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:
Iâ€™m a Comcast Customer in SWFL and got one of those notices. Evidently, itâ€™s not related to SDV; theyâ€™re switching from Motorola hardware to Scientific Atlanta equipment. This is supposedly because the Comcast sub-region Iâ€™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 â€œClassicâ€ 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.