Q and A: How can I receive an A/B switch for Comcast?
Q. I read with interest your column about the A/B switch for Comcast. I was told they do not have them available and have kept a box in order to receive the HD stations. Can you tell me how I might receive an A/B switch so I can return the box an...
Q. I read with interest your column about the A/B switch for Comcast. I was told they do not have them available and have kept a box in order to receive the HD stations. Can you tell me how I might receive an A/B switch so I can return the box and save rental fees?
A. I thought correspondence regarding Comcast and the A/B switches was on the downswing, but the past week has shown the biggest spike yet. Some was from consumers who contacted Comcast for a switch and were turned away, some from people who did get a switch and wanted to praise Comcast and/or thank me, and others with questions like yours. The latter are a result of readers not seeing past columns to see what the A/B switch is all about.
The A/B switch allows subscribers with Comcast's basic service to use their television's digital tuner to watch local high definition channels. Other than the local HD channels, all other programming comes from the box.
Many readers are anxious to get an A/B switch and return the cable boxes so they can save on the monthly rental fees. The cable company isn't renting you a box just to make money. It's a necessary part of the signal chain and required to offer different levels of service to subscribers, as well as provide additional features such as multiple tuners and a DVR. I don't ever see this changing, especially since attempts to eliminate the box (such as CableCARD) have failed. If you want neat features, lots of cable channels and a choice in your level of service, the box is here to stay.
I do not think renting a box is a bad thing and prefer to rent the box if I have the option. Technology changes and has changed quite rapidly as digital technology overtakes the entertainment sector. In a space of eight years a digital cable subscriber could go from a single tuner digital box, to a two-tuner digital box with DVR, to a high-def digital box with DVR, to a two-tuner high-def digital box with DVR. If you added up the purchase costs for all of this equipment it would be less than the rental fees. You also have the ability to change equipment whenever you want and are always under warranty. If the box breaks or you want to upgrade just call the cable company.
There were some choice words in some of the e-mails I received. If dissatisfaction with your provider (whoever it is) goes beyond rental fees then perhaps you should look elsewhere for your programming. I left cable for Dish Network and have never looked back, and excellent satellite service is available from DirecTV as well. There is also FIOS from Verizon, which has earned high marks and which also offers high-speed Internet and phone service. Of course, with satellite you must have a clear view of the southwest sky, and with FIOS, you must have fiber optic cable laid in your neighborhood. At the end of the day, though, if you do not have these choices now you will likely have them tomorrow as the fiber network expands and alternate delivery technology emerges. You are going to need a box, though!