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A comparison of Discovery HD between FiOS and cable with a 35.8% average bitrate reduction.  (Source: AVSForums user "bfdtv")
Canadian cable company compresses curious channel choices

HDTV enthusiasts in Canada having a chuckle at the expense of Comcast customers earlier this week are scheduled to receive similar treatment shortly. Beginning April 9th, Rogers Cable, one of the major cable companies serving the province of Ontario, is scheduled to begin compressing over a dozen high-definition channels.

Digital Home Canada
, a major site for Canadian consumer electronics, reported having been passed a technical brief from Rogers Network Engineering and Operations stating the impending compression and a listing of affected channels, shown below:
  • HD PBS Buffalo
  • HD WGN
  • HD The Score
  • HD Showcase
  • HD National Geographic
  • HD Mpix
  • HD Discovery
  • HD TMN
  • HD NBC Seattle
  • HD SUN
  • HD RAP
  • HDA&E
The selection of channels is similar in scope to those being compressed by Comcast -- so-called "premium stations" that most subscribers typically purchase as part of a bundle above and beyond the basic digital and HD channels. A sample of the compression artifacts seen on the Comcast feed of Discovery HD, compared to the same channel on Verizon's FiOS fiber-optic network can be seen to the right -- providing an estimation of what Canadians are in for.

Major American networks such as ABC and FOX, and Canadian networks CBC, CTV, Global, and sports network TSN were omitted from the list. While the American networks -- and The Sports Network -- may have been given a pass due to the large number of viewers, the immunity granted to the CBC may have roots within the regulations of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC.)

In the CRTC Broadcasting Public Notice dated June 12, 2002, paragraph 61 states that:
Accordingly, as a matter of policy, the Commission considers that a DTV signal distributed by a BDU [broadcasting distribution undertaking] to its subscribers should be of the same quality and in the same format as that received by the BDU, without any degradation.
However, no specific wording to this effect could be found within current CRTC regulations to this effect. With other major cable companies likely to follow suit, and opinions regarding the quality of Bell ExpressVu satellite service being less than stellar among the enthusiasts, the only remaining option for Canadian HDTV owners to obtain a crystal-clear signal may be to dust off the old antenna and fly it proudly on their roof.

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RE: Confusingly stated
By jtemplin on 4/4/2008 12:00:51 AM , Rating: 2
While I won't comment on the article in its entirety, that comparison photo shows an incredible reduction in picture quality. It would have been a bit more scientific to show a before and after shot in addition to the comparison with a hi-quality competitor. That way we have a baseline for comparison.

That said, if worst case scenario is from Fios-->38% compression I woulnd't be a happy customer if thats what my premium package got downgraded to. To address your point: sure all channels may be compressed and it isn't a new "evil" practice, BUT the level of compression is significant. I am a big proponent of the theory of psycho-adaptive compression (or maybe perceptual encoding?). The idea being you compress the signal in just the right way to remove information that you cannot perceive (eg in audio, extra-audible frequencies)from a signal and thus jettison superfluous bits.

In truth, I always prefer the least lossy form of compression, but compromises must inevitably be made because of prohibitive bandwidth requirements. For example, a Full Aperture 4K stream is at least .850-1.2 GB/s (not bits...). Peace

RE: Confusingly stated
By danrien on 4/4/2008 2:41:04 AM , Rating: 3
I am a big proponent of the theory of psycho-adaptive compression (or maybe perceptual encoding?). The idea being you compress the signal in just the right way to remove information that you cannot perceive (eg in audio, extra-audible frequencies)from a signal and thus jettison superfluous bits.

Generally, that's what compression means in the analog world. While 1:1 compression can be done (i.e., you get out what you put in, such as is the case with audio in FLAC format), in terms of file size (and bandwidth), it is still prohibitive.... a normal person without a golden ear probably couldn't tell you if there was a difference between a well encoded 128kbps MP3 stream and a FLAC or lossless audio stream, but they might tell you that the lossless feels like it's better. However, when you tell that same person that they can fit about 10 times more MP3 files (an exaggeration possibly) than FLAC or WAV files on to that MP3 player, they'll choose the MP3 hands down.

In general, for video the situation is the same, however, the signal is inherently much more complex and the human eye can perceive many more shades of light than the human ear can detect different frequencies of audio, thus the difficulty in making a truly "good" video compression algorithm.

Sorry I've been looking at signals stuff for the past semester and my brain is becoming obsessed with these thoughts, so I felt the need to go on an explanatory rant.

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