Comcast Spooks CableCARD Users In Florida

It isn’t just what you say, it is how you say it. And Comcast seems to be aiming for FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) with a recent statement to CableCARD users in Florida:

Our records indicate that you have a Motorola Cable Card(s) that will no longer be compatible with our upgraded cable network as of May 31, 2008. Exchange your Motorola Cable Card(s) into an office today and we’ll give you HBO free and a converter free for 3 months.

I would bet good money that this means they’re implementing Switched Digital Video (SDV). But instead of explaining that, they’re trying to scare CableCARD users into returning them and switching to a cable STB. Another, far less likely, possibility is that they’re switching the head end to Cisco/Scientific Atlanta, or something incompatible with Motorola CableCARDs, but even if that were the case they’d be able, and required, to issue cards compatible with the new head end.

Either way, I think this is a nasty trick on the part of Comcast. They’re required by FCC mandate to support CableCARD, but they’ve phrased things in a way that is designed to make CableCARD customers think they’re out of luck and must switch to a cable STB. That’s bullshit. If they are switching channels to SDV, then what it would mean is those channels would no longer be available to users of UDCPs, like TiVo – at least until the Tuning Resolver is available later this year. But it does not mean the device, and the cards, are ‘no longer compatible’. Dirty tricks like these are why people have such low opinions of the cable industry. If you’re a TiVo (or any other CableCARD device) user and you got this flier from Comcast, don’t be scared into giving up your CableCARDs. And if anyone can scan it and send me a copy, or even fax or snail me a copy, let me know. I’d love to post it.

Thanks to Zatz Not Funny for the heads up.

EDIT: Reader Joseph Moran left a comment at Zatz Not Funny stating that this is in fact the issue I felt was less likely – they’re switching head ends:

I’m a Comcast Customer in SWFL and got one of those notices. Evidently, it’s not related to SDV; they’re switching from Motorola hardware to Scientific Atlanta equipment. This is supposedly because the Comcast sub-region I’m in used to be operated by Time Warner, so it needs to sync up with the other Comcast regions in the area (what they call “Classic” Comcast).

Which really changes very little – it is still a dirty trick, making it sound like CableCARD customers must convert to a cable STB. If Joseph is correct, then it does mean existing Motorola CableCARDs will stop working, but users should not have to give up CableCARD completely, but rather swap the Motorola cards for SciAtl cards.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Barry

    I use cablecards with my S3 and got a very similar letter last fall from Cox (northern virginia) when they switched to SDV. They made it sound like I’d have to get one of their cable boxes or I’d have no television at all. I’ll have to see if I still have it.

  • Bakk

    They shouldnt be allowed to word it like that! Why doesnt the FCC fine the hell out of Comcast for pulling that off, and basically trying to circumvent an fcc mandate.

  • Gryphon

    Well, you’ve got your organizations that are effective, efficient, and timely enforcers of regulations, and then you have the FCC.

  • hemo_jr

    The cable card, itself, is a big enough hurtle to discourage all but the most adventurous/dedicated CE users. (witness the fact that there are less than 400k cable cards out there installed in CE devices & I have six myself). Now the cable companies are jerking the CC users around to discourge them even more.

    The cable card solution to the FCC mandate looks like it had developed into a market share win for the cable industry. They have been able to take consumer electronics products and make them so difficult to set up that the competition only has a realistic shot at less than 10% of the potential market.

  • Tom Christner

    I only wish that I could be in the club that own Cablecards. I have had a no show and a failed install due to a defective Cablecard. Since then, I have gotten road blocks galore. I am due to get it installed this week, but I have my doubts, as every Comcast employee seems to try to discourage the use of the Cablecard.

    I hope that I can get this resolved and become a Cablecard user in my Tivo HD.

  • Nigel

    I have a Media Center PC with a cablecard slot. I just tried calling comcast to setup an appointment, and they basically refused. I went through two people, the first one not even knowing what a cablecard was!! The second said that they would only install a cablecard in a TV…not a PC…Maybe Comcast feels that by ignoring cablecard users, we’ll get frustrated and give up.

  • MegaZone

    Don’t let them put you off, they’re required to issue a CableCARD for *any* approved host device. If they refuse, push back, and remind them that it is an FCC mandate. Ask to talk to a supervisor if the phone drone doesn’t get it.

    Or you can just get creative and don’t tell them it is for a PC, just call up and say you need a CableCARD install scheduled. They often don’t ask what it is for and just assume it is a TV.

  • Tom Christner

    After sending an email through a social networking site, I was able to get some attention. They put me in touch with the executive escalation team and it is now resolved.

    I suggest that you stay on their case until it gets resolved.

  • Nigel

    Thanks!…I went the same route as Tom, dealt with the executive escalation team. Now everything works great. its a pity something so simple has to be escalated.