Although the TV Broadcast Formats article talks about the way TV is encoded, it doesn't actually talk about how to receive TV. So, this article fills that gap by explaining the different ways to receive TV.
Overview of Different Methods
If you want to receive live TV for free, then digital over-the-air (DOTA) is the way to go. An excellent article by the FCC discussing what type of antenna you would need to get is found here . If you want to receive an expanded channel lineup or possibly improved channel quality, then getting a cable or satellite subscription and renting a piece of equipment is what you should do. Finally, if you don't mind waiting a day or two after the original program airs, watching that particular program on the Internet is yet another option. This last option is typically accomplished by going to the network's website, i.e. if you want to watch an ABC program go to http://www.abc.com.
Clear QAM: The (Former) Rent-Free Alternative to Cable Boxes
Provided you have a cable subscription, it has also been possible to connect an HDTV directly to a cable outlet and receive basic channels in High-Definition (HD). This method is known as clear QAM. However, the FCC's decision on Oct. 12, 2012 to allow cable companies to encrypt all channels including the basic ones means that this method will eventually cease to exist in your area, if it hasn't already .
Types of Cable Boxes
When renting a cable box from the cable company, there are actually three different types of cable boxes. They are:
CableCARD, available for consumer use beginning in late 2004, is a card from the cable company that can be placed in a TV that then allows the TV to access all channels the consumer has subscribed to in HD . Despite a brief period of initial popularity , this technology has largely failed to take off. This is mostly because TV makers have stopped putting CableCARD slots in TVs. A brief timeline of CableCARD past its initial late 2004 offering is presented below:
Additional Outlet (AO) Fees & the Customer Owned Equipment (COE) Credit
Two potential areas of confusion for the cable customer are AO fees and the COE credit.
AO fees are rental fees for equipment not included in your cable package. To take an example, suppose your cable subscription allows you to rent one DTA, CableCARD, or DSTB for free. Equipment rented beyond your initial free piece of equipment would then have a rental fee, and this rental fee is known as the AO fee. DTAs generally have the lowest AO fee, DSTBs have a higher AO fee, and DVRs have the highest AO fee. Additionally, although an HD DSTB or DVR has the added benefit of HD in comparison with an SD DSTB or DSTB, an SD DSTB or DVR and an HD DSTB or DVR may in fact have the same AO fee. If this is the case in your area, you may wonder why SD DSTBs and DVRs are being offered at all when you could get an HD DSTB or DVR for the same price. The answer is that certain packages may include an SD DSTB or DVR for free while other packages may include an HD DSTB or DVR for free.
Next up is the COE credit. Although a CableCARD may have the same AO fee as a DSTB in your area, it probably has a slightly lower monthly rental fee. How is this possible? When renting a CableCARD, you may be issued a COE credit, which is basically a discount on the AO fee .
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