Welcome To The Slow Death Of Satellite TV In America

During an earnings call on November 29th, CEO of AT&T Communications John Donovan effectively signed the death warrant for satellite television in the United States. Just three years after spending $67 billion purchasing the nations’s largest satellite TV provider, DirecTV, he made a comment which left little doubt about the telecom giant’s plan for the service’s roughly 20 million subscribers: “We’ve launched our last satellite.

The news might come as a surprise if you’re a DirecTV customer, but the writing has been on the wall for years. When the deal that brought DirectTV into the AT&T family was inked, they didn’t hide the fact that the actual satellite content delivery infrastructure was the least of their concerns. What they really wanted was the installed userbase of millions of subscribers, as well as the lucrative content deals that DirecTV had already made. The plan was always to ween DirecTV customers off of their satellite dishes, the only question was how long it would take and ultimately what technology they would end up using.

Now that John Donovan has made it clear their fleet of satellites won’t be getting refreshed going forward, the clock has officially started ticking. It won’t happen this year, or even the year after that. But eventually each one of the satellites currently beaming DirecTV’s content down to Earth will cease to function, and with each silent bird, satellite television (at least in the United States) will inch closer to becoming history.

Internet Killed the Satellite Star

If there had been any doubt about what the future of home video content delivery would be when AT&T bought DirecTV back in 2015, there certainly isn’t anymore: on-demand streaming. Every year more and more consumers are streaming content over the Internet from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu; and traditional television service providers are in big trouble, playing catch up to spin up their own streaming services. Consumers want to decide on their own when, how, and what they’re going to watch. The idea that they should “tune in” at a particular time is becoming increasingly antiquated, especially for younger customers who’ve never lived in a world without YouTube and other instant gratification video services.

At least “cable” providers (which today can take many forms including fiber optic to the premises) can fall back on providing Internet services to customers. You might not want to watch their branded TV service, but you’re still on the hook for buying Internet access from them because your home is physically jacked into their network. But the satellite providers don’t even have that golden parachute; satellite Internet is comparatively so slow and expensive, with only a handful of companies still offering it.

DirecTV’s Android streaming device

In this light, it’s really no wonder AT&T doesn’t want to invest in launching any more television satellites. They can’t provide competitive Internet service, and who wants to gamble on traditional TV service even being around over the next 20 years? There simply isn’t enough value in it. But of course, that doesn’t mean they are abandoning the idea of delivering video into consumer’s homes.

Just over a year ago the existence of AT&T’s Android powered set-top box, designed to provide television service over the customer’s existing broadband Internet connection, was revealed via an FCC filing. Carrying DirecTV branding, this device is currently being tested internally by staffers in what’s generally referred to as “dogfooding”; in other words, testing your own product internally before letting consumers at it. A full roll out of this new TV-over-IP service is expected in 2019, and a marketing push attempting to get satellite customers to switch over to Internet-based programming likely won’t be far behind.

Taking Inventory of the DirecTV Fleet

Let’s say you’re receiving your daily dose of flickering digital opium from one of DirecTV’s geostationary satellites currently 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles) over our heads, and aren’t too keen on replacing that setup with yet another Internet streaming device. How long do you have before the option is taken away from you?

DirecTV-15 during testing

The short answer is, quite some time. The last satellites to join the fleet, DirecTV-14 and DirecTV-15, went up in 2014 and 2015 respectively. With a nominal lifespan of 15 years, these two satellites should still be functioning into the 2030’s assuming nothing goes wrong. The other eleven satellites which currently make up the DirecTV fleet are considerably older, and we’ll likely start to see them get retired one by one over the next several years.

Due to the altitude at which these satellites operate, it takes far less energy to send them deeper into space than it would to slow them down enough to force them to renter the Earth’s atmosphere. Accordingly, none of the DirecTV satellites will ever come crashing back down to Earth; instead when they hit the end of their operational life they’ll expend their remaining propellant to position themselves in a so-called “graveyard orbit“.

Interestingly, it was reported that AT&T had placed an order for two additional satellites (DirecTV-16 and DirecTV-17) with Airbus, the manufacturer of DirecTV-15. In fact, DirecTV-16 was even given a tentative launch date of August 2018 according to the Space Assigned Numbers Authority (SANA) registrar. Given the lead time on building a major geostationary communications satellite, one wonders how far Airbus had gotten building these satellites before they were canceled, and what might become of them now that AT&T has decided to exit the industry.

End of an Era

Safe money is on DirecTV still beaming TV from at least some of their satellites for another decade, but much beyond that is anyone’s guess. There are of course other companies offering satellite television, and they may even rush in once DirecTV officially moves all of their operations back down to terra firma, but who’s to say what condition those smaller companies will be in by then.

There are simply too many factors competing against satellite TV for it to survive in the long term. Broadband is getting faster and more readily available, even in rural areas, and content consumers are increasingly disinterested in hundreds of channels playing thousands of advertisements. Given its long history and intersection with the hacker community, it will be sad to see satellite TV slowly fade into the past. But at least we can take some small comfort in knowing that there’ll be no shortage of disused satellite dishes we can use for all manner of projects and experiments.

128 thoughts on “Welcome To The Slow Death Of Satellite TV In America

    1. 19-year Dish Network cord cutter here as of last month. I had Dish for TV and Comcast for Internet. I never knew when Comcast would drop of for how long each outage would be. Unless there was a large thunder cell directly over my house, Dish had 100% up-time. No comparison on reliability. Satellite is actually the more reliable delivery system than any terrestrial alternative.

      But market forces combined with Charlie’s stubbornness have resulted in several contract disputes and loss of channels on Dish. Out of 250 channels I received, I only watched 5-6 on regular basis. After 3 of those were blacked out recently pending renegotiation, I had to drop something I was paying for but realizing no value from. Was that simple.

      I believe market forces will ultimately kill Satellite service providers long before the sun-setting of a technology that can’t compete with multi-gigabit fiber service to every urban and sub-urban home in the next decade.

        1. My home connection in an unremarkable suburb of an unremarkable town in South-East England is heading toward a gigabit right now, it doesn’t seem untenable to have a gigabit or more in the next decade.

          1. The US lags much of the developed world in terms of broadband penetration for a combination of political and geographical reasons. When thinking about your “unremarkable town in South-East England” you need to bear in mind that the UK has over seven times the population density of the US, and that population is far more uniformly spread than it is in the US. For example, the county I live in (northwest New Mexico) has 6% of the land mass of the UK but .06% of the population – 1/100th the density. Even that doesn’t capture the challenge because over a quarter of the county’s population is in the largest city in the county, which covers less than 9 out of almost 6000 square miles. And that’s not even the most sparsely populated county in the state.

          2. I’m in a suburb of Los Angeles, (~30 miles as the crow flies from LAX) right about smack dab center of a town with >100k residents (surrounded by other towns). I’m currently paying >$200/month to get 10Mb down, 2 Mb up (yes, M not G), and the best that AT&T will offer me is 6Mb down. The cable company claims they will go up to about 100Mb, but that’s shared bandwidth, so I doubt I would ever see anything close.

            nobody offers anything close to 1G in the area

        2. The issue isn’t urban and sub-urban. The ILECs have been adding surcharges to Internet and phone to help pay to expand Internet service the rural areas and so far all they’ve done with the money is gobble up their competitors. For some places this the only way to inexpensively get non-OTA TV.

          1. Have to say as a 35 year worker for ATT, i can assure you they are not trying to expand and spend money in rural areas, they set a remote 600 ft from my house and put local service and to put DSL or Uverse in the remote ,would have cost $30000 , and served 200 people, but the engineers in Atlanta refused to spend just 30k, said it wouldnt pay off for them to equip the remote with the circuit packs, the shelves are there, but 30k scaried them off, so i’m 4 miles from the city limits and still have to depend on a 3ft dish for internet

        3. I’m in a suburban city in Canada (Quebec, so South-East of Canada) which isn’t isolated nor small and 1Gbits is available since maybe 1-2 years. I guess small city may get 120Mbits but at the end of the next decade… not even close of the 1Gbits. (Except if the community does pay for the infrastructure itself like some do)

    2. What about them?

      When the #1 player in a market decides it isn’t worth their time to keep developing the technology, the writing is clearly on the wall. The smaller companies can fight over the scraps after DirecTV bails, but what’s going to really be left? Will it be enough to sustain multiple providers?

      1. yes it will, i live in rural east TN, travel thru sw VA, se KY, i can tell you in 3 counties in the edge of each state,a total of 9 counties, 50 % or better has to depend on dish for Tv, and if you take 2 boxes for 2 tvs , the cable companies basic cable price with no premium channels are $180 to $200 a month, i worked for ATT ,i put in Uverse on 50 year old cable and it wasn’t a picture i would settle for. And the cable company 49mg is $99 amonth , so people that has 1 child, if they get 2 tvs and the basic cable, with 49mg, with taxes, thats $300 a month, you can buy a new Mercedes for that price

  1. ” Broadband is getting faster and more readily available, even in rural areas, and content consumers are increasingly disinterested in hundreds of channels playing thousands of advertisements.”:

    Even in rural areas? Amazing how problems disappear when people are trying to persuade someone. Come over to DSLreports where every day is broadband failure day.

    “Given its long history and intersection with the hacker community, it will be sad to see satellite TV slowly fade into the past.”

    Well aside from the fact that TV isn’t the only thing on satellite, LEO is beating a steady drumbeat.

    1. That may be true. But it is definitely true, that a channel based service – “hundreds of channels playing thousands of advertisements” is really not interesting.
      I do not even ave a TV, basically because of the annoying amount of advertisements.

    2. Yeah that’s what I wonder too. Rural areas is where satellite shines and I know a number of people who use it because there’s simply no other choice.

      Which means either AT&T plans to set up infrastructure by 2030 to serve those people… or it plans to say “screw ’em” barring some regulation mandating coverage.

      1. “Plans to say?” It’s saying that now. My dad’s on direct tv now. We called At$t about dsl, they said nope, we don’t cover that area. When asked if they ever were they said nope again. Dad’s on satellite internet. I’m in the same zip code and get gigabit cable from spectrum, who also said they’re not planning on expanding in dad’s area.

      2. just left Direct Now Streaming, too many glitches and spent an extra $300 out of pocket because of their tech support said my 3 roku remotes were wrong, got3 new ones, still same problem, then tech support said my router,back to Wal-mart, after 2 days and 11 hours with tech support ,i refused to talk to them, 2 weeks later their tech support calls me to say they found out a software update they had done was problem, worked good about a month, then go to guide and would hang up , it would take tech support to get it off guide, that way at least i could go to netflix,roku or pluto, finally disconnected from DVTN, went back to direct dish, let a warning to the wise be sufficent, unless you want to be on chat or tech support more than watch tv, stay away from DVTN

  2. you write “Broadband is getting faster and more readily available, even in rural areas”. That may be true in what city dwellers call “rural”, but those of us in the American Southwest (and other places), that rings false. There are vast stretches of New Mexico and Arizona where we don’t even have power lines, let alone broadband, and it isn’t going to change. There is satellite internet, but it is far too expensive to use for streaming video. Maybe some of the proposed LEO internet constellations will change this, but we don’t know. Apparently this isn’t enough customers to warrant new satellites, which is an economic decision. But this “screw’em” attitude is why so many rural people are rebelling against “coastal elites”.

    1. ” There is satellite internet, but it is far too expensive to use for streaming video.”

      Indeed, although one wonders if improved codecs are helping in that regard?

      “But this “screw’em” attitude is why so many rural people are rebelling against “coastal elites”.”

      Turning off the cheap food spigot now and then may refresh memories.

      1. On the other hand, their are many rural “elites” weaving false dichotomies to be able to make themselves out to be the victim. Those elite will balk at turning off any cheap food spigot, ultimately that would affect their bank account negatively. In the end it’s all about commerce, characterizing them as having a “screw them attitude”, is counterproductive. No matter who one is providing service to, it’s reasonable to expect a ROI equal what that would earn if invested in a safer mutual fund. Not the fault of the service provider operating costs, along with a ROI cost are higher than the customer can afford or is willing to pay. Those wanting the services are free to create for profit business or CoOp to provide the services themselves.

    2. I imagine that they will invest into a push to 5G and cellular technologies for internet and tv (streaming) moving forward, rather than launching satellites. even in the extremely rural areas. Launching satellites was great for covering large areas before land-based infrastructure was in place, now we are getting to a point where there is more land-based infrastructure to cover these areas and it is cheaper to deploy.

      1. Not in the Appalachian mountains, you can’t bend digital signals, ATT tried it on cell signal here in the mountains,so if you don’t have a line of site at a cell tower and be within 7 mile of it,even though ATT has started using cell towers for tv, all you have to do is have snow storm, tornado or fire, where they can’t get fuel or a generator to the cell tower, 48 hours is max on fuel, 24 hours on batteries, and thats normal use, if theres a disaster, they don’t last that long, 31 years in telecommunications for me, i saw a community of 2000 people go 2 weeks with out local telephone landlines, and no cell towers within 20 miles, all because the trucks couldn’t get fuel there because of 2 inches of ice and a foot of snow, so they couldn’t even get word, other than a few 4x4s with mudders and chains took phone numbers for people and went to another town and called, and we are talking about 3600 feet elevation, so those on up 4000ft to 5500ft were in the dark on what was really going on with ATT, proved to me ATT didn’t care, because they never tried to update the phone equipment in that town, and it still happens every few years and the system they have there today was set in place in 1977 and the same is there and its 2019, so no the phone companies and cable companies want the cream off the top and do away with the rest, im talking experience, not something i read

    3. {But this “screw’em” attitude is why so many rural people are rebelling against “coastal elites”}. LOL

      I live in the Great Lakes area (but not anywhere near Chicago) and kind of feel the same way when I see all the big maker events that are announced here and occur in the big West or East coastal cities. I used to feel that way about jobs too but I like my (probably) lifelong 9-5 job and no longer envy the lifestyle of those who work 80+ hour weeks in one temporary position after another. (really, why waste a life that way?)

      But anyway.. Yah, I know you are missing a lot more basic infrastructure where you are than I could ever complain about here but on the other hand… if you make your home in a friggin desert shouldn’t you expect to be missing some things?!?

      OMG this view is beautiful but I just wish somebody would smack a Starbucks into the middle of it…

      1. “OMG this view is beautiful but I just wish somebody would smack a Starbucks into the middle of it…”

        And just where do people think their meat, and leather comes from? The whole “I got mine”is going to come back and bite someday.

        1. ” if you make your home in a friggin desert ”
          “And just where do people think their meat, and leather comes from?”

          Are you raising cattle in the desert? Wouldn’t that be easier somewhere that at least has grass?

          1. Type “Arizona, New Mexico, Ranches” into Google. Let me know what you find. “America Southwest”? Some of this, some of that. It’s like saying Northern Coast. Encompasses so much.

          2. More grass, less grass. That’s the ticket. I live in Nebraska, a generally flat part of the Mississippi river system. We get a lot more rain in the east than in the west. It makes sense to till the land and grow crops in the east, needing progressively more irrigation as you go west, to the point of stopping the tilling and irrigation further out. There we grow hay/straw and some other things like alfalfa. And we feed them mainly to cattle above and beyond what they eat directly off of the growing grass. Out west you could call it a desert. It would be difficult to grow many crops there, but cattle can thrive. There’s a lot of middle-ground between tillable crop-land and sand-dune-covered desert. It’s in that zone where it makes a lot of sense to raise cattle and that’s what we do. Its a good life for us and the cattle. The open skies are absolutely fantastic. :-) (Bring a hat, though)

      2. “But anyway.. Yah, I know you are missing a lot more basic infrastructure where you are than I could ever complain about here but on the other hand… if you make your home in a friggin desert shouldn’t you expect to be missing some things?!?

        OMG this view is beautiful but I just wish somebody would smack a Starbucks into the middle of it…”

        First they came for …
        You might want to note that we are in a phase where each new generation of broadband technology costs more than the last and hence requires a greater population density to support it. Each new generation takes longer than the last to penetrate to the lower population density areas. Early reports suggest that millimeter 5G will require towers every 1500′ or so, has problems with foliage (“friggin desert” starts looking good all of sudden), and of course being line-of-sight dies at the first hill. None of this is a problem in Manhattan, but starts to become a problem in the suburbs with tree-lined streets, spread out houses, and even hills. But ATT, having committed to this route, will start dropping your wired services, since 5G has been rolled out and 6G will be right around the corner. Your natural allies in rural America won’t hear you scream because we’ve long been cut off.

        And for what it’s worth, I suspect most of the people in the region would burn down a Starbucks before they patronized one. :-)
        I think the nearest one is about 90 miles from my house, though the general store 45 miles away does seem to be offering some sort of trendy, overpriced coffee (and free WiFi!)

        1. But nobody is “coming for you”!

          “Early reports suggest that millimeter 5G will require towers every 1500′ or so, has problems with foliage”
          Yup. It’s called Physics. Despite what you might think the “city folk” didn’t invent it. It was here before we arrived, it will be here after we are gone.

          “Your natural allies in rural America won’t hear you scream”
          Are you kidding me? Those “natural allies” are the main people that vote in the politicians that deregulate the internet allowing the mega-telecoms to rape us all.

          “And for what it’s worth, I suspect most of the people in the region would burn down a Starbucks before they patronized one. :-)”
          Good for you! It really does taste like shit. I think they elevate the caffeine content which is what is so addicting. It’s better not to even start that.

          “…because we’ve long been cut off. ”
          Because you were never really connected in the first place. Surprise.. I grew up around farmland myself, midwestern corn though, not southwester cattle. I’ve used satellite internet (it’s worthless), local DSL stretched beyond the distance limits it was designed for and even a local wireless provider that uses some sort of WiFi on-steroids like device.

          i tell you what… if I had an answer in how to connect the people of a sparsely populated area and actually make rather than lose money in the process… I’d help you. I’d be your best friend.. and you would thank me for it! Most other people would to… because we would rich! There is a lot of rural land with a lot of people on it out there!

          But.. that’s not how it works. Running cables costs money and wireless has limitations imposed by physics. You will be wired better when wire and the labor to run it are free or when you vote to subsidize it. But.. subsidizing anything other than fossil fuels… that would be SOCIALIST!

          1. “i tell you what… if I had an answer in how to connect the people of a sparsely populated area and actually make rather than lose money in the process… I’d help you. I’d be your best friend.. and you would thank me for it! Most other people would to… because we would rich! There is a lot of rural land with a lot of people on it out there!”

            Hence LEO, and part of what makes the economics work is it’s worldwide. No relying on Podunk US to support everything.

          2. I’ve used Satellite internet. In many ways it is worse than dialup.

            Yes.. you CAN watch live video via dialup. I have done it. You just have to lower the resolution, framerate, etc… Back when hardly anyone had broadband I used to watch out of state tv stations via “Real Video”. Does anyone else remember that? The worst thing about the crappy state of broadband isn’t the speed, it’s the fact that the content providers only cater to people with the fastest connections. They seem to be in the business of selling hardware! Just look at the speed of internet connections today where people are STILL complaining about their Netflix not working. It’s because they are trying to push resolution so high that most of it is lost in resampling at the client anyway!

            Ok.. back on topic… satellite internet. You can have a satellite internet connection where the bandwidth is wide open but it’s the latency that gets you. You will not be watching video (unless you download first, then watch) via satellite. (thus the tangent about video over dialup)

            You will not be using VOIP and certainly not any sort of “video chat”. Even static webpages might time out all due to latency, not bandwidth. Satellite internet should not even be marketed as a generic internet connection but rather as a single-purpose email service. The solution to your problem… it is not above your head!

          3. @Wi Not
            satellite vs dial-up networking:
            which is better depends on what you are doing. If you are doing interactive stuff, the one-second hop up to the satellite kills you, but if you are doing bulk transfers (so that the latency isn’t a problem), then the satellite is FAR better. Video streaming is very much a bulk transfer)

            As for the problem of ‘I have a fast connection but Netflix still doesn’t work well’, for most people, the problem isn’t the bandwidth available, it’s the latency that you end up having when there are large transfers happening. One large cause of this is excessive buffering (aka bufferbloat)

            Linux and OpenWRT have tools in them to address this problem and can do wonders for the perceived performance of your network

            https://www.bufferbloat.net/projects/bloat/wiki/Introduction/
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bufferbloat

          4. @NiHaoMike – Broadband over power line is snake oil laced with cyanide. It isn’t going to help.

            That bad idea got pushed because the companies that own the power lines got together with the politicians that were put in charge of programs that were supposed to help the rural broadband access problem. Together they saw a way to fleece the public of some tax dollars. That is all it ever was.

            Here’s the thing.. power lines are not engineered to be good data lines. In fact, they are about as close to being the polar opposite of data lines as they could be and still electrically connect point A with point B.

            Why?

            Because at frequencies high enough to transfer useful bandwidth power lines are long, straight lines with absolutely no shielding whatsoever. There is in fact another name for such a wire. ANTENNA! Power lines accept way too much interference causing any “broadband” connection through them to be disappointing at best and likely unreliable. At the same time they radiate the intended broadband signal as radio waves which interfere with wireless services for 10s or even 100s of miles from the wire.

            The idea of BPL is mostly dead. It is best that we kill off any life that is remaining, bury that awful idea and move on with better ways to solve the problem.

          5. @ Water Wet BPL Bad

            I think when he says BPL he’s not talking about the old signals over the mains (not to be confused with Powerline within the home). Power companies are installing smart grids and that usually uses fiber optics. Easy hop, skip, and jump to their customers which they happen to have a connection to.

          6. “if I had an answer in how to connect the people of a sparsely populated area and actually make rather than lose money in the process…”

            Uh… who cares about money? Enact government subsidies to have basic DSL (or fixed WiFi, the desert is flat) in these areas and be done with it. Cancel an F-35 or two if you need to pay for it.

            Not everything needs to show a ROI to be worth doing.

          7. I still don’t comprehend the logic of using piloted aircraft instead of drones especially with the aircraft that can’t even fly by the stick (mechanical/hydraulic) without electronic stabilization controls anymore. Other than dangerous unions/contractors I’m guessing with high tech they don’t want disclosed.

          8. “I still don’t comprehend the logic of using piloted aircraft instead of drones especially with the aircraft that can’t even fly by the stick (mechanical/hydraulic) without electronic stabilization controls anymore. ”

            This statement deserves a blog entry of its own. Drones are great in peace-time when responsible citizens and the FCC keep the airwaves in a lawful state with illegal jammers and unauthorized transmissions in prohibited frequencies beign generally prevented. Perhaps you are only talking about civilian use and so I kind of agree with you. In a state of war all such bandwidth laws effectively go out the window. “All’s fair in love and war” you know. In wars between countries where both sides are well equipt I would expect a *LOT* of radio frequency jamming. One would think that would stop drones dead in their “tracks” and piloted craft would have the upper hand. LIke I said this subject needs is own blog entry for discussion. :-)

          9. Good call if all the avionics controls and the pilot are well shielded and not jammable or hackable. I wasn’t thinking the systems are capable of being completed shielded now days or even way back when… since everything has a back door method basically. HHhmmm… I guess if not and everything and everyone in the craft is shielded… then yes… piloted aircraft even if electronically computer controlled would be better. Seems certain agencies would be angry if there wasn’t a backdoor to hack through.

          10. “Cancel an F-35″… sheesh!! Cancel critical defence systems and there is no point in building up infrastructure. Our enemies don’t care if our interenet works. They don’t care if we have electricity or running water or even if we keep breathing. How about if we just stop giving away money to our enemies. That ought to pay for a few cell phone towers.

      3. At least in the country we brew stuff that puts starbucks to shame, and when i want to shoot my 44 or 357, it takes me 30 seconds to put a target in the yard and go for it, but everything better than that, when my nearest neighbor farts 1/2 mile away, i don’t smell it, or it i want to piss off the front porch, i let it fly, so i can find other things besides a television or internet game that i wouldn’t give for 500g and 500 channels.

      1. Did I say I was mad? I was merely pointing out for those who can’t seem to fathom how rural America supports Donald Trump in spite of the continuous screwing they get that there’s a reason they’re angry.
        Me? I’m doing fine. I don’t need satellite TV. I can afford the insane pricing of satellite internet.I have off-grid solar and know how to maintain it. But you might want to talk to my neighbors (the closest of whom is 8 miles away).

        1. I don’t even think the people you’re pretending to not speak for would agree that not being able to get satellite TV is a representation of their relationship with the “coastal elites”, which is to say I don’t know why you chose to make an article about satellite TV into a discussion about class politics.

          1. maybe because the shutdown is being justified by rent-seeking monopolists as no longer needed because everyone will have access to cheap/affordable broadband, which is demonstrably false? ie, yet another raised middle finger to “flyover country”.

        2. Most people don’t really vote on logic or reason, no matter what side of things they are on. But the tortured logic here is just appalling to me. I’m angry because the “coastal elites” aren’t subsidizing my rural living enough so we’re going to vote for the folks that want to reduce public assistance and programs that provide phone and Internet service for people in rural communities.

        3. Of course America supports Trump!
          The media and the left have shown insane they are and now literally everything is the fault of Trump to them
          and most people are sick of it. The rural broadband issue has been around for a long time and this 5G tech
          they keep talking about is no solution.

    4. We live in very rural NY. A few years ago they strung cable out our way. They advertised it as “just like road runner” and if you define “just like road runner” as you have a cable modem in your house and you get a bill every month, they nailed it. If you wanna talk about speed however. They advertise that we have 50MB service though plugging a fast I7 based PC directly into the modem and running any speed test never gives results topping 3MB, and often less. On the flip side, they claim that our internet usage is capped, and we routinely go through 3X the cap with no issues. We are in sort of a stand off with them. I don’t pay just 3/50th’s of the bill, and they don’t enforce the cap.

    5. “we don’t even have power lines, let alone broadband, and it isn’t going to change.”

      If you make the decision to setup your homestead far away from other people, don’t be too surprised when other people aren’t super interested in spending money to make sure that you’re included in their infrastructure plans.

      The bed you’ve made is your own. The tradeoff for living in rural areas is now and has always been that you aren’t a party to the sorts of benefits that come with living in or near an urban area. You don’t get to have it both ways, and you’ve made your decision.

        1. It’s a free market, if food isn’t made here it will be purchased elsewhere, same as any other commodity. Meanwhile, enjoy the $800B+ farm bill congress just passed and the trillions in government farm subsidies handed out over the past decades. Guess who paid for that?

    6. Not sure where you are getting the ‘”screw ’em attitude’ from the “coastal elites”. The “urban ivory tower coastal elites” definitely want the entire United States of America to have access to high speed internet. Trying to tie this into food production is a really far-fetched connection.

    1. I wish. Why are these handful of telecom companies allowed to buy up all of their competition? It’s such blatant monopolizing. I wish our regulators were something more than a blatant corruption machine.

      Also TV over IP is so hilariously backwards. I can’t imagine why people want that, yet here we are.

        1. Internet service needs to be a locally owned and operated municipal utility, like the water/sewer/road systems in most communities. The inefficiencies of a government run operation would be more than offset by elimination of monopolistic price gouging and unwanted traffic manipulation.

        2. there is a lot of content that actually works very well as a broadcast (live events, and even sending newly released shows to local DVRs). IP doesn’t do this sort of broadcast, so every person who will watch takes the bandwidth for the transmission (frequently multiple times)

          It’s not hard to see that transmitting a thousand channels (of which one channel is watched/recorded) out to hundreds of thousands of users takes less bandwidth than each of those users fetching the content individually on demand.

          This takes a LOT more capacity than a hybrid model where some of the bandwidth is used to broadcast stuff, and IP is used for the custom stuff.

          1. Yes, multicast was created to address this problem, but in practice, multicast is almost never used and is very fragile (it’s very easy to have multicast packets loop around your network), which makes it a problem when you are talking about packets that have to cross many different companies networks.

    2. More net trashing is being done by the likes of Paypal, Google, Patreon, Twitter, and Facebook than all the politicians put together. They have their ideas of what the internet and the world is supposed to be like and they are willing to do anything, working together, both ethical and unethical to make it that way. They are quickly becoming or have already become monopolies and are throwing their weight around as such, sensing those they don’t agree with without due process and silencing those who don’t subscribe to their own politically correct religion. Commit a sin in their eyes and they effectively cast you out of existence in the dominant social internet scope. They already control what you can say. Throw in Amazon and they will start controlling what you can and cannot buy. Throw in self driving cars and they will start controlling where you can and cannot go. You must have their blessing marked on your forehead to say anything or buy or sell anything. If you do not, and you keep using non-words, making forbidden thoughts, or using forbidden money they will try to starve you out and if they fail at that, they will seek you and …. {signal lost}

  3. Embrace, extend, extinguish has worked well over the years.

    Not so much for consumers, maybe.

    I have 7 or 8 parabolic dishes of various sizes in the back yard. I wonder what they’re good for?

          1. That is totally on my to do list… the solar powered foundry… and more a pain is going to be implementing a small scale system in Michigan.

            Today I took apart the $4 Goodwill store carafe find that I wanted to see what the vacuum container was like and unfortunately is completely silvered/aluminized on the inside of the glass chamber. That isn’t going to be removable under vacuum in any way I can envision.

            Thinking for the small scale offset parabolic trough that will be parabolic on the ends of the linear focal area/volume (like top view also) I am going to have to have a custom glass blown, vacuum sealed and mirrored apparatus. Not sure how the mirroring performs over time under high heat so thinking that will have to be on the outside of the vacuum chamber. I really only want a slit for the focal point energy to get into the target area unless I make some sort of “hot finger” heat exchange “U” piece to transfer the heat inside the vessel which seems kind of strange unless heating fluids. Still the heat transfer rate needs to be optimized and the vessel insulated via the holder also. This system will be a start.

            The foundry will be a completely different focal point design more likely at the bottom of a kiln with a special heat tube like a rocket stove sort of maybe with a special lined edge to keep the heat reflecting down the path to limit losses and I’m thinking conical high absorption material like silica carbide or something else at the target… however… I am wondering about a vacuum sealed perimeter efficiency though more likely made out of steel/aluminum. Will be interesting to see if can be done in colder weather even with heat supplementation.

          2. @jafinch78 – You live in Michigan and are serious about building a solar powered foundry?

            I’m originally from MI and still live nearby. Let me save you some trouble and tell you how that’s going to go.

            After months of building, tweaking, tearing apart and repeat you will finally have a foundry. You will have a foundry that produces useful heat about 14 days out of the year. 12 of those days will be work days.

            Now if you can think of a way to build a foundry that runs on poorly planned road construction… then you might have a chance at producing something that is truly useful in Michigan.

          3. @Water Wet BPL Bad – Yes, as a vision so far. I haven’t drawn out on paper yet anything other than the kilns. I have a feeling I’m not going to get past boiling water and cooking a meal at the scale I’m at now. Moving forward on the small scale system finally. Will have to see how that performs before scaling up. I did find today that of the laser printer cutters, none are large enough. I’ll have to use the CNC Router. I did learn some VCarv Pro 9.0 today. Should be able to use this as an antenna reflector also… and left the lab printing a Thingverse CubeSat conical antenna that should be done in another hour.

          1. It would be interesting to see what your results were. A sled isn’t the best parabolic, and a 2 footer would only start to give decent gain around S band, maybe 10 dB at the high end, then at higher frequencies the phase distortion would start messing up your gain. Fed with a discone? Wouldn’t the ground plane get in the way? Try a bowtie if you need bandwidth.

          2. Yeah, I feel the same… I’ve only been recently documenting my work more since my mind is able to clear up a little more. The remote sensing transmission operations on me was and still is intense… just not as body assault as was. I was on the road living in heartbreak hotel and didn’t document much that I recorded.
            No, not fed with the discone. The discone is what I usually used alone as the omnidirectional antenna. The original plan was and still is to use the discone as a background subtracting antenna or for broader spectrum analysis. I just haven’t had time to get into programming and signals work more for the more complex processing of real time or close to real time signals.

            I was just using the cheap rubber ducky antenna. I’m thinking after making a few spiral conical antennas… to try one of those. I haven’t made a bow-tie yet… though will keep in mind. Thanks for the suggestion as they do have good gain especially in a yagi build. I’m working on a larger spiral conical at the moment since looks like a great directional antenna with good gain characteristics. Like the discone… I don’t have the sled dish where I am working… just the DishHD and DirectTV Slimline dishes and some other antennas I’ve made or that came with the SDR’s.

            What type of results would you like to see? Thinking will be something to plan for a future goal and mission as I can start characterizing RF systems in more detail with the cheaper SDR’s or restored older electronics test equipment to demonstrate cost effective capabilities anyone can do with a limited budget.

          3. When I buy an antenna I like to see a set of calibration charts of absolute gain vs. azimuth at several frequencies, polarization purity, SWR vs. frequency, some elevation cuts, all done in an anechoic chamber with NIST pedigree.

            OK, I’d settle for a relative gain vs. another known antenna (like a dipole), some description of how broad the beam is, and how strong the backlobe is. To do this you need an emitter far off (broadcast station, neighbor’s router, sun), a receiver capable of some sort of quantitative signal strength measurement (dBm, S units, “bars”), and a reference antenna for comparison. Just give them both a 360 degree turn and see where the 3 dB beamwidth is, and there will be some spillover if you’re feeding a dish reflector, and probably no backlobe. The ideal gain of a dish is only based on its size and your frequency, then you have spillover, SWR losses, and dents in your snow sled.

          4. Great info, I’ll make a copy to the Clipboard History. Now… from my experience with NIST… since the standards I worked on went into space also from what I understand… wow… they do what is required plus and in a range of operating temperature conditions I can’t match yet so easily.

            Interesting, however, seeing the trend in posting on HaD in regards to more improvised Anechoic Chamber and Faraday Cage ideas shared to keep my Vision, Goal and not quite TEMPEST specifications or even user requirements for the plan to see what the most cost effective system that can be made to perform FCC certification and other standard/regulatory testing requirements on EMF systems.

            I am moving up in the World with a SDRPlay rsp1a on the way to give me a more higher dynamic range spectrum analyzer… though I need to look into leveling heads and tracking/sweep generators to couple with. Other than that I have the TDS-744A and the TDS-8000B with no modules yet. I didn’t realize how expensive those were/are when I purchased the two TDS-8000’s to repair.

            I’ll be sure to share. Thanks

    1. Are any of them C band dishes 10 foot or larger? If so you can still use them for FTA. The imminent demise of “satellite TV” has been greatly exaggerated. Maybe the little dish, secondary providers are dying. But Cable companies, and local TV station all across the country still need a reliable way to get programming distributed from the networks. Also to get live feeds from areas where fiber aren’t available a satellite uplink is often the best choice. With a big C band dish you can scan the clarke belt and find all sorts of interesting wild feeds and backhauls.

  4. Sounds like the user base of the service needs to find a new owner to manage the service. In such a case a mass writing campaign to the FCC can get that done. AT&T has clearly shown intent to sabotage the service.

      1. It’s nothing like 100:1, although the commentary sent to the FCC by crowds excited by paid rabble-rousers may have been that high. Slightly over half of people are either unaware of the issue or don’t care. Of those who know something and express an opinion, something in the range of 55% to 75% support “net neutrality.”
        That’s all irrelevant. “Net neutrality”, the name notwithstanding, is an illegal attempt to have the government control internet content. You should be pleased that the Trump administration is not trying to control what you read.

  5. I have 0 internet service providers outside of satellite and 0 cable TV options. I live 20-25 minutes from a Walmart, Target, and Lowes… not exactly the most rural place in the world, but houses aren’t packed together either. It’s not worth their time and money to run lines to my (or my neighbors) houses, so I rely on crappy satellite internet and TV. You say the death of satellite is near because of DirecTV(AT&T), but there are still other companies (Dish) that aren’t going to go away until more areas gain coverage. 5G sounds great… just as soon as they get 4G coverage that works worth a crap near me (Verizon is the only one that even gets a signal, about 1 bar LTE that drops to 3G often and sometimes drops completely). I can’t see how upgrading to 5G in a major city helps me much. The range of 5G is very short (28GHz) since higher frequencies don’t travel as far. Trials conducted where maxed out at 500 meters, and the latest # I saw was 2km… or around 1.2 miles. So, if you were to cover rural areas, you’d need a tower every 3 houses give or take…. might as well just run land lines.

    1. 5G is a lot of things, and in rural areas they’ll use lower frequencies. Also, they don’t need towers every 5 miles, they can put small boxes on telephone poles … .. uh, I mean power poles, I doubt there are such things as telephone poles any more! The signals can be focused adaptively to give max signal with min power.

      I’m an RF engineer so I’m moderately interested, although it will be years until 5G comes to our sparse area (3 miles from downtown!). Unfortunately, we’re not line of sight to anywhere there’s an internet pipe.

      Unless I put up a 40 foot tower. Hmmmmm.

      1. Do it man!! You havent lived until you’ve hand mixed 3 yards of cement to put in the foundation and erected a 40 foot antenna tower. Use it for cell phone service and over-the-air TV and get a decent rotator and antenna so you can enjoy watching ME-TV in class. :-)

  6. I thought this was going to be an article about when “real” satellite tv became out of style. You know… back when the antennas were big, motorized and equipment was marketed based on what band(s) it received, not the brand name of the constellation it was locked to.

    I know that conventional wisdom is that such old-style satellite TV is dead because it is all encrypted. I would imagine that if you are a sports fan or demand specific popular movie channels it probably is. That was already the conventional wisdom the last time I tried tuning in with such hardware (admittedly over a decade ago now). It wasn’t true then, there were a lot of channels broadcast in the clear. Mostly it was stuff I had never heard of but surprisingly some of it was still quite watchable entertainment. There were also many audio feeds with music, talk and even morse code! There were signals my equipment couldn’t decode too, probably some form of digital data that might be interesting to look at with the tools that are available today.

    So.. I wonder if it really is completely dead now or if it is similar to what I saw then.

    Or.. maybe if all the consumers get off of satellite the broadcasters will start skimping on the encryption. It isn’t like they aren’t still going to use satellites. The signals have to get to the cable stations somehow.

    1. We can be better observers and reporters of real time (live too) satellite broadcasts… demanding decryption or encrypted access.

      I wonder what the capabilities are to hack into existing systems for free WiFi. Seems like there used to be free dial-up offered in communities… there can be the same.

      I vote for more fiber or copper transmissions… even if using existing infrastructure since seems there is plenty of copper out there distributed and there can be more fiber if copper isn’t as effective.

  7. That’s all fine and dandy, but if you live in a rural location, your options for internet access sucks. High speed internet is non existent. (read satellite internet reviews). For TV satellite is best option, although bundling sucks big time.

  8. I gave away my TV 11 years ago when I retired from being a broadcast engineer. The networks flat killed TV from my perspective. Both cable and satelitte only offered more channels of crap programming. I watch Youtube, movies and videos I feel like when I wish to watch them. Broadcast, cable and satelitte offer no attraction to me at all. Don’t miss any of them.

      1. Probably more likely worse than Opium in that Grandmothers and other vulnerable youth and adults wasted investments like at casino’s gambling on items and services they didn’t need for survival. Most likely a system that is partially to blame for the dissemination of propaganda that was deviant and not required other than for mass suicide, fertility rate decreases, attention deficiency and other conditions with maybe some learning betterment skills that were value added to themselves, their family and book value GDP/GNP.

  9. “Broadband is getting faster and more readily available, even in rural areas” —- False!

    Here in northern Wisconsin, if you live outside of the city limits, you do not get broadband. Period. My Grandma and my brother have satellite service for TV and internet respectively. The satellite TV works fine, my brothers satellite internet is terrible. There are no other options at all. Even where I live, in the 17th biggest city in WI, there is only one choice, Charter Spectrum, and it sucks and cost an arm and a leg. I do not bother with cable TV, I only have internet. The clencher too is that Frontier ran fiber optics to the telephone pole in my yard, and that is it. It is taped off and coiled up and just hanging there on the pole 4 feet off the ground for the last 5 years at least. I called them and they have no intention to do anything with it ever.

    1. Sounds like google fiber, here.
      Water & sewage lines punctured by conduit boring, along with numerous flooded houses.
      Many, many yards trashed by ham-fisted equipment operators.
      landscaping destroyed rather than lifting limbs.
      Sod torn up to point of un-mowable and erosion problems left behind by contractors who seem to have absolutely no grasp of landscaping and mower damages.

      A year later, Conduit ends are still simply tied or taped to every 2nd~3rd utility pole with no interconnections/circuits made yet.

      So where is google fiber actually at? Oh -ONLY- in about 40 high rise appt buildings in the center of where heaviest gentrification has occurred over the last decade or less.
      Single family dwellings? nope, just a big “fuck you and your properties” from google.
      This is in one of the top 20 most populated cities of USA.

      AT&T still controls the space on utility poles, yet still engages in only slightly less muckery in the underground corridors.

  10. I grew up in rural America, and I fully understand why satellite is the only reasonable option in many places. But the problem is, there aren’t enough subscribers in those rural areas to support the fixed costs of launching and maintaining the satellites. Satellite TV is only viable with a lot of subscribers to share the costs of the infrastructure.

    It’s not just satellite that is having trouble maintaining subscribers. Cable is feeling the impact of cord-cutters. Personally, I haven’t paid for TV in oven 30 years, and I probably use the rooftop antenna a dozen times a year, if that. My kids, ages 8 and 12, don’t even know how to use the TV for broadcast reception. They know how to use it for Netflix and YouTube, though. I think we’re heading toward the eventual end not only of satellite TV, but the end of the concept of watching TV on a broadcaster’s schedule.

    1. the cost of launching satellites is plummeting thanks to SpaceX (even the costs of ULA launches is dropping drastically)

      However companies are still paying for satellites as if a launch cost $1B when it’s plummeted to <$100M

      At some point, someone other than Musk will get a clue and realize that they can replace the satellites every 3-5 years (getting tech upgrades with each update) rather than paying the same money up front for a single satellite designed to last 15 years.

      That will be a very interesting time for the satellite manufacturing companies.

      1. “That will be a very interesting time for the satellite manufacturing companies.”

        EOL will be them crashing into a designated recycling country where child labor, and non-existent environmental protection means a new cheaper bird can be put up in a few short weeks. Go Progress!

    2. Just because satellite TV is the only choice for rural areas, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid choice in places with cable TV. I’ve seen plenty of dishes on houses in areas served by Comcast, probably because they hated Comcast so much. (And Comcast isn’t even the most hated cable provider!) Satellite providers frequently offer different options and packages than the local cable provider, as a well as provide much needed competition in regions with a single cable provider (ie, most of the US). According to this analysis – https://www.slideshare.net/shreyaramaswamy5/segmentation-of-dish-tv – Dish TV has half of it’s customer base in urban areas.

      No idea how big ($-wise) the market is, but commercial aircraft are also capturing the satellite TV signal to show live TV. United uses DirectTV, no less.

  11. Well…. I guess now you’ll be working and focusing on increasing your customer base in the rural areas with higher speed communications, ehh? Like the rest of the world? Your share holders are going to start demanding it if you don’t.

    Unintended Consequences, AT&T.

    Too bad most of us cut the cord long ago. Never think you can’t go the way of BlockBuster, AT&T. Sears and Montgomery Wards was just as old as you. Now consider your customers hate you.

    1. I don’t quite understand the phrase “cord cutting” when we still have to use at&t to get the internet service that carries the entertainment.
      Don’t forget that at$t now owns spectrum cable co along with a still noteworthy chunk of the content.
      We won’t be able to honestly “cut the cord” until AT$T (plus a couple other monopolies) is out of the loop.

      1. Oh and don’t forget what AT&T owns now.
        They corralled back in most of the “cord cutters” with the purchase of Time Warner/Spectrum cable.
        We’re pretty well stuck with them, no matter which way we turn.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_WarnerMedia
        If you pay to access any time Warner web sites for content, you’re still paying AT&T in the end.
        AT$T doesn’t care how we delude** ourselves with the jargon, because they still get their dollars at then end of the month.
        (**just like thinking social media is “free”

  12. DirecTV has long been digging their own grave with their stupid pricing scheme/scam to get new subscribers. Offer a low rate for a few months then jack the price way up. They do that while offering nothing but free HBO and some other “premium” channels for a month once in a while for their long time subscribers. I had DirecTV for 14 years then dropped it when they wanted to take more of the few channels I watched out of the 2nd tier package, while raising the price.

    CableONE and others do the same stupid thing with their pricing.

    Forget the come-hither promotions and just set a price that will stay the same.

    They must now be losing more customers on the back end than they’re getting on the front end. Their ouroboros’ mouth has bitten its tail and is chowing down.

  13. There are still plenty of FTA C/Ku feeds. Lyngsat is your friend. The bigger directTV and echostar dishes work fine with a Ku LNB. Check your local town dumpsters. For C-band, you can get away with a dish as small as 150cm. Imagine watching an Olympics ceremony with no commercials, no cuts or edits, just a raw feed like it should be. Wild feeds also offer unique insights into world events, without commentary, without censorship. It all works without any internet or cellular network at all. Look mom, no app! no browser!

  14. ATT was a monopoly back in 1983 and long distance and local service went thru the roof,thats why JUDGE GREEN broke up ATT, after they started on dial up, the DSL, then Uverse, all these services were availiable to people living close enough to a central office or a t-line fed remote, if you didn’t live within 3000 ft of one of the above, you have to depend on Hughes net or wild blue, off a 3ft dish for internet, at the moment i live 4 miles from the city limits of a town with 6000 people, but no remote or close enough for Uverse to work at my house, no cable company either, Long story short , ATT and cable companies don’t want to spend the money for everyone, just build enough network to pick up the cream off top. Call them about internet, they may as well say go to Hell, because at 4 miles from city limits, and 6 miles from central office, their own engineers will tell you off the record , that they aren’t going to spend money to get the rural areas, perfect example ATT has 2 cell towers, but not close enough for me to use and trying to serve 6000 residence and 4000 college students, but look at their map on coverage at the ATT store shows coverage, and when i cross into VA. its 35 miles on a major state highway that you get no coverage at all, i have contacted the FCC and the FTC , telling them what liars Att is on cell phone coverage and how i can’t get fast internet at 4 miles from city limit, and the state highway i live on goes another 29 miles with no internet or cell phone coverage , but they are doing false advertising on their maps to get you to buy their cell phones and also before you buy Directv NOW, talk to people who is steaming it, nothing but trouble and glitches, my brother had it for 6 months and stayed on chat and working with tech support more time than watching tv, he just went back to Directv on the dish,and good thing he did, they just raised their prices on Direct NOW ,but dropped several channels. Let me give you a clue what 75% of Uverse works on, it leaves ATTs office on a lead (metal sheath cable), with copper lines ,wrapped with paper insulation,place in the manholes under city streets in the 50s and 60s, then somewhere it splices to a plastic sheath cable and either buries down the streets or goes in the air on power poles, so as you drive the road, if you see a black plastic rag on the cable, that’s where squirrels or lightning has damaged the cable and ATT ,in a hurry wont hire nor give their techs proper amount of time to do the repairs, the black plastic cracks or the wind blows it off the cable, the copper wires carrying Uverse to your home or business gets wet, and you have a slow speed or snowy pictureor no service at all. Also what ATT never tells or makes public, Western Electric who made all ATT cable prior to the 1983 breakup of ATT,western cable was designed for 30 years life, after that it was called heavy up, which basically was suppose to be a new cable with more lines be placed, but think about it, ATT got broke up into 7 independent companies in the 80s at the time the cables needed replaced, so Bellsouth, Bell atlantic, Pacficbell, Moutianbell, Sothwesternbell etc, none of those being new companies didn’t want to spend the money to replace the cable, so it stayed in place, Now what use to be Southwestern bell bought ATT, which had bought back most of the existing Bell Companies, except for up east is Verizon, but ATT acquired all the old cable back when buying these companies back around 2000 to 2001, not wanting to spend money and to keep cost down to keep share holders happy ATT still has cable out there that is been in service 50 to 60 years,needed replaced at the time of breakup, with weather and squirreled chewed cable and buried cable in those green pedestals mouse and rat chewed damage , and they are struggling to keep 24 mg to run properly on it, so as you go to work, look at the pedestals on the road you travel, if the lid is partially open or missing, or glance over head at those large black cables and if you see a black garbage bag flapping in the breeze, just remember if you have dsl , or Uverse, that will be you out of service when the rain ,snow is flying, OH by the way ,don’t say i’m exaggerating on the facts, i worked as an outside tech 35 years for ATT, so when someone tries to deny this and tell you about all the improvements ATT is or has made, i can guarantee you, he is either a boss worried about the facts, or upper management that don’t have a clue of what techs outside are told to do by their bosses to meet their index and get their raises or to keep their job.

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