Choosing a signal provider
In the Aspen, Snowmass Village area you can choose Comcast, DirecTV, or Dish Network. All have hundreds of channels so how do you decide which signal provider to use? (need a channel guide cheat sheet? Find one here.) Here are some things to consider when making your decision:
In some cases, when this is your second home, it might be wise to have the same provider as you have at your other properties. This will give you continuity of channels, guides, and menu functions between your homes.
Programming differences: If you really like basketball, Comcast has a unique “NBA” package. If you like football, DirecTV has a unique “NFL Sunday Ticket” channel package. If you are more into movies or need channels from other countries, Dish Network provides the best choices.
Bundling services (phone, Internet, TV): If you use Comcast as your Internet provider they add the basic cable channels for a very reasonable rate. Their “bundle” deals can be good values but watch out for the real cost once the special introductory offer expires. Most provides now offer bundling of some kind.
Equipment Differences: You will need a cable box or satellite receiver for each TV in your home. Comcast does have a tiny converter called a DTA Adapter that can be easily hidden behind the TV and convert all of their digital channels to an analog channel any TV can use. While the monthly fee is only $1.50 per box, the picture quality is the most basic.
Comcast: Frequently the set-top boxes you get from Comcast are pre-used older equipment from other areas. However, if you ask nicely they’ll give you one of the newer boxes that work way better, produce less heat, and have more memory. Locally Comcast has the best Internet service. They now also offer phone service over their cable. They have some good special offers that can bundle your TV, phone, Internet, and even cell phone service. The more you bundle the more you save.
I am not a fan of their new X-1 service or equipment. The remote that comes with these is missing some key functions from previous remote.
Dish Network: This company provides some awesome equipment if you know what to ask for. Their Dual-Tuner, HD/DVR can operate one TV with a high-def signal and provide separate standard definition channels to a second TV. This saves you the monthly fee ($5.99) you would have had to pay for a second satellite receiver. If you have ten TV’s in your home this could save you close to sixty bucks a month on your bill. Their HD/DVR receiver has a very good “scaler” built-in so when you change the picture size or up-convert from low-definition you get a great picture. They do have a system to watch your DVR on other TV’s in the house but it requires specific receivers and a steep monthly fee.
DirecTV: Most people are familiar with DirecTV. I do not recommend their Genie equipment as they make big claims it doesn’t deliver. However, they do have a whole-home sharing system that works fairly well depending on your home network equipment (but it can add as much as $40.00/mth to your bill). They also offer the “NFL Sunday Ticket” if you must watch every single game. This programming package is now also available through the Sony Playstation video game if you have a solid Internet connection.
Satellite TV requires an external satellite dish. This dish needs to have a clear view of the southern sky. If your property does not provide that you would use Comcast. More information about satellite dish installation.
Special offers and upgrades: In many cases your current provider will not offer you the same awesome deals you see advertised for new customers. In my case, DirecTV would not upgrade my aging equipment to the current HD equipment unless I paid a high price. Dish Network, for a two year programming commitment, gave me the newest equipment and installed the new dish for free. My monthly bill, even after the special rate wore off, is less than DirecTV because I have fewer set-top boxes. In the typical home changing your provider is not a big deal. A new dish, a couple of receivers and your done. If your home has many receivers and your distribution system is complex we will need to look at all of the implications together to see if there is an advantage to switching.
Renegotiating: Watch your bill. You might benefit from calling your provider and asking to renegotiate, This is especially true of Comcast and Sirius XM.
Local Service: Comcast has a local office staffed by very nice people. They provide the highest level of local service. Their servicers are competent and have the ability to upgrade the cable network in your area to provide the required signal quality. However, they only do the basic services directly related to their cable. When you need custom service you call us.
Dish Network and DirecTV will handle everything over the phone and ship product via UPS or FedX. Their servicers and installers are usually private contractors who get paid per job. They can come from as far away as Craig or Denver. They work fast, do the minimum amount, and scram.
Custom Service: I provide far better service and can install your satellite dish or cable distribution with the highest quality equipment while skillfully running and hiding new wires or utilizing existing wires to their fullest extent.
Claims currently being made about the simplicity of wireless TV are very misleading. The advertising is leading people to believe that they can purchase a TV and it magically works the way they’ve imagined in their wildest dreams. This, of course is not quite accurate.
Dish Network and DirecTV have developed satellite receivers that can use network protocols to send their programming to a satellite receiver that does not have a coax cable connected. However, the range is far more limited than they claim, you’ll need to purchase new equipment, there is some wiring and setup involved, and (you guessed it) your monthly bill is going to skyrocket. I have installed these wireless systems and they do work in a convoluted way with serious limitations. They should only be used where a cable just can’t be placed.
Comcast does not offer a wireless receiver at this time, but there are “aftermarket” wireless solutions that I have available.
Internet Providers In The Roaring Fork Valley
Comcast Internet or other providers: While Comcast offers a solid internet service many other “wireless” providers exist in the area. Wireless requires an external antenna and can be affected by bad weather. While Comcast boasts of high speed, large areas connect to the same processing “node”. As more people log on speed drops dramatically. But, because it is fiber based it is our best option.
WARNING: Comcast is offering an updated modem saying it is faster and better. DO NOT DO IT! In 2013, Comcast began secretly stretching its network by turning customers’ routers into public hotspots with the SSID “Xfinitywifi,” allowing the general public (anyone driving by your house) the ability to access their hotspots. This is not only giving your bandwidth away, it opens the possibility of a huge security breach to your data, and slows down the speed. In addition, you are supplying the electricity to power their network aspirations. Read the full story here.
You can buy your own modem using the link in the left column and save the $7.00 per month lease fee they charge. However, if you lease your modem, the provider (Comcast) takes responsibility for the proper operation of the equipment. If you own it they will do a cursory check of the line while you’re on the phone, say everything on their end is ok, then blame your equipment for any problems. If your modem goes bad you bring it to their office and it is replace for free. Also, frequently a new, upgraded modem is available long before your savings would have paid for your purchased modem. If you have phone service thru Comcast you will have to stick with their modem anyway.
DSL is your next option. It is provided by your phone company. Check the CenturyLink website for the highest speed available in your area.
The least desirable choice is satellite Internet. This is provide by HughesNet or WildBlue. It requires a large satellite dish. HughesNet is only a little faster than old fashioned dial-up. However, you can get it anywhere.
WildBlue has some very fast speeds but they cap your amount of download data at about 25 gig ($129.00/mth). As of Fall, 2014, Wild Blue has suspended any new service in our area “due to high demand.” That’s like closing your store because business is too good.
Wireless Internet has been provided by Skybeam (formerly Sopris Surfers). Because they refuse to upgrade aging equipment they can not take on new subscribers, the signal is frequently interrupted, and their service is poor. Kellin Communications is a new provider based in Glenwood Springs. They are doing a good job if you are in their service area.
Internet using your cell phone: Most cell phone services have Internet and data plans. They have some tricky devices that can create a “hotspot” for your laptop to wireless connect. This service is OK for E-mail and web browsing but will not work well enough for steaming music (thru a Sonos type system) or movies from NetFlix.
Streaming Video from the Internet
Playing movies from Internet sites such a NETFIX can be done through many different streamers like AppleTV or Amazon Fire. This is the wave of the future. It’s simple and cost efficient. We may need to upgrade your home network to get the most from these systems.
Many new Blu-Ray DVD players and “Smart” TV’s come with software capable of connecting to NETFLIX, Blockbuster, Pandora, and other content providers. You will have to establish a separate account for the service you want. In addition, how good it works is dependent on your Internet download speed and your home-network equipment. I can not guarantee that these units will really perform as advertised under everyone’s set of conditions.
Most TV’s, including Samsung, now provide video streaming and Internet app’s directly through the TV.
Comcast “Digital Migration”
In 2012, Comcast changed cable signals from “analog” to “digital.” They put a positive spin on this upgrade calling it “Xfinity.” TV’s no longer receive any channels without one of their digital converters.
The Comcast Digital Migration is Comcast’s effort to compete with satellite providers that have always been completely digital. It is good to upgrade but it is going to cost you more (of course). They say they now will be able to offer you more HD channels and PPV.
Again, playing catchup, they roll out the X-1 system that will allow you to watch something you’ve recorded on another TV. This equipment only works if the cable in your home is top notch (and, of course, your cable bill is going to go up). In my opinion, the menus of the X-1 equipment are hard to use and the equipment operates very slowly leading to a lot of frustration.
In many cases the cable distribution system in the house will prevent these digital signals from getting through. Comcast is very reluctant to make the necessary upgrades. Call me. I will remove old splitters and upgrade the distribution system to digital quality.