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A comparison of bitrates between FiOS and Comcast reveals signals compressed up to 38%.  (Source: AV Science Forum)

Red Hot Chili Peppers live: crisp and clean on one side, a blocky mess on the other.  (Source: DViCE/AV Science Forum)
Comcast tries to fit three HDTV channels in the space of two

HDTV aficionados with Comcast service might be in for a rude awakening: the nation’s largest cable provider seems to have ratcheted up the compression on its cable HDTV signals.

A thread at AV Science Forum updated last Monday details what appears to be compression of up to 38%, allowing Comcast to deliver more HDTV channels per line while using the same amount of bandwidth. A side effect of this, however, means that HDTV’s pristine video is now jagged and muddy for Comcast customers, full of MPEG-style compression artifacts and stuttered movement:

For the most part, fine detail remains very good on static (non-moving) images with Comcast's added compression, but you do see reduced contrast, with more dithering artifacts (banding) between colors and objects. With some channels, it looks a bit like Comcast is taking a 24-bit image and reducing it to 18-20 bit. This tends to reduce the 'pop' effect in some images. The difference in 'pop' was quite noticeable on Food HD, despite the relatively small bitrate reduction.

The greatest differences are seen with movement. With slow movement on Comcast, the first thing you notice is added noise and a softer image, as fine detail is filtered from the picture signal. The greater the rate of movement, the more detail you lose and the more noise you see. With intense movement, you see more blocking and skipped frames. In VideoRedo, I noticed that a number of frames in the FiOS signal simply did not exist in the Comcast signal during motion intensive scenes. This may be responsible for the stutter and excessive motion blur seen with some video sequences on Comcast.

Still images comparing Verizon’s FiOS HDTV service with Comcast’s HDTV service, taken at the exact same time in the exact same broadcast, show Comcast’s images losing much of the legendary detail that HDTV is so well known for – in a screenshot  of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing live in Milan, the Comcast image was almost completely stripped of all fine-grained detail; lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ textured wristband becomes flat and blocky, and the tattoo on his left arm made pixellated and blurry.

A request for comment was received by Comcast, but not replied to.

The purpose of Comcast’s increase in compression is unclear; however it would appear that the company is attempting to fit three HDTV video streams inside of one QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, Comcast’s DTV broadcast format) signal, as opposed to the previous two. In a bitrate comparison between each provider’s broadcast of the same show, the Verizon signal was recorded at 17.73 Mbps, while the Comcast signal recorded at 13.21 Mbps, a 34% reduction in size.

According to Ken Fowler, the A/V buff known as “bfdtv” at AV Science Forum, Comcast’s compression increase currently affects most customers that were not originally in Adelphia’s cable system, which Comcast purchased in 2005. Further, the increased compression only affects national networks like A&E or HBO; local TV signals are rebroadcast at whatever bitrate they were originally sent in.



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Another sad move....
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/1/2008 3:23:48 PM , Rating: 5
Why does Comcast seem so intent on ruining the customers experiences?? I always hate companies who think they can "pull a fast one" on what they think is an unwitting consumer market. It always ends badly for such companies. I'm sure Comcast will be seeing ramifications from this and the bittorrent debacle.




RE: Another sad move....
By sapiens74 on 4/1/2008 3:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
Comcast is making more friends everyday it seems.

I know our TimeWarner here broadcasts many channels over clear QAM and I can pickup with both my TV sets and my Vista Tuner, all of which are high quality. If it was compressed like that I would cancel my cable.

WHat really sucks is this is for people paying premium for the HD services....


RE: Another sad move....
By Chris Peredun on 4/1/2008 3:36:58 PM , Rating: 5
The truth is that those who look into the details - and are willing to record and compare bitrates - are the minority.

Comcast is catering to the majority of consumers, who will see "Comcast - Now with 50% more HD channels!" and sign right up.


RE: Another sad move....
By Mitch101 on 4/1/2008 3:45:51 PM , Rating: 2
Your absolutely right Chris.

Now I could see Direct TV or someone else using this against them just like the image demonstrates.

Yup can see the ads now. Not all HD sources are created equally.

I don't like comcast being so shady about stuff like this. In the end they should just sell upconverter cable boxes that take 480P signals and upconvert them to 1080i and claim HD while they are at it. Dont put it past them not to do that. Considering the video they are producing with poor compression and lower bit rates it and up converting might provide a better picture.


By therealnickdanger on 4/1/2008 4:27:16 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Considering the video they are producing with poor compression and lower bit rates it and up converting might provide a better picture.

You may or may not be kidding, but it would likely be true!


RE: Another sad move....
By walk2k on 4/1/08, Rating: -1
RE: Another sad move....
By mindless1 on 4/1/2008 8:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
The truth is that anyone who would be recording and comparing bitrates already had a reason to suspect a problem, since anyone with reasonable eyesight can see the example picture above looks like crap. Maybe on Dad's old 13" SD set that wouldn't be noticable but on today's large digital sets it is clearly a terrible experience.

I agree though that most people will not realize this drawback until after having seen it for themselves, typically after they've signed up.


RE: Another sad move....
By JarredWalton on 4/1/2008 10:48:19 PM , Rating: 2
You know, I tuned in to several HD channels (on Comcast) and I see *nothing* even remotely like the artifacts shown above. Is it a localized thing? I mean, that MHD Chili Peppers image looks more like the signal is corrupted than just being recompressed. I've watched some 8Mbps broadcasts that still looked pretty good at 1080i, and a 15-25% typical bitrate reduction isn't all that large.


RE: Another sad move....
By djc208 on 4/1/2008 3:37:53 PM , Rating: 5
They have to make more room for the internet traffic now that they're not going to sensor bit torrents.

You didn't think they would actually improve their service by adding more bandwith did you?

Sad part is Comcast isn't unique in this, they're just the first to get caught.


RE: Another sad move....
By Heph on 4/1/2008 6:55:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They have to make more room for the internet traffic now that they're not going to sensor bit torrents.


Actually this is not the case. Docsis 3.0 will be launching at the end of the year in most Comcast systems. This will allow channel bonding and enable Comcast customers to obtain faster Internet speeds on par with FIOS.

As of February of next year even though Comcast by law does not have to stop Analog broadcast on their closed system they will do so with the exception of basic cable (just local channels). So I am personally hoping this is just a stop gap to allowing them to broadcast more HDTV channels until some of the Analog spectrum can be reclaimed for digital services, but this is Comcast so you never know.


RE: Another sad move....
By mindless1 on 4/1/2008 8:09:52 PM , Rating: 2
The launch of Docsis 3 support does not mean they can just immediately switch everyone over.

Do you have a source for your claim Comcast will stop analog transmission in February? That would be surprising, as other cable companies are not currently planning to do so AFAIK (many have been asked by customers but are taking a position of waiting to announce any changes which seems like a delay beyond that timeframe considering all the customers who will need to switch equipment.

Further, many people overlook institutional customers. Schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc - these people can't just switch on a whim, it is a massive undertaking which some simply won't be able to do at all.


RE: Another sad move....
By Heph on 4/1/2008 11:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
Let’s say I know they will be without giving to much info. Boston is already an all digital system. If you were to just plug any analog TV into a wall jack without a box you only get approximately 22 channels.


RE: Another sad move....
By theapparition on 4/2/2008 8:59:21 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Boston is already an all digital system. If you were to just plug any analog TV into a wall jack without a box you only get approximately 22 channels.

Well, that wouldn't be all digital now, would it?


RE: Another sad move....
By djc208 on 4/2/2008 3:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
I keep hearing this, and I don't doubt it's truth but one thing bothers me about it, cable boxes.

If they took all the "normal" analog channels and made them clearQAM it wouldn't be so bad, but chances are they'll all be scrambled, so now I have to use their boxes at $6/month for each TV, oh and if I want to record from my HTPC that's more complexity/trouble/money, or I have to rent their crappy DVR for an additional $11/month.

One of the reasons I stuck with cable is because I can split it and connect it anywhere I want. They make it just like satalite and I'll probably just get a satalite.


RE: Another sad move....
By NaughtyGeek on 4/1/2008 3:44:13 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I've been toying with switching to FIOS for quite some time and this will likely be the final straw. I actually was ready to move once but they upped my package for the same price but if they're going to give me DirecTVs HDLite BS, I'm done with them.


RE: Another sad move....
By FITCamaro on 4/1/2008 4:09:28 PM , Rating: 5
I think you're nuts if you've got the option to use FiOS and you're not. They couldn't sign me up quick enough if I had the option.


RE: Another sad move....
By theapparition on 4/2/2008 9:24:18 AM , Rating: 3
As a FIOS customer myself, and former Comcast subscriber, I can clearly say that they are Superior to Comcast. So much so, that when switching services, usually they give the "AOL" hard pressed sell to keep you as a customer, but when I told them I was going to FIOS, she just said "I understand".

Now, while I'm totally enamored with the FIOS service, here's the downside. Verizon is in it's infancy as far as TV is concerned, specifically service. They don't have their act together. I've had some issues.
When initially installed, they didn't turn on HBO and some of the cable boxes were the wrong type (more on this below). I wanted to swap boxes and get HBO turned on. After being on the phone for hours with multiple disconnects (wait, isn't Verizon a phone company?) they finally told me (compressing very long story) that they'd have to turn on HBO (take a few days??? WTF, comcast does it in a few minutes), and when that was complete, I could then open up another service record for my address to swap the box.

As for swapping the hardware, they do have local stores which I opted to do rather than pay for someone to come out and inconvenience my wife. I thought the exchange would be as easy as walking into the Comcast store. Far from it. I walk in, told them I wanted to swap hardware. He asked for a service number (mind you the phone rep told me to go to the store, without mention of a service number). I had to pick up a verizon phone in the lobby, call verizon, wait an hour, then get a service number so the guy can swap my box. Just not organized at all.

A huge plus with FIOS is that it offers a multi-room DVR, something that Comcast severely lacks. Here's the problem with the multi-room DVR functionality....it won't work with HD satellite boxes. I have 6 HDTV's in the house, with a 60" TV in the bedroom. Obviously, I wanted HD on that TV. But the HD box won't talk to the HD DVR. You have to have a standard box to get that functionality. So I had to swap a few HD boxes for standard ones to get that to work (wife's insistence since she likes to watch a lot of DVR TV in bed). This is supposed to be upgraded at some time in the future, but for now it really sucks that I can't have the best of both worlds.
FIOS uses Motorola hardware, which plain sucks. I came from Comcast's Scientific Atlanta boxes which were much better (Comcast uses Motorola in other areas).
I also had an issue recently where the multi-room DVR got "out-of-sync". The shows stored on the main DVR did not match up to the available stored shows on the satellite boxes. I had to reboot the network (Verizon's tech support) and everything got back into sync, but I also lost several shows on the main DVR. Pift, gone. I was not happy.

Still, they are getting better, but do have some growing pains.

Internet and phone service has been exceptional. It still blows me away when i start a download and it comes in at 2.5MB/s sustained. Vista SP1 took just a few minutes for the entire distribution! Gotta love that.


RE: Another sad move....
By winterspan on 4/1/2008 9:08:34 PM , Rating: 2
For once, I actually agree 100% with FITCamaro. You'd be bat-shit crazy to keep service with ANY cable or satellite provider if you have access to FIOS. Because of the fiber to your door, FIOS will always have a much better capacity for high bit-rate, minimal compression HDTV, more channels, more VOD options, etc. And the best part of all is the availability of ultra highspeed net access.

Don't listen to the misinformation from 'Cable' about DOCSIS 3.0. Bottom line is that the coaxial cable network is a shared medium, so if you live in a dense area with many subscribers, your average throughput will be nowhere near the stated "maximum" speed. This will be more prevalent now that average users are starting to use a lot more bandwidth than in the past. Joe sixpack is now streaming high-bitrate and even HD video from websites like NBC.com, BBC, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, etc. Others are downloading large video podcasts or DVD rips and lossless music files from Bittorrent and P2P software at all hours of the day. Beyond just the home computer, you are also seeing video game consoles and standalone STBs offering movie rental downloads and online gaming.
With all of this traffic, it will be hard for cable to compete with Fiber-to-the-home FIOS service, even with DOCSIS 3.0 and other network enhancements.


RE: Another sad move....
By Cullinaire on 4/2/2008 1:46:09 AM , Rating: 4
"For once, I agree with FITCamaro" -multiple authors

should be one of the rotating quotes on the bottom of the page.


RE: Another sad move....
By therealnickdanger on 4/1/2008 3:44:32 PM , Rating: 3
I've used Comcast for a long time now and I can safely say that I *hate* it. I don't use that word often. Unfortunately, they are the ONLY game in town. FIOS is effectively blocked from competing in this area and satellite/DSL can't compete with the Internet speeds Comcast offers. I had some really good experiences with Time Warner before Comcast took over their portion...


RE: Another sad move....
By MADAOO7 on 4/2/2008 12:36:35 AM , Rating: 2
Just to clarify, Comcast isn't what blocks FIOS, its whatever phone service you have in the area. FIOS runs on verizon's "phone" network, which is how they get around the gov't regulated monopoly Comcast has in your area. The fiber optic lines that FIOS runs on replaced the prior copper lines that Verizon used for voice services.


Another one!?
By cscpianoman on 4/1/2008 3:29:37 PM , Rating: 2
Another great plug for competition. I can't wait for FIOS or anyone else for that matter, to put Comcast in their place.




RE: Another one!?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 4/1/2008 3:34:29 PM , Rating: 5
One of the hallmarks of Comcast was that its HD signals were considerably better than the HD from satellite.

I just bought a really nice TV last year, one week before the writer's strike. Now as a Comcast customer, I get to deal with this.

That's Comcastic!


RE: Another one!?
By Chris Peredun on 4/1/2008 3:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
One of the hallmarks of Comcast was that its HD signals were considerably better than the HD from satellite.


I'd wager that the "Now 33% Less Content" Comcast signals are still a bit ahead of what you get in Canada from Bell CompressVu as it's popularly called.

At the risk of acronym overload, "OTA HDTV FTW."


RE: Another one!?
By TomCorelis on 4/1/2008 3:50:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At the risk of acronym overload, "OTA HDTV FTW."
Only if you're in range: suburbia gets the shaft. (At least I do...)


RE: Another one!?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 4/1/2008 3:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
And that sad thing is you don't even live in what most of us would consider suburbs :-P


RE: Another one!?
By One43637 on 4/1/2008 6:04:23 PM , Rating: 3
quote:

by KristopherKubicki on April 1, 2008 at 3:34 PM

One of the hallmarks of Comcast was that its HD signals were considerably better than the HD from satellite.

I just bought a really nice TV last year, one week before the writer's strike. Now as a Comcast customer, I get to deal with this.

That's Comcastic!


You know I started noticing small issues here and there while watching HD sports... I thought it was something temporary, but now this sheds some light to it.

I'm thinking more along the lines of.... That's Craptastic!


Wow
By rudolphna on 4/1/2008 4:00:31 PM , Rating: 2
Thank god we are moving, and no longer have comcast. Our Cable and internet was shut off on Saturday, thank god. We are moving to an Area that has Time Warner, which we love. This is ridiculous, its time to expand the bandwith comcast! Though i do like their cable boxes better than Time Warners old ones, (even though they have Seagate (swear word in my house) harddrives in them. (Western Digital 4life lol) Come on comcast, stop sacrificing the consumer for your own gain!




RE: Wow
By Owls on 4/1/2008 4:03:53 PM , Rating: 2
The sad fact is that you are accepting their practices.

I'm glad I have fios and I am away from comcast/cablevision.


RE: Wow
By rudolphna on 4/1/2008 4:09:52 PM , Rating: 2
well its not up to me. I live with my parents (im only 16) and comcasts internet is much slower than Time warners, with a much higher ping in games like FEAR. Its ridiculous. I got kicked out of several games due to the high ping. Comcast is terrible. I told mom she needs to get FiOs, but she doesnt want to yet. So until then we will have Cable. As long as it has fast download speeds, good upload speeds, low ping, and we have DVR boxes, im fine. But i am scrutinous of the HDTV (we have a 3 year/o Sony Rear Projection TV that has up to 1080i, and with the HD Cable, it looks fantastic. But i pay very good attention, so i would be in that minority.


RE: Wow
By Houdani on 4/1/2008 5:45:23 PM , Rating: 3
Yesterday I signed up for FiOS Internet/TV/Phone and will be saving approximately $70/month on those services as a result. Run that number past your mom and see if it piques her interest.

Not only am I saving money, but I'm also picking up more channels on the TV side and a few more gimmies on the phone side.

I did have to agree to a 2-year contract, but the early termination penalty is only $80 for TV and $80 for internet. The installation fee is a very palatable $20. So I'll wind up ahead no matter what, after the first 2-3 months.


RE: Wow
By MADAOO7 on 4/2/2008 12:41:50 AM , Rating: 2
Lucky for me, Tampa was the test bed for FIOS over 4 or 5 years ago. I got FIOS free for almost a year as long as I let technicians out to my house on occasion and filled out some surveys. Free install and locked in rates saved me tons of money. I get 15 Mb/s for the price of 5Mb/s. Too bad I have to pay normal pricing for TV and Phone, although they are cheaper than the competition.


Need some input...
By Souka on 4/1/2008 4:58:20 PM , Rating: 2
I'm in an area with Comcast and DirectTV as options... FIOS is banned from my area because Quest is availbe (phone and internet only).

Anyhow... I'm with Comcast now...basic analog TV service for $14/month. TV is probably dying, so I'll be going the HD TV route soon and will obviously want to upgrade my service.

Based on this article, I'm really not feeling good with Comcast if they're going to compress the image that much...but what about DirectTV(Satellite)? Are they any better?

comments?

Thanks,




RE: Need some input...
By EODetroit on 4/1/2008 5:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
DirecTV is great, I've used it for 8 years. The local cable company where I live was bought by Comcast at the start of this year and friends of mine are already complaining. And they just had a price increase. I'm getting tired of hearing about it frankly, I just tell everyone to get DirecTV and Verizon DSL (what I use), or don't complain.


RE: Need some input...
By Alexstarfire on 4/1/2008 9:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
I can't say anything about your friends, but where I live we simply don't have a choice. It's either dial-up or Comcast. I think the choice on that one is obvious no matter how crappy Comcast is. If we ever have another choice we're gone in a heartbeat. That is really all that keeps most people with Comcast, the fact that the don't really have any other viable options.

We might have satellite internet as an option, but it's going to be slower, have a higher latency, and cost more. Even though Comcast is far from perfect it's much better than anything else we can get. It just blows.


RE: Need some input...
By Souka on 4/2/2008 2:53:32 AM , Rating: 2
Alexstarfire... my question was about Comcast cable vs DirecTV...especially in light of recent news of Comcast's increased compression rates.

But...since you mentioned it.. I have choice of Comcast broadband, Quest DSL, or satellite. Comcast wins speed and value hands down...

So does anyone have factual data comparing Comcast >VIDEO< signal to DirectTV?

thanks in advance


don't know if comcast is guilty of this....
By Locutus465 on 4/1/2008 4:56:15 PM , Rating: 3
But TWC in raleigh advertises 100 HD channels so they can look better than satallite, but in their 100 channel span they include crap like ATSC Standard Def broadcast, all SD PBS stations, several PPV channels and other crap. It really irks me, why do I need to have SD ATSC CBS when I get standard def CBS on channel 3? why not replace that with Scifi HD? Why not move PBS "HD" to teh SD lineup (since it's all SD here) and make room for Discover HD (regular discover HD, not theater) and history HD among others? I really feel cheated, the only reason why I'm still with them is because HD service is because of LOS issues with satallite and no FiOS option.




RE: don't know if comcast is guilty of this....
By raytseng on 4/1/2008 9:35:47 PM , Rating: 2
The OTA (local) channels have to be rebroadcast as-is without recompression or encryption by law/license.

So that's why you get both standard CBS and hi-def CBS, and a bunch of PBS subchannels you don't use.


By Locutus465 on 4/2/2008 11:03:11 AM , Rating: 2
Still fails to explain why an ATSC SD broadcast of *ANY* kind would be considered HD. ATSC != HD... Rebroadcast the channels, fine... Remove them from the HD lineup...


The purpose is...
By techfuzz on 4/1/2008 3:49:37 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The purpose of Comcast’s increase in compression is unclear

Comcast probably does not have the necessary bandwidth to broadcast all the HD channels they are going to need to offer to stay competitive. It's purely a marketing/economical decision here. Comcast is trying to stay competitive in their HD channel offerings with other cable and satellite providers by broadcasting a similar number of HD channels without expending resources to upgrade their equipment. As far as the average customer is concerned, HD is HD and they don't know the difference so Comcast is willing to sell an inferior product to them. Sure, a very small minority of their customers might notice but they represent a drop in the bucket so Comcast doesn't really care what the minority thinks or cares.

What I think is needed is an HD standard and for a broadcast company to claim that they broadcast in HD the signal must meet X, Y, and Z. If the signal doesn't meet the standard, but it is being advertised that it does, the FTC should be able to take them to court and fine them. Simple and effective.




RE: The purpose is...
By FITCamaro on 4/1/2008 4:11:56 PM , Rating: 3
No what they need to do is completely remove the restrictions on who's lines can go where. If a new company wants to spend the money to move into a new area, they should be able to. Once competition is completely open, things like FiOS can go nationwide. Verizon wants to put FiOS in every city. It's just not able to.


why stay with mpeg2
By Falloutboy on 4/1/2008 5:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
why don't they change to a h264 derived codec? could gain quality as well as lower bandwidth. this is what satalight did to save alot of bandwidth




RE: why stay with mpeg2
By FITCamaro on 4/1/2008 6:21:58 PM , Rating: 2
You then need far more powerful hardware in your set top box to decode it.


RE: why stay with mpeg2
By mindless1 on 4/1/2008 8:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
Simple: They're not interesting in quality, they're interested in maximum bandwidth so you'd have both higher client processing requirement and still lower quality - just more open bandwidth to fit more content down the pipes.


all cable/sat
By omnicronx on 4/1/2008 3:41:39 PM , Rating: 2
This is not an uncommon practice, although comcast is really taking it to a new extreme. I have an OTA HD setup, in my room so that I do not have to pay for an extra box, and when you set them up side by side (rogers digital cable in toronto) you can tell that compression has been added, especially while watching sports(fast motion as this article describes).




RE: all cable/sat
By raytseng on 4/1/2008 9:33:46 PM , Rating: 2
This should not be the case.
The OTA channels should not be compressed by law/licenses and have to be rebroadcast as-is. That is also why they come in the clear and are not encrypted.


Funny it looks fine on my set...
By callmeroy on 4/1/2008 3:58:53 PM , Rating: 2
I live in a Condo, with homeowner association rules that I can't get FIOS installed, so I have no choice but Comcast. However, unless this compression stuff just started like -- TODAY...HD channels still look good on my set, except for some odd reason my TBS HD doesn't look all that much better than its non-HD counterpart, but aside from that I was watching Discovery HD and ESPN HD as recent as 11:30 PM last night and they both had *amazing* picture quality.

And btw, as a Comcast customer you only pay extra for the HD service if you aren't on a certain package or higher. I believe its something like the "Plus" or the "Silver" package or higher they waive the HD charges, you are just paying for the premium stations not the HD of them. Otherwise you pay extra for the HD as well.

Now that all said -- I'd leave comcast in a heartbeat if I was able to get FIOS service -- faster Internet and cheaper.

I only have Comcast for the cable Internet - I watch less than 6 hours of cable television per WEEK. Mostly I'm watching DVDs if I'm watching anything.

But I use my computer just about every day and no way I'm going back to dial up.




RE: Funny it looks fine on my set...
By fic2 on 4/1/2008 9:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
In this article:
http://www.dailytech.com/FCC+Says+No+To+Exclusive+...

it says,
quote:
Just last year, the FCC voted for banning contracts between cable operators and residential, multi-tenant buildings, claiming the same argument.

I tried to follow the link to the FCC website, but it is stale. I would bet Verizon could help you if you want to get FIOS.


By raytseng on 4/1/2008 7:51:42 PM , Rating: 2
Did people really read the article closely?...

quote:
Further, the increased compression only affects national networks like A&E or HBO; local TV signals are rebroadcast at whatever bitrate they were originally sent in.


It's not as bad as the article makes it out to be. I know everyone would rather have the higher quality picture, but really how often do you seriously watch those other HDTV channels other then when you first got your HDTV? Does anyone seriously watch those concerts they have on the HDTV demo channel?

Doesn't say what the compression was for ESPN or ESPN2, and a shame about DiscoveryHD and SciFi, but other then that, the majority of my HDTV watching is still on the local network TV feeds(fox/nbc/cbs/abc) which comcast can not recompress (due to licensing or some other agreement/law that escapes me).




By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 4/2/2008 12:54:53 AM , Rating: 2
Well in my area (Chicago), HD channels are more the norm than not. History Channel, TNT, TBS and Science channel are pretty much 90% of my viewing, and the broadcast networks you can always get OTA anyway without satellite or cable.

But yeah the movie channels are a big letdown not in HD-lite.h


Don't really care...
By mpjesse on 4/1/2008 10:57:08 PM , Rating: 2
Listen... if the choice is higher quality HDTV picture and less channels OR slightly lower quality HDTV picture and more channels, I'll take more channels anyday. I'm soooo thankful to have Sci Fi in HD... and just in time for Battelstar!

I'm a Comcast customer with all those channels in the article. I'm watching everything on a 1080i 46 inch HDTV and I could not tell that other channels had reduced quality when Comcast added SciFi and a number of other channels.

Admittedly I'm not a videophile, but I do know the difference between good and crap. By no stretch of the imagination is any of Comcast's HDTV signals crap. Reduced quality? Perhaps. But definitely not crap. Also consider that a lot of the content on any given HDTV channel is filmed or broadcast in 720p, not 1080i and definitely not 1080p. Most reality TV shows are filmed in 720p and some big budget stuff is done in 1080p but rebroadcast in 1080i. Point is this: i don't think a 34% bit rate reduction is going to be as discernable in the majority of HDTV shows out there. Certainly anything shot in 1080 and broadcast in 1080 will suffer, but that's probably around 50% or less of programming.

You guys want crap? Give Brighthouse a go. They've got more frikin signal drops than a satellite radio receiver.




RE: Don't really care...
By Belard on 4/2/2008 5:13:27 AM , Rating: 2
Uh it does matter.

The examples shows in the screenshot at the beginning of this article shows a HORRIBLE picture - far worse than SD quality.

Digital artificats is BAD enough on "digital" cable, and its gonna suck when they pull my Analog line in 2009 (perhaps they won't - I dunno) but I have both digital and Analog - and yes, I have 500 digital channels with pixelation that I don't get on my 70channel analog in my bed room.

But what is shown above is pure crap, its pointless to even both watching. What's the point of having HD in 1080 if its crap?

The future is 1080, 720 is the low end, its scaled to fit...


I'm need'n some glasses
By Operator911 on 4/2/2008 11:54:10 PM , Rating: 4
dont you need them funny look'n glasses to watch 3D?

Huh? oh, yall talkin 'bout HD

nevermind




It's not that bad all the time
By darkpaw on 4/1/2008 3:54:03 PM , Rating: 1
I have Comcast (not like I have a choice) and am not a huge fan of thier service. That said, this article is completely overblown and gives the impression that the quality is nearly always as bad as that picture.

I watch almost exclusively HD channels and maybe 1 or 2 times per night does the picture get that lousy, and its generally temporary. Sure it sucks that they are probably over compressing, but its not like its always a crappy image either.




By Alexstarfire on 4/1/2008 9:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
I think the whole point is that if you are paying for the service you don't want it to look that crappy ever. I could understand if they were stealing it from someone else's house or got it for free, but they aren't. Obviously they can't keep the service perfect forever, but 1-2 times a night is unacceptable IMO. 1-2 a month is a much more acceptable number, but still crappy. That's like saying you'd like your internet to cut off 1-2 times a night. I sure as hell wouldn't.


Digital Downloads
By deeznuts on 4/1/2008 4:05:00 PM , Rating: 3
More proof that digital downloads will not take over physical media. Case in point, ISP's won't let it.




Anyone know how they compress?
By uhgotnegum on 4/1/2008 4:52:22 PM , Rating: 2
I mean, why are some channels barely compressed at all and others are at 38%. I admit knowing next-to-nothing about the compression, decompression, etc. that is being discussed here, but if Comcast can choose how to allocate this compression, why not allocate across the channels, or alternatively, really compress the food network? Thanks.

In any event, I'd like to give Comcast as compressed...wait, that's not going to turn out well for me.




By raytseng on 4/1/2008 9:45:09 PM , Rating: 1
This article makes this too easy to misinterpret the wrong message. As you mentioned, look closely at the chart, most of the channels that they use as evidence are not that interesting anyway.

The local channels (Fox/NBC/CBS/ABC)are trasmitted as-is so are non compressed and not encrypted. This is by law/license. So those are 100%. They only mention this at the verry end of the article.

The other dealbreaker channel that is important to people is probably ESPN. If a provider did not have ESPN, I'd bet 75%+ of subscripters would drop that provider.
But that's not listed in the chart.

So the article makes it too easy for a reader to overinterpret the issue, barely admits and doesn't clearly state that local networks are 100% uncompressed and unencrypted and doesn't have any mention of stats on what is probably the next most important channel ESPN.


reducing from 24 bit to 18 bit
By tastyratz on 4/4/2008 11:03:50 AM , Rating: 3
They are reducing image colors from 24 bit to 18-20 bit also. No wonder my plasma doesn't have those painfully popping colors on csi miami that it used to have.
Im in ur tvz stealing ur colorz




By Hulk on 4/1/2008 4:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
In many areas the only "landline" TV choice is Comcast. I have no other choice for internet except for dial up! So I basically must use Comcast.

They have terrible customer service. Get this; payment centers have bulletproof glass between customers and reps (guess why). They nickel and dime you for everything. You sign up for a service with HD channels then they charge you $6/month for the HD channels and another couple bucks a month for the set top box you need to decode them. Honestly I could go on and on.

They WILL NOT answer any questions. They have their minions answer all the negative calls and they have no clue as to what "bandwidth" or "macroblocking" is. I'm sure there are quite a few at the top of this company getting very, very rich.

I do not begrudge them. This is a capitolistic country. As long as you stay within the rules you can screw everyone until there is competition.

Oh the service? EVERY single channel when displaying fast motion will break up into macroblocks. This is the DCT being starved of bandwidth. Or actually the result. And now they're going to cut the bandwidth even more? Crazy.

If they want to cram more shopping channels down our throats why don't they should move to AVCHD encoding.




Still good for me
By Shlong on 4/1/2008 4:18:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a Comcast customer in the Atlanta market and the Image Quality is still the same as it's always been for the past 2 years. Hopefully, they won't downgrade the image quality here.




By nomentanus on 4/1/2008 7:06:42 PM , Rating: 2
What those without HDTV don't know is that the quality actually dips BELOW standard def TV sometimes! Blurry pictures with virtual pixels that are hundreds of actual pixels (plus) in size, especially during motion. Freeze the frame and it's beyond awful.

It can be so bad one guesses that two different compression schemes have been used at different points with ugly results.

Some shows are great, many, many others shockingly bad if you're a customer of Shaw, a Canadian cable provider.




quality and QAM problems
By tcunning on 4/1/2008 10:08:52 PM , Rating: 2
I have Comcast and two HDTVs, and I thought the signal on my main set with the cable box started looking worse recently, but this proved it. The other set is a little one in the kitchen that I was getting HD channels on through QAM, and in the last few weeks they have been dropping in and out or disappearing altogether. As someone noted here, that's Comcastic! FIOS can't come through the neighborhood soon enough.




By steven975 on 4/2/2008 8:20:36 AM , Rating: 2
I have no idea how much bandwidth the ~75 analog channels use, but I'd imagine they can put 2-3 SD streams in the spectrum of ONE analog channel.

Problem with that is my cable company will stay analog! They will get everything digitally and then CONVERT it to analog...all so the cheapest (and lowest margin) of their customers don't need a converter box! That means scifi, spike, comedy central, fx and the like will be analog for me forever!




Squirrels!
By 7Enigma on 4/2/2008 12:03:02 PM , Rating: 2
Well this was the last straw for me. I've had many problems over the years with Comcast, and as a subscriber of "Triple Play" have been pouring money into this company. My internet speeds have progressively gotten worse (they start at over a meg/sec but after a couple seconds beging to throttle down much lower (500-600Mbps). And the HD/DVR boxes have started to really act up with randomly not responding to actions. The worst is when watching a show previously recorded FF'ing through commercials only to have the box not respond to the PLAY function (since 90% of our viewing is done after broadcast to skip the commercials). You then have to frantically jump up and run over to the box or risk ruining surprises in the show your watching (we're big Law & Order fans).

To make matters worse, in the last 3 years they have had to re-string line from the telephone poll because our wonderful neighborhood squirrels apparently like the taste of the wires. We only found that out after many "squirrely" issues (random drops, fuzzy tv, loss of phone). I wonder if FIOS is laid underground or along the same wires as cable? If underground the squirrels will have nothing to chew but the power line (I'd LOVE to see that).

Now to see if we can get out of the early termination without paying a hefty fee...




By Kapsw on 4/2/2008 5:08:43 PM , Rating: 2
I have been a Comcast customer for a long time and have had occasional problems with tiling or what we're call artifacts. No the problems is just terrible, My big investments in equipment are used to watch what is now a "low def" signal from the mother ship. I don't need more HD channels, I need quality channels with what I watch.

I just hope that the push back on this is going to be HUGE.

I have seen demo's of IPTV and it is fantastic!!! You can scan through the channels as fast as you can push the remote buttons and, obviously, the pipe only needs to accommodate one channel at a time. I can not wait to sign up.

Kaps




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