Can I get local channels in my boat if it’s not in the same area as my house?

Let’s say you live in Ohio. And you have a vacation home on the Mississippi river. You have satellite TV at home, and you’ve spent the money to outfit your boat as well. How does this work? Do you get local channels? Is it even legal?

The rules about houses in different locations

If you have DIRECTV satellite at home, you can usually put a dish on your RV or boat and use the same account. But, there are limitations. If you’re using the RV or boat, no one at home can be watching TV. This isn’t usually a problem. If you leave the local area, though, you’ll lose local channels in most cases. Local channels are sent over spot beams which cover smaller portions of the country. As you move away from “home turf” these channels will disappear.

Those folks lucky enough to live in the New York or Los Angeles areas will be able to get major networks all over the country. That’s because those channels are carried on national satellite beams so those without their own locals have an option. However, we’re really only talking about the “big four” networks. Even those New Yorkers and Angelenos will lose their other locals once they get further from their homes.

If you want to get locals that are more appropriate for where you’re staying (like a vacation home) you have options. You can change your service address about every six months. This could let you have local channels at a second location. You can also have two accounts and suspend one at a time, for up to six months. This can be a little easier way to get things done as well.

There’s a loophole, but…

While those spot beams are fairly tightly focused, there are some places where they aren’t “focused enough.” Take a look at this map:

Let’s say you live in Portsmouth, NH, and you have a yacht moored in Atlantic City. This map shows that you should be able to get those NH locals at the yacht.

There are some limitations, though. First of all, you’re still breaking the rules if you have a satellite dish at a second fixed location. In other words, it’s generally ok to have this sort of thing at a yacht, but not at a vacation home. And, depending on certain other factors, it can be an issue having those home locals on a yacht as well.

The other issue is that spot beams are always changing. First of all there’s no guarantee that a spot beam for one area will overlap another area. There’s also no guarantee that the spot beam won’t be tightened at some point. If you’re getting locals somewhere that AT&T thinks you shouldn’t, they’re not going to work to preserve that capability.

Who can help figure out this mess?

Luckily there are people who specialize in just this kind of thing. There’s one company that has done more RV and marine activations than any other. Signal Connect, the corporate and activations arm of Solid Signal, can help you figure out exactly what to expect when you install a marine or mobile satellite dish. We work with installation professionals all over the country. We make the process easy for you! Give Signal Connect a call today at 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below and our professionals will call you back!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.