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May 28, 2021

Everyone, not just farmers, can get free HD with an antenna

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It seems everyday I use this space to rant and rave about cable TV costs, how much HD sets me back, the new ways Rogers treats me like a public toilet … blah, blah, blah.

And every time I write about TV, a handful of wise commenters chime in that they’re able to use old-school antennas to pick up signals across the air without the need for a pricey cable or satellite subscription. What is your problem for giving $50, $60, $70 each month to the fat cat telecom companies?

Yet, who is this price-savvy group? They must all be farmers, tilting and tweaking their two-story high, rounded antique dishes toward the sky as cows moo and passing tractors roar by, right? What good is this strategy for the rest of us without twenty acres and a rooster to call our own?

Well, along comes this article.

As it turns out, and as they’ve been telling me all along, anyone can get free, HD-quality TV – as many as 18 hi-def channels if you're near a U.S. border – for the price of about a $55 antenna that’s no taller than you or I.

Because the CRTC requires networks to broadcast locally over the air, anyone can pick up channel signals but, duh, you already knew this. That’s why bunny ears have been around longer than the Blue Jays’ penchant for letting Roy Halladay down.

The real trick people have learned is that, with TV broadcast standards switching to digital by 2011 as mandated by the federal government, regular antennas you’d think could only pick-up standard definition picture can now snag crisp, clean HD signal free of charge to you.

All you need, says the Star, is an antenna (for about $55 at an electronics store) and $8 for a good co-axial cable to connect to your HDTV. That’s it. Spend a few minutes finding the best location in your house/apartment/whatever where the antenna can get the best signal and you can now give serious consideration to dropping your monthly cable bill.

Granted, this method is surely only for casual TV watchers which, I presume, make up most of the market. Diehard couch potatoes probably won’t give this much mind; you’ll have no more PVR, no more On Demand. But, if none of this stuff matters much to you, it might be wise to seriously consider the tradeoffs.

With Rogers, for example, you pay $30 a month for the most basic, 15-channel HD package. That does not include charges for installation or monthly receiver fees.

For nothing each year, you can outperform that 15-channel package in many areas. In, say, the GTA, you could pick up 18 HD channels free of charge with the one-time fee of an antenna. (Check out a breakdown of what channels you can and can’t get with an antenna here.)

Spokespeople from the major TV providers tell the Star they’re not worried about the antenna trend because it has “very little impact on our business.” They think you’ll eventually come crawling back.

But, if - like many - you’re looking to cut back a few dollars here or there, why not at least give them something to sweat about?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...