Reader Recommendation Request: Cable or satellite?

From Tom:

We are tired finally of the old “rabbit ears.” Looking online it appears the Direct TV (dish) is about $20.00 less per month than cable (for the stripped-down, one-step-up-from-the-minimum package). However, I have heard of dish systems being unreliable or having poor reception in certain areas. So … I thought I’d appeal to my co-Westies. I am on 35th by High Point. Any input about your experiences are welcome; in particular nearby folks’ tales of success or failure would be especially helpful.

Please respond by leaving a comment; thanks to everyone who takes the time to participate in RRRs! Meantime, you can find all WSB Reader Recommendation Request discussions archived here.

34 Replies to "Reader Recommendation Request: Cable or satellite?"

  • Jan November 23, 2007 (8:15 pm)

    hmmmm…well, I’m not quite in your area. I’m in the Admiral District. I got a satellite dish this summer, and so far it’s been great. Of course, I took the package that doesn’t have umpteen movies and football games. But reception is great,I’ve had no outages, and I get the channels that I want. I’m not fond of (the) cable (company) , so this was the choice after a few years of rabbit ears.I missed watching Mariner Games, I get the Husky games, and other select sports games that might be on ESPN…

  • Bill November 23, 2007 (8:39 pm)

    I researched this thoroughly a few months back, and decided to go with Dish Network, whose dishes one tends to see around this neighborhood (south of the Alaska-California Junction).

    I’d recommend them over Direct TV and, certainly, cable, based on what I’ve heard from others. The installation couldn’t have been smoother, and the reception has been flawless (particularly on HD channels). I think their channel line-ups are better than what the others offer too.

    One issue: The post-installation customer service fell short — I had a heck of a time getting them to implement the rebate they originally promised me — but they eventually rectified the situation and everything has been fine since.

  • Christopher Boffoli November 23, 2007 (10:21 pm)

    My set-up is a bit unconventional and may not be within your realm of comfort, but I decided to eliminate the monopolistic cable and satellite companies altogether. Using a fast Qwest DSL connection to my Macintosh computer I am able to download television shows and full-length movies right to my computer via the iTunes store. One of the nice things about this is that I am not paying $70 a month to get dozens of channels what I never watch. Nor am I paying a monthly fee to have what is essentially endless advertising beamed into my home. I only download the shows I want to watch, ala cart at $1.99 per episode and they are all commercial free. With a tiny $300 device called an Apple TV all of the shows are send wirelessly from my computer to my flat panel HDTV where I can watch them like any other show. Movie rentals and high-definition content through the iTunes Store is coming soon. I’ve used this system for about a year now and I’d never go back to the old way.

  • evan November 23, 2007 (10:30 pm)

    I’ve had Dish Network for two, maybe even almost three years now, and I love it and can’t imagine going back to cable. My sattelite box has a DVR in it, so it’s basically like a free tivo which is awesome and has changed the way I watch tv. One thing which took some getting used to but now I love and look at it as a bonus is on the upper cable channels (i.e. not the basic networks) you get the east coast feeds, which means everything that would normally be on at 10pm is on at 7pm, and most of those channels rerun their evening programs in three hour blocks, so you get the choice to watch (or record) at either 7pm or 10pm instead of 10pm or 1am. I miss being able to get the public access channels, but I get all the local network stuff so I don’t miss Rich Marriot on King 5 morning news talking about how much he loves skiing/snowboarding and wearing fleece. Dish Network is the best.

  • grr November 23, 2007 (10:46 pm)

    I’m getting ready to give Comcast and their HORRIBLE user-interface the boot and go back to Direct TV. For me, it’s all about HD, and Direct simply has the most channels.

  • Bonnie November 23, 2007 (11:00 pm)

    We have had both Dish Network and Comcast. It’s been a long time (6 years or so) since we had Dish Network so I can’t say if they are better or not but, although we loved having our dish, we kept having outages so we eventually went back to Comcast. I can’t say we love them either!

  • LG November 23, 2007 (11:32 pm)

    I have had directv since 1995, first in the suburbs of chicago and now here on genessee hill. As far as their signal goes, in chicago we’d have a signal in crazy white-out conditions, it amazed me! Their customer service is outstanding–it’s probably the best customer service of any service providers (utilites, etc) I’ve ever had. I’ve recommended them to many of our friends who are now happy directv subscribers too.

    In 95 I picked directv over dish, because at the time, with dish network you rented your equipment (I hate monthly fees, I’d much rather buy my stuff). I’m not sure about dish network’s policy now, as I’ve not been in the market for a new provider, because I’ve been so pleased with directv. Also, with directv these days it’s very likely you’d get all your equipment for free when you sign a year committment (which for some people might be a turn-off).

    We have a package with all the movie channels (we do this for the cost of seeing a couple of movies a month in a theater) and all the sports channels, and all the local seattle channels (no east or west coast main feeds, though, directv only does that for areas of the country for which they don’t provide local channels, as far as I know). I think we pay about $90 for that service in 3 rooms. When you have that package, you also do not have to pay the normal monthly cost for having a dvr (which is about $5). Also, as my husband and I are from other parts of the country, we like having the option to purchase season passes for ncaa football and basketball so we can follow our alma maters’ teams! I would NEVER have cable after having satelite tv.

    BTW, It’s nice to read such a positive review of the apple tv–we’re intrigued.

  • IsleWrite November 24, 2007 (8:41 am)

    Have been a happy DISH Network subscriber in three different homes here over the last 13 years or so: above Alki, North Admiral, and Admiral. Terrific reception in all cases and good customer service. Would never do comcast–even their BASIC channel selection (seemingly mostly shopping networks and public access stations) pales when compared to DISH. And what’s also great about DISH is that if you decide to upgrade or downgrade your package, you just make a call and the change occurs within 15 minutes, automatically.

  • SA November 24, 2007 (8:50 am)

    Is it the reception you’re tired of or the limited number of over-the-air channels? With a digital television and the proper rabbit ears you can receive better than cable/satellite reception for free.

  • Scott J. November 24, 2007 (9:03 am)

    The user interface on Comcast’s digital cable is really awful–barely beta-type technology. They keep saying they are going to upgrade to something new (non-Windows based?), but it hasn’t happened.
    Their DVR is also pretty unreliable, but it’s such a cool service that even when it works 90% of the time it seems tolerable. Comcast’s cable internet had a ton of problems when we got it a couple years ago, but it works flawlessly now.

    I considered switching to Dish or DirectTV, but I want the Fox Soccer Channel. Dish doesn’t seem to have it, and you need a big package from Direct TV to get it from them. I don’t think I’d go through the hassle of switching unless it would save money, as well as being more user-friendly.

  • Nate November 24, 2007 (9:48 am)

    For the folks who do DirecTV, do you go with the Qwest bundle and get broadband internet as well? I’ve been on Comcast forever and have no complaints with the service, but we’re thinking of bumping up our TV service from Basic Cable, having a TV/internet bundle is kind of nice, and reading these reviews has me thinking of jumping over to satellite.

  • Lachlan November 24, 2007 (10:01 am)

    Comcast did switch from Microsoft’s progamming interface- but it looks the same and functions worse. They rolled it out in phases, beginning in June. Ours changed in September, I think.

  • A.A. November 24, 2007 (10:33 am)

    I just gave Comcast the boot. My partner was added to our account THREE years ago when we moved in together, and when he called to make a payment while I was out of town last week they wouldn’t talk to him… to make a PAYMENT! They should take a payment from ANYone if they’ve got the account detail. My goodness. It was the last straw in a long list of poor customer service.

    We switched to Clearwire for internet, and most of the main networks now have their tv shows on their website for free download they day after air, so I watch tv on my laptop on the rare occasion when I’d like to watch something. I’ve actually watched MORE tv this way than I ever did with cable.

  • Mrs. L November 24, 2007 (12:11 pm)

    I agree with SA. My husband and I (we live in High Point) have a HDTV and a digital antenna and get great reception on all the major networks. I sometimes miss watching the Food Channel but then I’ve found PBS has some really good food shows too.

  • grr November 24, 2007 (3:14 pm)

    A.A..tell me more about Clearwire….

  • JT November 24, 2007 (4:19 pm)

    Nate, I was contemplating the same thing. I tried first to get internet/TV through comcast. I dealt with customer service for a month and still was never able to make an internet connection. They did however have no problems billing me for the service. I kept returning the modem for a refund and they kept sending me a replacement. I just kept the damn thing and paid for it to end the cycle. One night after midnight, I got online and ordered DirecTV. They asked how soon I was available and came the next morning to install. It works flawlessly. I do have it combined with Qwest broadband and I love it! It took awhile to get used to the east coast feed, as others have mentioned, but you get a free DVR upgrade and I find I’m just recording everything to watch later anyway. Every time I’ve used comcast customer service I’ve become more and more frustrated. I was to the point of just using my netflix and having no TV rather than deal with them any more. DirecTV reception is much better than cable too. No more ghosts,lines, or static, and every channel, even local, comes in the same.

  • A.A. November 24, 2007 (5:33 pm)


    We went down to the location at Westwood (if you go, ask for Vitaliy and and refer to our username lgalvan and he’ll hook you up)

    What we really liked was that we signed up and the only upfront charge was $5. No admin chares or anything.

    The things to be aware of – we are at the south end of Delridge, and we consistently get full 5 bars of reception. I have heard that some areas have less reception, but moving the receiver (they call it a modem) around until you get the best reception seems to do just fine.

    Also, the receiver is wireless in that it’s picking up a wireless signal. (It still needs to be plugged into a power source)

    You then have two options – first option is the free one – you simply connect an ethernet cord from the the receiver to your computer. Option two is if you want true wireless. You’ll have to pick up a wireless hub (we went the lazy route and got the belkin one that Clearwire sells in-store for $69) And if you have a desktop or an older laptop without a wireless card, you will need a wireless usb adapter – it’s like an antenna and runs $59. We got both. However, we own them and don’t have to deal with returning them when we’re done. Our work laptops both have wireless cards, so we can both connect to our secure VPN servers. And it’s REALLY easy to lock down your network. If you do decide to go to Clearwire, feel free to drop me an email if you need help with setup.

    So the pricing is as follows: $0 monthly and $0 setup for the first month. You only pay for the “modem” rental, which is $4.99. The second and third months are $14.99 each (plus the $4.99 rental – you could purchase it upfront for $99 if you’d rather) After those 3 months, the 4th-24th month are $29. You are in a two-year contract.

    Feel free to reply to me at aimgrrrl at gmail if you have any other questions.

  • Mags November 24, 2007 (8:45 pm)

    I’m up by the east side of the alaska junction. I had comcast, but tried virtually for 3 years to get the reception they promised me…they put new cables in, you name it, still crappy reception (plus it would go out all the time)..I have had direct tv for several years and have NEVER had an outage, rain, sleet or snow..I think you have to have the satellite dish pointing to the southern sky. I have every channel and 3 boxes, dvr, love the eastern feed and watching all the good shows at 8 pm. It was very easy to get and I am still happy…I had a friend in the Rainier Valley who didn’t have cable for over 3 weeks after last years storm.

  • Tom November 25, 2007 (12:27 pm)

    Hi all, thanks for the input. It is not just a reception issue. We have a hankering for more channels. Plus we are not currently endowed with a digital set. I have many bad memories of comcast and given the input here it looks like we’ll be going with some flavor of dish.

  • daPuffin November 25, 2007 (1:15 pm)

    Is the Qwest bundle internet service DSL? If so, I’m afeared I’m out of luck, since DSL still isn’t available in my section of Arbor Heights. >sigh

  • daPuffin November 25, 2007 (1:18 pm)

    Apologies for the query. Indeed, Qwest broadband is not available here. Just checked on their site. Gotta stay with Comcast for internet.

  • Chris November 25, 2007 (7:35 pm)

    I work for Comcast… quite a few of my friends that are fellow technicians (like myself) live herein west seattle. We work hard to provide you good service so I’m sorry to hear the comments. It’s a great place to work. I can’t say that I’d ever switch to work for a satellite company, let alone put one of those ugly things on my house! At least I don’t think they look good. Dish also can’t offer On Demand TV which is one of the best thing to happen to TV in the last decade. I will pass along your comments (the ones that are constructive above) to our local mgment team.

  • EarthMama November 25, 2007 (8:06 pm)

    Here is our current Entertainment status in the West Seattle area. We have been loyal DirecTV customers in West Seattle for close to 10 years with no complaints at all. We in fact, have always almost felt privileged over our friends and neighbors who were “stuck” with just “cable” TV as we felt that we were paying less for superior service and more channels. It seemed a long time for Comcast to pick up channels like DIY and NFL Network that DirecTV had been carrying for quite some time.
    When HDTVs came on the market, we put off a purchase, because we wanted to be able to have an HD-DVR to go along with it, and the technology had not yet come along. One year ago June, DirecTV came out with one, and it was off to Costco for our TV purchase!
    Thing is, at that time there many, if ANY channels to view in HD at that time. But there was a BIG promise of many channels to come that would blow Comcast away… So we decided to wait it out.
    Fast forward 17 months. We now have over 33 HD channels to choose from, are still paying less than we would be from Comcast each month (unless you count their “Start-Up Special”) And there are more channels to come for a total for close to 100 I believe.
    Hang with me ya’ll, here is where it gets interesting… DirecTV makes an announcement that rates will be going up by $9.99 to have all of these HD channels after December 2007. Hnuh? After waiting all of this time? Major frustration set in and we decided it was time to cross to the Dark Side and see what a bundle would look like with our existing Comcast broadband and digital voice. Based on the same package w/ DTV we would be saving $50.00 a month, but that was only for the first year. After the first year it was within pennies of our current service.
    A tank of gas being what it is these days, $50.00/month worth it to make the jump, especially since we had our other services there. All arrangements were made and the deed was done. We had Cable TV in our house all of 8 hours, 20 minutes of which my husband was in the house when we came to the conclusion that it was far inferior to what we had with DirecTV.
    As mentioned in many posts the users interface was horrendous. There were a total of 5 HD channels. As an HBO subscriber on DirecTV, you receive at least 5 versions of it: an East Coast version, West Coast version, Family version Family, West version and of course and HD version. The same goes with all of the other premium channels
    Do I sound like I am doing an ad for them? Just wait… it gets better. So I make the call to Comcast. “Please, we love the Broadband and Digital Voice, but we have no need for the Cable TV service. Yes, it was just installed today. We just don’t like it (all of the reasons above)”. Everything is promised to go back to original rate, original service, I need to drop off equipment… all is good.
    Next call- DirecTV: they were VERY happy to have us back! Our service had not yet been interrupted, and we were offered a year of the HD service gratis. Did I mention that when the Comcast installer came he cut a bunch of DirecTV wires and removed a big box looking thingy that the satellite plugs into? So of course DirecTV had to be scheduled to come out and manually reconnect our service even though we had never been disconnected. Well, except by Comcast that is.
    Speaking of disconnected; two days after having crossed to the Dark Side and back again, I arrive home from a day of volunteering at our daughter’s school to find that we have no telephone or broadband service. You got it- even though there was no work order for it, the installer, or should I say the *disconnector went ahead and did a “hard disconnect” instead of a “soft disconnect” so said Betty at Customer support. This was at 3:30 PM and we were promised our regular services restored by 6:30 pm that evening. Didn’t happen. Not until almost noon the next day- just in time for the DirecTV installer to call and say that HE was on his way to hook us back up.
    Can I just say that we have never been happier? We have seen what it is like on the other side, and in our opinion, it isn’t pretty. DirecTV has always accommodated us with outstanding service; even in the great windstorm of ’06 we had our satellite service restored in no time!

  • JT November 25, 2007 (8:52 pm)

    Chris, speaking for myself, it’s not the tech people I’ve had problems with. Have you ever tried to get one on the phone though? It’s a re-route hang up on you nightmare. Last contact with them, after a 45 minute hold call, a computer asked for and verified my home phone number and said a tech will call you back. By the next day, nothing. Called again, “we have no record of your call”. After convincing them I wasn’t lying, they decided I didn’t get called back because I don’t have internet so there was no reason to return my call. Well duh! I’m calling because I have no internet yet I’m being billed for it and would like it. If you are lucky enough to get patched through without your call being dropped, the tech will have you hang up, try what they suggest and call back. Or, I should say the pre-tech. There are several levels you have to go through before you actually speak to tech and not someone reading from a notebook. At each level you have to start at the beginning and go through every step again before they will move you up. This can and has involved hours. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve said “I’ve already tried that”? As for the TV, I love HGTV. However on comcast I can only hear it. The channel is all snow, as well as a few others. Local channels always had a huge band down the middle and ghost shadows. And no, it wasn’t the TV. It’s only a year old. As for the dish, it’s a whole foot wide on the back roof of the house. I can’t even see it. What I do have though, is a nice clear picture and GREAT customer service. And so far, my bill hasn’t increased every other month like comcast.

  • Scott J. November 25, 2007 (9:14 pm)

    Interesting debate! I have Comcast Digital Cable and have been considering switching to DirectTV. A friend of mine with DirectTV said he loves it, except the picture (in both regular and HD) is not as good as digital cable internet because Direct TV has to alter the signal to work with their format. Any comments? He and I have the same HDTV and he says he can tell the difference…

  • Will November 26, 2007 (8:54 am)

    DirecTV: Love it, you can take it back when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Picture breaks up when snow collects on the dish, but a broom sweeps it right off. :)

    Dish Network: We have this at work. One thing I noticed (dunno if it’s *all* Dish Network) is that it loads the programming schedule when you try to view it. DirecTV must stream the data down with the programs so the schedule is instantly displayed.

    Clearwire: I got this to dump Comcast. It worked great, then went through a long phase of super-lousy connection speeds. Recently it just got zippy again. I’m not sure if my daily calls to customer service changed anything, but I like to think they got sick of me and finally added some bandwidth.

  • grr November 26, 2007 (9:01 am) just echoed my biggest fear. Dumping Comcast Cable, but leaving my Internet and Digital Voice service AND gear ALONE.

    I had Direct TV. Because of my location, they had to try an ‘off air’ antenna for local HD channels. That simply didn’t work, hence the switch to cable Now that MOST of the Local HD channels I watch are available from Direct (along with all the other HD stuff), there’s no reason to stay with Comcast. I don’t use OnDemand at all. For’s ALL about HD.

    I looked at Clearwire as well for internet….but I’m not ready to make that switch yet. Maybe in a year after it’s really established, and a lot more Mac friendly. It works now for newer macs, but my situation is complex :)

  • Mtpockets November 27, 2007 (8:22 am)

    I have had Dish Network since 1995 was one of thier first cusmomers. Orginally, I had TCI which
    always had poor service so, I gave them the boot.
    I live on Alki and could not be happier with Dish
    and there America’s Top 250 package. Always great service, crystal clear picture, and cheaper than cable.

  • TJ November 27, 2007 (10:50 am)

    The average monthly bill for a DirecTV subscriber is $78.79, compared with $60.72 for Comcast and $66.01 for EchoStar’s Dish Network.

  • JT November 27, 2007 (3:33 pm)

    TJ, I pay $65 for 250 all digital channels (DirecTV) including DVR service, fees, and tax. Actually, $50 for a 10 month promo period. At comcast I paid $58 for basic cable. Digital (only 75 channels) is extra, digital receivers and remotes are extra, DVR service is extra. I don’t know where you got your info.

  • GD November 28, 2007 (4:22 pm)

    First, do I dare admit in Seattle that I do own a TV and enjoy watching it? :)

    We have Dish Network platinum package with the HD receiver. The DVR works great with some enhanced/improved capabilities than the TIVO we had (although the GUI is less intuitive).

    We frequently lose service on the HD channels. Particularly A&E. This really doesn’t have to do with the placement of the receiver, but more due to Dish Network’s lack HD “bandwidth” (for lack of a better term) and our NW alignment with their Satellite (confirmed by their Tech Support). Does anyone have this problem with Direct TV?

    On a side note, Rupert Murdoch owns Direct TV, so subsequently you’ll never receive FOX in HD on DishNetwork (not that anyone need’s to see Bill O’Reilly in HD *shudder*).

  • Sean December 6, 2007 (4:28 pm)

    I didn’t want to parse through all 31 comments, so this might have already been said. When I was researching Direct TV, I found the $20/month deal, but it was only for one year and only if you sign an 18 month contract. Get it? You will have to pay $40/month for the remaining six months. This is how these corpos swindle money!

  • cheyenne January 24, 2008 (10:12 am)

    Well this is late in the game, but as a Dish customer for many years, all I need to say is FSTV, FSTV, FSTV!!! (Free Speech Television network)

    They have the stuff you definitely will never get from Fox ‘News’. When the talking heads start to get to you, switch to the Dish.

  • Jon May 14, 2008 (5:36 pm)

    This comes long after the original thread, but I had to chuckle at the comment by the Comcast employee, Chris. If anyone wants to read more about what kind of service they can really expect from Comcast, go to The Consumerist web site. It’s a great resource for all consumer issues.

    Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hook up DirecTV in my newly purchased house in Gatewood in the next few weeks. Yes, I’ll have to install a dish that some people might find unsightly. But I’m paying $75 monthly to get a huge selection of channels, including five HBO variations, on two receivers. Comcast can’t offer all that for the same price.

Sorry, comment time is over.

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