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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Q I've got an HDTV with a CableCard slot. Can I use that with Fios TV, or do I need to rent Verizon's tuner?

ACableCards, small modules that plug into the back of a television or digital video recorder and eliminate the need for a separate receiver, are a bit of a secret with cable TV. But their use with Verizon's fiber-optic TV service may be even less known.

With either cable or Fios, a CableCard can save you money if you can live without some interactive features. Consider the costs with Verizon: A CableCard costs $2.99 a month, compared with $9.99 a month for a high-definition tuner and $12.99 a month for a high-def digital video recorder.

The actual savings may be a little less in some cases. Because Verizon's CableCards can't transmit multiple channels, you'd need a second CableCard to watch one channel while recording another on a device such as the TiVo HD video recorder.

A TV or DVR equipped with a CableCard will also be unable to display Verizon's interactive programming guide or watch on-demand programs. The TV or DVR should include its own program guide, but you'll have to do without video-on-demand services.

The CableCard approach can be appealing for two other reasons. For one, it gives you your choice of devices -- if you'd rather use a TiVo instead of the DVR Verizon rents, you can. For another, it means one less remote control on the coffee table.

If your TV or DVR doesn't include a CableCard slot, you may still be able to avoid renting a separate box. A more common digital-TV feature, a QAM ("quadrature amplitude modulation") tuner, will suffice to let you watch the first 49 channels on Fios. That selection includes local network affiliates, as well as public, government and educational broadcasts.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 orrobp@washpost.com. Turn to Thursday's Business section or visithttp://washingtonpost.comanytime for his Fast Forward column.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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