The Latest from Campbell River, Vancouver Island

The following letter was submitted by Campbell River, (Vancouver Island) Community TV Technical Foreman to the Campbell River local paper:

Dear readers;

From reading the papers and listening to folks talk lately, I get the feeling that citizens of Campbell River may have recently developed a false impression about the state of CRTV. I would like to dispel some of the misconceptions people might have about the condition of their cable company.

Through talk shows , press releases and letters, certain people may have inadvertently lead the public to believe that our cable company is not worth anything anymore – and if it still is, ‘woe is us’, it won’t be for long!

This could not be further from the truth. If you acquire a copy of the President’s Report for the last 5 or 6 AGM’s, you will find that a pretty rosy picture was being presented over the years – and justifiably so! In the past few years, we’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to speak of the positives regarding CRTV. How could the picture change so dramatically in such a short period of time?

Why would Shaw offer $3000.00 per subscriber for a cable system? That amount speaks volumes to the value of this cable system! Why would they offer this unprecedented amount?

CRTV is a state of the art cable system. In fact, we are in somewhat better shape than most Shaw systems this size. Our last rebuild took us to 750Mhz with all coaxial actives and passives and to 860Mhz with all fiber actives. Many, many cable systems of various sizes in this country are still at 450 or 550 Mhz and not as ‘fiber rich’ as CRTV. The reason I mention this, is that bandwidth in cable terms is like real estate. The more bandwidth you have, the more services you can deliver. CRTV has the capacity now to deliver a lot of services. Speaking of fiber, we now have 11 (soon 12) nodes and within the next couple of years we will upgrade to fiber right into the neighbourhoods. With new technologies that have recently been perfected, we will be in a position to maximize the use of our existing fiber. We now serve all of SD72 with 100 Mbit internet through fiber as well as several government offices locally. Businesses in the future will request direct fiber connections for their high - speed connections and we will be in a position to provide that.

It’s obvious that CRTV has been upgrading constantly for the last several years. For example, we recently installed a new modem termination system which when fully integrated, will allow us to offer unbelievably high internet speeds as well as other services such as packet video. CRTV has just recently been awarded a license for video on demand, which will give our members access to an unprecedented selection of product. We are constantly adding more digital (over 150 channels) and HD product (20 channels) and judging by the response of our members, it is well accepted. Our technicians are equipped with state of the art network monitoring equipment and are striving to stay up to date with current technology. Our CSR’s in the front office do a great job providing great ‘one on one’ service to our members. They work hard as well, to keep up to date with new technologies to provide better service by being able to answer our member’s enquiries.

Yes, we will have to spend capital on a continuing basis, not only to keep up with competition as has been mentioned by others, but also to provide our members with a varied and increasingly reliable service. But in reality, we are no different than every other cable and telephone company in North America, regardless of size. Everyone will have to spend capital over the next several years to remain competitive. For us, this can be accomplished in a measured fashion with increased revenues resulting from growth and reasonable rate increases. It will be an ongoing process, but one that can be managed.

Sean Smith in the Friday Nov. 02 Mirror, brought up the possibility of Shaw overwiring CRTV. I would like to discuss this subject at length and outline the very serious challenges facing anyone wanting to overwire CRTV.

Firstly, when we hear of companies applying to overbuild systems, they are referring to areas with major population densities. They are looking at going into areas with thousands, to tens of thousand of residences per square mile. In order for Shaw to overwire CRTV from their starting point in Black Creek, they would have to build an enormous amount of plant through very low - density areas. CRTV stretches from Orange Point Road in the north to the end of Seaview Rd. in the south. Our plant was extended as the population areas expanded over a long period of time. If you had to build new plant today to cover that geographic area all at once, you would require very deep pockets. We don’t even have a densely populated downtown that they could reach to make the expenditure worthwhile.

Secondly, CRTV has the advantage of having it’s own aerial strand and underground duct system, something that is unique in BC and probably rare in Canada. Shaw, or any newcomer would have to go onto Telus aerial strand and pay ongoing route footage for that. They would also have to rent underground facilities from Telus or CRTV and pay route footage for that privilege as well.

And last, but most significantly, CRTV has a major advantage in that we already have the subscribers. It’s generally understood that whoever comes along, would have to take those subscribers away in large enough numbers to pay for the capital expenditure in a reasonable number of years. At this point, Shaw has very little to offer in terms of product that CRTV does not have. But more significantly, they are not competitive at all price - wise. They could lower their prices to be more competitive, but there are a couple of problems with that:
1) They could not generate adequate revenue to pay off their huge capital expenditure in a reasonable amount of time.
2) Folks in the Comox Valley and elsewhere would not be too happy to learn that they are paying more for the same services as their Shaw brethren in Campbell River.

I’m not saying that they wouldn’t overbuild. Rather, I’m just pointing out that there is no business case for it. Yes, they could probably overbuild for less than $3000 per subscriber passed. The question is, would they be successful in taking enough subs to justify the expense?

In short, I would like you to take some comfort in the knowledge that CRTV is a very good cable system with potential for growth. We can compete and continue to provide great services at competitive cost to the citizens of Campbell River for many years to come.

Thank you for your time.

Joseph A. Bruneau
CRTV Tech. Foreman