Battle Zone , correct me if i'm wrong. when we own the box, can't we sub to what ever we like ?
No. Owning the box saves you a lease charge. That's it.
Dish has packages, plus a very few channels available for subscription as additions. That's why BattleZone stated it's cheap to have Dish do the install because of the level of new customer incentives offered. If you take advantage of all the incentives you do have to commit to being a Dish customer for a period to time which you may prefer to avoid.
The reality is that the corporations that each own their own group of channels require Dish, DirecTV, and your favorite cable company to package them preferably along with others so that if I want to subscribe to News Corps FX channel, I also get stuck paying for their SPEED channel and LifeTime's Movie Network.
There aren't a lot of ways to opt out, though you might be able to get an international package and a locals package. But it's highly unlikely if you want some cable HD channels, some local channels, and some international channels that you aren't going to be paying for three packages that include a lot channels you don't want.
Owning a 612 saves you $7 a month, or $84 a year. Generally, it takes three or more years to recover the purchase price which is why many of us here don't recommend buying ViP DVRs. But sometimes you can get one that works for under $200.
We thought you wanted a Classic HD package (one that includes things like cnn, cartoonnetwork , msnbc, foxnews) a locals package, and an international package. You are in California and therefore we thought you really need a Dish 1000+ (or a Dish 500+ with a wing dish if you have line of sight problems) using a DPP44 switch.
We're not trying to discourage the do-it-yourself here. It could be done and there is a chance you could find the equipment used, install it, and avoid a major commitment to Dish.
But commitment or not, you will have to pay something near $80 a month (ignoring the new customer incentives) for the programming packages containing the channels you seem to want.