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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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who saw this coming?
By piroroadkill on 4/4/2008 7:16:15 AM , Rating: 1
The sheer bandwidth that 1080p content demands was never going to be available in droves, especially not to the masses. This is just like the situation here in the UK with digital radio - throw on more channels, and compress the existing ones down to sound like utter shite, no thanks.

RE: who saw this coming?
By FITCamaro on 4/4/2008 8:57:58 AM , Rating: 1
Television isn't broadcast in 1080p period. It's 1080i or 720p. Your TV takes the signal and up or down converts the signal from there.

RE: who saw this coming?
By PrinceGaz on 4/6/2008 9:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
You missed the point of what the OP was saying, over-compress to low bitrates and the quality suffers severely.

That is exactly what has happened here in the UK with digital radio (DAB), where the bitrate for most stereo stations is 128kbps MP2. Most of those stations broadcast music, and anyone will tell you 128kbps MP2 is totally inadequate for artifact-free quality reproduction. That's why DAB in the UK is considered a joke by people who care about quality.

128kbps MP2 stereo is roughly equivalent to 96kbps MP3 stereo at best. It really is pathetic when played through decent quality audio gear and speakers. I invariably use my old analogue VHF FM tuner because it sounds so much better than the best DAB tuner I've tried.

What these telecom companies are doing to HDTV transmissions to squeeze more channels in is exactly what happened to DAB in the UK. When one company adds some more channels and reduces the bandwidth, others follow suit in order to be seen as offering just as much. Quality is seen by most customers as less important than quantity. The end result is usually lots of channels of poor quality.

We've had that result here in the UK with DAB radio for several years now, and what seems to be happening is that very few people want to buy DAB radios now despite them being a lot cheaper than a few years ago, and many major radio-station operators are deciding DAB is not worth supporting any more because of the poor take-up. DAB in Britain is in serious danger of dying a slow death because of the increased level of digital compression used.

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