CableCard Users Are Getting Screwed Out of HD Channels

Our friend Gary Merson, the HD Guru, has uncovered an issue that may soon piss you off. Cable customers who use the current CableCard to decode signal directly in their TV, a TiVo or Windows Media Center PC may soon start losing HD channels because of a change in technology. To conserve bandwidth, cable carriers are moving from a direct stream of video to "switched digital video," which use two-way digital cable boxes to see what customers need then send it to them. CableCards are only one-way, so they can't make use of any SDV coming down the pipes. What does this mean? Merson says that as of April 15, Cablevision has cut off CableCard access to 15 Voom HD channels, and Time Warner will apparently make similar cuts.

Cablevision and Time Warner Cable say that there is a CableLabs fix, a USB-based dongle that will enable the upstream communication required for SDV. But Merson says makers of CableCard TV sets (fewer and farther between these days) can't make use of any USB dongles. TiVo, on the other hand, said in December it would release the SDV-compatible dongle at an unspecified time this year, though they're not talking any more about it at the current time.

It's a lot of cable-tech mumbo jumbo, but if it means losing channels (and not getting any kind of payback for the loss, says Merson), well, it's a crisis. Fortunately, the big industry Cable Show will be happening soon, so let's make sure they have something to talk about. Check with your provider, and let us know if you're experiencing any SDV-related shafting on your end. [HD Guru]