Community Distribution is Less Expensive than the Alternatives

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A Cost-Benefit Analysis:

An average of 10% of Canadians rely on free over-the-air television. This percentage tends to be higher in rural communities, especially in economically repressed areas. According to the CRTC, the average cable and satellite bill in 2009 was $49, or just under $600 for the year.

This means that if a given community finds that it is about to lose one or more over-the-air TV services, it may be cheaper for the community as a whole to explore a rebroadcasting or cablecasting solution than for 10% of that community to be forced onto cable or satellite.

For example, London, Ontario, Saskatoon, and Saint John are slated to lose access to the CBC over the air on August 31st of this year, the date of the digital transition. Most other communities with populations under 300,000 are slated to lose free CBC over the air by 2014.

According to Statistics Canada, there are an average of 2.5 persons per Canadian household. Therefore London has roughly 200,000 households, or about 20,000 households that rely on free over-the-air TV, who will lose access to the CBC. Those 20,000 households would have to pay 20,000 x $600 per year on average for a satellite or cable service to access the CBC, or $12,000,000. With twelve million dollars, Londoners could pay not only for their own transmission tower, a high-definition transmitter for the CBC, but also several community-access TV studios around the city and a staff of dozens! This amount of money could pay for free Wifi city-wide (like the City of Fredericton) and other services too.

But what about a smaller community? Valemount B.C., which has 1400 residents, offers its community 6 over-the-air TV channels, 3 radio channels, and a community-access TV studio staffed by 1 person, all for $70,000 per year, which translates into about $40 per household per year, less than a 10th the cost of a satellite subscription. Those are maintenance costs. The cost the first year to establish the transmission or cablecasting infrastructure may be higher, but the yearly savings are so great that such facilities can usually be paid off relatively quickly.