KVH TracVision Local TV Channel Issue
Problems Changing Local TV Channels & Location Codes
Watching my favorite television stations while at anchor has been a goal of mine for many years. The two main obstacles were cost and size. I have a Tartan-37 sailboat named Challenger. As you know there just isn’t much space for a bulky TV antenna dome anywhere on the boat. I already had a radar dome on a 10-foot pole mounted on the stern rail. You may find the same space limitation on your motor boat.
In the spring of 2009 the stars aligned with the following events –KVH now had a small (13.5-inch) dome antenna setup with single-wire installation – the TracVision M1. The price was at least 33% cheaper than the previous cheapest model.
At the same time my pole-mounted radar unit finally broke for the last time. It was a 1991 Apelco that served us for 17 years, with only a few refurbishments. So there was a decision to be made: replace the radar unit or consider buying a KVH TracVision M1 – I decided to get the M1.
I did a lot of searches on the Internet for discussions and installation notes on the Marine Satellite TVs and the TracVision M1 in particular. I couldn’t find any negative information about the M1 and installation seemed pretty easy with a single thin cable for power and signal.
After searching for the best price I settled on purchasing the marine satellite TV system fromhttp://www.anchorexpress.com. The cost was $2,186.99, including shipping (May 2009).
The system arrived the next week. However it was missing one of the little rubber feet. I called Anchor Express and they were very helpful and sent the part out that day.
The big day – installation time! I had a skinny friend help me with the installation because of the possible need to crawl behind the engine to grab the cable coming through the stern. Anyway, I lowered the old radar pole down and removed the four bolts. Then I taped the TracVision M1 installation template to the aluminum base and drilled the four holes being careful to have the back edge of the dome antenna set just right so the cable just passed the edge of the aluminum plate. Four bolts tightened and up goes the pole to vertical position.
We attached the TracVision signal/power cable to the old radar cable and gently pushed/pulled through the existing hole. Luckily we retrieved the cable in the back of the quarterberth. Then fed the cable forward to the outside of the chart table and down in the cabinet and through to the bilge. We snaked the cable forward through the bilge and finally up into the closet just forward of the pilot berth. Then drilled a hole and pulled the cable into the pilot berth area where there is a double shelf with VCR and now a new TracVision M1 receiver.
Years ago we had run 12-volt cables to that area to power a little 12-volt black and white TV. The cables were tied to the Accessory switch on the 12-volt panel back at the chart table. I put the connectors on the 12-volt cables and plugged it into the receiver. Plugged the antenna cable into the receiver and ran the coax from the receiver to the Samsung 37″ LCD TV. Double-checked all the cables and turned on the TV. Then I flipped the accessory switch to turn on the receiver. I started reading the setup instructions preparing for a complicated setup procedure. Within a minute I look up and see the DirecTV channel 100 advertisements.
Now the fun begins. I called DirecTV in an attempt to activate the receiver. DirecTV wanted to know the serial number, access card number, and address/location of the satellite. I told them the whole story about being on the boat and buying a TracVision M1 system. They responded as though I were speaking an unknown language. They were not able to conceive of a satellite receiver on a boat and had no choice in their computer program to select anything other than a room in a house for a location. Ok, the end result is that my boat receiver is now the ‘porch’ receiver. Also note there are at least six numbers that KVH or DirecTV will ask you about at some point, so make sure you have them written down and handy at all times – you’ll need them periodically to reactivate the system.
Here is a list of numbers you’ll need (numbers have been changed to protect me).
Receiver Serial: 093400412
Antenna Serial: 095405498
Access Card: 004560246489
Receiver ID: 000541184219
DirecTV Serial: F05BC8LA09001
Model Number: M10
It took me three times over several days to get the receiver activated by DirecTV. Several calls to KVH support seeing if they could help – not much help. I also had a 60Hz hum coming out of the television and I wondered if this might cause a problem with the receiver or connection to the TV. In the end the hum was not much of a problem and was an issue with the wiring (ground) on the dock. After leaving the dock the hum went away.
Like many support conversations I have had with companies it seemed as though I was the first person in the world to attempt such a setup. Well, as I mentioned, on the third call to DirecTV support and after many requests to SEND THE ACTIVATION SIGNAL AGAIN PLEASE. Suddenly Fox TV was on – life is good… so I thought.
At the time I didn’t think to tune in a local channel. Days later I switched to watch a football game while cleaning and fixing stuff on the boat. No local channels.
I forget whom I called first, KVH or DirecTV but the end result is that obtaining local channels on a sailboat satellite system is one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever encountered.
In the beginning activation of the local channels seemed easy enough. I called KVH and they told me my local channels would come out of Baltimore and the Local Channel Code is 008 which I entered into the receiver. Side note: I already have DirecTV in the house and was adding the boat receiver as a 2nd receiver ($5 per month). I checked this out with DirecTV months earlier since I didn’t want to pay $65 per month for occasional six-month usage. I gave DirecTV the address of the house and they said I would receive the Baltimore channels. The Baltimore channels eventually came up.
Unbeknownst to me KVH and DirecTV assumed the porch receiver would never move!
In July of 2009 I decided to take the boat from Maryland up to Toms River, NJ where I grew up and my mother lives. We got to Cape May and couldn’t receive local channels. So I called DirecTV and they weren’t sure from which market I should receive channels and also mentioned that I would be unable to change local channels. What? They (DirecTV) tried to activate the Philadelphia channels – no luck.
At about the same time I came to understand that I needed to change the Location Code for local channels within the setup of the KVH receiver. I called KVH and they kind of said ‘why would you want to change local channels’? So I explained to them the concept of a cruising sailboat and mentioned that the boat moves from one port to another occasionally and that is why I bought the TracVision M1. They informed me that it is illegal for me to change local channels! I know I’m not supposed to curse while talking to a support person but I couldn’t help it. Note that there is no mention of this on their website or anywhere else. I also tried to find Location Code info on the Internet and at that time there were zero references in Google.
Is there a good solution to this? No! But here’s the finish (so far) to the story:
Ok (thinking as fast as I could on my feet) I said, I have relocated to NJ for an ‘extended’ period of time. I have a new address for the boat (my mother’s house). As in the Wizard of Oz they said something to the effect that that is a horse of a different color. Toms River is about equidistant from NYC and Philadelphia so they gave me Location Code Numbers for both markets (after much yelling and screaming). Note that when talking to DirecTV about Location Codes the phone went silent. Also note that location codes are TOP SECRET to KVH. At the time they would not give me a list of location codes for my area since as far as KVH is concerned there is no need to change them since you aren’t allowed to move your boat from place to place and receive local channels where ever you go.
I called DirecTV and explained that the ‘porch’ receiver has moved to my mother’s address. They said ok. That is the NYC market. I entered the 3-digit code (088) for NYC into the receiver and after a few minutes the NYC local channels came up.
A funny thing happened when I drove back to Maryland for a weekend. I was receiving NYC local channels rather than my Baltimore channels on the house TV. I called DirecTV and they said that that was not possible because the receiver in NJ was receiving a ‘spot beam’ out of NY and the signals would not reach Baltimore and that they only reset the porch receiver. Knowing that any attempt to change my current setup would likely mess up the local channels on the boat I said: ok, I guess you are right and ‘thank you’ and hung up.
I still received NYC local channels on the boat even after taking the boat back to Maryland. I’m curious how far south they would work and was thinking that they possibly set me up with what are called National Channels. However, DirecTV said I was definitely not set up for National Channels since that was for RVs only! I looked into declaring the boat as an RV but the FCC makes you sign in blood and provide a notarized copy of the RV registration in order to get the certificate to send to DirecTV.
During this saga I did some research and found out that marine-based satellite TVs are not allowed to switch local channels — by law. However, recreational vehicles (RVs) are allowed to switch local channels anytime they like and RVs are also able to receive what are called National Channels that come either out of NYC or Los Angeles. This might exemplify corruption in Congress if some Congressman made the RVs exempt from the law. (And maybe, I wonder, he got a donation from the RV industry?)
I expect the FCC to be knocking at my door for posting this list of channel codes:
Local Channel Codes for Designated Market Area (DMA):
Albany, NY 001 Atlanta, GA 004 Baltimore, MD 008 Birmingham, AL 010 Charleston, SC 017 Detroit, MI 036 Fort Myers, FL 044 Hartford, CT 055 Jacksonville, FL 061 Mobile, AL 083 New York City, NY 088 Norfolk, VA 089 Philiadelphia, PA 095 Tampa, FL 126 Traverse City, MI 129 West Palm Beach, FL 137
If you have location codes for your local channels please go to the Contact page on the website and email them to me and I’ll add them to the list. I believe this local channel problem exists for all the TracVision Models working in North America. Dish Network and other mobile satellite TV servers are also under the FCC regulations. See the FCC’s Service Operations for Satellite Television Subscribers publication for further information.
In conclusion: Congress is inept – not taking care of the situation for the boating industry. KVH – you should be ashamed for hiding this Location Code fiasco from your customers and adding to the frustration of changing local tv channels.
Update August 1, 2010: Moved the boat from Maryland to Toms River, NJ for a visit and was surprised to find that I am receiving Baltimore local channels here in NJ. I guess DirecTV must have expanded the spot beam for Baltimore.
Update November 12, 2010: Traveled from Maryland to Stuart, FL. Hooked up Charleston, SC local channels (satellite 72, local channel code 017) after entering S. Carolina and am still receiving local channels for Charleston here in Stuart, FL. I think you only need to figure out the 4 or so local channel cities that would cover from Block Island all the way to Miami. Baltimore and Charleston cover 1/2 of the east coast.
Update for April 20th, 2011: Traveled to Marsh Harbor Abaco Bahamas. KVH told me that the TracVision M1 would not received signals this far out. They were wrong – signal is great even when sailing and in light rain. Also getting local channels from West Palm Beach all perfectly.
Update Spring of 2013… had to sell the boat due to health decline. New owner immediately took the satellite off the boat!!! So that is the end of that 🙁
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