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Telecommunications

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.
I use my cell phone for all my telephone needs. Can I buy just DSL from Verizon, without also paying for phone service?

Verizon does offer “naked” or stand-alone DSL. It’s worth investigating if you’ve outgrown fixed-line phone service. Go to Verizon’s regular page for digital-subscriber-line service(http://www22.verizon.com/residential/highspeedinternet), click on “Plans”, and you’ll see it listed at the right side of the page. You will pay slightly more for the privilege. However, if you are already a Verizon wireless customer, a discount promotional offer is available which reduces the current DLS monthly rate from $39.99 to $17.99.

How can I find out if I have satellite reception?

Verizon and DirecTV have already performed a cursory survey of Ocean Pines neighborhoods. Given your address, your view toward the Southwestern sky may already be known. The Dish Network has not performed a pre-survey. However, when contracting for either satellite service, the vendor will perform a site survey during the installation to ensure adequate field signal strength from the satellites.

What are my local Salisbury TV channels?

The major digital TV channels from Salisbury include the following:

  • CBS (WBOC) – 16.1
  • Fox21 – 21.1 (subchannel on 16.1)
  • PBS (WCPB) – 28.1
  • MPT2 – 28.2 (subchannel on 28.1)
  • MPT V-me – 28.3 (subchannel on 28.1)
  • ABC (WMDT) – 47.1
  • Delmarva CW3 – 47.2 (subchannel on 47.1)

The web site http://www.tvfool.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=90 lists the estimated signal strengths of these transmitters and the probability of detecting them with an indoor or outdoor antenna. The map will also give you azimuth orientation from your home to each transmitter. This information is useful for calculating a link management guide and antenna orientation/pointing data.

If I switch to satellite, do I need a digital converter box for my analog TV?

There are two answers to this question. If you had an analog TV set while connected to Mediacom, the cable provider’s STB took care of the digital to analog conversion. If you switch to a satellite provider, the new satellite STB will once more take care of the digital to analog conversion. However, if you have an analog TV and plan to connect it to a local antenna, you will need a digital conversion box to receive the channels. If you have a digital TV set, you will not need a digital conversion box for either the satellite STB or the local TV channels.

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.