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Cable Companies Will Soon Be Able To Scramble Local TV Signals

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SOMERVILLE (CBS) – The FCC will soon let cable operators scramble the signals of local TV stations that you now get through basic cable. If you don’t have a cable box, you may not be able to watch unless you’re willing to open your wallet.

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky owns many TVs but not all of them have an HD cable box.

He says, “All it has is the cable wire going straight into it from the wall, and I get HD TV on the over the air channels.”

In his kitchen, and in his office, Dworsky is able to watch local cable channels in high definition without a box, but that may soon be changing.

“Channels can now be scrambled and that means your TV can’t unscramble them without a box,” says Dworsky.

Beginning December 10th, cable providers will have the right to scramble those signals. If they do, you would need to rent a box to get the channels. An HD signal would require a more expensive box.

“I don’t want to have to rent a box if I don’t have to and I want to be able to watch HD TV that’s why I bought an HD television set,” says Dworsky. “If you give me one of those cheapie boxes, that’s not gonna let me see the programs in HD.”

Cable providers would be required to provide two free boxes to customers with basic service for two years, one year for higher tier customers.

This new rule primarily affects people with secondary TVs in places like offices, dens and kitchens and that could be a lot of people. According to Nielsen, 66 million people have three or more televisions in their house.

Cable providers are not required to scramble the signals, but starting on Monday, they will have the right.

WBZ reached out to Comcast and a company spokesman says there are no announcements to share right now and says if there is a change, they’ll tell customers well in advance.

So enjoy those box-less cable signals while you can, a scramble may be in your future.

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