you still need a device to "unscramble" that encrypted signal from the Spectrum network.
From Ran Dados: Do you have to have a cable subscription to get the Spectrum app? Will just Spectrum Internet work?
You must have a Spectrum subscription to use the Spectrum app. Within the app, you'll have access to the same package of channels you subscribe to. The app only changes how you are accessing the channels you pay for, not what channels you can watch.
From Marci Ann: Explain Netflix and Roku. Can you get the HGTV, Food Network, TLC, TBS, Cartoon Network, History Channel, Hallmark Channel with that, or is it just movies? What device WILL allow me to ditch the set top box and still get these channels? I'm a senior on a fixed income and would really appreciate some guidance on this nonsense. Can I buy a digital converter from Walmart? Will that help? I won a Chromecast last year and it's still in the box. I don't have a smartphone, just an Android that I use with Wi-Fi service only. I really need some educated information here. I'm not interested in sports or current movies, just some networks for evening enjoyment.
Netflix is a subscription service that you pay for monthly. Rather than getting channels like you would on cable, you get individual TV series, movies and original content to choose from. Instead of being broadcast from the cable signal, it's streamed over the internet.
Roku is a device that connects to your television and supports such apps as Netflix. The Roku Express, which you can get at Target for $29.99, is the least expensive device you can buy that will allow you to ditch the set-top box and still get all of the Spectrum channels you subscribe to. But instead of turning on your TV and box and immediately flipping through the channels, you'll turn on the TV and Roku, select the Spectrum app from the on-screen menu and flip through your channels that way. You'll also need a high-speed internet connection in order for it to work.
On its own, Roku has 5,000 channels, with 500,000 movies and TV episodes. The channels you mentioned fit into a couple of different categories on Roku. Some channels on Roku require a paid subscription; some are free (but show advertisements); some can be viewed if you log into them with your cable subscription; and some offer video on demand, where you can pay per movie or episode.
You could buy a digital converter from Walmart as long as it's CableCARD enabled. But with that option, you'll still have to lease the CableCARD from Spectrum each month for $2 per month, per TV, and you won't get access to On Demand.
Unfortunately, the Chromecast won't work, because it doesn't support the Spectrum app.
From Scott Allen: The question I have, is after looking at my channel listing on Spectrum, is, if they are talking about bandwidth and adding channels, why is it necessary to have two of most of the same channels? Isn't that just a waste of bandwidth?
That's a good question. But duplicate channels, including standard-definition versions of HD channels, don't actually affect bandwidth. Channels that appear in multiple locations point to the same frequency on the Spectrum network.
The delivery of those channels is where bandwidth comes into play. Analog channels hog a lot of capacity on the network. Just one analog channel can take up the same amount of space as three to four HD channels or up to 12 digital channels. Getting rid of analog frees up space to carry more SD and HD channels, and to offer faster internet speeds, the company said.
From Joanne Brodka Sanchez: They need more competition. Why aren’t there more companies?
The most common answer you'll hear is that laying the miles of wire and other infrastructure it takes to move into a new market from scratch is just too expensive for potential competitors. But that's just one part of the problem.
The other part is that any new cable company would also have to navigate the bureaucracy and politics of each municipality it entered, as well as pay a lot of money to access the public and private land necessary to lay out the network, making the process complicated, time-consuming and expensive.