By Polly Keary, Editor
In an age of high speed cable, satellite dishes may seem like a throwback to the giant lawn saucers of the 1980s.
But today’s satellite dishes aren’t much bigger than an umbrella, and can offer some qualities that can make them a good choice for people who want to save a little money, or make their service weather-proof, or who want internet access in an area not served by cable, all of which are potential scenarios in the Sky Valley.
Convenience vs. cost
Paying for internet, a phone line and cable TV all in one bill can simplify life, and ordering it all in one place from a cable company can cut down on confusing options.
But folks who don’t mind spending a little more time shopping for services may wind up spending less money on them by going with satellite service, said Anthony Surratt at Home Satellite Sales and Service in Monroe, which sells both Direct TV and Dish Network.
“If you get a basic package of channels–you can get more a la carte–Direct TV and Dish Network are pretty similar,” he said. “Usually we are far under cable.”
When services are bundled, it can be hard to tell how much each service costs. But getting internet either as a stand-alone service from a cable company like Comcast or Frontier, and then getting television through satellite, or even getting both through satellite, can cut $30-$70 off your monthly expenses, he said.
“Most of the people we switch to satellite complain about the cost of cable,” he said.
When it comes to clarity and sharpness, satellite is hard to beat.
“On Demand through satellite works through your internet, just like Netflix,” Surratt said. “It all comes across in 1080.”
That number represents the number of lines of resolution on your screen. Hi-res starts at 720, and 1080 is the highest resolution available.
“That’s Blu-Ray quality,” said Surratt.
For channel surfers, Dish Network offers as many as 260 channels in the deluxe packages, which cost about $80 a month once the half-price introductory offer expires. For about $50 a month, you can get 190 channels. That can be a good thing if your interests are varied, but for those who only watch TV for certain things like news or sports, number of channels may not be an important factor.
About 80 channels are available on local cable, and cost about $50 a month after the first six months.
Both cable and satellite are subject to service interruption under certain conditions.
It takes many miles of cable to provide cable service to a community, and though much of that cable is buried, it is vulnerable to weather and accidents where it emerges to branch out to a community.
Satellite gets occasional weather disturbances, but they don’t last very long, said Surratt.
“The occasional monsoon rain we get around here can drop the system a little bit,” he said. “But within 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, as soon as that dense cloud passes, it’s back.”
Satellite dishes only work when they have a clear line of sight to the southern sky, so anything that interferes can interrupt service. That’s why dishes should be mounted in a place where nothing will get between it and the sky, such as trees. And even a slight jolt can interrupt the delicate alignment of a dish. But a securely mounted dish with good exposure will seldom get interruption in service.
Cable has become nearly ubiquitous, and is available now to 93 percent of all homes in America. There are, however, homes in the Sky Valley that are not reached by cable. Dial-up internet is cumbersome and slow, and satellite can offer a faster alternative.
“If you don’t have high speed cable or DSL, and all you have is dial-up, satellite works beautifully,” said Surratt.
For people who need super fast internet, or use a lot of data, cable is the way to go. Satellite internet offers 10 gigs of data a month for about $55, but many cable options offer unlimited data. The average American internet user now uses about 20 gigs per month, but for people who only use the internet for basic email and shopping purposes, 10 gigs might be enough.
Cable is considerably faster, too; although many people without need for the fastest speeds won’t be inconvenienced by satellite.
People who game or watch streaming video, however, won’t be able to do so using satellite.
Satellite internet also requires the installation of a second dish, as TV dishes only receive, whereas internet dishes must also transmit.
To learn more about local satellite options, visit www.homesatellite.com or drop by the showroom at 18600 U.S. 2, Suite B, across the highway from the Fred Meyer Shopping Center. To learn about cable, call or email Mark Wright at (425) 322-8709 or Mark_Wright3@cable.comcast.com.