Dishing on DISH Network

Competition is a good thing, right? Competition fueled the growth of cable and satellite services as each one tries to outdo the other. Unfortunately, at least one lucrative market is a virtual monopoly, and one competitor has been sitting back, getting fat, rich, and lazy. Wanna venture a guess at who's been raking in the dollars, with no incentive to add features, improve customer service, or even provide decent programming options? And do you wanna know what's coming up that's going to scare the pants off them?

Until now, apartment dwellers have been SOL when it comes to satellite service. While the FCC has forbidden outright exclusivity in apartments, landlords have had the final say in the matter. Sure, you can put up a satellite dish, but try it without drilling into a wall or roof. Some lucky folks might have a balcony, but the odds that the balcony is facing the southern satellites, and has an unobstructed sky view, are slim to none.

Here comes DISH Network to the rescue. They've just announced the "DISH Optical Network" that provides "fiber to the home" for multiple subscribers in a dwelling. Programming is delivered via satellite to a base unit that sends out up to 400 HD channels to as many as 128 subscribers, each of whom can have 6 standard single-tuner DISH receivers. The apartment building cable/sat market just got a lot more competitive.

The fine print: the 400 HD channels is optimistic-currently, they only have plans for 100 high-definition channels by the end of 2008. And, DISH will require an equipment investor model that is based on guaranteed subscribers. If your landlord won't let you drill a couple of holes in a wall, what makes you think he's gonna put his neck on the line for DISH? Price is still under wraps, and the technology isn't going to be launched nationwide yet. But in spite of the obstacles, DISH Optical Network is the real deal. Cable better snap out of the cognac and cigar-induced nap and take notice.-Leslie Shapiro