My father-in-law just emailed me asking about what his options were for getting an HDTV signal in Nashville. I thought my email was so wonderful that I'd repost it here...
First step: see if the TV you're searching for has an internal tuner. Here's the difference:
HDTV-Ready Plasma Monitor
- note that there's nothing in here that says "tuner"
- see where it says "Integrated Television Tuner?"
Second step: see if the TV has a QAM/ATSC/NTSC tuner or just an ATSC/NTSC tuner. ATSC/NTSC is for over-the-air. QAM is how cable sends HD signals. Remember the difference between a "cable-ready" tuner and a "broadcast TV" (UHF/VHF) tuner? Same kind of thing.
If your HDTV has an internal QAM/ATSC/NTSC tuner, you have three choices on how to get your HDTV signal
Choice 1: you can can plug the coaxial cable into it and you can watch HD programming over cable. HOWEVER, there are two issues:
a) you can only watch these "free" HD channels. Today, they are:
85.6: The CW HD (channel 58)
85.14: My Network TV HD (channel 30)
86.11: Nashville Weather Channel (WKRN's 2nd digital channel... all weather all the time)
86.14: NPT2 (WNPT's 2nd digital channel... all documentaries all the time)
87.1: INHD (HD demo channel)
92.2: ABC HD (channel 2)
92.5: CBS HD (channel 5)
93.4: NBC HD (channel 4)
93.6: Fox HD (channel 7)
115.8: PBS HD (channel 8)
116.5-116.50: Music Choice audio-only channels
b) you have to tune them in with those weird channel numbers. If you want to watch channel 5 in HD, you have to type in 92.5.
COST: zero, zilch, nada (well, okay, you have to buy an HDTV.)
Choice 2: you can buy a cheap antenna like this one and pick up the HDTV signal over the air.
a) the advantage is that you can just enter 2.1 to watch Channel 2, 5.1 to watch Channel 5, 17.1 to watch Channel 17 and so on.
b) the disadvantage is that you're subject to weather, knocking the antenna over, interference, etc... just like the old days when you had an antenna on your roof.
COST: the price of an antenna and minor annoyances with interference
Choice 3: you can get Comcast's HDTV box for $5 a month, and I think that you can get
202 ESPN HD
203 ESPN2 HD
204 TNT HD
205 Discovery HD Theater
207 Versus/Golf Ch. HD
208 Universal HD
210 National Geographic HD
211 A&E HD
231 WKRN (ABC) HD
232 WSMV (NBC) HD
233 WTVF (CBS) HD
234 WZTV (FOX) HD
235 WNAB (WB) HD
236 WUXP (UPN) HD
240 WNPT (PBS) HD
241 WNPT 2 (PBS) DIGITAL
245 WKRN 24hr Weather
COST: The reason I say that "I think you can" is because on their website, Comcast offers an "HD package" for $6.95 a month... and I don't know if that includes the $5 box rental you mentioned before. It might be $11.95 a month total.
The setup is a little different - you'll run the cable to the box, and run an HDMI cable from the box to your HDTV. You'll change channels on the cable box.
Choice 4: satellite from DirecTV or Dish Network. But if you don't want to leave Comcast, that's probably not an option.
COST: much more... because you're paying for basic cable all over again.