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May 02, 2011

The Return of Over the Air Television

Just ordered a TV antenna; who woulda thunk it? But it's not your father's rabbit ears. Over the air television even has an acronym now: OTA. OTA is digital; it can be higher def than cable or satellite. And it's free!

OTA is how I'll get my local stations once I take down the dish.

I thought I was going to get all my content on the Internet once I went dishless but now not so sure. The local newscasts I care about are only available as segments online and I enjoy watching the whole show. NFL games aren't available online at all. The series we watch happen to be mainly CBS and are available online but they disappear after a couple of weeks or have to be purchased; possible but I'm not sure why I'd want to do that.

It's also not a good use of online bandwidth – at least the over-the-air bandwidth from my wireless ISP– to stream video as a regular thing. Real high def is simply too much to receive in real time with today's wireless ISP technology; even lower definition puts a big strain on ISP resources, which will, at some point, justify differential pricing. I wouldn't mind paying somewhat more for better service but it does seem an inefficient use of radio spectrum to have millions of different streams of the same show at slightly different times when the show can be broadcast once to everyone who is interested in it.

Not that I intend to watch shows when they're actually broadcast. Tivo and other DVRs freed me from the tyranny of the broadcast clock long ago. Assuming that the antenna works well, I'll buy an OTA-compatible DVR so that our favorite shows will be available when we want to watch them.

Finding out what kind of antenna to order and where to point it is easy. You fill out the form below on antennaweb.org. You'll get a chance to drag your house to a more exact location on a Google map if needed.

The web site then tells you what over-the-air stations are available to you (there were more than I thought), how big and fancy an antenna you'll need, whether you can use an indoors antenna or will probably have to go outside, and which way to point the thing for which station. Fancy antennas come with a remote to rotate them in case all the stations you want aren't on top of one nearby mountain as they are for us. There is even an OAT antenna device coming soon for the iPad and iPhone.

Certainly we'll be getting some shows over the Internet or on DVD which aren't on local TV. No Vermont stations carry the Mets, for example. But looks like over-the-air TV will be part of the mix for cordcutters and dishdroppers.

Will let you know more about our experience with it when I get the antenna installed.

Related posts:

DVR Dies; Wii and Netflix to the Rescue

Cutting the Cord; Dismounting the Dish

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