Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Satellite TV Experiment

The bus-house came from the factory with an automatic satellite TV receiver up on the roof. We variously referred to it as "the dome" or "the low-clearance early warning system" (it's the highest point on the bus-house). From the time we took delivery of the camper in April of 2007 until last January, we hadn't subscribed to any satellite TV provider. We're not huge TV fans and had trouble justifying the cost. But I had this lingering notion in the back of my head that at some point I'd like to give it a try... if for no other reason than to see if the dome actually works.

Well in January of this year, 11 months ago, we bit the bullet and subscribed to DirecTV. The experience of getting the service up and running was a challenge but we did find out the dome works just fine. We signed up for an 18 month "commitment" with a discount to about $32/month for the first 12 months, after which the price goes to the regular rate of somewhere around $54/month. The package we bought is supposed to give us about 150 channels including local stations for no extra charge. However, those "free locals" don't apply to people like us who move around all the time. For nomads like us to get "local" stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) we have to subscribe to something called DNS (distant network service) for an additional $14/month which gives us "local" stations from the East Coast and the West Coast. We declined to subscribe to DNS, opting instead to poke up our onboard batwing antenna and pull the local stations from the area we're in right off the air for free. We also declined to pay even more to DirecTV for HBO or any other movie channel, choosing instead to use DVD's we buy on the bargain rack or trade for with other campers.

So how is it going? After 11 months we find we're rarely using DirecTV and generally prefer to watch local stations we pull in off the air. Sure, once in a while we're so remote we can't pull in anything or maybe just a channel or two. But, in my humble opinion, the quality of programming off the satellite is no better (often worse) than what we get off the air for free. Sure, there's a lot more channels, but we find little to interest us. News off the satellite isn't news -- it's opinion and screaming that seems intended to boost ratings by fanning the flames of polarization. In addition, we can get HD (high def) signals off the air for free... something we'd have to pay even more for to DirecTV. Our take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward TV means we often opt to settle in with a book or work on a crossword puzzle in the evening.

When we get back to Rockport I intend to cancel DirecTV. I'll have to pay a penalty for early cancellation, I'm sure. But I'll categorize that penalty as an educational expense. The dome will return to it's earlier role as an expensive "low-clearance early warning system".

Trying to learn something new every day...
Thom Hoch