COOL TIP: A Little-Known, Low-Cost Way to Access Over-The-Air TV

If you enjoy watching over-the-air TV  (CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS) but a digital antenna doesn’t really work for you,  you may have a streaming option.   Check out Locast.  Locast streams network shows and sports programs through a free app . The app allows consumers to get network television streams without a cable or satellite plan.   Locast is an ingenious concept dreamed by a former television regulator who envisioned a nonprofit streaming service.   According to the New York Times, over 700,000 users are signed up in 17 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington.  Locast claims over 1 million subscribers.

If you live in any of the following cities, you should check out Locast’s app:  New York, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Rapid City, San Francisco, Seattle, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Washington DC.   After creating free account on Locast  (you can make an optional donation if you like the service), you will be presented with a “Live TV Guide” menu showing all the local channels and what will be playing over the coming week. The format of the listings is quite similar to what you’d find in a local paper.   Even better, if you have a smart TV or streaming box, you can cast Locast channels to your TV.

Not surprisingly, the networks are suing Locast, claiming it is similar to the ill-fated Aereo live TV streaming service that, starting in 2012, provided a very similar platform. You could sign up for a dollar per day, and get internet-based streaming access to local over-the-air broadcasts. Though the technology used to run Aereo is different from Locast, the result is essentially the same.  However, a big difference is that Locast does not charge viewers to access these redistributed broadcasts. Another big difference is that AT&T is supporting Locast.  (AT&T added the free Locast app to its DirecTV and U-verse receivers. In June 2019, the company announced a $500,000 donation to the organization.)

In December 2019, Locast launched a GoFundMe campaign to get some help with its legal expenses. Since then, it has raised just over $13,000 of its $500,000 goal.  So far, the courts are letting it continue operations pending the outcome of the lawsuits.  The legal process is expected to last a few years.  Until then, feel free to cut the cable cord and welcome Locast into your home.

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