Satellite vs. Cable

I'm comparing my local cable company (Patriot Media) to the regional phone company (Verizon) for combined TV/internet/phone. Verizon resells Direct TV pending completion of fiber-to-the-home in my area. Surprisingly after negotiating the two offers are practically the same price (well below either company's published rates!) So I'm looking for a reason to favor one over the other.

1. Is HDTV over Direct TV satellite any better than CATV HDTV? On some CATV digital channels I've noticed compression problems and poor blacks & grey-scale, but I have yet to install an HD set to see if these problems occur with CATV HDTV.

2. Is Satellite TV still problematic in bad weather?

3. Is the phone company's dedicated DSL service at 3MB down/768MB up faster than CATV's advertised 3MB shared-media ethernet?

Any other considerations?



I can't comment on the HDTV issue but I've had DirecTV for several years and am very happy with them. Count me a very satisfied customer.

You can lose signal in certain weather conditions. Generally this is a thunderstorm situation directly south of our house. Any other direction and the signal is fine. Over the course of a year, the outage is less than I suffered with cable. Our local cable company is Charter Communications. They don't have a particularly good reputation for customer service however.

As for internet, I've got a solid 2.5Mbps down/512Kbps up from my DSL. (They have several packages available.) When I had cable at my other house, I did notice that DL speed would vary. Cable connections tend to be a shared resource at the neighborhood level so speed varies with what your neighbors are up to. With DSL, the "sharing" doesn't start until the CO so it tends to be more stable, IMO.

However, my suggestion is you ask users of each service in your local community what their experience has been. Your cable company may be a classier act than ours.
I have had DTV for 9+ yrs and have very few problems. They have been quick to resolve any issues. I had cable at another residence fro at least 12 yrs and had many problems. The only advantage I can see with cable is that if you have multiple sets and they are cable ready, you can save. DTV charges $5 per set box. I am using HDTV and find it extremely satisfying in both picture and sound. I wish they would offer more channels than they do but that is I am told. Cost I beleive is acutally cheaper with DTV than Conast. I live in Colorado and recently I had some weather related issues, not form overcast but snow build up on the dish. I have since coated it with WD40 and that seems to resolve it. As far as internet I use DSL.
Get the offers in writing, and make sure they are not for one year only.
You should throw Dishnetwork into the mix too. They have a decent HDTV lineup. Your local HD channels you can still get with a normal antenna or possibly from Dish. They also have decent DVR's for HD. The drawback though is they often can be buggy on newer models until they refine the software. The other thing is the greedy little bastards tack on stupid fees for every little thing. But even with that, still worth checking out.
I think it's local. In Santa Barbara it's a toss up; both are excellent. I have used Direct TV for over 5 years, because Cox Cable fumbled when digital first came out. But now Cox is fine. HDTV looks great with either satellite or cable. The decider for me is our TiVo/HD DVR, and Direct TV provides TiVo service with no additional charge. In our area weather is not a problem.

I use cable for DSL, because they have optical installed on our road, whereas Verizon doesn't, so very high speed connnection is available with cable. Verizon does have optical cable in the denser parts of Santa Barbara.

So the advice of the first replier is correct. Ask around locally.

I have the Dish HD lineup as well as HD locals via Dish and their 622 receiver/DVR; I'm pretty satisfied. I also have OTA locals which the 622 can also process. The 622 is a nice unit and regular software updates work out bugs little by little (check out for more info.)

I only have weather dropouts in very heavy rain and usually only for a few seconds or a minute at max, obviously this would depend on how often you have heavy rain. I know our Dish bill just went up ~ $5 or so but I think their price is still pretty good.
I've had both Dish Network and DirectV. Friends have Comcast.
1. Reliability -- Comcast has far more outages and problems than either satellite provider.
2. Weather related outages/problems -- Both satellite providers deny this is much of an issue. Totally untrue. Thunderstorms and snowstorms take the signal offline for sometimes as long as 14 or 15 hours. Snow needs to be cleaned off the dish, so location of the dish can be an issue for some. Brush it off early before ice forms. Wind can blow the dish off a bit and compromise or take the signal off. Two people, one outside twisting the dish, horizontally in my experience, and a second inside to view the signal strength are needed along with some way of communicating about signal strength.
3. Customer service -- Comcast has been especially slow and awful for those I know with problems. Dish Network reps are rude. DirecTV is generally okay, but check your first bill, none of the "special offer" prices I was to receive were there. A call to them quickly rectified this. I have heard this from others.
4. Technical assistance -- As above, though with problems getting above the very minor level, good luck. Level 1 support for the satellites consists of folks reading to you from a manual without affect or understanding of your situation or what they are reading. Getting to the next levels is sometimes takes a bit of persuading.
When I migrated to the HD dish, the tech first sent out would not install it because signals from only 4 of the 5 satellites could be received. I asked what channels were on the satellite I could not receive because there was some chance that I would be willing to forgo these. It was as if I were speaking a foreign language. His supervisor was to call me to discuss this. No call despite repeated calls to the contract installation company. Repeated calls to DirecTV to eventually learn that my order had been canceled because the install had not taken place within 5 days. Before I re-ordered, I tried to take this up with DirecTV. Again the foreign language feeling. One rep repeatedly refused to let me go to the next level and wondered why I was asking such a question. Persisting, I finally got a tech supervisor who was the first person who had any understanding of this seemingly simple issue. I was told that the information I was seeking was not really available to any of them, but working with what they knew and my preferences suspected that it would be all right, which it turned out to be. When the same install person showed up, he ended up putting in a very long time choosing a spot and aiming the dish, dug a hole, installed the pole provided by me in concrete provided by him, and made a very long run of wire, so that I should later decide how to route it and bury it, all at no extra charge. He then did a rudimentary but good programming of the remote for the TV and their box. I gave him a substantial tip and a beer.
5. HDTV -- I don't get all of the channels and do not get any discount for this, but this was part of the deal by accepting the compromised install at my location. Shotime and major network HD is visually much better than HBO, though HBO is better than any non-HD.
6. If you decide to leave one of the satellites, esp. DishNetwork, the fun really begins. You are told that you can never get any special offers from them and this applies to anyone at that address, in perpetuity (their words, not mine here), so that your wife, roommate, or dog cannot sign up to get better receivers, new services, etc. with low prices, even after years and years as a regularly paying subscriber. After a while, the "come back" offers start, but they are distinctly non-generous compared to what new subscribers get. So....
7. Upgrading your receiver can get pricey, and the receivers they sometimes first include are not so good. The first receivers I got when I migrated to DirecTV totally blocked out the picture when you were surfing via the channel menus. Fortunately, Circuit City has a blowout table where returned receivers were frequently available for as little as $5, so I upgraded twice with more satisfactory results, while having to extend my contract for one year.
8. Leasing the equipment -- Now,unlike when I first signed up, it seems that you lease the equipment, even if you had to pay for it in the first place. Terminating means that you have to send it back within a specified time or pay a highly inflated price for it.
It is impossible to generalize the performance aspects of SAT v. CATV. Your SAT performance will heavily depend on how clear of a line of site you have to the horizon where the satellites are. Your cable performance will depend on which company is in your area, the state of their plant, and where you are on a particular line. My Comcast service is pretty good and I had lousy experiences w/DirecTV. But, if I lived in a Comcast community about 4 miles away, I'd go the other direction.

The cable system isn't some unified creature. Its made up of several large companies who became large by eating smaller cable companies. The plant in your area depends upon who they acquired and how recently the plant was updated. So, no generalizations.

I actually want FiOS, but it isn't available in my area. Darn it.