Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TV Wasteland

Unless you've been living in a cave that is not wired for electricity, you are aware of the upcoming change in television with the advent of digital TV.

In preparation for this event, my wife and I discussed our options, both here in Milwaukee, and in our northern castle. We decided to use our combined birthdays and anniversary to get a HDTV for our place here, and to take our nine year old analog TV up north, along with a digital conversion box. We figured the worst that would happen that way is that we would need to put up a digital antenna and/or a pre-amplifier. The castle is too rural for cable to even be an option. We did not want to go to satellite TV because of the cost for not being there full time.

Heh. Best laid plans and all that.

The TV down here works fine. We took the old TV up north, and plugged it in to the standard antenna. It worked better than the 25 year old set that we had been using, and more stations came in, and they came in clearer.

Then I hooked up the digital converter box. We went from receiving nine stations (from both Wausau and Green Bay) to three stations, and their substations. We received Channel 2 (ABC) from Green Bay, Channel 7 (CBS) from Wausau, and Channel 20 (PBS) from Wausau. The only one that would stay steady when the when blew was PBS. The other two would often freeze, pixilate, and/or drop the signal altogether.

We figured that we would need to go on to the antenna. Given the lay out of the antenna tower, my bad knees, and whatnot, that the best bet would be to hire a professional to do the job. There are only two in the area.

The first one I contacted told me that it would be a minimum of $1,000, and wouldn't come to the house to look the job over and give us an estimate. The second guy did come out and looked it over. He wanted to put a 40 foot tower in the middle of our front yard, and charge us the equivalent of eight years of satellite.

Needless to say, we did not want to spend that kind of money for what will hopefully be only a temporary need. So it was off to contact the satellite companies.

Direct TV offered us a package for $30 a month, plus tax and fees. Dish Network offered the same thing for $10 more and wouldn't accommodate our schedule for installation.

The drawback to both companies was that they only offered the Green Bay stations as the local channels. I did not want that. First of all, Wausau is thirty miles closer, so their news and weather would be more pertinent to our area. Secondly, Green Bay stations news channels stink. For example, Channel 5 (CBS) has Tammy Elliott. She is the epitome of the right wing media. I couldn't stomach her when she worked in Milwaukee, and she hasn't gotten better since leaving.

For what it's worth, we went with DirectTV. Worst comes to worst, we are committed for only 18 months. The best part is their installer came out on Sunday morning to put the dish in and hook us up. That is good service.

And I'll still be able to see Channel 7 with the antenna, as long as there is no wind, rain, snow, or birds flying within five miles.

Guess it could be worse, but the whole Wausau thing still ticks me off.


  1. Analog to digital was never the way to get better television to everyone. It was the way to get everyone to have to PAY for the production of commercial television marketing.

    Digital signals are not presently broadcasting at full strength for most stations. I would advise waiting on purchasing new equipment until you see how things are in February.

    My prediction is that hundreds of rural customers will be harping about digital quality and will need to purchase dishtv or other services to have any sort of satisfactory viewing if they have not done so yet. There are still a few of us out here who don't think television is all that important.

  2. Did you try any smaller indoor amplifying antennas? Even an indoor attic antenna might work wonders. Just put a big outdoor antenna in the attic.

  3. The wee antenna wouldn't work. We are too far away in a geographic basin with many tall trees surrounding the place.

    We would need more boost than offered by an indoor antenna.

  4. Heh.

    Talk about analogies....two bad choices, you have to pick one...

  5. Tall trees? Just as heavy rain or snow will sometimes block satellite signals, the recommendation for the 40' tower was to get your antennae above the trees. Decent digital signal requires direct line of sight especially in fringe reception areas. Often on the fringe myself.