Ct Consumer Complaint: Comcast Fees For Digital Converters Questioned

Bill Abbott of Madison has a large home he built himself and a bunch of televisions for his two at-home offices where he and his wife work as well as in their five bedrooms.

All was fine until their cable provider switched to full digital mode requiring them and all other customers to obtain digital boxes to connect their televisions to their cable.

Comcast, Abbott said, provided the family with four boxes but wants $1.99 monthly for any additional boxes. Even though all the Abbott television sets are digital ready, Comcast cable does not work without the boxes.

“I’m sure it impacts a lot of people. It annoys me and I don’t know where to go with it,” he wrote me today.

“It seems to me that once I pay for service, I shouldn’t have to keep getting fees tacked on,” he said. “I didn’t request them to change to digital and if I own digital ready televisions, why do I need these fees. I also have no alternative cable company to go to. Seems like over time they keep finding ways to jump my bill.”


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26 Comments on "Ct Consumer Complaint: Comcast Fees For Digital Converters Questioned"

  1. Mmm…FOUR boxes? I have Comcast in New Haven. They told me that I could only get TWO for free! I’ll be calling them tomorrow to find out what that’s all about. However, I do agree with Bill that if we have the latest TVs, WHY do we need ANYTHING more to get our TVs to work correctly! It seems like there is NO ONE who can get Comcast under control from any state agency to the FCC! Everyone wants to just wipe their hands! WHERE are the people and agencies that are supposed to be there for us?

  2. George Gombossy | January 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

    Response from Comcast:
    This customer is referring to our Digital Network Enhancement, which we are undergoing not only in Connecticut, but across the country. I’m including a fact sheet below that we provided to media in the Branford area prior the start of the project that outlines all of the details of what it is, why we’re doing it, what consumers need to do and what it will allow. The project has been completed in the Branford area since November. As a result of completion of this project in that area, we were able to launch 66 new channels (including standard def, HD & 3D), and now offer over 100 HD channels in the Branford area.

    As for the equipment the customer is referencing, the fact sheet explains that we’re giving customers up to 3 pieces of digital equipment (see breakdown of what is provided depending on level of service below in the last paragraph under “What”). This number was chosen because industry research has shown that the average household has 2.8 TVs in the home.

    I will have a Customer Care representative follow up with this customer.

    Thanks – Laura

    Fact Sheet

    It’s a digital world. Today, television programming is digital, TV sets are digital, consumer electronics are digital, music is digital (CDs, MP3s, iTunes), movies (HD, BluRay DVD) are digital, and even broadcast television has gone digital. Comcast will soon complete its own digital service upgrade.

    Comcast is introducing a digital network enhancement in the Branford area (Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Madison, North Branford, North Haven and Wallingford) that will bring additional benefits to all Comcast customers, including those who, for the first time, will receive digital-quality channels, video on demand (VOD), digital music channels and other features.

    Once the network enhancement is completed, Comcast customers will experience the benefits of digital picture and sound, thousands of free On Demand and HD choices, as well as other advanced features. It will also allow Comcast to provide more HD channels, an expanded On Demand offering, faster Internet speeds, digital music and more.

    To make this digital network enhancement possible, Comcast will begin to deliver all of its analog channels, including the broadcast channels that are offered through Comcast’s cable service, in a digital format in the Branford area, requiring customers to have a digital cable box or other piece of digital equipment, such as a digital adapter or CableCard, to watch. The company already delivers a fully digital signal to over 88% of our customer base in the Branford area, and we are now taking steps to provide the benefits of digital to customers who have not yet upgraded.

    To make it convenient for customers to benefit from this enhancement, Comcast will provide customers with the equipment needed to receive these benefits. Limited Basic analog customers can obtain up to three digital adapters at no additional cost and Limited Basic customers who may already have a digital set-top box in their home can receive up to two digital adapters at no additional cost. Standard Cable customers without a digital cable box can obtain up to three pieces of digital equipment (one digital set-top box and two digital adapters) for no additional charge. Additionally, Digital Starter customers, who already have a digital set-top box on at least one of their television sets, are eligible to receive digital adapters for up to two additional TVs as part of the network enhancement.

    Delivering channels via digital format is a more efficient use of the existing cable infrastructure. By reallocating analog channels to exclusive digital delivery, Comcast is able to triple the space on its network to give customers more of what they want – more HD, more On Demand programming, as well as faster Internet speeds. One analog channel occupies as much space as 10 digital channels or three HD channels.

    The digital network enhancement allows Comcast analog cable customers to enjoy a vastly improved television experience with 100% digital picture and sound, thousands of On Demand choices, access to more HD channels and interactive features.

    The upgrade will deliver a next-generation platform for new services, meaning more programming content and features for customers:
    • Immediately, Limited Basic, Standard and Digital Starter Cable customers who take action to receive their new equipment will receive new channels that were added to their line-up:
    o Current Limited Basic analog customers who receive digital equipment for the first time will be able to immediately enjoy digital quality picture and sound, as well as 19 additional digital channels like WNET, New England Cable News (NECN), Connecticut Sports Network (CTSN),Leased Access, WCTX-Cool, WEDW-4You, WEDH-Create, WNET V-ME, WCCT-ThisTV, Eyewitness News Now, NBC Plus, WTIC Antenna TV, ShopNBC, Trinity Braodcast Network, EWTN, WUVN-LATV, Connecticut NBC Sports , WNET-KID, WNET-VME and WVTH-CA.
    o Standard Cable customers with a digital set-top box will have access to five more channels, including TruTV, Hallmark, CSPAN 2, GSN, and Lifetime Movie Network.
    o Digital Starter customers will be able to watch seven additional channels, including G4, PBS KIDS Sprout, Bloomberg TV, CSPAN 3, History International, Biography, and Hallmark Movie Channel.
    • With more than 6,000 HD choices each month, Comcast customers already have the most HD of any provider. Following each wave of the upgrade, Comcast will launch additional HD Channels and at the conclusion of the upgrade, will deliver more than 100 of the very best HD channels.
    • Customers already have access to up to 25,000 On Demand choices each month – the most available – and Comcast will continue to add more On Demand programming, which will grow to tens of thousands and ever-increasing choices.
    • With this additional network capacity, Comcast will be able to continue boosting broadband speeds
    • Customers can expect more next-generation features and enhancements in the near future.

    Customers have received direct notifications from Comcast explaining the initiative and the changes to Limited Basic and Standard Cable service. The digital network enhancement is slated to be completed at the end of November in Comcast’s Branford system, with the first wave of channels being digitized September 20th and the remainder of the lineup being digitized in two more steps in mid-October and late November. Prior to all changes, customers receive direct notifications from Comcast explaining the upgrade and the changes to service.

    In the time leading up to the pending enhancements, customers can take a few easy, no-cost steps to bring Digital Cable benefits into their homes and prepare for the digital network enhancement in their area.

    Step 1: Install…that’s all.
    Customers who currently subscribe to Comcast’s Limited Basic or Standard analog service (receive an analog signal directly to the TV set without a set-top box from Comcast) or Digital Starter customers with additional TVs in the home that do not have equipment will need to:
    • Use a simple self-install kit to hook up a new device on their own (a very easy, no-cost process). Kits can be picked up at one of Comcast’s local service centers in Branford (44 North Branford Road) or New Haven (630 Chapel Street), or can be ordered by calling 1-877-634-4434 or visiting http://www.comcast.com/digitalnow.
    • There are no installation costs if customers self-install the devices.
    • Professional installation of equipment is also available at the cost of a technician visit.

    In order to make the process as easy as possible for customers, as outlined above, Comcast will give each household up to three pieces of digital equipment. Industry research shows the average household has 2.8 televisions.

    Step 2: Channels Upgrade to Digital.
    All analog channels (Limited Basic and Expanded Basic) will transition to digital delivery in three steps and will be delivered exclusively in a digital format by the end of November.

    Step 3: Access to New Digital Services.
    • Once the digital upgrade is complete, Limited Basic customers with digital equipment will have an enhanced viewing experience with better picture and sound quality and access to 19 additional digital channels.
    • Comcast’s Standard Cable customers with their free digital set-top box will receive superior digital picture and sound quality, in addition to interactive services like On Demand and the interactive program guide.
    • Once channels are digitized, Comcast will be able to launch a significant amount of new programming, including a massive expansion of its current high-definition lineup and a boost of its On Demand library, which already offers up to 25,000 programs at any time, the vast majority of them for no additional charge.
    • This digital network enhancement paves the way for the roll-out of XFINITY, the new brand for Comcast’s technology platform and products – XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice and XFINITY Internet. The XFINITY network and product capabilities delivers increased Internet speeds, more On Demand and HD choices as well as converged services like 150,000 choices of “anytime, anywhere” online entertainment with XFINITY TV.

  3. But the digital adapters do not get you the HD channels that you used to be able to receive when the cable was attached directly to your HDTV. Plus these adapters do not receive all the channels you pay for in your package. Only the higher price digital receivers give you the HD channels and premium channels. There are many of us that have no desire for on-demand we just want our regular TV without having to pay rent for extra equipment for comcast to make more money. If it was not about the extra income for rent on these adapters( more profit) they would sell them at a reasonable price to their customers. Much like why would you pay rent for a cable modem if you can purchase one. I paid for my modem in less then a year in comparison to paying Comcast to rent one. It is a joke and the government has helped them every step of the way. Oh and a rate increase for cable tv and internet because of the “enhancement”, although no new channels offered.

  4. agree with Joel. before the “Enhancement” (more profits). we were able to get the HD broadcasts on our cable ready tv’s. now with the basic converters, the signal seems to be of a very low quality. kinda funny in a sad way – the feds pass a law requiring the broadcasters to convert to digital HD & the cable providers find a way to charge us for what was supposed to be free if you have a digital TV. suspect it wouldnt have been difficult to design the converters to pass on HD…. but there is that pesky bottom line that needs to be padded!

  5. Comcast must be “doing” Ct. area by are regarding digital adapters. I am in the Farmington area and received notice of need to get one by April 10th. At the ve ry bottom of the pamphlet, in tiny print, I noticed “QAM tuner TVs will continue to receive Limited Basic channels 3-13,16-19,22,70,95,96,98-99 without a digital device.” Having no idea what “QAM” stands for, I called my LG TV customer service to find out whether my 2009 TV had it. After some minutes of investigation, CS rep. told me my set is “Digital ready”, and I “should have no problem” when 4/10 arrives. I now learn that having a cable ready TV will make no difference and also notice that Comcast does not address this in the reply provided. This is , indeed, highway robbery. Having to pay anything for TV beyond the set itself, where watching it now requires sitting through 6-8 commercials every few minutes, is…… infuriating and discouraging.

  6. Agree digital adapters do not get you HD. And how many people own .8 of a television set? Before you run out to the Comcast service center, which has no local phone number, be forewarned that you will have to wait in a long line, the boxes that Comcast is providing are 10 year old refurbished models that may not even turn on, as was our case, and that do not have HDMI ports. New boxes are not available. The changeover has now happened in our area, we are getting fewer channels and no HD for the same cost. Except for the extra 1.99 they charge you to convert to Digital Starter, which you can’t get without a working box. I have heard more than one story about other customers having no success with the “easy install” and calling Comcast techs who are also unable to hook this stuff up.

  7. Here’s a new one for you. The “free self-install” part the Comcast guy was talking about is apparantly no more. I just recently moved to an area where Comcast is my only option. II got the 4 free pieces professionally installed for free, but since the standard HD box didn’t offer DVR service, I went into Comcast and traded it up for a $16 a month one (free with my last cable company). Comcast then gave me the choice of charging $30 to have a tech bring it to my house and plug it in, or $10 to do it myself.

  8. cathy fernandes | April 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

    the same here in massachusetts……….not happy

  9. John Henderson | April 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    Comcast’s switch to an all digital signal amounts to a colossal ripoff for its customers. It is bad enough that you are required to pay a monthly $1.99 fee for converter boxes beyond the initial two provided for free, but the change renders nearly all of the features on your remote control useless since you must use the comcast remote to change channels. And good luck trying to get your TIVO to work with the new system. There are many reasons why Comcast is so universally despised starting with shoddy service, the worst customer service in the business, and now this. I’m tired of hearing about the reasons the digital conversion is so wonderful. Its a bunch of crap.

  10. Here’s a different situation: We have four TVs in our home, but we were only able to get 2 of those boxes. When we requested another one, they told us that it was going to be an additional $15 a month on our bill. I stay in Jackson, Ms.

  11. Comcast charges $9.99 per converter box if you are a business. Imagine the profit this generates.

  12. californicated1 | September 21, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    This nonsense is also going on in my part of California (Livermore).

    Back in July, Comcast sent out notice that they were going to do the Digital Enhancement to the Cable-TV network.

    I go to their website (http://www.comcast.com/digitalnow), enter in my information and am told that I can not do this over the website, even through Microsoft Internet Explorer and through Comcast’s own internet service. So I have to phone this one in.

    I call in July and ask about the digital converter box and they tell me that even though I have a digital TV with an HDTV tuner built right in with QAM capability, I still need a converter box. So I give them my account and address information expecting to receive a converter box. I never receive one.

    Instead, I get my August bill and noticed that $100 was tacked on to the charges for a change in service I never requested. I call Comcast back after verifying that none of my channels changed in my package and no new ones were added in. They rescind the charges. But I still have no converter box.

    September 12, 2012 rolls around and I start receiving the messages as I am watching the Discovery Channel that my service will change and I will need a converter box. It does not show up on the “on air” stations. I am thinking that things may be OK at this point and I futz around with the Cable/Antenna/Channel setup settings on my TV, including the QAM. The messages don’t go away.

    Then September 20, 2012 comes around and when I turn on my TV at 6:30pm, all I have for all of my channels in my package is the black screen with yellow lettering (even shows up in Spanish on the Spanish-language channels–ain’t that nice and considerate of Comcast to think of that part of their audience?) for all channels, even the so-called “on-air” channels like my local CBS and NBC affiliates.

    Not a big deal for Prime Time until I want to watch “Bering Sea Gold: Under The Ice” or “Yukon Men” on Friday nights. But I can’t get my local TV newscasts, either, which is sort important because of the weather and other local news.

    At this point, I’m not going to waste time I can’t afford on my cell plan to call Comcast up and give them another opportunity to jack up my bill for services I did not order because all I wanted was the free converter box they were advertising.

    I’m hoping I have better luck if I go down to the local Comcast office this morning and see if I have better luck.

    If not, I will be contacting both Michael Finney on “7 On Your Side” over at KGO or even Julie Watts on KPIX to see if they can assist. I am also wondering why Comcast went ahead and blocked out the “on-air” channels like this, too. FCC told cable companies that they had to carry these channels, too. But to block them out the same way they blocked out Discovery Channel doesn’t make sense especially if there is an emergency broadcast out there. What guarantees are there that Comcast will pass those through even to TV’s connected to their cables that don’t have the Digital Converter box?

    The only real reason I have Cable TV is so that I can watch my regular TV stations, which I can not receive without a strong antenna given the topography here in eastern Alameda County, California. I can do without Discovery Channel and all those other non-on-air channels, but I would like to have at least my on-air channels back.

  13. Why do I need a digital adapter that has a cheap remote control when I have a digital TV. Has anyone not gotten the adapter and lost their digital service with a digital TV?

    Comcast Xfinity or whatever you want to call yourself this seems like another money grab, and maybe it is time to just watch TV on the Internet and do away with you.

  14. I have had a hard time getting work the last few years. Not sure about anybody else. I dropped my $223 cable bill a while back. Right now I just have the cable plugged into my tv. I would get the local channels. You need it for emergencys. The emergency broadcast alert, amber alerts, local fires ect. I now can’t even get one local channel without paying Crapcast. Well if its paying them or nothing. I will go with nothing!

  15. Here in Oregon we had the free service for up to 2 tvs when our services were converted to digital. Now, we are getting a 1.99 fee on all of those boxes. There is no plug and play option at all.

    We were told in the beginning that it would be free, but again, Comcast lied.

  16. Here in Oregon too. Comcast stinks. We have to pay the 1.99 for each box too. And then you don’t get all the channels you subscribe too. Would love to go back to direct tv but trees are in the way. Sucks.

  17. I have been living this Comcast “digital enhancement” fares for a couple of years now. I have fancy digital TVs hooked to a stupid box tuned to channel 4 watching crappy analog video over an RF converter. We thought that was stupid 20 years ago on a Nintendo game system. The ridiculous irony of this “enhancement” is that we went from digital television to analog, and my bill has gone up $50 in this period.

  18. We’re not Comcast customers but our cable provider sprang the converter boxes on us a couple of months ago. There was no letter of explanation, just two digital to analog converter boxes. We have a pretty new HD tv so we didn’t think there was a need for the boxes. We still got no word anywhere of what was going on with the boxes. One morning the tv suddenly went out. I called the service department and was informed that I had to hook up the boxes and activate them if I wanted service. I had to request 2 extra boxes as there are 4 tvs in the house. We’re told each box will add $1.25 monthly to our bill. With internet our cable bill is already over $ 117 a month. The reception is awful. We keep losing service. We were literally calling daily the first week. They have been out twice and the problems persist. The flimsy little remote is a joke. And it takes 5 seconds or longer to switch channels. Most of our channels are unwatchable due to “pixelating” and the audio is so jerky you can’t even listen to the news. Not a fan. I’m seriously looking into Dish or Direct tv. Maybe Big Brother is monitoring our television viewing through this. They’re monitoring phone conversations already. And there are cameras on every public building and street corner. Just wondering?????

  19. It just a scam! I’m in Michigan. Got 4 TVs in big house. One box was free and charges varied on other 3 depending on which person you talked to but it was always a 6 or 12 month deal. This last time they raised the price to $9.95 per box. With some serious arm twisting I got them to reduce it to $6.95 per box. There is really no nice way to describe Comcast. How can you respect money grubbing crooks? Checked out ATT Uverse. Much much better package. A few of the bells and whistles aren’t there but more movie channels in a package that is lower priced and the standard sport packages are better and a extra $30-$40 in my pocket will get me to the movies. But having said that I will not have to hear those disgusting Xfinity commercials a million times a day and that is almost worth it by itself.

    Comcast is one of Obama’s big campaign donors so I don’t think we will see any needed government regulation any time soon. Occupy Comcast I wonder how that would play out on MSNBC–laugh

  20. Here is my take ,
    I think the reason Comcast has encrypted their cable signal thus needing a “box” is because of all the theft of service in past years people used to do it all the time climb up and reconnect cable after being disconnected or drilling out the “filter” installed at the main drop to obtain free cable! I do not agree with the charge for ANY equipment required to “decode” the Comcast signal I think rates are too high and its BS that loyal customers should have to pay I mean people that have been customers for years should be getting the discounts that new customers get also they should make it easier for people to choose they should have 2 cable packages that include everything one digital and one HD that’s it !!!

  21. Citizens, the corruption is even more bigger than you all think. Just look at Comcast annual budget for lobbing. It is in several hundred of millions.

  22. switch to att and lock in price for 2 years

  23. Signed up for COmcast Digital Economy package 8 months ago, sales rep DID NOT disclose the digital box would be SD (standard definition, stretched pic in 6×9), and I didn’t realize it til tech had installed and left (he certainly didn’t say anything), so I split and by passed box with direct connection to TV, except when I HAVE to watch those addtional channels…I did have Comcast basic, and when I went from antenna TV to basic with Comcast, all channels were zoomed by 1x ( ya know, the full screening writing cutoff on both sides!) Now, had to get the small digital converter for Comcasts digital conversion (cause I still have the SD package and box, and just wanted the locals and other basic channels at HD in 6×9) and guess what? Channels, local channels have to be watched in 4×3 format, or back to 6×9 picture stretched and picture quality deteroritated. NO ONE informed me of this SMALL complication, not the bar running across the TV for the last 3 weeks or the rep when I ordered it. Ever watched live sports, golf like that…players are short and fat to say the least, and High Def? Forget it…antenna is the BEST and truest pic…6×9 IS 6×9…I hate picture zoomed…one just has to live with weather interruptions and minimal channels…hey maybe DIsh or DIrect TV? hmmmmmm an idea..finally about to that point… the entire spectrum is…hmmm deceitful? Ya know if you JUST upgrade..pay us more…life would be so good….

  24. Rachel Huffine | March 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

    I live in Portland OR and watch over the air on a HDTV with a cable antenna attached to the wall. 2 nights ago when I turned on the tv there was a message on a red screen saying “If you can read this message, the tv you’re watching isn’t yet ready for Comcast’s recent digital network enhancements for Xfinity tv”. This was confusing to me since I’m not a Comcast customer. When I called the number on the screen, the person said if I had a cable plugged into the wall, I had to go to a Comcast service center to pick up a dta box. I did this, but they said I would have to start paying a $13.70 monthly fee. I agreed to this since I want to keep on watching basic tv (nothing extra) but I can’t really afford it since I’m underemployed/poverty level. Is there any alternative to this to just get basic ota tv for free like it used to be? I’ve heard mention of a multidirectional antenna, which I’m not sure how to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  25. I have the same situation here in Minnesota. Comcast recently completed it’s “digital network enhancements” and you can no longer receive even the “free” local broadcasts without their digital adapter. Not only does it annoy me that they are supposed to provide these channels for free, but, as others have already stated, the new signal is “compressed” and nowhere near as good as the digital signal that the local stations are broadcasting for free!

    I am unemployed and cannot afford one of Comcast’s tv “packages”. Nor can I afford to install a new digital antenna and digital converter for my old analog TV, or a new digital TV. And that’s presuming I’m in a good area to receive OTA broadcasts with an antenna. I only want my local channels that I used to watch and are supposed to still be free.

    I wonder if enough people made a stink about it, if Comcast would have to at least reconsider charging extra for this dubious “upgrade” or if the FCC would finally do something to enforce it’s requirement for free OTA channels. Too bad the local OTA TV stations can’t do anything about it, because they are being ripped off by Comcast, too. They broadcast for free in digital HD, then Comcast takes the signal, compresses it so it is a much lesser quality, then turns around and makes us pay for it! This should be ILLEGAL!!

  26. Someone needs to check on nursing homes~now the elderly have a TV in their rooms and have no cable box which means that they can’t watch TV. Who’s looking out for our seniors!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If the family can’t afford to play for a cable box they have to lay in bed. SICK world. Someone do a report on this please. Regency in Willimantic Ct. is like this.

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