Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Is the laser on?

Is the laser on?

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I’ve been a fan of Verizon FIOS since day one.  I was one of the first people outside the initial pilot on Keller, Texas to receive the service.  I’ve had it over three years.  The data service has been stellar.  Reliable.  Fast.  Cheap.  How many people say that about any computer service?

At the time FIOS TV was made available in my area, I was a FIOS Business customer running a static IP plan.  I was hosting five domains using Microsoft Small Business Server Premium.  SBS is a great product for that implementation.  ISA, Exchange IIS, etc.  It’ll spoil you rotten.

During the first couple of years of FIOS use, I was using it only for data.  I was not using the video offering.  You see, someone decided businesses would not want TV services so that wasn’t engineered into the business plans, or I should say not in the static IP plans.  For that reason, I was stuck using Charter Communications for my video services.

Charter became unreliable and eventually after a huge outage, I kicked them to the curb and switched to FIOS TV.  That took a lot of work because I had to move our domains, email and websites to a hosting plan.  We are using 1and1.com for those services and I am happy with their price and reliability. We use the $9.99 per month business plan.

FIOS TV has been a pretty good service with a few exceptions.  Their HD DVR is pretty lame so I switched to a TiVo Series 3.  There’s just one problem.  There’s only a few HDTV stations on the FIOS TV service and it’s customer base is starting to get restless.  Everyone seems to want 150 HD channels.  The problem is that I don’t think there’s 150 quality HD channels.

Let’s talk about quality for a second.  It’s been pretty widely reported that FIOS TV is one of the best services in the US for watching high definition programming.  The working theory is that Verizon compresses the programming signal less than anyone else.  We’ll see if that theory holds up.  But the quality you get largely depends on the source.

For instance, some of the programming coming down that pristine fiber strand has already been butchered.  One channel in particular I know has the habit of taking a standard definition source and trying to upscale it, stretch or zoom it for widescreen formatting, and calling it HD.  It’s crap and they know it.

The same thing will happen when everyone is forced to switch from analog to digital this year.  You’ll simply get digital crap instead of analog crap.  But it will be digital and the FCC can mark it off their list of things to do.  Why do I call it digital crap?  Because garbage in produces garbage out.

It takes work to convert a classic source to a beautiful HD master piece.  I don’t know what it took to digitize “Lawrence of Arabia”.  I went looking for the details of how Sony did it, but so far I haven’t been able to come up with some decent facts.  The HD version of the movie was broadcast on HDNET 2/10/2008 and I recorded it to my TiVo Series 3, and my Dell XPS 420.

So what’s my point?  My point is, that even when everyone in the USA is forced to go digital this year, even when most of the cable and satellite providers have 150 HD channels, don’t expect those channels to broadcast 24x7 of high quality HD content.  It simply doesn’t exist right now.  You aren’t going to see “Lawrence of Arabia” quality programming coming down your dish, cable or fiber connection across all of those networks.  It’s a classic and how many classics do you actually see getting produced these days?

I’ll settle for a small number of great channels with premium programming.

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  • I believe we will see stations developing HD content after the switch. For one, there is the switch itself. Digital is the way to go. There is also the explosion in sales of HD capable TV's. My household has had an HD capable TV since 2000. But we didn't actually watch ANY HD content until 2003. Now we rarely watch any Standard Def content. The excpetiong being Discovery Channel which I watch a bunch of but is not in HD throguh my provider.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that 8 years ago, almost no one watched ANY HD. 4 years after it became much more accessible. Now, many people in larger metropolitan areas have access to several HD channels. Give it abother 5 years and my guess is that most metro TV watchers will be watching primarily HD TV over SD.

    Chris