Why can't I receive ABC TV?
March 10, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I don't pay for cable but receive nearly all of the basic channels (CBS, NBC, Fox, etc) by simply plugging my high speed internet cable into the back of my TV. I don't get ABC though. A few questions..

When I purchased my HDTV, I installed a splitter on to my internet cable, ran a coaxial into the back of my TV and voila, I got crystal clear reception of most of the basic stations. I did not receive ABC though. Last week, Cablevision temporarily dropped ABC and after they reached an agreement, I magically started receiving ABC, although it was pixelating a bit. However, for some reason, it's now completely gone again.

I have a quality splitter (Monster Gold) and just upgraded the cable that runs to the TV to a RG 6 coaxial (it was the older style 59 before) but still no ABC.

First question is, am I violating any cable rules by splitting the cable and running a wire into my TV? If not, would it be completely ridiculous for me to complain to Cablevision that I'm not receiving ABC? The reason I ask is that I read somewhere that the FCC has mandated that cable companies provide a strong enough signal for customers to at least receive the major networks.

If complaining is a no go, anything else I can do to get tune in ABC? I went out last week and purchased an HD antenna and was not even able to get CBS or NBC with that. And I'd rather avoid the $16 a month charge to subscribe to basic cable just to get ABC.
posted by gfrobe to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Receiving basic cable is commonly a side-effect of having a cable modem - The frequencies used by DOCSIS lie between certain analog channels (I forget which ones - For Cox, I believe we said they were between 3-8 or so depending on the region. It's been awhile). There are filters they can install that would filter out the TV signals, but its pretty rare.

Cable companies handle this a few different ways. Some consider it to be a bundled part of the Internet service and provide support for it. It's pretty rare though.

Most, in my experience, just look the other way and acknowledge that it's a part of the business. They don't care, but they'll tell you it's a bad thing if you ask.

A few actively state that such a thing is akin to theft, and will actually come after you if you tell them you've done it.

As far as what you can do to get ABC, I haven't the slightest idea. What analog channel does ABC broadcast on in your area? It might be getting clipped by a highpass/lowpass filter on your cable line (to prevent you from getting the other analog cable channels too), in which case you won't be able to get it over the wire.
posted by Rendus at 1:43 PM on March 10, 2010

isn't basic cable included with your internet? That's how it worked for us- even when we had ExpressVu, I'd use an extra cable outlet that hadn't been taken over by Bell for the satellite and had about 20 channels on it- it wasn't free per se but was a freebie that a lot of people weren't aware of with our particular tier cable internet. In fact we used another outlet for radio reception. I never asked about it, but we made the switch back from Belll to Shaw for the whole package (HD, PVR, etc) once they included more cricket programming (this was why we moved to satellite in the first place) and when I "confessed" about getting "free" cable, the installer said that was standard but they didn't advertise it since they wanted people to pony up for receivers too.

Of course this is Canada so YMMV. No idea about ABC.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:46 PM on March 10, 2010

Thanks for replies. I'm in NJ and would normally receive ABC on Channel 7. In fact, on Monday night during the Oscars, I was able to get Channels 7, 7-1, 7-2, etc. So I assume the line is somehow capable of receiving the signal. Then again, perhaps Cablevision has since flipped a switch somewhere and changed the signal.

I don't think basic cable is part of my package and am hesitant to ask. I originally asked the guy who was installing my internet if I would get any stations by plugging the cable into the TV. He said no and five minutes after he left, I plugged in the cable and had a bunch of stations.
posted by gfrobe at 2:03 PM on March 10, 2010

Ok, just tried removing the splitter and plugging my cable wire directly into my TV and I was able to receive ABC. So I guess the split signal is just not strong enough to pull in the station. Would a signal amplifier help this? If so, would I install it before the splitter or after?
posted by gfrobe at 2:22 PM on March 10, 2010

Install the amp before the splitter first and then if it doesn't work after. Better though is to buy an amp with built in splitter. That way you get full power on both lines without amping a weak signal.
posted by Mitheral at 3:34 PM on March 10, 2010

When I signed up for my cable internet without subscribing to cable tv service, the cable company insisted that the cable wasn't hooked up (and it would take two weeks to install it, natch). I tried connecting it to a TV out of curiosity, and found I could receive basic cable channels. I told this to the cable company (Time Warner Cable in Ithaca) and their response was that I was stealing cable and that someone had goofed by making this possible in the first place. They did let me install the internet myself right away, but later sent out the ominous sounding "signal security" to install a "blocker" on the line outside so that the internet works but tv channels do not.

I don't know if you're really breaking any rules here, but based on my experience, complaining to Cablevision is unlikely to produce a positive result and might just give you a negative one. You could just try calling and asking if cable internet allows you to receive basic cable without giving your name. If you want to pursue the DIY solution, Mitheral's idea sounds worth a try, but I can't comment on the legality or morality of doing this.
posted by zachlipton at 3:51 PM on March 10, 2010

You may not need an amp, you may need a higher quality splitter. Older splitters may not pass the frequencies you need. Also some splitters are not symmetric, so you may have some luck switching which leg goes to which device.
posted by NoDef at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2010

Wouldn't the Cablevision bill [or web site at the least] tell you what you're paying for [i.e. whether you should be getting basic cable]?

My cable bill lays out exactly what packages I'm paying for, and a trip to the website shows what channels are involved. No subterfuge needed.

On the amp placement, I had to go with a splitter + amp for my home cable + internet. My cable guy advised that the amp might degrade the internet signal, however, so in my house it goes:

       |-----AMP---REST OF HOUSE
       |-----CABLE MODEM

posted by chazlarson at 4:43 PM on March 10, 2010

On Comcast if you sign up for TV service, you get a $10 discount on the internet service. "Limited Cable" (just the open channels) costs $13 and I'm fairly sure still gives you the internet discount. So that'd be $3 for support and peace of mind.

I've heard of signal boosters making the digital signal worse. Some are designed for analog TV signals, and may add noise/distortions (or even have noise reduction circuitry) that would be undetectable (or desirable) on analog TV, but screw up the digital signal)
posted by qvantamon at 9:31 PM on March 10, 2010

ABC vs Cablevision: No deal, just more mudslinging
Some 3 million New York-area Cablevision customers in Long Island, Westchester, Brooklyn, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey could lose access to ABC programming if the cable company doesn’t reach a re-transmission agreement with the network, which wants $40 million a year to carry WABC-TV — or $1 per subscriber. ABC is the one threatening to pull the signal unless a new deal is reached.
posted by banshee at 11:33 AM on March 11, 2010

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