Tip #23: Digital Satellite System (DSS)

TIP # 23:

With the changes in cable pricing and packaging we’ve seen lately, and the general lack of competition in the home entertainment market, a recent topic of conversation for you and your friends may well have been this very subject. It certainly has been for us. We have found a great alternative, the 18″ Digital Dish System, which you have probably heard something about. Dubbed “Death Star”, in reference to its potential for killing off cable companies, it has lower program fees, wider selection, and higher quality. We tested a unit and here is what we found. Designed by the electronics giant, Thompson Electronics, and licensed initially to RCA, with many others to come, the technology is leading edge, but easy to understand. A single satellite, situated over Texas receives broadcast transmissions (channels) from independent programmers (two right now, USSB and DirecTV). This satellite now blankets the continent with a very powerful digital signal. The satellite, under utilized at present, carries about 150 channels, but has the potential for 1000. A pizza size dish antenna on your house collects these signals, sends them via coaxial cable to a Satellite Receiver (looks like a VCR), which is hooked into your video system, and becomes your channel changer for whatever the satellite is broadcasting. Since the DSS video signal and the stereo audio is digital, the picture has Laservision quality with sound that is every bit as good as your CD player’s. “But”, you ask, “what can I watch, and how much does it cost?” Two most important questions. Aside from ethnic and Canadian programming, you can watch pretty well all of the programming seen on a conventional 10 foot dish. You can subscribe to over 15 movie channels, over 15 sport channels CBS, NBC, PBS, ABC, FOX, CNN, El, TNN, CMT, TNT, Disney, the Science Fiction channel, 28 commercial free stereo digital music stations, and much more. Suffice to say, way more than the most deluxe cable package can offer. The channels are sold in blocks and are paid automatically each month with Visa, in US dollars. There are a variety of options, but the cost works out at around a dollar a month per channel, plus pay per view depending on use. Price for the complete system is $2,495 installed, $2,295 cash and carry, but for you, an introductory price of $1,995. Comparable 10 foot systems are $4,000 plus a more expensive install, so the value is there. Warranty is 90 days on labor, one year on parts. Currently, G.E. Capital are promoting their Entitle Credit Card. With application and approval for the card, you could get your DSS System with no money down, no payments and no interest f or 3 months Since there is no Canadian content, the CRTC has not allowed the programming to be sold outright in Canada (Big brother knows best) . Payment must go though a middleman to keep everything smooth. He charges a $30 one time setup fee, plus a $35 confidentiality fee, which includes your mail box and pay per view privileges if needed. This is how it works:

  1. Look through the channel options and decide on a package(s) you want.
  2. Fill out the order form which requires a Visa number and the serial number of your system. Leave the form with US.
  3. Install the system. When complete call us with the signal strength you get on your TV set (60% or greater).
  4. We will add this last piece of information to your form and fax it to the U.S. office.
  5. When processed your programming will pop up, and away you go.

Installation of the system is much easier than a large dish. Just mount the dish on a vertical pole, under the eaves, or on the roof, with an unobstructed view south. Run one coaxial cable from the Dish to the Receiver in the house. Hook the Receiver up to the TV. Turn the TV on and press setup on your remote. The on screen display will show signal strength. Slowly move the dish from full south toward the east. When maximum signal strength is shown, tighten the bolts on the dish – done! We did it, and with altruism for justification ordered pretty much everything available, going light on the movie channels. It cost us 52.80 (US) per month for 62 channels of which 5 were 24 hour movie channels (HBO), 11 sports, all the major networks, 2 ESPN’s, Sci-Fi, Disney, CNN, Discovery, A&E, TLC, and a bunch more. We faxed in our order and, believe it or not, we had programming within 10 minutes! As you can probably tell, our little experiment ended up convincing us in no uncertain terms of the technology, convenience, and value of the DSS system. We are not alone. Our supplier is having a difficult time keeping up with demand, and sales in the US have far outstripped supply. This trend will probably continue until all the manufacturers contracted by Thompson can get on line with their offerings. The various manufacturers will no doubt make big noises as they come on line, but all will be offering the same basic packages. It seems the future is truly here, and the days of waiting in all day for a cable company representative to come by and attach a wire for a “nominal” charge to allow you to watch CBC in both French & English, may already be fading away. Don’t you love technology?