Locast: The Cord Cutter’s Friend

 

Digital television can be both a blessing and a curse. A digital signal is a cleaner, clearer, and more pleasant experience for the consumer. But it is also much more fragile. The slightest interruption in the steady stream of ones and zeroes can make something unwatchable. Where the analog signals of NTSC yesterday slowly faded away with the curvature of the earth into “A,” “B” and “C-grade” signals, digital television signals just fall off the table.

When the conversion was made almost 12 full years ago, those with cable or satellite service never noticed the changeover. For the many millions who relied on over-the-air signals, they quickly became either winners or losers. The winners not only kept their channel lineup but gained dozens of digital subchannels riding piggyback on the main network stations. The losers, especially those who lived in the B-grade areas, ended up subscribing to some kind of service. And in the long run, many of those services became ridiculously expensive.

But now there is an alternative. Created by the Washington DC attorney who helped fight blackout rules, Locast (short for Local Broadcast) is available for almost every platform. Using geolocation to protect copyrights and market exclusivity, it’s now available in 31 markets. And Locast is free. They ask for a modest donation but it is not mandatory. There’s no DVR functionality, it’s just live streaming linear television but it can put all of your local broadcasters on your set or in your pocket.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Interesting. And eminently sensible for the local broadcasters. They get paid for providing eyeballs. The means are irrelevant. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    The medium isn’t really the message after all,  Mr. McLuhan.

    • #1
  2. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Actually I’ve always used a rooftop antenna for local channels, but I’ve been doing it for quite a while so I’ve gotten rather adept at working things out when there are difficulties.

    It wasn’t very difficult in Phoenix because all the stations were relatively close, but that can have complications of its own: most common off-air antennas, especially set-top, are amplified.  But if you’re close the amplification can cause bleed-over and other problems.  So I had to make an effort to find a non-amplified rooftop antenna which was omnidirectional, because the stations were in at least 3 different directions.  Using that setup, I received 95 channels, plus clean, perfect FM stereo.

    My new place is not close to the TV stations, but there is an FM transmitter/tower less than 1 mile away.  It’s not very powerful, but compared to the distance of the TV stations – and some FM stations I wanted to get – I calculated the difference in signal strength to be a factor in the area of something like FOUR MILLION.  (A difference in signal levels of about 66 dB.)

    It took some doing, but I found a tech place on ebay, from Slovakia, that could provide an affordable ($50) “notch” filter capable of dealing with just the nearby FM transmitter while leaving the rest alone.  So I could then amplify as needed to pick up the more distant stations.  So far I’m only getting 57 channels – plus FM stations – but that may improve some more as I get things more finely adjusted.

    Bottom-line best benefits: no cost, not even the cost of internet (and I can receive even if the internet is out); and I get fine FM stereo reception too.

    I’m using a Shakespeare SeaWatch 3019 omnidirectional antenna on a 28-foot mast.

     

    (P.S.  If you have internet, you’re not really a “cord-cutter.”  But I could be.)

     

    • #2
  3. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Here’s how far we’ve come from the old days: when I checked out the site, I thought wait a minute, I can get ABC, NBC, and CBS – for free?

    Because now that feels like you’re pirating something. 

    I assume all the non-network channels are broadcast stations as well? I’ve never heard of half of them. 

    This seems like an in-between period for the tech, with everything fragmented, split between platforms and channels. Olden times: broadcast. You’ll take it and you’ll like it. Then: VCRs blew up passive acceptance of the network schedule. Then: Cable provided scrappy crappy start-up channels that seemed cool, and actually were cool. New world. Then: satellites beam your TV from space to your TiVo, providing you with wide choice and capacious personal libraries. Then: everyone’s fargin’ sick of paying for stations they don’t want. Cut the cord! Assemble your own package from the new streaming services! Then: everyone gets irritated at the number of options, as the various players claw back their content into walled gardens. But: the individual streaming services are remarkable, and have really good stuff. But: you balk at a recurring subscription that covers you in case you want to watch Star Trek. And: you still want network TV, which might require a service like AT&T TV. 

    Bottom line: more options than you could possibly ever see, but higher quality material. I dumped the satellite, have a handful of streaming channels, and my bill is about $40 less. My AppleTV is the portal for TV now, and it’s also a home for music, news, and all sorts of apps that let me drop in on NASA feeds or explore a museum, or access my own not-insubstantial library of movies and TV shows. 

    It’s close to cohering into something, but it’s not there yet. 

    • #3
  4. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Also, Locast is only available in 31 markets.  I’m not in one of them.  Looking at their map, I expect a whole lot of people aren’t covered.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    We are old.  We have very expensive cable service with phone and internet.  Comcast.  So far, their customer service has been very good.  Ray subscribes to a bunch of streaming services, some I’m not even aware of.  We both watch and love SquashTV, especially now that international tournaments are being played again.  Just watched matches from Cairo.  We watch little to no broadcast TV, and we are getting a lot of our news lately from Church Militant.

    • #5
  6. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    EJHill:

    Digital television can be both a blessing and a curse. A digital signal is cleaner, clearer and more pleasant experience for the consumer. But it is also much more fragile. The slightest interruption in the steady stream of ones and zeroes can make something unwatchable. Where the analog signals of NTSC yesterdays slowly faded away with the curvature of the earth into “A,” “B” and “C-grade” signals, digital television signals just fall off the table.

    When the conversion was made almost 12 full years ago those with cable or satellite service never noticed the change over. For the many millions who relied on over-the-air signals they quickly became either winners or losers. The winners not only kept their channel lineup but gained dozens of digital sub channels riding piggyback on the main network stations. The losers, especially those who lived in the B-grade areas, ended up subscribing to some kind of service. And in the long run many of those services became ridiculously expensive.

    But now there is an alternative. Created by the Washington, DC attorney that helped fight blackout rules, Locast (short for Local Broadcast) is available for almost every platform. Using geolocation to protect copyrights and market exclusivity, it’s now available in 31 markets. And Locast is free. They ask for a modest donation but it is not mandatory. There’s no DVR functionality, it’s just live streaming linear television but it can put all of your local broadcasters on your set or in your pocket.

     

    ty. I’ve been meaning to look into this lolcats thing. 

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    EJHill: Digital television can be both a blessing and a curse. A digital signal is cleaner, clearer and more pleasant experience for the consumer. But it is also much more fragile. The slightest interruption in the steady stream of ones and zeroes can make something unwatchable. Where the analog signals of NTSC yesterdays slowly faded away with the curvature of the earth into “A,” “B” and “C-grade” signals, digital television signals just fall off the table.

    It’s the same thing with storms.  When we first got a satellite dish, it was one of those ten-foot C-K band monsters.  During a thunderstorm, the picture would fade a little, but you could still follow the action of a football game.  With the smaller digital dishes, you get a crisp picture, but a storm will totally cut off your viewing until the sky clears somewhat.  It’s also bad because now the weather at the transmission site also comes into play.

    But man, what a beautiful picture!

    • #7
  8. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I am one of those losers. But, in actuality, I think I am a winner. 

    • #8
  9. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    I had Aereo years ago but lawyers shut them down. This sounds like the same idea.

    • #9
  10. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    I have cable for internet only.  I have a massive old-style high-gain antenna in my attic pointed at Atlanta (~30 miles).  I get all the major broadcast networks and multiple independents.  With subchannels, it’s a total of about 40 useful programs.  With a bit of time-shifting help from MythTV, it covers most of the bases in the house.  My girls top off with Hulu+.

    • #10
  11. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    I have cable for internet only. I have a massive old-style high-gain antenna in my attic pointed at Atlanta (~30 miles). I get all the major broadcast networks and multiple independents. With subchannels, it’s a total of about 40 useful programs. With a bit of time-shifting help from MythTV, it covers most of the bases in the house. My girls top off with Hulu+.

    My stations average 50 miles distance or so, and they come from 3 different directions.  I’ve used a rotator in the past (in Phoenix during the analog years I was able to get clear reception of stations from Tucson, over 100 miles away), but newer omnidirectional antennas do a fine job, especially with built-in amplification right at the antenna.

    Right out of the box, the SeaWatch antenna – with an advertised/marketed range of 70 miles – did fine for the most part.  (It can also be put in an attic, but I wanted the altitude here.)  My problem here has been that some of the stations I want to get are lower power: MeTV, H&I, Comet…   And that nearby FM transmitter complicates easy amplification.  If I just boost everything, that FM transmitter can mess things up.  Fortunately it’s at the low end of the FM band, and I don’t need to pick up any other stations near that frequency.  So the “notch” filter is an easy counter-measure.  Once that station is cut down by 20 or 40 dB, I can amplify the rest to bring in the lower-power TV stations.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Vance Richards: I had Aereo years ago but lawyers shut them down. This sounds like the same idea.

    The difference is that Aero was a for-profit enterprise. Locast is not which gives them cover under the latest copyright act.

    • #12
  13. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    And . . . I’m on. I have not seen ABC since I moved a few years ago and I’ll be able to watch local shows on windy days again. 

    • #13
  14. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    And . . . I’m on. I have not seen ABC since I moved a few years ago and I’ll be able to watch local shows on windy days again.

    Just stay off the stairs.

    • #14
  15. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    And . . . I’m on. I have not seen ABC since I moved a few years ago and I’ll be able to watch local shows on windy days again.

    Just stay off the stairs.

    Right, if you trip and fall, someone might make you President!

    • #15
  16. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    EJHill: Digital television can be both a blessing and a curse. A digital signal is cleaner, clearer and more pleasant experience for the consumer. But it is also much more fragile. The slightest interruption in the steady stream of ones and zeroes can make something unwatchable. Where the analog signals of NTSC yesterdays slowly faded away with the curvature of the earth into “A,” “B” and “C-grade” signals, digital television signals just fall off the table.

    It’s the same thing with storms. When we first got a satellite dish, it was one of those ten-foot C-K band monsters. During a thunderstorm, the picture would fade a little, but you could still follow the action of a football game. With the smaller digital dishes, you get a crisp picture, but a storm will totally cut off your viewing until the sky clears somewhat. It’s also bad because now the weather at the transmission site also comes into play.

    But man, what a beautiful picture!

    Broadcast/over-the-air HD is actually a good deal better, because it doesn’t use the compression found in cable and satellite.  That might be especially beneficial for the extra-large screens.

    • #16
  17. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Broadcast/over-the-air HD is actually a good deal better, because it doesn’t use the compression found in cable and satellite. 

    I always said if consumers saw on their screens what we saw in the production truck you’d really be angry at your cable bill.

    • #17
  18. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    EJHill (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Broadcast/over-the-air HD is actually a good deal better, because it doesn’t use the compression found in cable and satellite.

    I always said if consumers saw on their screens what we saw in the production truck you’d really be angry at your cable bill.

    I was fortunately able to pick up a couple ATI HDTV Wonder cards, “TV Tuners,” before FCC-mandated “copy protection” was added.  The down side is that the software, at least at that time, wasn’t very good.  For one thing, it couldn’t pause out commercials.  So I had to just start recording a TV show, and then stop at the end, getting all the commercials too, and I’d wind up with maybe a 6 to 8 gigabyte recording.  But man, were they beautiful!

    • #18
  19. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    kedavis (View Comment):
    before FCC-mandated “copy protection” was added.  The down side is that the software, at least at that time, wasn’t very good.  For one thing, it couldn’t pause out commercials.

    Dude.  MythTV is everything you are wishing for.

    • #19
  20. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    before FCC-mandated “copy protection” was added. The down side is that the software, at least at that time, wasn’t very good. For one thing, it couldn’t pause out commercials.

    Dude. MythTV is everything you are wishing for.

    I looked into it, for some reason I couldn’t use it, at least back then.  Don’t remember why.  I wound up using something called WatchHDTV.

    • #20
  21. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Nice.  Not available in my area though.  My area is accessible only via (poor) cellular coverage, and very expensive satellite dish (with caps and penalties) service.

    I can’t believe I’m alone.  I am, however, in serious “Trump” country, so perhaps it doesn’t matter to most of those in a position to do anything about, or to fix it.

    And yes.  I would like some cheese with my whine.

    • #21
  22. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    She (View Comment):

    Nice. Not available in my area though. My area is accessible only via (poor) cellular coverage, and very expensive satellite dish (with caps and penalties) service.

    I can’t believe I’m alone. I am, however, in serious “Trump” country, so perhaps it doesn’t matter to most of those in a position to do anything about, or to fix it.

    And yes. I would like some cheese with my whine.

    I discussed this with someone last week, on another site.  I used Exede/Viasat in Phoenix, for a few years.  No hard caps, and no penalties.  Hughesnet is not the only option.

    I paid about $70/month, including equipment, but higher speed levels are available.  Probably necessary if you want to use NetFlix etc, but I didn’t.

    • #22
  23. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Also, you can look for local broadcast options at tvfool.com  use the “check your address for free TV” tool.

    • #23
  24. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Nice. Not available in my area though. My area is accessible only via (poor) cellular coverage, and very expensive satellite dish (with caps and penalties) service.

    I can’t believe I’m alone. I am, however, in serious “Trump” country, so perhaps it doesn’t matter to most of those in a position to do anything about, or to fix it.

    And yes. I would like some cheese with my whine.

    I discussed this with someone last week, on another site. I used Exede/Viasat in Phoenix, for a few years. No hard caps, and no penalties. Hughesnet is not the only option.

    Thanks.  I worked my way from WildBlue (which became Exede/Viasat) to Hughesnet a couple of years ago.  Both of them are substandard, in terms of responsivity here.  But Hughesnet was considerably less expensive for about the same level of poor service and speed.

    I’m in an odd space.  Only about 30 miles from Pittsburgh as the crow flies.  However, in order to get from there to here, the crow must fly over and around myriad hills and river valleys.  No “line of sight,” and satellite isn’t all that good either (I have ATT cellular, which is better than the alternatives, but not also great, unless I stick my leg out the window and wave it around while I’m standing halfway up the stairs.)  There’s no DSL, no fiber, no cable.  Again, rather oddly, there’s a pole at the end of my driveway (only about 100 feet from the house) that carries fiber to the local Verizon “central office,” but it’s not something that we plebes can tie into; it’s just for company use.

    The benefits of living out in the sticks, the fun I have on the farm, and the humanity of my neighbors makes the trade-off worth it.  I wouldn’t move closer to better service for all the tea in China.  But I do recognize, on occasion, that I’ve been waiting since the days of President Clinton, for this “universal, broadband, high-speed” internet that I’ve been promised, and which the additional taxes I pay on my phone bill every month are supposed to be enabling.  LOL.

     

     

    • #24
  25. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    She (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Nice. Not available in my area though. My area is accessible only via (poor) cellular coverage, and very expensive satellite dish (with caps and penalties) service.

    I can’t believe I’m alone. I am, however, in serious “Trump” country, so perhaps it doesn’t matter to most of those in a position to do anything about, or to fix it.

    And yes. I would like some cheese with my whine.

    I discussed this with someone last week, on another site. I used Exede/Viasat in Phoenix, for a few years. No hard caps, and no penalties. Hughesnet is not the only option.

    Thanks. I worked my way from WildBlue (which became Exede/Viasat) to Hughesnet a couple of years ago. Both of them are substandard, in terms of responsivity here. But Hughesnet was considerably less expensive for about the same level of poor service and speed.

    I’m in an odd space. Only about 30 miles from Pittsburgh as the crow flies. However, in order to get from there to here, the crow must fly over and around myriad hills and river valleys. No “line of sight,” and satellite isn’t all that good either (I have ATT cellular, which is better than the alternatives, but not also great, unless I stick my leg out the window and wave it around while I’m standing halfway up the stairs.) There’s no DSL, no fiber, no cable. Again, rather oddly, there’s a pole at the end of my driveway (only about 100 feet from the house) that carries fiber to the local Verizon “central office,” but it’s not something that we plebes can tie into; it’s just for company use.

    The benefits of living out in the sticks, the fun I have on the farm, and the humanity of my neighbors makes the trade-off worth it. I wouldn’t move closer to better service for all the tea in China. But I do recognize, on occasion, that I’ve been waiting since the days of President Clinton, for this “universal, broadband, high-speed” internet that I’ve been promised, and which the additional taxes I pay on my phone bill every month are supposed to be enabling. LOL.

    As I recall, Wildblue was part of/affiliated with/something Dish Network, but once they separated it seems they got into some better marketing/packages.  Might be worth giving them a try again.  You are in a higher latitude though, which also makes things more difficult for satellite.  Their service options can also vary by which satellite is more above your area.  I was hearing that they put up a new satellite last year or so, which was more in your area too.  So things may have changed a good deal for you.

    • #25
  26. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Nice. Not available in my area though. My area is accessible only via (poor) cellular coverage, and very expensive satellite dish (with caps and penalties) service.

    I can’t believe I’m alone. I am, however, in serious “Trump” country, so perhaps it doesn’t matter to most of those in a position to do anything about, or to fix it.

    And yes. I would like some cheese with my whine.

    I discussed this with someone last week, on another site. I used Exede/Viasat in Phoenix, for a few years. No hard caps, and no penalties. Hughesnet is not the only option.

    Thanks. I worked my way from WildBlue (which became Exede/Viasat) to Hughesnet a couple of years ago. Both of them are substandard, in terms of responsivity here. But Hughesnet was considerably less expensive for about the same level of poor service and speed.

    I’m in an odd space. Only about 30 miles from Pittsburgh as the crow flies. However, in order to get from there to here, the crow must fly over and around myriad hills and river valleys. No “line of sight,” and satellite isn’t all that good either (I have ATT cellular, which is better than the alternatives, but not also great, unless I stick my leg out the window and wave it around while I’m standing halfway up the stairs.) There’s no DSL, no fiber, no cable. Again, rather oddly, there’s a pole at the end of my driveway (only about 100 feet from the house) that carries fiber to the local Verizon “central office,” but it’s not something that we plebes can tie into; it’s just for company use.

    The benefits of living out in the sticks, the fun I have on the farm, and the humanity of my neighbors makes the trade-off worth it. I wouldn’t move closer to better service for all the tea in China. But I do recognize, on occasion, that I’ve been waiting since the days of President Clinton, for this “universal, broadband, high-speed” internet that I’ve been promised, and which the additional taxes I pay on my phone bill every month are supposed to be enabling. LOL.

    As I recall, Wildblue was part of/affiliated with/something Dish Network, but once they separated it seems they got into some better marketing/packages. Might be worth giving them a try again. You are in a higher latitude though, which also makes things more difficult for satellite. Their service options can also vary by which satellite is more above your area. I was hearing that they put up a new satellite last year or so, which was more in your area too. So things may have changed a good deal for you.

    Yeah.  I was a senior IT manager for 25 or so years, so I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to “seeking out” solutions for something as fundamental as decent Internet access in the 21st Century, no matter where the hell I live.  Frankly, life’s too short.  And it’s not that important to me.  I am simply throwing in my two cents on this thread and pointing out that “Locast” isn’t a solution for everyone.

    IMHO, the “begging for better access” scenario is a bit like the trials that the American public is being put through when it comes to getting the Covid vaccine. 

    I’ll be damned if I’ll get up at 5AM every day to start pressing buttons to see if I can supplicate soon enough, or hard enough, to get on the list at CVS or Walgreens, or Sam’s Club, or Giant Eagle.  

    I. Will. Not.

    Either my doctor’s office will manage the matter or it won’t.  I’m taking notes, and I’ll act accordingly.  Same goes for the rest of my utilities.

    • #26
  27. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Well, making a call to Exede doesn’t seem that demanding or difficult.

    • #27
  28. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Well, making a call to Exede doesn’t seem that demanding or difficult.

    I have no wish to hijack this thread.  So I’ll bid you good evening.

    • #28