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Satellite TV

In addition to a variety of channels, satellite TV offers pay-per-view options and sports packages.

Satellite TV requires the installation of a disk to receive programming. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Satellite TV requires the installation of a disk to receive programming.

Satellite TV

Satellite TV offers consumers another option for receiving television broadcasts. Unlike cable television, which sends the broadcast signal to the consumer via a physical network of wires, satellite TV provides the signal direct from the satellites circling the earth to a small satellite receiver installed on the consumer's property. Only a subscriber with the correct equipment can decode these encrypted satellite TV signals. In addition, unlike over-the-air television broadcasts received via a traditional antenna, satellite TV offers the same variety of stations as cable, including pay-per-view movies and sports packages.

Satellite TV Rules and Regulations

In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) to promote competition among multi-channel television programming providers, such as Satellite TV and cable television providers. SHVIA also encourages providers to offer more programming choices to their subscribers.

The FCC provides a fact sheet about what types of antennas, including satellite receivers, consumers have the right to install, even if they rent an apartment, condo or single-family home. FCC rules require landlords to allow installation of satellite dishes that are no more than one meter (39.37 inches) in diameter as long as the property is not damaged. Property owners, local governments and community associations may enact rules to restrict the installation location of dishes as long as they do not interfere with the homeowner or tenant's right to use the antenna.

Benefits and Drawbacks

One of the biggest advantages of satellite TV is that it offers an exceptionally clear viewing picture. In addition, satellite service may offer more programming than local cable providers and, depending on the package chosen, may cost less than cable. Satellite service is not without a few drawbacks. Severe weather may interrupt the signal. All televisions will have to be tuned to the same channel unless the consumer purchases or rents additional or upgraded equipment. In most markets, consumers will have to pay extra to receive local stations or will also have to connect an over-the-air antenna to receive local broadcasts. In addition, Consumer Reports indicates that consumers must be able to install the satellite dish so that it points at the southern horizon with a view unobstructed by trees, mountains or buildings.

How to Choose a Satellite TV Provider

Satellite TV service is available nationwide through DirectTV and Dish Network. Consumers can easily compare programming packages and costs at MyRatePlan.com. Some of the common features that consumers look for include HD channels, video-on-demand, sports packages and digital video recording. Both companies also offer high-speed Internet service -- a plus for consumers who live in rural areas without access to DSL or cable service.

In addition to programming, consumers should consider the upfront costs for equipment and installation. Sometimes the equipment is purchased and sometimes it is leased. Providers may run promotions that reduce or waive upfront equipment fees if subscribers sign subscription agreements for a specified length of time. Both satellite TV providers usually charge about $5 extra per month for each additional receiver needed to watch different channels on different TVs in the home.

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