Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Antennas-R- Us

I propose the founding of a new support group: One for those of us who have avoided cable at all cost.

You may have various reasons for abstaining:
1) The extra expense.
2) Too many channels to choose from.
3) All the good shows would mean more time spent on your rear watching them.
4) Too many shows/channels that are inappropriate for kids...or adults, actually.
5) You don't believe in watching television.
6) You don't OWN a television.
7) You believe that aliens are using the television to reprogram our brains.

Aaron and I would claim numbers 1-4. In the nine years of our married life, we've had cable for exactly one, the year we lived in a campus apartment and got it for free. That year, I watched every episode of Real World: New Orleans - the first and only time I had ever watched the show, coincidentally. I was totally addicted to MTV, and I'm not too proud of it.

My propensity to television addiction is my main hesitation in getting cable.

The need for a support group comes from the pain bestowed by this infernal switch to digital TV. Folks, I don't know about you, but the government is doing us no favors on this one.

First of all, we have gotten our two digital boxes, at a greatly reduced price thanks to the government coupons available here. Initially we got NO channels when we connected our rabbit ears to the box. Then Aaron discovered a big ol' antenna in our attic, and hooked that sucker up. Yes! There were the channels - and more- that we'd regularly been getting.

Then things started getting a little weird. For PBS especially, some days we'd get it with the rabbit ears, sometimes with the big attic antenna, and sometimes with the digital box - but you'd have to try to plug in BOTH sets of antennas.

That gives us FOUR options, folks, and that is three too many when you have 2 preschoolers begging for their morning fix of Curious George.

I have done some research into the "lifeline" cable package, the one that would get us just the local stations plus the CW, a couple CSPAN channels and a shopping network. After February 17th, to get what we have for now been getting for free, would cost us $180 the first year, and then $240 per year after that. This my friends, completely stinks.

Aaron asks, "Is it worth it?"
and I say, "No! Of course not! BUT, I still want to watch my TV! So I guess it is."

He also brought up the other day, "Are you still going to give money to PBS if we have to pay to watch it?" Hmm. Good question - I guess you could divide the cable cost by the number of channels we'd receive, and then subtract the amount for one channel from the usual donation amount to pubic television. (Whew! That was a lot of math.)

Which isn't really fair to PBS, of course, because it's not their fault all this happening. But the rest of us have budgets too, and we don't get to use a week of air time each quarter asking for financial assistance.

Anyway, our final decision has been to wait and see what happens once all the stations switch over for good, and cross our fingers that the problems with reception (NBC, in addition to PBS) are temporary glitches. If not, we may be forced to put our money where our butts are.

Won't the rest of you needing support join me here on February 18th? Maybe, as a group, we can help each other through this major transition in our lives. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.


Noel said...

For about $38/month, we get CableOne's Lifeline plus the Digital value pack. I was fed up with not getting all stations on all TVs and then steel siding made our broadcast reception even more problematic.

On Lifeline, I like getting CSPAN and community access.

The Digital Value pack provides some key programming without all the junk found on basic cable: Science Channel, History International Channel, National Geographic Channel, Boomerang (cartoons from the olden days), to name a few.

Blue Castle said...

Just say no to cable. Read books instead. :) Ha, ha. Just had to be funny. Hopefully you'll get better reception after the switch. PBS really rocks, though.

Noel said...

Trying to be more helpful, check out this website http://www.antennaweb.org .

The antenna in the attic and the rabbit ears may not be designed for digital TV frequencies. If the antenna is correctly designed, it also needs to be pointed towards the transmitters, which the web site will help with (basicly point the antenna to the northwest except for KVRR which is ESE of Fargo).

If the rabbit ear performance has dropped in recent weeks and Magnus is swimming between the antenna and the tower, the larger pool may be attenuating the signal. Snow, a new steel front door, etc in the line of sight between antenna and tower could have a similar effect.

Am not sure what you mean by hooking up both antennas at once. What I envision doesn't sound good.

Lyz said...

Noel, you bring up some good points. We'll have to see what Aaron has to say about them.

NO we don't hook both antennas to the digital box at once! But sometimes one will work better than the other when combined with the box...

Oh, and no new front door yet. Too cold today. They think next week...or the one after. Maybe by Easter?

Katie said...

I am with you on the TV issues - I think all but 1 problem we have in common!

For those who have the option of cable (a.k.a. city folks) we're quite jealous you have the *option*. For those like us in the country (a.k.a. hicks) we are too frugal to spend money on something that will decrease the already small size of our wallets but increase our clothing sizes over the course of a year.

Lastly, what our child sees on TV is plenty...and yes, Thank Goodness for PBS!!!

Suzi said...

Well you're in luck (or maybe not). Sounds like Congress has delayed the switch for another 4 months. It looks like Obama supports it, although I don't know if he's signed the bill yet.

So you now have lots more time to stress over your decision. Good luck.

Noel said...

Today's Fargo Forum (3/1/2009)had a good article on station HD vs analog coverage and antenna issues.