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HD Compression Draws complaints to Cable and Satellite Providers

By Eddie Pritchard


Many High Definition television sets are moving into new homes daily. Which means many of these owners are subscribing or upgrading to their cable or satellite providers HD services. But when these services are bought, many people are not getting the great high quality that these channel providers brag about. Although some programs are rendering great quality, many channels look stretched out and zoomed in. I had to investigate what’s going on and this is what I found out.


As cable TV companies pack ever more HD channels into limited bandwidth, they blame the increased signal compression being used to squeeze three digital HD signals into the bandwidth of one analog station.


The problem is viewers want more HD channels at a time when many cable and satellite providers are at the limits of their capacity, said Jim Willcox, a technology editor for Consumer Reports magazine.


"They have to figure out a way to deliver more HD content through their distribution networks," he said.


Compressing the signal is cheaper than costly infrastructure upgrades to increase capacity. Satellite TV providers - including DirecTV Group Inc. and Dish Network Corp. - also have the option of launching satellites to boost the number of HD channels on their systems.


While information is nearly always lost when signals are compressed and then uncompressed, the process can theoretically be made unnoticeable to eyes and ears - and Comcast says it should be.


So there you have it. Until the companies spend the money to restructure their systems. The ones who have to take the blows are the consumers. I predict that the quality will grow better over time, but until then we wait and see.