I went with DirecTV several months ago because I had an HD-Ready TV and at that time there wasn't even a HINT from Cox that they would be offering DTV any time soon. Some of their sales people thought they already DID! What Cox calls "digital cable" has NOTHING to do with "Digital Television" as defined by the ATSC (Advance Television Standards Committee, the folks who defined the U.S. Digital Television standard). It's not High Definition. It's not even 480p (480 line progresssive), which is what FOX is (incorrectly) calling Widescreen High Definition. 480p is considered Standard Definition. No, digital cable is just good old 480i NTSC, TRANSMITTED digitally. Digital cable is more-or-less what you get from DirecTV or Dish. THEY have nothing to do with DTV EITHER, except for the FEW High Definition channels they offer.
But to specifically answer your question, here are the pros and cons of each.
. The picture quality on all channels of DirecTV is better than my regular (analog) cable was. In fact, I still have Basic Cable and the worst looking channels by far are THE LOCAL STATIONS! I looked into digital cable and specifically asked whether I could expect better quality. The answer was "We have 200 channels". In other words, they are promoting CHOICE, not quality.
. I have an antenna in my attic for picking up the local DTV signals, but it doesn't do a great job with the existing analog channels 3, 10, and 12. If it did I would just drop cable TV completely. On ON roof antenna would probably do a great job. Antennas in attics are not good for picking up analog broadcasts, but I didn't have a lot of choice.
. With DSS you will need a box for every TV, and each extra box will cost you $5 per month. On the other hand, it's the same with digital cable, so there's really no advantage here either way. To receive HDTV, you will need to buy a ~$500 HD receiver for DSS. Cable will rent an HD cable box for probably around $10 per month.
. I HEARD somewhere that Cox was planning on rolling out HDTV service locally by the end of the year. For some reason I remember them saying it would be available to 10% of their existing digital cable subscibers by the end of the year, but I am unable to find where I heard or read this. That's 10% of something way less than their full customer case, and I simply have no clue how long it will be before any particular household might be able to get it, especially if you do not subscribe to digital cable now.
. Cox raised my cable bill TWICE this last month, once by $10 and AGAIN by $5 just two weeks later. They will argue that they didn't raise my cable bill by $10 but that they raised my Internet bill, but since they are no longer giving the $10 discount for Basic Cable subscribers, it's a little hard for me to make the distinction.
. On the other hand, DirecTV isn't cheap either. I don't think either has an advantage on price.
. There has been talk for a way long time about local channels being offered on DSS, but that's all it has been is talk, and even if and when they do, it will NOT be in High Def. The ONLY ways you will get local channels in HD is from an antenna or cable.
. There are currently only three HD channels on DirecTV, and two of those are "premium" (extra pay) channels HBO and Cinamax. Only HDNet is free. Dish offers Discovery in HD for an extra fee but does not offer HDNet. I don't know what happens if they merge, but I would HOPE it would mean some extrea capacity and the ability to start offering more HD channels, but I don't know that for a fact.
TODAY, the only choice for getting anything in HD is DirecTV or Dish. And what's there does look spectacular.
Picking up local DTV broadcasts SHOULD be easy for most people. There are no mountains or tall building to cause any problems.
When Cox starts offering DTV over cable, if YOU can get it, I think that will be the way to go. At that point DSS will offer no advantage over cable, asumming cable offers as many channels in HD, which they should.
Here is a link to the HDTV info on Cox' website. I haven't read every line but what I have read seems pretty fair without much of a "slant" or "spin".HDTV information page from Cox