Frustrated by outages, some TV watchers find cable alternatives

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2000

From fuzzy signals to frequent outages, complaints surrounding local cable television service continue to circulate.

Cable One, the local cable provider, is upgrading its system now to add more channels and clearer pictures within the next year.

But some subscribers who don’t want to wait are cancelling their cable and opting for digital satellite service.

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Sally Durkin, who installs digital satellites locally, said her business is steadily growing, as is business nationwide.

A local dealer of DISH Network, Durkin said she serves about 450 existing customers in Natchez now and estimates she installs about 110 satellites a year.

Durkin said her growing business is &uot;absolutely&uot; tied to dissatisfaction among cable subscribers.

&uot;And until cable does something to upgrade the system, it will continue to grow,&uot; she said.

Ted Harveston, a sales associate at Rex Television and Appliance, said he too is familiar with complaints about local cable service.

&uot;I hear it all day long, every time somebody comes in. That’s why we sell so many (digital satellites),&uot; he said.

Rex offers DirecTV, the other digital satellite provider. Primestar, one of the first providers, recently merged with DirecTV.

Both DirecTV and DISH Network operate using small dishes (usually about 18 inches in diameter), a digital receiver and a remote control. After purchasing the equipment, which can range for $49.95 to almost $800, customers can subscribe to a number of channel packages.

DirecTV offers a basic package with 45 channels for $21.99 a month, but some packages, such as those designed for the sports enthusiast, can cost more than $200 a season.

Lisa Flattmann and her family chose a sports package, but only because their digital satellite service would not provide them with the Fox network.

In fact, the lack of local channels is Flattmann’s main complaint with the dish system. But, because they live outside the local cable service area, they believe they don’t have much choice.

Noel Ann White also misses local channels and mentioned the cost as drawbacks to satellite. Like Flattmann, White lives outside the cable service area.

If cable were offered, White said she would probably switch.

&uot;We would have to compare (cable and satellite) and see what we want,&uot; she said.

Flattmann had a quicker response.

&uot;Cable is not available out here,&uot; she said. &uot;If I find out differently, I’m switching tomorrow.&uot;

Julia Ivey, Cable One marketing manager, also cited more personal customer service and community involvement as advantages of cable over satellite.

&uot;We do a lot in the city and the county,&uot; she said, including providing free cable service to area schools and government buildings and participating in local charities.

&uot;We live here. You don’t find that with the others,&uot; Ivey said.