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Old 08-16-2007, 02:09 PM   #1
smbaker
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QAM mapping letter campaign (HD w/o cablecard)

Is there any interest in starting an informal letter-writing campaign to Tivo requesting QAM-mapping features? If they are to be convinced to implement this feature, then it may need some demonstation that there is a demand.

For those unfamiliar with the problem:

US cable service includes digital HD network programming as part of "basic cable" service by FCC mandate. The cable companies are required to pass this programming unencrypted, which means it does not require a cablecard to receive these network HD channels. The Tivo HD and S3 have the ability to discover and tune these channels without the need for a cablecard. The Tivo HD lacks the ability to associate guide data with these channels, thus rendering the Tivo functionality back down to the level of a 1980's VCR when attempting to use these HD channels. Tivo's policy is that you must have cablecards to associate guide data with digital channels. For many of us, acquiring cablecards requires us to pay a hefty additional upgrade to "digital cable", a hefty installation fee, and monthly rental fees on the cablecards themselves....

The Fix:

There are many possible solutions. The QAM channels include a PSIP header that usually has a channel number. In my case, the channels show up with the same channel number as my OTA HD stations, but the Tivo is still unable to associate guide data with them. Thus, in many cases a mapping function could be automatic. In other cases, a manual mapping function may be necessary.

For example, the user could go into the channel list, pick out a QAM HD channel, click some "associate guide data" link, and associate guide data with the channel. Alternatively some other have suggested mapping channel numbers rather than guide data. For example, the QAM HD channel could be manually mapped to the cableco's digital cable channel number for that channel.

IMO (and this is just my opinion), this is a simple feature to implement. Most of functionality is already there, it just needs a user interface. Tivo could do it if they thought the demand great enough.

Here is a suggested sample letter:

----------------

Dear Tivo,

I am a cable subscriber that is considering upgrading my standard Tivos to HD or S3 models. However, I only subscribe to basic cable and do not have a cablecard. My basic cable includes the four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) in digital HD by FCC mandate. I am able to tune these channels with my digital TV. Your Tivo HD and S3 models are also able to tune these channels, but with reduced functionality. The Tivo HD is unable to associate guide data with these channels, severely reducing the utility of the Tivo HD. In order to obtain cablecards, I would have to upgrade to a more costly package from my cable company that incurs additional installation and significant monthly fees and cablecard rental fees. As I primarily intend to use the Tivo HD to view the local networks (which are already included in digital HD as part of my basic cable service), I cannot justify the additional expense.

Please consider adding a feature to associate guide data with unencrypted QAM channels. This feature is commonly referred to as QAM-mapping by the community, and is available on some competing DVRs. If the Tivo HD or S3 supported this feature, then I would upgrade my remaining Tivos to HD models.

Thank You

------

Suggestions/edits are welcome to the letter. In fact each person's letter should be slightly different, so as not to be sending form letters. If you could include details such as how many Tivos you would buy and how much extra the cable company wants to charge you for cablecards, that would be good.

As far as where to send the letter, the best I can come up with is using the contactus page at http://www.tivo.com/abouttivo/contactus/index.html. There is a "feature ideas" link. If you are an shareholder, then you might want to try the investor relations email (after all you own the company!)
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:03 PM   #2
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Sure you get the networks in QAM from your cable company, but have you called your cable company and asked them for a list of the clear QAM channels that they provide? Is it posted on their website?
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
Sure you get the networks in QAM from your cable company, but have you called your cable company and asked them for a list of the clear QAM channels that they provide? Is it posted on their website?
That would be the whole point of QAM mapping.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by rainwater
That would be the whole point of QAM mapping.
But it is a cable company problem, not Tivo.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
But it is a cable company problem, not Tivo.
And, even if you had the assignments, you couldn't do anything with them, other than tune the stations manually.

The whole point of QAM mapping support is to be able to use all the Tivo scheduling features with QAM channels.

This is absolutely a Tivo problem.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
But it is a cable company problem, not Tivo.
No, the cable company has solved it with cablecards. That is not what the original poster is even talking about.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:44 PM   #7
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I would definitely get another Tivo HD if it worked that way!
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
Sure you get the networks in QAM from your cable company, but have you called your cable company and asked them for a list of the clear QAM channels that they provide? Is it posted on their website?
I only want the networks. Sure, the others (Discovery, etc) might be nice. The cableco is not required to give me those extra digital networks, but they are required by the FCC to give me the four local networks.

As far as the cableco websites (comcast in particular), IMO they go to great lengths to obfuscate the channel lineups. I never knew I was entitled to receive the HD networks until I did a channel scan and further research in these forums. The only thing I found on comcast's website was a $5 "hd package" they wanted to sell me, and I think that was on top of the upgrade fees for 'digital' cable.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
But it is a cable company problem, not Tivo.
I'd say it's the cable company's *fault*, but it's Tivo's *problem*.

As a consumer, I would like the Tivo to work (with full functionality) on the channels that I pay for and am entitled to receive. Of course, Tivo can punt on the issue by requiring cablecards, but they are missing out on market share by doing so.
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:07 PM   #10
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Some cable companies already use PSIP to remap their QAM channels to the correct cable channels. On those systems, you get guide data with the Tivo on all your unencrypted QAM channels.

If you want this problem fixed, convince your cable company to add PSIP information to remap QAM channels to the appropriate number in their digital lineup.
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarBowl
But it is a cable company problem, not Tivo.
Actually if he gets, say channel 7.1 over cable as 7.1, the cable company is actually passing it on per CFR (ie doing what they are supposed to be doing).
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bkdtv
Some cable companies already use PSIP to remap their QAM channels to the correct cable channels. On those systems, you get guide data with the Tivo on all your unencrypted QAM channels.

If you want this problem fixed, convince your cable company to add PSIP information to remap QAM channels to the appropriate number in their digital lineup.
Actually some did and apparently still are populating PSIP with the number corresponding to their published channel lineup. Unfortunately, the at not what the ATSC specs tell them to do.
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Old 08-16-2007, 05:02 PM   #13
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PSIP
data is only required for the 'big 4' networks? This would explain how Comcast tends to play 'hide and seek' moving the other local broadcast/digital channels. TiVo should look at how Microsoft (can't believe I'm saying this) allows channels to be remapped in Media Center. You need this locally to remap WUPA to RF43 from the RF69 the guide data believes it to be. Microsoft also lets you assign the programming data to the channel you created. Simple and elegant solution I would have expected from TiVo, not Microsoft...
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Old 08-16-2007, 05:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bkdtv
If you want this problem fixed, convince your cable company to add PSIP information to remap QAM channels to the appropriate number in their digital lineup.
What would be the cableco's incentive to do this when they can instead force their customers to upgrade to a 'digital' package, add a HD package, and rent cablecards instead? From the cableco perspective, incorrect channel numbers are not a problem, but a feature.

Furthermore, I think the specs say the cablecos have to pass the channel number that the broadcaster places in the PSIP, at least for the networks. In my case, this is one of those rare things that is working as expected -- for example NBC comes across as 16.1 which is the correct OTA channel number. The Tivo will NOT supply guide data for this channel.

Having the cablecos override the channel numbers the networks put in the PSIP is clearly not the right thing to do; it will only lead to more obfuscation of channel numbers by the cable companies. The cable companies do not want it to be convenient for you to get the big 4 networks in HD, as they would much rather charge for a digital cable package + HD package.
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Old 08-16-2007, 06:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smbaker
I think the specs say the cablecos have to pass the channel number that the broadcaster places in the PSIP, at least for the networks.
That's certainly the intent of the FCC regulations. However, the specific reg is poorly written and says only that the PSIP channel number data has to be present...it doesn't specifically say it couldn't be modified by the cable company. It's one of those ridiculous loopholes that only a lawyer could love...

You are also correct that the cable company does not have any incentive to repopulate the PSIP channel data with their own channel assignments, and in fact has a financial incentive not to do this. I think that's why it's extremely rare to find a cable market that does this (is Austin TX the only one?).

The vast majority of cable plants adhere to the spirit of the FCC regs and pass the PSIP data as received from the broadcaster. Given that...it is certainly TiVo's "fault" that TiVo owners can't make use of those channels.
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Old 08-16-2007, 06:45 PM   #16
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I'd encourage people to write letters to one or more of the following people (postal letters carry a lot more weight than email). Concise and respectful is the best method.

Mr. Brian Lanier
Vice President for Software Development, Consumer Products Division

Mr. Todd Juenger
Vice President and General Manager, Audience Research and Measurement

Ms. Margret Schmidt
Vice President for User Experience Design & Research

Mr. Jim Denney
Vice President for Product Marketing

Each of the above at:

TiVo, Inc.
2160 Gold Street
P.O. Box 2160
Alviso, CA 95002
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saxion
That's certainly the intent of the FCC regulations. However, the specific reg is poorly written and says only that the PSIP channel number data has to be present...it doesn't specifically say it couldn't be modified by the cable company. It's one of those ridiculous loopholes that only a lawyer could love...

You are also correct that the cable company does not have any incentive to repopulate the PSIP channel data with their own channel assignments, and in fact has a financial incentive not to do this. I think that's why it's extremely rare to find a cable market that does this (is Austin TX the only one?).

The vast majority of cable plants adhere to the spirit of the FCC regs and pass the PSIP data as received from the broadcaster. Given that...it is certainly TiVo's "fault" that TiVo owners can't make use of those channels.
TiVo get their guide data from a 3rd party provider, the cable co do not have any published data on the clear QAM channels in their lineup, TiVo needs an automatic system to keep downloading this data so i do not see this as an easy problem for TiVo to solve as many of you think. If the cable co gave out the QAM data then the problem would be easy to address for TiVo. This is just my opinion.
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lessd
TiVo get their guide data from a 3rd party provider, the cable co do not have any published data on the clear QAM channels in their lineup, TiVo needs an automatic system to keep downloading this data so i do not see this as an easy problem for TiVo to solve as many of you think. If the cable co gave out the QAM data then the problem would be easy to address for TiVo. This is just my opinion.
Didn't the Sony box solve this with a simple mapping feature?
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:15 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rainwater
Didn't the Sony box solve this with a simple mapping feature?
Yes, the Sony let you set a network affiliation for a particular QAM channel. Of course, whenever your cable provider changed their QAM channels -- some do it rarely and others do it more frequently -- recordings were from the wrong channel.
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:33 PM   #20
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If these channels
are indeed 'echoes' of the broadcast channels as the FCC intended, TiVo already has the data. Allowing customers to manually connect the broadcast channel with the information already available to TiVo as OTA data.

Missing data for an obscure cable company weather channel won't bother me in the least. Just let me tune to it without data and record 30 minute blocks if I choose to record something.

The will to crawl out of the cable companies bed and do something for thier customers is something TiVo can do, if they choose to...
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Old 08-16-2007, 09:38 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lessd
TiVo get their guide data from a 3rd party provider, the cable co do not have any published data on the clear QAM channels in their lineup, TiVo needs an automatic system to keep downloading this data so i do not see this as an easy problem for TiVo to solve as many of you think. If the cable co gave out the QAM data then the problem would be easy to address for TiVo. This is just my opinion.
Automatic QAM mapping that deals with MSO assignment changes is hard.

Basic manual mapping (like the Sony DHG series) is easy, if not trivial, all things considered.
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Old 08-20-2007, 12:11 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saxion
I'd encourage people to write letters to one or more of the following people
Another simple thing people can do is fill out this TiVo suggestion form. Both writing letters and filling out this web form are good ways to get TiVo's attention. Please consider voicing your opinion using one or both methods.
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Old 08-20-2007, 01:08 AM   #23
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I have written TiVo regarding this before. I'll write them again, just in case.
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Old 08-20-2007, 01:24 AM   #24
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I would sign it!!
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Old 08-20-2007, 06:19 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smbaker
I only want the networks. Sure, the others (Discovery, etc) might be nice. The cableco is not required to give me those extra digital networks, but they are required by the FCC to give me the four local networks.
Actually, the last time that this was discussed, I think that someone had a source that disproved this. Yes, they are required to feed you stations available OTA, but they are not required to provide them in HD.

JFH3 hit the nail on the head, though. These clear QAM channels move around in a lot of areas. Since your Tivo has no way of knowing when that happens, every time it does, you're going to be recording the wrong channel. Given that there is no way to easily support this type of mapping, I think that they should leave it alone and save themselves an avalanche of "My show didn't record properly" support calls caused by something that is completely out of their control.
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Old 08-20-2007, 06:51 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoHokies!
These clear QAM channels move around in a lot of areas. Since your Tivo has no way of knowing when that happens, every time it does, you're going to be recording the wrong channel. Given that there is no way to easily support this type of mapping, I think that they should leave it alone and save themselves an avalanche of "My show didn't record properly" support calls caused by something that is completely out of their control.

My vote would be to start by putting in a manual mapping function that those who understand the risks can use and then work toward a more robust/PSIP solution.
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Old 08-20-2007, 07:24 AM   #27
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I'm on board with this request big time. It seems like an easy way for TiVo to add a lot of value to their product. I'm unwilling to pay Comcast an additional $17/month just so I can watch the local HD stations, which it already provides free with my expanded basic package (already $49/month).

I'm ready to buy a TiVoHD as soon as TiVo adds a remapping feature (whether automatic or manual).
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:55 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoHokies!
Actually, the last time that this was discussed, I think that someone had a source that disproved this. Yes, they are required to feed you stations available OTA, but they are not required to provide them in HD.
...
I don't think the CFR is specific about HD. As I read it, IF they carry the local broadcast stations, they must make them available. However I believe that the current must-carry regs apply only to analog. Broadcast TV, the cable industry, and the FCC are still wrangling with this one.
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:57 AM   #29
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The TivoHD ads showing up on our Tivos still say that cablecard is required for digital cable reception. Of course they'd probably say that whether or not Tivo was working on it.
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Old 08-20-2007, 10:42 AM   #30
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This is something thats stopping me purchasing a 2nd Tivo S3...

I get over 30 digital channels via QAM. I have a vizio TV that pulls them straight off the cable connection and integrates them into my normal channel line up, so I have channels such as 4, 4.1, 5, 5.1, 5.2 etc... I dont see why Tivo cant do the same.

I dont want to get Cable Cards for the 2nd Tivo, but I would like to record the main network stuff in HD for a 2nd room... it seems a huge oversight to not make this work correctly.
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