Pssst, Max ... I'll give you a hint. It's called an antenna.
I know the cable and satellite providers have conspired to make sure you're unaware of this free option, but it should get you 5 or more channels depending on your area.
This is apparently due to the size of a falling raindrop (which is oval in shape) being around the size of a Ku half wave antenna. The old C-band transmissions were not as subject to it, but you did need much larger dishes.
"losing reception in the middle of a storm..." It's called a rain fade - a matter of the physics of RF propagation. Not much of a problem with the old (and large) C-Band systems. More of a problem with Ku-Band systems and even more with the latest Ka-Band systems. A strong rain storm can easily cause a 15dB or more loss in receive signal strength at Ka-Band. Even terrestrial cable providers can suffer from it because their head-ends are often supplied with programming via satellite.
Hmmmm.... Australia seems to be doing pretty well then. Our commercials are terrible too on some channels, but some of the government channels (about 4) don't have much AND have some quite good programmes.
We only have cable in the big cities, but you can get pay services on Satellite anywhere. minimum is about $ 40-50 per month.
"do you get the free digital signals where you are, and are they that bad that you need to get something better"
In Toronto there are I believe 10-12 digital channels depending on how your antenna is set up. The problem is that these are the main broadcasters and is the same as on cable, but without any of the specialty channels which are only broadcast on "cable".
I don't know about the content in Australia, but the Canadian/US channels leave a lot to be desired and the commercials can drive you insane. I have opted to stay with good old analog cable and supplement with Netflix to provide my entertainment with a little Apple TV for more recent content.
@Max: "the only TV service we could receive was via satellite from DIRECTV"
You said in an earlier blog that all your terrestrial TV was digital....I presume then that this does not count? Where I am in regional Australia we have around 20 channels on free digital, yes there are times when we can't find anything but they are few. I would not splash out on Pay TV, though some do - usually the sports-mad or those with kids (for NatGeo, History, etc).
I would like to have the ability to do digital recordings, because one of the problems with the free-to-air is that all the really good programmes (Air Crash Investigations etc) are late, and being able to time shift them would fill in some of the gaps. I can't afford a PVR but I did buy recently a cheap set-top box (digital receiver) that can record to USB, gotta get that set up.
So - my questions - do you get the free digital signals where you are, and are they that bad that you need to get something better (even if more expensive)??