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This fact sheet was compiled by the Communications Advisory Committee after being commissioned by the OPA Board to investigate alternatives to Mediacom cable distribution in Ocean Pines. The information contained here is the result of the committee’s research of available TV services from competitive vendors, such as DirecTV, the Dish Network, and Verizon. Each vendor brings to the table a mix of features, some being advantages and others being disadvantages. Residents interested in exploring an alternative to Mediacom cable service should find many of their initial questions and most of their critical questions answered in this telecommunications fact sheet. However, each resident, having his own particular needs and constraints, must reach his own specific conclusion. This is not a “cookie cutter” solution. The fact sheet is structured in a question and answer (FAQ) format and was updated in January 2011.
How can I find out if satellite reception is possible?

U.S. geostationary television satellite constellations are “parked” between 90 degrees and 110 degrees W latitude over the equator. Regional downlink beams from satellites in this orbital location have full view of the United States land mass, including Alaska and Hawaii. Residents interested in switching from Mediacom to an alternative TV vendor need to be advised that somewhere on their property, an unrestricted view of the Southwestern sky must be available. Satellite vendors will perform a site survey of each residence to confirm adequate reception of the satellite signal and the actual physical location of the dish antenna.

How does one scientifically determine the ability, or inability to receive local TV?

The Federal Communications Commission has a prescribed method by which these measurements are made. It requires a calibrated field intensity meter, an antenna with known gain, and a series of measurements (cluster points) to be made on the property. WBOC and Direct TV have evaluated and certified Craig Banks of Craig’s TV, Seaford, Del., as an authorized tester. If you plan on using anyone other than Craig’s, you must notify the local TV stations 30 days prior to the test, indicating the company, contact person and the date and location the test will be performed. TV stations reserve the right as granted by federal law to reject a tester if deem unqualified.

Can I receive local channels from a satellite provider?

As of November 2010, both DirecTV and the Dish Network provide Salisbury local channels as part of their normal channel line-up. Residents selecting a satellite vendor no longer need to depend solely on an over-the-air antenna for the reception of the local TV stations.

I cannot pick up local TV stations with rabbit ears. What are my options?

Because of trees and the distance of the Ocean Pines home to the TV transmitters, many residents will require a quality outdoor or attic antenna installation in order to receive a quality signal. A quality installation may include a mast mounted RF amplifier, a mast mounted antenna rotator, and a RF distribution amplifier if multiple TV sets will be connected to the antenna.

Are there differences in the local channel line up between the two satellite providers?

DirecTV and the Dish Network now distribute the Salisbury TV stations to customers in the Delmarva market. The local stations are affiliated with the CBS, ABC, Fox, CW, and PBS national networks. The CBS affiliate, WBOC channel 16, carries Fox21 as a digital sub-channel. The ABC affiliate, WMDT channel 47, transmits the CW network as a digital sub-channel. WCPB is the local PBS station carrying Maryland Public TV. The difference between the two satellite providers is principally in their source of a NBC affiliate.

Why doesn’t Ocean Pines get a different cable company when the present contract with Mediacom is over?

The present Mediacom contract dates from 1998. At that time, Mediacom assumed the in-place cable infrastructure from the original cable vender from a bankruptcy sale. Since Mediacom did not have significant start up costs, it was mutually negotiated that because the OPA granted exclusive distribution rights to Mediacom for 15 years, the cable vendor would pay a 3% of a maximum 5% franchise fee to the OPA on annual gross revenues. Based on the number of Ocean Pines TV customers, OPA realizes a franchise fee of ~$150,000 per year. If, prior to the 2013 renewal date, the OPA considers to solicit a bid from a competitive cable company, that company could either negotiate the purchase of the present cable infrastructure from Mediacom or incur the significant capital investment of laying a new cable infrastructure through out the community. Although a new vendor may provide better service and programming selections, there is no guarantee that it will agree to pay a franchising fee to the OPA. Not having the revenue from this franchising fee could cause a proportional increase in the annual property assessments of all home owners.

How can get a NBC affiliate TV station?

WRDE is the NBC station on Delmarva and is available on Mediacom at channel 9 Standard Def and 809 High Def. We also are at channel 31 on both Satellite services, but only in HD on DirecTV.

Both DirecTV and the Dish Network supplement their channel line up with a NBC station from a near by market to complete their local TV package. DirecTV provides WCAU, the NBC affiliate from Philadelphia. The Dish Network provides WRC, the NBC affiliate from Washington D.C.

Are there any recommendations that can be made to community residents?

Assuming a resident has an unrestricted view of the Southwestern sky and wishes to drop Mediacom cable TV, there are a few available options and permutations of those options that may be considered. Each suggestion has its individual cost/benefit trade offs. Understand each trade off as you reach a conclusion. For instance, dropping Mediacom’s TV service may incur a penalty fee if you are under a time period contract. However, each of their three services can be provided on a month-to-month basis. Because DirecTV and the Dish Network have similar option packages, the possible mixes of services could include the following, not in any priority order:
(a)Drop Mediacom TV service but retain their Internet access service (8 or 20 Mbps download speeds). Keep your existing Verizon land line phone service if this is your current phone provider. Add one of the DirecTV or Dish Network bundled TV packages.
(b)Drop Mediacom TV but retain their Internet access service (8 or 20 Mbps download speeds). Drop Verizon land line phone service, if this is your current phone provider, but add Mediacom’s phone service. Add one of the DirecTV or Dish Network bundled TV packages.
(c)Drop all Mediacom services (TV, Internet, and phone). Pick up one of the DirecTV or Dish Network bundled TV packages. Add Verizon DSL Internet access (1.5 Mbps) service to your existing Verizon phone service.
(d)Drop all Mediacom services (TV, Internet, and phone). Pick up one of the DirecTV or Dish Network bundled TV packages. Drop your existing land line phone service and add Verizon “naked” DSL Internet access (1.5 Mbps) service. Rely on your wireless carrier for phone and text service.

Comment 1:
If any Mediacom service is retained after dropping TV, as in Recommendation A or B, be advised that you will incur a service price penalty. Furthermore, during any cable outage, you will lose Internet and/or phone service.

Comment 2:
Since Ocean Pines has a 15 year distribution contract with Mediacom, and this distribution contract addresses only TV (since Internet and phone service bundles were not offered in 1998), dropping TV from the cable service plan will have a negative impact on the annual franchise fee paid by the vendor to the OPA.

What are the individual services offered by each vendor?

DirecTV and the Dish Network both offer tiered TV programming packages including a wide selection of HD channels. In addition to TV, both satellite providers have a partnering agreement with Verizon that can add Internet, land line phone, and wireless phone services to round out a bundled package. Bundled packages are offered with monthly discounts and billed on a single monthly statement.

What is FiOS?

FiOS is an acronym for Fiber Optic System. Verizon uses the term to describe its fiber optic telecommunications infrastructure. This fiber network is presently offered in many areas of the United States. Verizon has attracted consumer and media attention as the first major U.S. telecommunications carrier to offer fiber to the home. Other service providers, such as Mediacom, currently only use fiber on their network backbone and continue to use a copper infrastructure from the backbone to the end user.