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My mom always told me “If you can’t say anything nice, it’s best to say nothing at all”. Following her advice, I won’t say much about Caribbean TV other than that it’s usually not the right cup of tea for American and UK expats. After a bit of experimentation, we believe we have found the best, most cost-effective solution. You need:

1.Internet access of at least 1MB/sec download speed. You can get that on phone-line ADSL nearly anywhere in Dominica from LIME (the telephone company) at EC$129.95 (US$48.50) per month. You’re required to take it with land-line phone service that you may never use. If you live in Roseau, Portsmouth or Marigot you can add MARPIN cable Internet to your cable TV service. I don’t know that price but believe it’s less.

2.A US or UK streaming private proxy server, available for US$20/month from www.trustedproxies.com. UK citizens must add15% VAT. A proxy allows you to download content as if you were in the US (or UK) – without the proxy, downloads are blocked because of digital rights management (DRM). The service will allow you enough data per month to watch 350 hours of HD movies or TV per month.

3.Netflix. For US$8/per month you can stream movies from the Netflix library. There is a Caribbean Netflix, but the movies are a library subset and all dubbed with Spanish audio.

4. A local cable TV provider. Of the two here, we prefer MARPIN (www.marpin2k4.com) based both on experience and the fact that only MARPIN gives you both HBO and Showtime and reliably PBS. MARPIN costs the equivalent of US$21/month.

5.Optionally, a way to get the content to your TV and stereo. We use an HDMI cable from the PC to TV and an audio cable from PC to stereo. Otherwise you must watch and listen on your PC screen and to your PC’s audio output.

6.Also optionally, a TV receiver card on your PC. That allows you to record TV content from MARPIN* that may conflict with your schedule (even while streaming something else), although often you can see recorded versions of popular programs by streaming them from the station Web sites or Netflix.

* But only from MARPIN, which brings everything to your TV on the cable. The other local TV provider cables into a box that outputs composite video to your TV. The PC’s TV card would need another box (and account with the provider), and that’s if the card accepts composite video and audio input.

That’s it. For only US$49/month (not counting high-speed Internet, which you’d probably get anyway) you get all the good movie channels and access to content you can stream from the Web sites of those channels and Netflix. And for music, you can stream any type you like and play it through your stereo.

We use the proxy server in the Firefox browser. You can also use it with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) or Google Chrome to stream otherwise blocked content. We do other surfing and music streaming through our local Internet Service Provider by simply using either IE or Chrome. We like www.jazz.24.org for example.

I believe this is the model of the future for home entertainment. On the one hand, TV forces you to watch what the broadcaster wants to show when the broadcaster wants to show it, often with commercial interruptions, and in US or UK time, which may be inconvenient for those of us in Dominica on Atlantic Time. And one pays for lots of content one might never care to view.

On the other hand, streaming over the Internet lets us see only what we wish to, whenever we want it, and often without interruption (or the ability to fast-forward though commercials). We’ll take streaming any time. Last night we caught up with the PBS series Downton Abby, which the 2nd local TV provider caused us to miss because of problems it had presenting the PBS signal.

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If you’re an American expat, not only in Dominica, but anywhere, you might find a “comfort zone” in having access to American television programs. It turns out that there’s a way to do it, using the Internet and something called a Sling box. Here’s how it works:

The box is installed at a facility in the US, and you have (pay for) a US subscription to a cable TV service that feeds into the box.

From abroad, you have ability to access an IP audio/video stream from the box to your computer. (You can display you PC screen on your TV and hear the sound on your stereo, if you have the PC outputs, cables and know-how.)

You use software (SlingPlayer) to control your Sling box from your PC. The software essentially turns your PC into a remote and a set-top box.

You can, as with any US cable subscription, choose basic content or premium. There’s also a digital video recorder (DVR) option, which may come in handy if there’s a very significant time difference between the zone where the box is located and where you are.

This is an Internet Protocol (IP) stream, so you must have decent speed Internet service and shouldn’t expect full high-definition (HD) television – reception is sort of like color TV was up until the 1990s. That’s often all right, but a letdown when the broadcaster expects you to be watching in HD and shows things you simply don’t have the screen resolution to view them.

Premium programming always contains music streams, but you can always get those for free over the Internet anyhow.

I’ve found two companies offering Sling box service. They are HABU (Hook a Brother Up) and A to B Television. On the web, respectively, they’re at www.habu.tv and www.a2btv.com. They both offer a free tryout demo of an hour or two and/or extended for-pay demos. You must download and install the SlingPlayer software on your PC, which both companies allow you to do for free.

It’s still cable, which means you get lots of channels you don’t care about for a fixed price and scheduled programs (or you can record them). I think that having what you want when you want it and paying for nothing else using the Internet would be better, but even in the US TV/PC integration is incomplete. And you

can’t stream some content to an outside of the US location – I’ve tried that with Netflix, and even with a virtual private network (VPN) package like AnchorFree running on my PC, Netflix seems to know I’m not in the US and won’t stream a movie to me

And don’t even think about having your own satellite TV dish. (Why not is beyond the scope of this article, but, trust me, it’s not an option.)

So, for now, it’s local cable and fairly low cost or HABU or a2b at their prices (see the web sites) PLUS the US cable subscription price and any pay-per-view offered at considerably more. Your choice and your priorities.

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