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Official Comcast CableCard Thread!

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by amjustice, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. bizzy

    bizzy New Member

    Jan 20, 2004
    Welcome to the monthly butt-raping you'll soon become used to from Comcast. Since I switched from DirecTV six months ago, Comcast has lied to me every time I've spoken with them. They lied about the free cable box for cablecard customers so they can access "On Demand", which is listed on their website. (First that it is not free, then that it was free, even though I got charged random amounts each month for it). They lied about applying credits for the random, bizzarre charges that would appear on my bill (various combinations of equipment, HD service, and AO fees).

    I returned the cable box last month even though I will miss the On Demand programming. Hopefully they will randomly overcharge me less every month now- but honestly, I am not holding my breath.
  2. mike_camden

    mike_camden New Member

    Dec 11, 2006
    Since it's all fresh in my mind, I'll detail my less than stellar installation process thus far.

    A contracted Comcast tech showed up at my house within the agreed upon time window yesterday. His initial statement to me was that he was a cable card virgin and didn't see why I needed two cards. I told him it was for a Tivo HD. His response was that all devices only take one cable card, but he brought two anyway since there was a note on my record that I insisted on two being brought (good job to the CSR who took my order). I showed him the Tivo installation instructions, so he could see that it took two unless he had an M-card. He showed me the cards, both of which were s-cards. He then called the dispatcher at the Comcast NOC. When he got off of the phone, he tried to convince me that this Tivo was a waste of my time, and I should just stay with the DVR I had now. I explained that I have been through five of the Motorola DCT-641x DVRs, and I have had enough of them.

    We then proceeded downstairs to the entertainment center. On the way down, I handed him the instructions again and told him that I have read a lot of accounts in which the installation has gone awry and I thought it very important that we follow the instructions exactly as written. He agreed (at least for now -- I'll get to his change of mind later).

    When we got downstairs, he wrote the Serial Numbers and other identifying info from the cards on the instruction sheet and then handed me the cards and asked if I wanted to put them in the Tivo (which I was delighted to do). While I put the first one in, following the instructions, he called the NOC back. It took us to the screen with the Host address. When the dispatcher at the NOC came on the line, he and the installer spent some time joking about how cable cards were a mess and this would be a difficult installation (great way to start). He then told us that he didn't have the card numbers in his computer, so we would need to remove the first card and reboot the Tivo. We did so and the NOC dispatcher put us on hold for about 15 minutes. After the reboot and when the dispatcher came back on the phone, we started over. After placing the first card in the NOC dispatcher told us to insert the second card. I insisted that we follow the instructions exactly, and he needed to activate the first card per the instructions. The NOC dispatcher told us that it probably wouldn't work anyway, but OK. After he said it was activated, he put us on hold while we tested the channels. During the channel testing none of the expanded channels would work. The NOC dispatcher came back on the phone 25 minutes later (the installer was pretty annoyed at the dispatcher at this time). I told the dispatcher that based on what I have read, it sounds like the card had not been successfully paired. I also suggested that he need to take the host data info and enter it into the system. At this point, he asked the installer to take us off of speaker phone and talk directly to him. They talked for a few minutes, and the installer read the host info to the dispatcher. The dispatcher put us on hold again while he "hit the card". While on hold, the installer half jokingly told me that he would be willing to give me $20 to forget about the cablecards and return the Tivo.

    While doing the channel scan, we received an error (I think it was 161-4; I have the exact number written down at home). When the dispatcher came back on the line (on speaker phone), the installer told him the error we received. The dispatcher told the installer that this meant that the Tivo has a problem. He also said that these Tivos all have problems like this and that there was nothing that Comcast can do. I was starting to get annoyed because we had invested about 90 minutes at this point without any luck. I asked the dispatcher what the next steps were. He told me that they couldn't proceed any further and I would need to call Tivo to have them activate the cards and finish the installation. I asked him to please get a supervisor or someone else at his end who was more experienced with cable card installs that could help us at this point. He became upset and told the installer to take it off of speaker phone. When the installer got off of the phone, he told me that his visit was finished. He said he had been instructed to leave the cable cards, and I would need to call Tivo to activate the cards.

    I knew this would be a problem because we hadn't tried the second card, and I doubted Tivo had access to Comcast's billing systems to activate it. I explained this to the installer, but he said that he was told that the job was finished on his end. He felt bad (and was pretty annoyed at the dispatcher), so he told me he would submit this so I wouldn't be billed for his visit. He also left me the phone number and instructions for calling the Comcast dispatcher at the NOC if I needed to after talking with Tivo.

    I called Tivo, and like I thought, there was nothing they could do. They said that the error was probably a faulty cablecard. They instructed me to insert the second card and call comcast. I did so, and when the pairing screen came up, I called the Comcast NOC. I was "fortunate" enough to get the same dispatcher as before (Scott); he was pretty angry that I was able to call him. He emphasized that customer were not permitted to call him, and he could only work with authorized installers. I explained that I am an IT person by trade, and that I felt comfortable reading the numbers to him from the screen while he entered them in and tried to authorize my cards. He took the host info for my cards and sent a hit to each. When that didn't work, he said that he was unable to do anything else since I was "unauthorized to work with him", and I would need to call the 1-800 number.

    I called the 1-800 number and was connected to a very nice lady in tech support (Christine). She sent a hit to my cards. After this, I was able to get all of my channels except the premiums (HBO and Starz). She then noticed that the host numbers had not been entered in for my cards. She tried to enter them, but discovered that she didn't have access to that part of my account. She took down the numbers and told me she would email them to the department that is authorized to do so (which I'm assuming would be the NOC).

    Over the next three hours, Christine called me back twice to give me status updates (her diligence and efforts made me think that at least someone at Comcast gives a crap about customer service). In the end, she called back a third time after 8:00 PM to tell me that the department that enters host numbers into the system was unable to successfully authorize my cards, and they would need to do another truck roll (at no cost to me). I explained that I think the major part of the problem was the inexperience of the initial installer and the dispatcher and asked if she could something to ensure that the installer who comes next has a couple of extra cards and is experienced with cable card installs. She noted my account to read as such and read it back to ensure that I was satisfied with the emphasis that she placed. She was very apologetic, and I sincerely appreciated her positive attitude (especially after the attitude I received from the NOC dispatcher).

    During the course of the afternoon/evening, I did try to reboot the TivoHD a couple of times (as has been suggested in this thread and others), but to no avail -- I still don't have access to the premiums.

    I'm hoping that they can get it straightened out tomorrow when the other tech comes. I still haven't activated the Tivo (I'm waiting to ensure that the installation can be made to work). The guy at Tivo understood my hesitancy to activate and assured me that not activating would not prevent the cable card installation to work as long as I was within the one week windows (which I am until Thursday).

    Overall, I like the device (I haven't noticed the sever pixelation that some others have reported), but I don't have a lot of time to waste getting it to work. I hate to throw in the towel, when in my case I'm sure the problem is with Comcast and not Tivo, but I'm giving it until Thursday to get fixed. Hopefully, Comcast can make this work. If not, I would like to file a complaint with someone. Who would be the best group with whom I would register my complaint? The FCC, my local franchising authority, someone else?

    To address a point that has been raised through this thread and this board, I observed a very hostile attitude by two Comcast employees towards cable cards and competing boxes (Tivo in this case). I obviously can't say that it is a hostile attitude directed by Comcast as a company, but based on the way both were talking and some of the statements they made about their peers perception of cable cards and Tivos, it is an attitude that seems to pervade the support ranks at Comcast. This type of unprofessional attitude is not something that I would accept in my employees, and I find it disheartening that it seems to be the norm at Comcast.

    Thankfully, the helpful CSR (Christine) did not say anything negative about Tivo or cable cards, so at least one employee that I dealt with acted in a professional manner.
  3. jmpage2

    jmpage2 New Member

    Jan 20, 2004
    The telephone industry went through the same thing after it was ruled by the FCC that non telco equipment could be connected to "the network".

    It used to be that installers and service personel, etc, would do everything they could to throw a monkey wrench into things whenever dealing with a "non telephone company" piece of gear.

    At the end of the day it's a bunch of overpaid people who work in a monopoly system who are afraid of losing their jobs and/or having it found out just how little they actually know about anything to justify the $$$ they make.
  4. jlib

    jlib Lean Forward

    Nov 21, 2002
    I do not think there are any contractors that understand cable cards. In my region contractors make $4 flat rate for each cable card installed beyond what they get for the service call itself so there is no motivation to want to do or learn about cable cards. For the next appointment you should read the TiVo Cable Card Installation Instructions, particularly section 5 regarding the activation signal message 161-4 which you were interpreting as an error (it is unfortunate that it is listed as an "error message" without anymore verbosity. Good luck next time around!
  5. gardavis

    gardavis New Member

    Nov 24, 2001
    My HD Tivo will arrive tomorrow and I scheduled Comcast to come Tuesday. I requested an M-Card. I said I'd hold on to my old cable box for a while. Perhaps I will return it next month. My S1 Tivo and the box will be moved into another room.

    There is no charge for the installation. The HD which included the cable card is 6.95/month. The old cable box is $6.99/month which will stop when it is returned to Comcast. So basically, it looks like it is no extra to switch to HD (actually I come out 4-cents/mo:)

    I am keeping my fingers crossed for an uneventful install.

    More to come....

    Gary Davis
  6. jmpage2

    jmpage2 New Member

    Jan 20, 2004
    That's not entirely true. Your net with Comcast is the same but you will be paying the extra for TiVo of course.
  7. gardavis

    gardavis New Member

    Nov 24, 2001
    True, with multi service discount, it will be an extra $6.95 to Tivo. My S1 lifetime will not transfer but I will leave it active since it saves me the full Tivo charge.

    Comcast called me back about my M-Card request to make sure I did not have a Series 3 Tivo.
  8. jmpage2

    jmpage2 New Member

    Jan 20, 2004
    Do me a favor. Find out how they have M-Card's listed in their system. I have a call in to the guy that set up my dispatch for tomorrow and insisted that I get an M-Card but I haven't heard back from him and he had no idea the 1st time I spoke with him what an M-Card was.

    If the installer shows up tomorrow without an M-Card I'm going to send him on his way.
  9. secondclaw

    secondclaw New Member

    Oct 3, 2004
    Final story on my Comcast installation:

    1 - One week after I received the S3 ...
    A very nice installer came in and handed me two cards, stating that he'd never done them before. He did not insist on doing things out of order, etc ... so we followed Tivo instructions to the letter. First card went in (fancier than the other card) - and he called the dispatcher. He was then on hold for about 40 minutes. He did read off some data from the pairing screen but I could not tell what data. Eventually he got both cards working - which kind of impressed me - and my pay channels (HBO) and regular channels were working perfectly. I was hopeful!
    2 - I noticed that two of my channels, A&E HD and National Geographic HD, would through me to the pairing screen - on either tuner. I called Comcast tech support. A very nice lady on the other end sent some 'hit' ... then eventually told me that these two channels are not available yet to the customers - they will be enabled in a week (I sort of remember watching then on the 6412 Motorolla). So I decided to wait.
    3 - A week has passed and naturally nothing happened. At the same time I discovered that I was billed for both an extra DO, and extra HD service. I called Comcast billing, which was fairly useless - and all arguing for what Tivo is did me no good. I requested a supervisor, and was promised that one would call me back in 24 hours - which naturally did not happen either.
    4 - I call comcast tech support again, asking for help on the two HD channels. A very nice lady tried to 'hit' the cards, gave up, then said she will send someone over.
    5 - New person comes in - spends about 5 minutes playing with the cards, declares that there is nothing he can do, and leaves, leaving me rather angry. At this point I discover that I can actually pull a card out of S3 and insert it into the TV directly and I can tune same channels that S3 could - making me believe that the card wasn't paired.
    6 - Called Comcast tech support again - and another very nice person told me that a person is going to come in. I pointed out that this already happened, and the person was unable to do anything. She insisted that everything will be ok. I notice that CCI on the two bad channels reads 0x02, while on other channels it reads 0x00 - making me think that these two new HD channels require pairing.
    7 - Two guys show up on Sunday. One immediately proceeded to check the signal and splitters, while the other one - rather expertly - went to the peanut and started working with the pairing screen. He then called a dispatcher, and spent about 30 minutes with him providing him various info from the Pairing screen. The dispatcher then oddly states that nobody with CC's has been able to get these two channels to tune. The first tech left to validate signal coming in to my apartment (he already replaced one bad splitter), while the other was still on the phone with the dispatcher. Eventually I pointed out the CCI discrepancy he told that to the dispatcher. Nothing worked. The two left and promised to investigate.
    8 - One of them calls me back on Monday after I come back from work - he said that there was a problem at the headend, and it was now fixed. I checked and indeed it was.

    So now if S3 starts supporting M-Cards and Comcast actually has any, maybe my last remaining issue with Comcast will go away. Meanwhile, I am very happy with Tivo and planning to get internal drive update to 500gb, then plug in the 750gb eSata ... when the warranty runs out.

    My installation was free by the way ... My net result is an $11 increase in Comcast payments after I returned their awful DVR. After all my arguing with billing I got a 'discount' on second DO - 2.99 per month for 1 year, so my net increase is only $7 right now.
  10. mike_camden

    mike_camden New Member

    Dec 11, 2006
    Thanks for the link. I had the instruction sheet that came with the Tivobut was so frustrated by that point that I didn't think to check online.

    I've printed the page from the link you posted and will have that by my side tomorrow when the installer shows up.
  11. RavenFan

    RavenFan New Member

    Oct 3, 2002

    I'm just curious...where do you live? This is almost an exact replay of my experience in Baltimore County, MD. The one good CSR that would work with me did not have permission to enter the host ID information. I have another appointment for a tech to visit on Tuesday because nobody else will work with me over the phone.

    I have no plan to give up on this and will elevate the problem to whatever level of management or authorities is required. I expect a significant increase in the number of CableCARD TiVos in the wild with the new $299 HD model. (Maybe not significant compared to the number of cable subscribers, but probably a lot more than with he original Series 3). At some point they will have to become more capable and willing to provide CableCARD support.

    I'm also curious if there is any cable competition in your area. Verizon just got permission to enter my market, but it will take them quite a while to get their network built-out.
  12. mike_camden

    mike_camden New Member

    Dec 11, 2006
    I'm in Wheeling, WV; it's about 45 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh - so I glare at your avatar name :) I know it's just preseason, but I'm smiling watching the HOF game right now (which, by the way, I've only seen pixelation 3 times in 40 minutes; that's something I can live with).

    I really hope they can get this cable card issue fixed. I despise the Moto DCT-6416, but I also don't want a system that doesn't get certain channels.
  13. jfh3

    jfh3 New Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    The dispatcher was wrong - 161-4 is actually a "good error" that you want to see.
  14. jfh3

    jfh3 New Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    This is the key - Comcast still doesn't have your cards validated. I went through this in February when Comcast changed the CCI values on some channels.

    The problem is that the even though the CableCARDs may have had the proper pairing information entered (and are therefor authorized for your account), they haven't been validated. This is not a problem until you start using copy protection (i.e. a non-zero CCI value on a channel). If your provider doesn't use copy protection, as long as the cards remain authorized, they can be moved between hosts and they'll still continue to decrypt anything they're authorized for.

    However, with copy protected channels (non-zero CCI), the card needs to get an additional message from the headend explicitly validating the host/CableCARD pairing
    information. The card will only decrypt copy protected channels after it receives this message.

    If your cable company has done this, the CableCARD Host Validation value from "Unknown 00" to
    "Valid" (or something like that, not exactly sure of the text AND change the CA enable value from "not possible", at least on Motorola cards.
  15. chef616

    chef616 New Member

    Aug 6, 2007

    I live in Baltimore Country as well. I have them scheduled to come out tomorrow for the install. I was curious how much Comcast is charging you monthly for the cable cards. I currently subscribe to basic cable. I was able to get them while only upgrading to the Digital Starter package which is only $1 more per month. However, they told me that I would be charged $5.95 per month for each cable card. I will probably call after the install to try and resolve the pricing. I cannot wait for Verizon to be available so that I can ditch Comcast.

    Digital Starter: $1
    cable cards: $5.95 each
    Total: $12.90 per month
  16. cr33p

    cr33p New Member

    Jan 2, 2005
    You should get the first cable card for free, and then the second card for about 1.99, they may try telling you that there is an addl outlet fee but point out to them that it is for the same device. They have the info posted on their website

    good luck
  17. xander2007

    xander2007 New Member

    Aug 6, 2007
    Thanks to everyone for posting the information here, it has been invaluable. Thought I would share my extremely positive experience *so far* with Comcast in Chicago [warning, this is long]:

    So on the lunch hour today I head over and take the El up to North Ave, then walk 1/2 mile in the sweltering heat to the Comcast building. Wait in line behind ~30 people for about 15 minutes then get my chance at the counter. I put on my most joyful demeanor and begin:

    Me: "Hi, How are you doing today?" (look her right in the eye, and wait for response)

    Her: "Good, you?"

    Me: "Good, thanks. I would like to pick up a cablecard."

    Her: "Okay can I have your phone number and picture ID"

    Provide phone number, then I fumble for my wallet here to get the ID, she says:

    Her: "Oh you can just show it to me"

    Showing her my wallet... my ID is not in the window, it is a pic of my daughter.

    Me: "Well I got a picture of my daughter showing, I'd rather look at her than my ugly old mug!"

    [I get a slight smile out of her which gives me hope...]

    Give her my ID and then say:

    Me: "Oh by the way, could I get a multistream card if you have one available"

    Her: "Multistream, what is that?"

    Me: "It is a card that can decode two digital channels at once"

    [She checks with a character off screen stage right, who confirms that they don't have any of those cards]

    Me: [cheerfully, but a sad clown inside] "OK, could I have two of the standard cards then?"

    She then checks with two other people who crowd around her PC as she is not sure what to enter or how to code it, as equipment or service. She eventually codes it something, and the woman stage right walks into frame and hands her two cards, each in clear plastic PC Card cases. I notice that they are red, and I am bummed b/c I think they are the Comcast labelled red cards which apparently have had some problems. Thinking "Oh well, guess I will need a truck roll to rectify the issues I will undoubtedly encounter" :)

    She then prints out a receipt, and I am just waiting for her to mention the one time fee, the recurring fee, the additional outlet fees, or all of the above. She mentions nothing, and hands me the receipt, which has a couple of $0 amounts on it, which I happily sign.

    She then me the two cards. YES!!!!

    I am happy at least that I have two single stream cards which will hopefully work on the first try when I get home.

    It is not until I get to the door that I look at the cards, and savor the moment. My joy is multiplied when I notice they are both labelled Motorola, and not just that - they are both "M Cards"!!!

    Net result:

    $0 outlay
    $0 recurring
    2 Multistream cards
    1 hour 15 minutes door to door.

    I am one happy camper.

    We will see if this lasts, however, when tonight I get home and start phase two - THE INSTALL.

    Also, I notice both of these cards are listed as "issued" as equipment on my account, however the notice only states that Converters and remotes must be returned... does this mean that both of these cards are mine to keep? Thanks Comcast! You're Comcastic!
  18. acheslow

    acheslow New Member

    Dec 14, 2000
    I'm wondering if my cards were installed properly or not...

    I did a self-install on my two new Tivo HDs this weekend. The first one on Saturday went relatively well; we eventually got everything working in about 30 minutes. Yesterday was more difficult. I spent a total of about 2 hours on the phone trying various things with various people.

    I ended up with the following results in the Conditional Access screen:

    Card 1: Connected:yes, EnabledByCP:yes, Host Validation: Valid 05, Copy Protection Key: Enabled
    Card 2: Connected:yes, EnabledByCP:no, Host Validation: Unknown 00, Copy Protection Key: Disabled

    I can test channels find on Card 1 but when I test Card 2 I get the message "No channels available".

    However, I can record two different shows at the same time! I assume I must be using Card 2 to authorize the second tuner, correct?

    So I'm wondering if I should stick with the "if it's not broken don't fix it" rule, or should I exchange Card 2 under the assumption that the Conditional Access settings are not right and it will end up breaking something later on?


    [Edit: Ok, nevermind, I answered my own question. I actually can only record two shows at the same time when one is unencrypted. Looks like I'm swapping CC2 for a new card]
  19. cr33p

    cr33p New Member

    Jan 2, 2005
    Has your machine recieved the upgraded software for the CC2 slot yet?
  20. jfh3

    jfh3 New Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    There is nothing wrong with your second card. It needs to be validated. (notice Host Validation value on card 2). See my post a few up from yours.

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