Vash... I work for a prominent cable company, the 2nd largest in the country. You need a converter/box if you want to view cable networks and be able to record them. Basic cable(locals) sucks. Also, eventually basic and extended basic( channels 1-80) are no longer going to be available without eq. Remember that digital upgrade a few year ago; The Gov will be using the analog frequencies soon. Analog cable is channels 2 to 99. Digital and HD start at 100 and above with cable companies.
Now I'm a TV snob, I watch very little network TV. Most of my programming/shows are cable networks. I would just rent the eq from Cox Cable, call their retention dept and ask for a promo including DVR. They have deals; good ones especially if you have Internet with them.