Choosing A Cable Or Satellite TV Provider

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Consumers today have several options when it comes to how they’ll receive their multi-channel television service. While all that competition has led to higher quality, better pricing and more variety, it has also made picking the right provider extremely confusing. Here are a few questions to ask when you’re trying to determine the best TV service for you:

How much will it cost?

New technologies are being developed all the time, but cable and satellite TV are still the two most common ways that Americans receive multi-channel television service. The average price for expanded basic cable is just over $54 a month, according to the latest report by the Federal Communications Commission, while satellite packages can start as low as $24.99. In most areas, satellite has the edge over cable in price. But some consumers like the cable, telephone and Internet service “bundles” that many cable providers offer.

What channels are available?

With either cable or satellite TV, hundreds of channels are typically available. But satellite TV is often favored by sports fans – particularly because it offers “season pass” packages that give you all games in a particular sport, such as football or hockey. Cable TV systems, however, typically have stronger local channel offerings as well as on-demand and pay-per-view services.

What equipment do I need?

Satellite customers receive their TV signal through a satellite dish installed on or near their home that’s linked to set-top boxes on each of their TVs. Cable service comes to you through buried coaxial cable that’s also linked to set-top boxes.

If you pick cable, you’ll pay a monthly rental fee – typically ranging from $3 to $10 -- for each set top box. If you pick satellite, sometimes you can get your equipment for free in exchange for a long-term (usually one-year) subscription commitment to your satellite provider.

If you have to buy your satellite equipment, your upfront costs will be more than if you choose cable. But that monthly rental fee for cable boxes can add up to more money over time.

How is the customer service?

Customer service among providers can vary greatly from city to city. J.D. Power & Associates publishes an annual customer service satisfaction survey that rates the largest cable and satellite TV providers, breaking down the results by region. Check with your Better Business Bureau to see if a provider you’re considering has outstanding complaints against it, and ask your neighbors about their experience with their cable or satellite TV company.

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