I understand your reluctance at making 2 year commitment "but". I subscribed to Dish (5+ yrs); then DTV (7 yrs); just went back to Dish. I asked if I could subscribe w/out contract ("Yes, but.") I also looked at price of sateliite dishes & receivers (maybe that helps explain why providers want some commitment from customers.) I subscribed to silver pkg, no HD, no locals: free install; no activation, processing or other fee (by ordering thru Sam's Club); $25 charged to c.c. (to verify active card; it's refunded); 1st yr service at 32.99/mo. (currently silver is 47.99/mo.) Yes, technology changes, but usually, providers don't charge for 'upgrades' (they do for downgrades). As far as 'bad service', the other side to contract is that the company has responsibilities: service failure/s are grounds to terminate a contract (of course you'd need documentation of failures, issues.) So, do the math: My pkg. 12 mos. at 32.99; next 12 mos. at 47.99 (assuming no price increase by then) and no other fees = 971.76 (2 year cost); Flex = 149.00 activation fee, silver is 52.99/month = 2 yr cost of 1,420.76 (or $449 more!) Oh, I did also upgrade my Terk antenna (probaby wasn't necessary, so that was added about $50 to my cost; $50 one time more economically feasible than $5/mo for life, for local channels.)
That said, I did experience mega problems w/install, (unusual), but kept telling myself goal is to get service, so work thru it. (DTV - seemed every month my bill increased. Choice Xtra pkg, similar to Dish Silver, is now up to 61.99/mo.)
Since this is my first post, forum won't allow me to submit this post with the website for flex; dishflextv.
Other 'fine print' for Flex: In addition to $149 activation fee, "upgrade fees apply for select receivers; monthly fees may apply based on type and number of receivers ... All charges, including monthly service, PPV (prior to event) & eqpt. upgrades, must be paid in advance; failure to pay by due date will lead to service disconnection within 24 hours, and a $5 restart fee will apply."
One last suggestion: Whoever you choose, and whatever plan you choose, rather than order thru 800# deal w/a 'local' provider and installer. I ordered, face to face, thru Sam's Club (gives me a live person to deal with); and although installation co. wasn't 'local' installers live in same town, and co. is in same state. Can make a big difference in the service aspect.
I definitely recommend Dish over DTV (and won't even mention cable providers.) But to each his own. Whatever you decide, good luck!