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What is Free-To-Air (FTA)?  Is FTA legal?

Free-to-Air (FTA) satellite is just what it sounds like.  The channels are free to the user. There is no monthly programming charge to view them.  

Free-to-air channels are broadcast in either analog or digital signals.  There are hundreds of channels currently "in the clear".  Many of the available channels are international language channels.  Many others are special interest channels broadcast in English.  Take a look at some of the free channels in North America.

American Satellite Distributors offers digital FTA (free-to-air) satellite systems as well as analog.  The digital systems that American Satellite Distributors offers are DVB (Digital Video Broadcast) compliant.  The signal compression method used to transfer the signals from the satellite down to your satellite dish is called MPEG-II. 

FTA systems do not receive package programming.  You must purchase a DirecTV or Dish Network system to receive package programming such as CNN, ESPN and HBO.  Many American Satellite Distributors customers own two satellite systems; one for the hundreds of free channels and the other for special channels on a subscription-based satellite system.

When you purchase a free-to-air satellite system from American Satellite Distributors, you are purchasing equipment certified and licensed by the FCC.  When you view programs with your new FTA system, it is totally ethical and legal.  As long as the equipment is not manipulated in someway from its' intended use, you are totally within the law when you view free programs. 

Conversely, DirecTV, Dish Network, Bell ExpressVu and World TV signals are not free-to-air.  They are scrambled 'pay', or subscription channels.  Some people think that it is acceptable and legal to alter satellite equipment in an attempt to get free access to PAY channels.  Reception of subscription channels without paying for them is at the very least unethical.  Alteration of equipment that is not proprietary to the program provider is definitely a “gray area”.  Alteration of DirecTV, Dish Network or another provider’s proprietary equipment in order to receive free programming is definitely unlawful.  It is an action that is punishable by imprisonment and fines of up to $20,000.  Recently, O.J. Simpson was charged with theft of satellite service and fined the full $20,000.  

Availability of Free-To-Air Channels

Remember this about FTA:  American Satellite Distributors makes no claims on behalf of the program providers.  While the number of free-to-air channels grows every month, some channels go off the air at some point.  They move to other locations or they may just cease to exist.  Our listings reflect what is available to our knowledge on this date.  We try to update it as promptly as possible. However, you can be sure about the current availability of a channel by consulting http://www.lyngsat.com/  

Ku Band and C-Band

Free-to-air satellite signals come in two types, Ku-Band (75cm dish required) and C-Band (at least a 120cm dish required).  Many of the international channels available in North America are broadcast in Ku (pronounced "kay-you") on the Intelsat 5 satellite (formerly called Telstar 5).  But others are available.  See the growing number of Free-to-Air listings.

Ku-Band channels: Ku-Band systems come with a satellite receiver (the box inside the house) and a remote control as well as a dish that points at only one satellite.  If you find that you want to look at more than one Ku-Band satellite, you may purchase a Satellite Dish Motor (it moves to look at many satellites, automatically).  Still, another solution to viewing channels from multiple ku-band satellites is a Toroidal Satellite Dish. Toroidal, combined with a DiSEqC switch makes for quick switching between channels. All of these systems are relatively easy to install, providing you have the right tools and some mechanical ability.

If you find yourself wanting to watch a channel that's broadcast on a C-Band satellite, the DVB 120 includes a 120cm dish that will receive signals from the stronger C-Band satellites.  The DVB 228 receives both C-Band AND Ku-Band channels from many different satellites.



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