After pulling the plug on Spokane channels, Shaw is listening to its West Kootenay customers and switching back to the southern friend today.
Shaw will spend “several million” on building and connecting Greater Trail, Castlegar, Nelson and Creston to its fibre-optic network, which ultimately means it will have the backbone to support a Spokane signal and expand its services, according to Shaw’s vice president of operations.
Connecting the West Kootenay to Shaw’s fibre optic will enable them to deliver new broadband Internet packages, recently launched in all of its fibre-friendly communities.
The sudden change-of-heart stems from the telecommunications provider recently adjusting its U.S. network feeds in the region –replacing five Spokane-based stations with four from Seattle and one out of Detroit.
The move was made to meet requirements made by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to ensure time zones were matched with stations to have consistent High Definition and Standard Definition feeds in place before Dec. 31 this year.
“The challenge we’ve had in the Kootenays is that we currently acquire our feed by satellite and we were unable to acquire both feeds on satellite,” explained Shaw’s Chris Kucharski Wednesday.
“We have until the end of the year to make that compliant and we made the original decision to move the signals, but, quite frankly, we didn’t anticipate the level or extent from which we heard from our customers.”
Among the locals who made their voices heard was Brent Cantarutti, a 20-year-old university student who is back home in Rossland for the summer.
The history and political science major, not only made a presentation at Warfield council last Wednesday but also connected with MP Alex Atamanenko, local politicians and tweeted with Shaw, the CRTC and the Spokane news channel. He feels the West Kootenay is detached from Seattle, which was the only news feed received via Shaw for the past couple of weeks.
“You’re basically grabbing a lifelong customer,” said Cantarutti, touching on his frustrations with the lack of attention Shaw gave to the switch. “You’re making deals with my age group, that we continue to purchase TV, and I haven’t had an issue with you and now you go and do something like this in the era of customer choice – supposedly right?”
With his great-grandfather settling in the community in 1906, Cantarutti said he’s aware of the historical linkage – from capital flowing from the American city in support of the Rossland mines to a rail connection and even the first local television station came from Spokane.
If historical ties or bang-on weather forecasts weren’t enough to appreciate the Spokane news, economic opportunity was also a reason to complain, according to Warfield council.
“It just doesn’t bother everyday people, it really has an impact on commerce and our relationship with recreation because we do tons of advertising in Spokane,” said village councillor Tom Milne at a regular meeting last week. “Seattle is like another world, they’re not here; they’re not adjacent.”
Just as in the past, Cantarutti sees that the region needs Spokane in order to economically diversify and is pleased to hear Shaw has reconsidered.
“This region, technically isn’t that small, when you think of up until the late ‘80s that it still was a major economic base for the province, you don’t forget that and then treat the people here like they’re are no longer important,” he said, pointing to the “subversive” notice given to West Kootenay Shaw customers. “We aren’t rural – not like you’re living on a farm in Saskatchewan where you have 10 miles in between houses – there are at least 30,000 people living in this area, who don’t deserve to be back-handedly treated.”
He congratulates Shaw for making the right choice but still can’t help but feel someone from higher up cracked the whip.