If your TV has a QAM tuner (to tune cable signals, rather than over the air) then you can receive unencrypted HD channels without a box. These will usually be only the local stations. For the balance of the HD channels you will need a cable box with an HD tuner, which probably isn't what you're referring to, since it isn't new.
I do have a new Vizio VS370E which I believe does have a QAM tuner. How does Comcast rationalize requiring paid subscribers to pay more for something that IMHO shouldn't be necessary? Granted, I'm unawre of technological restrictions, but if everything is going digital, why the cable box?
The only way Comcast can offer different tiers of service and separate packages for people who want to pay extra for them is to encrypt the channels that are only available at extra cost (e.g., HBO). Otherwise everyone would be charged for all the channels. The cable box is necessary because the only other means of decryption is with cablecards, which very few TVs have. If your TV has cablecard capability, then that's what you should use instead of the box.
I have the premium digital package with two HD boxes, but I prefer to use the TVs built in QAM tuner. The built in tuner allows for DD 5.1 sound, closed captioning, tv ratings, and the ability to delete stupid channels I never watch. I was getting most of those channels until just a few days ago. Now because of the greedy **bleep**s at Comcast, I am forced to watch those channels with their stupid HD box and waste lots of electricity just because they want me to pay extra to rent their poorly designed box. What is the point in TVs being required to have digital tuners if they just go to waste? If I am forced to use a stupid box, I might as well switch to satellite.
I personally believe since this is the digital transition, Digital standard should be the standard and at least those channels should be broadcast in clear QAM. If you have an analog tv, you should get a digital converter box or have a filter put on your house to block the digital signals. You guys should be talking steps to try to encourage people to purchase digital tvs, not punish those who do. People purchased analog tvs with 125 channel tuners so they could get rid of their cable boxes and the same should be for digital.
I personally think you guys are making a huge mistake. The main reason why people are paying more for cable instead of switching to satellite is they can get the standard linup without the need for an additional box. Since you guys are now requiring us to get a digital box, there is no reason why I should not switch to satellite. Satellite is cheaper and has more HD channels. You guys are negating the only advantage you have over the competition!