Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fun with Comcast: A free digital upgrade problem.

We recently took advantage of Comcast's free digital cable upgrade, finally freeing ourselves from the olden days of analog television. As a techie kind of guy, you may think it odd that we waited so long. We had our reasons, most notable being the fact that upgrades were previously very un-free. Also our small house had no place to put a VCR sized cable box without sacrificing CD storage space.

But the new Motorola cable box they're using now is sufficiently compact to fit in the space of a few knick-knacks. It was delivered within two days via UPS. Hooking it up took less than ten minutes, plus another 45 minutes to dust off and relocate the aforementioned knick-knacks.

The rest of this story gets kind of technical, so be warned. I soon realized that the cable box was not delivering stereo sound to the TV, at least not through the standard coaxial cable. After ruling out a variety of potential causes (audio settings, bad cables, etc) I then ran a set of RCA type audio and video cables from the color coded A/V outputs on the box to one of the TV's A/V inputs. Voila! Beautiful stereo sound.

But to do that I had to disconnect my secondary DVD player from the TV, which I didn't want to do. It also creates some other minor problems with the maze of home theater connections that are too complex to explain here.

It was late at night so I went on-line for a chat with a Comcast "technician," a clueless individual who at one point asked me to plug the coax cable into "the red port" of the cable box. This was a ridiculous request not only because the red output only carries the right audio channel, but also because it is a completely different type of connector, and quite incompatible.

After educating the "technician" on this point, he then tried to explain my problem as an account issue: He said I didn't actually have digital cable, even though I was at that moment enjoying all of its benefits.

45 minutes later I gave up and took my case to Motorola. They confirmed that the cable box, model DCH70, was perfectly capable of conveying stereo sound through the coax cable.

Armed with that I went back to Comcast, by phone this time. The maze of "press one, press two...." options led me to a dead end that I couldn't back out of. Fortunately, pressing "0" got me a real person who spoke my language and understood audio/visual jargon. He agreed to send a technician out tomorrow, which is now today.

The cable guy arrived late this afternoon. We ran through the troubleshooting steps, then he tried a new box with no improvement. Apparently this is not a hardware problem, but a software deficiency. The soft spoken but friendly cable guy suggested that this was not yet a "known issue" and that he would report it. Hopefully a software upgrade would be directly downloaded to the device in due time. OK.

Knowing that, and having successfully lived with the issue for a week and a half now, I decided I could work around it.

I'm telling you this in case you've recently switched to Comcast's free digital upgrade. If you're not getting stereo sound our of your stereo TV use the red, white, and yellow A/V outputs and plug into your TV's A/V inputs. And call Comcast to report the issue 1-800-COMCAST.


1 comment:

ComcastCares1 said...

Thanks for sharing this post.

I apologize for the experience and for the inaccurate information that was provided to you. I will make sure that your experience is shared with the appropriate person for evaluation.

Please contact me if you need further assistance.

Regards,
Mark Casem
Comcast Corp.
National Customer Operations
We_Can_Help@cable.comcast.com

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