Last week while driving down Saratoga Street I noticed a Direct TV employee up on a ladder drilling a satellite dish onto the side of a home that already had four other dishes hanging off the side of the building.
“Putting up another one?” I asked.
“What’s it to you,” he said a little miffed.
“None of those other dishes work? You can’t tap off one of those?” I asked pointing the array of different size dishes.
“I don’t know,” was his response.
“Let me ask you, why can’t you put the dish on the roof?” I asked.
“It’s an extra charge,” he replied and got back to drilling.
This sparked a little curiosity because I’ve seen all the commercials advertising Direct TV and Dish Network and their promises of ‘Free Installation’.
So I, like most of us East Bostonians, was convinced that because we are a working class neighborhood the companies could care less about the aesthetics here and haphazardly throw their product on the sides of triple-deckers here.
Boy was I right.
First I called Direct TV using my cell phone and pretended to be interested in switching over from Comcast. I told the salesman that I lived in the Back Bay and could not have a dish put on the side of my home due to the historic nature of the neighborhood.
“I will pay extra if I have to but it must be put on the roof,” I offered.
“What is your zip code sir?” Adam asked.
“02116.” I said.
Adam punched the Back Bay zip code into the system and came back and assured me there would be no additional charge to install the satellite dish on the roof of my pretend brownstone.
Now, when I called back five minutes later and got another representative on the phone and gave him the same cover story but this time said I lived in Eastie and my zip code was 02128. I got a different response.
This time, I said I had just completed the historic renovation of the front of my home and wanted to make sure the dish went on the roof. When I asked if there would be an additional charge he went into a detailed explanation of how it was up to the discretion of the technician and that they would not be able to tell until they got there and looked at the house.
He added that there was the possibility of an additional $65 installation fee to install it on the roof.
So in Back Bay there is no problem and no fee but in Eastie, a working class neighborhood that has been made ugly by these dishes mounted on the front of homes on residential streets for all to see, there’s ‘the possibility’ of additional fee.
My conclusion after talking to Direct TV, the technician on Saratoga Street and friends that have dealt with Direct TV is that this company is coming here and right before they hang the dish say ‘gee, it’s going to cost a little extra to put it on the roof but we can just put it on the side of the house for free.”
A simple look at the neighborhood makes it clear most people have taken advantage of the ‘free’ option.
Currently, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules allow local governments, community associations and landlords to enforce restrictions that do not impair the installation, maintenance or use of the satellite dishes. The FCC also allows for restrictions on satellite dish installation needed for safety or historic preservation.
Although the FCC has ruled against putting obstacles in front of installing the dishes, residents believe it’s gotten out of control—especially in Eastie.
Other city councilor’s in other cities, like York City, Penn. have been successful in regulating the placement of small satellite dishes.
“Despite the FCC’s ruling we were able to bar the satellites from the front of houses to preserve the character of the neighborhood,” said Councillor Joe Musso of the York City Council. “We also reached out to local satellite dish installers to encourage them to put the dishes on the top, side or rear of the house.”
An attempt was made to have Direct TV comment on this story but they never responded.