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Comcast to start encrypting basic cable 'over the coming months'

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comcast xfinity cable (stock)
comcast xfinity cable (stock)

Late last year the FCC gave cable providers permission to encrypt basic cable, and Comcast is wasting little time in moving ahead with the plan. The company has begun notifying customers in select markets that programming will soon be encrypted, a move that will require anyone not using a Comcast set-top box or CableCARD-enabled device to install an adapter to keep watching their soon-to-be-scrambled shows. As mandated by the FCC, Comcast will be offering these adapter boxes at no charge for two years — so long as you request them during the offer period. After two years (five for Medicaid recipients), each box will demand a $.50 rental fee each month. An adapter will also be made available for Boxee TV owners thanks to another provision of the FCC decision.

"We understand this will be a change for a small number of customers and will be making it as convenient as possible for them to get the digital equipment they may need to continue watching limited basic channels," a company spokesperson told The Verge. Comcast would of course prefer that you upgrade to one of its proper Xfinity packages, warning that the DTA boxes won't provide an on-screen guide or support pay-per-view purchases, among other inconveniences. As for why the encryption process is necessary, Comcast's FAQ page says the controversial decision will "reduce the need for scheduled in-home appointments, providing greater convenience for our customers." The company tells us encryption will be rolled out "on a market-by-market basis" in the coming months.