If youâ€™re an American expat, not only in Dominica, but anywhere, you might find a â€œcomfort zoneâ€ in having access to American television programs. It turns out that thereâ€™s a way to do it, using the Internet and something called a Sling box. Hereâ€™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. Thereâ€™s also a digital video recorder (DVR) option, which may come in handy if thereâ€™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 shouldnâ€™t expect full high-definition (HD) television â€“ reception is sort of like color TV was up until the 1990s. Thatâ€™s often all right, but a letdown when the broadcaster expects you to be watching in HD and shows things you simply donâ€™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.
Iâ€™ve found two companies offering Sling box service. They are HABU (Hook a Brother Up) and A to B Television. On the web, respectively, theyâ€™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.
Itâ€™s still cable, which means you get lots of channels you donâ€™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
canâ€™t stream some content to an outside of the US location â€“ Iâ€™ve tried that with Netflix, and even with a virtual private network (VPN) package like AnchorFree running on my PC, Netflix seems to know Iâ€™m not in the US and wonâ€™t stream a movie to me
And donâ€™t even think about having your own satellite TV dish. (Why not is beyond the scope of this article, but, trust me, itâ€™s not an option.)
So, for now, itâ€™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.