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Cable and TV Satellite Services

Are you trying to decide between cable and a satellite dish? Consider the pros and cons of each.

You have two choices for television programming - either cable TV or satellite TV. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Getting Started

To get cable installed, you need to have your house wired, if it's not already. If your house is already wired, it is often just a case of notifying your cable company and having them activate service.

To get satellite TV, you need to buy and install a satellite dish. Usually, your provider will do the installation for a fee.

Take Into Consideration:

  • Cable TV offers access to around 40 channels for about $30-$50/month. Satellite TV offers over 200 stations, as well as pay channels, for about $30-$80/month.
  • Cable TV delivers local channels. In the past, satellite TV did not. But a 1999 ruling by the FCC allows satellite TV providers to deliver this service if they choose. See the FCC's Satellite TV questions and answers.
  • It is possible to receive a "Broadcast Basic" service from cable providers - helpful for people who live in large apartment buildings where regular rabbit ear antennas cannot pick up clear reception. Broadcast Basic is affordable at around $10 a month for about 12 channels.
  • When something goes wrong with your satellite dish, whom do you call? The company? The installer? You need to determine a point of contact for customer service.
  • Satellite TV requires equipment for the top of each TV set. Cable means no extra equipment beyond the initial cable box installation and bringing fiber optic lines into your residence. Additional TV's with satellite service may be free or may only require you to pay a nominal monthly fee.
  • You need a direct line of transmission from your satellite dish to the satellite. People who live in apartment buildings may be ineligible.
  • If you like sports, satellite TV offers you the best coverage!
  • Satellite TV is great in rural areas where it is difficult and expensive to lay fiber optic lines.

Did you know?

  • You can purchase a satellite TV self-installation kit and save money on satellite installation fees.
  • It is possible to rent equipment from some satellite companies.
  • Many cable companies also provide cable-access Internet and/or local phone service. Often you can purchase one or both of these services in addition to your cable service at a discounted rate in what is called a bundled offer.
  • When ordering additional channels for cable, it is often cheaper to purchase a more expensive package rather than purchase a package and one additional channel.

What's the Difference Between a "Converter" and a "Descrambler"?

Cable companies need a way to prevent people from accessing their premium channels, such as Showtime and HBO, without paying for them. To accomplish this, they "scramble" the signal for those stations, allowing only paying customers who have the equipment to "descramble" the signal to view premium stations. A "descrambler" is a necessary piece of equipment if you want premium channels, regardless of whether your television is cable ready. A converter is the box that goes on top of an older television set to expand the number of channels available on that television. This is accomplished by leaving the television on Channel 3 or Channel 4 (depending on your area and provider), and using the box to switch channels. Another option is an addressable converter, which allows you to order premium services and pay-per-view by phone.

What Does "Cable-compatible" TV Mean?

Cable compatible simply means that your TV or VCR is able to receive a broad range of unscrambled channels, many more than for non-compatible sets. However, you don't need a cable-compatible TV to use cable. All TV's can connect to cable. It is also important to note that, if you want premium channels, you will still need a converter to receive channels that have been "scrambled".

What Does "Cable-ready" TV Mean?

There are three components that make a TV "cable-ready": 1) It's tuner is technically superior to traditional tuners and is highly resistant to interference; 2) It has the capability to tune in cable channels in accord with the FCC-approved channel plan; and 3) Finally, it has a "decoder interface connector" that connects the cable service directly to the TV without the usual cable box. Almost all TV's you can purchase today are cable ready.

Who Do You Report Service Outages to, and Whom Do You Contact Regarding Customer Service Issues?

Contact your local cable/satellite customer service and repair center.

How Do You Order Cable Pay-Per-View Services?

Depending on your service provider and what plan you choose, there are two methods for ordering pay-per-view. In most cases, you must phone your provider to order movies. However, if your service provider has a two-way system, you can place orders directly through your machine.

When Might You Need an In-home Amplifier to Improve the Signal?

When you have three or more televisions using cable services in one home, you may need an in-home amplifier to provide a better signal. You can purchase an amplifier from a cable provider, but you are usually responsible for its maintenance.

What Does Channel Capacity Mean?

A cable system's channel capacity is the maximum number of channels it can carry at one time.

What is the Benefit of Digital Compression?

Digital compression drastically reduces the size of the signal going to your home by converting the signal into digital format. This allows more channels to be transmitted through the cable than would be possible with a normal signal.

What is a "Parental Lock" and How Does It Work

This is when you choose to restrict some program viewing in your household. Most cable systems offer Parental Guidance Control or Parental locks for certain channels and programming. Please call or email your local cable systems operator for more information on this valuable service.

Can Cable/Satellite Providers Install and Service Equipment and Wiring for You if You are Not the Owner of the Premises Where Equipment and Wiring is Being Installed or Serviced?

Yes, but you will need to obtain the consent of the owner of the building to allow the provider to install cable/satellite service and maintain it while you are using that service.

What is an NRTC Territory?

NRTC stands for National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. It is an organization comprised of companies dedicated to providing telecommunications technology to rural areas, where regular services were previously unavailable. Rates for services in these areas are subject to different regulations.

Copyright © 1999 - 2000 GetConnected, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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