Letters & Opinion

TV and broadband delivery update

Television production concept. TV movie panels


Ron Hodgson

Two years ago I wrote about the different routes that a high definition TV signal could take to get to your home viewing screen. For reference I suggest you go to home.imagesandyhill.org and then to April-May 2016, p. 13, in the archives. This was written just about the time that the CRTC had ordered the service providers to offer a $25 basic package along with add-on options. The CRTC had come to the conclusion that the cost of TV home delivery was getting out of hand.

Let’s see where they are today.

The Antenna Approach: Not much change here. I did a quick check of accessible channels using www.TVFool.com and found that using my $25 wall-mounted antenna I am able to get 8 high definition channels from the transmitter antennas at Camp Fortune which is about 16 km away. With a more expensive antenna giving more range another 6 channels are accessible transmitted from an antenna at Herbert Corners south of Greely about 24 miles from Sandy Hill. As these are OTA (Over The Air) broadcasts your only cost is the setup cost of your antenna.

The Service Provider Approach: The major service providers in Sandy Hill (Bell and Rogers) are working at changing their delivery approach from traditional terrestrial, satellite and cable facilities to what is called IPTV (Internet Protocol Television). IPTV includes the delivery of live television, time-shifted TV and Video on Demand.

Almost all homes in Sandy Hill already have a service provider and it’s not that convenient to switch. So whereas both Bell and Rogers offer low introductory prices for the first year of IPTV they don’t apply if you already have service and simply want to upgrade. Both have been busy constructing upgraded networks. For Bell, these upgrades are aimed at bringing their fibre optic facilities closer to your home. Rogers is working on deploying their Ignite high speed digital cable network to their customers. In areas like Sandy Hill, this will be a long term and expensive job since both are pretty locked in to their antiquated system of backyard pole lines for delivery. Rogers has recently announced that their High Speed Internet price will bump up $8 while Bell is adding $5. You can likely expect to see annual increases from both providers.

I have contacted both Bell and Rogers to try to find out if they have any specific rollout plans in our area. Both are non-committal. Bell officially says that “We are continually enhancing and expanding our fibre network to provide customers with the fastest Internet speeds available. As we continue making these investments we will provide updates about the availability of our Fibe services.” The Rogers response is “Rogers is investing in its network, infrastructure and products to ensure customers benefit from the latest services and technology.” Sounds similar doesn’t it?

Over the Top (OTT): OTT is “a media distribution practice that allows a streaming content provider to sell audio, video, and other media services directly to the consumer over the internet via streaming media as a standalone product, thus bypassing service providers that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.” (Wikipedia)

To access streaming media you need to have a high speed Internet connection and Wi-Fi in your home and either a Smart TV or an interface box such as an Apple TV, a Roku Streaming Stick, an Amazon Fire TV or one of several others. You’ll also need a high, preferably unlimited download limit to allow you to watch the amazing variety of shows offered by Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Crave, Britbox and others. These provide a great variety of pre-recorded shows.

For cord-cutters, live TV streaming options are limited but are beginning to be available. For example CBC recently introduced a free live streaming service app that allows you to watch current or past episodes of their programs. For a monthly fee of $5 you can get an ad-free premium version which includes live streaming of the CBC News Network. I have not yet found a Radio-Canada version but surely it can’t be far off. However, for live streaming of most news, reality, sports and current events the service providers are still boss. Bell offers Alt TV for $14.95 a month if you already subscribe to 25 Mbs Bell internet. This is a 30 channel TV service with no subscription or set top box needed.

So overall, some progress is evident over the last two years. Or is it? Despite the huge variety and the beautiful, high- resolution pictures, I sometimes wonder if that flow of continuous news, sports and shows is really worth the hours that we spend each week staring at the screen. Ah, but that’s a philosophical discussion that will require us to turn off the TV and engage in a discourse.