Ottawa (March 19, 2013) Close to 100 Ontario communities have acquired transmission towers formerly used by TVOntario. The towers can be used by the communities to re-establish free over-the-air television services that their residents would otherwise have to obtain via cable or satellite, including TVO and the CBC; as well as highspeed wireless Interenet, community TV or radio, or cell phone service.
APTN, the CBC and TVO decided to stop over-the-air broadcasting in small cities and rural areas during the transition to digital TV, which wrapped up in 2012. The Canadian Association for Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) was concerned about the loss of free TV signals in small communities and saw an opportunity for them to use the equipment broadcasters didn’t want anymore.
"Transmission towers are gold in rural areas and we didn’t want to see them end up in dumpsters," said Catherine Edwards, CACTUS’ spokesperson. "There are still large regions of the country on dial-up Internet and without cell phone service because there are no financial incentives for commercial providers to build their networks to these areas. Even where commercial services are available, rural Canadians may be less able to afford them."
Several CACTUS members offer their communities low-cost rebroadcasting services. For example, the town of Valemount, BC, rebroadcasts six television channels and 3 radio channels for about $40 per household per year, less than 1/10th the cost of basic satellite. One is a community TV channel, airing exclusively home-grown content.
Gord Peters, the Manager of the Valemount channel explained, "Digital transmitters are orders of magnitude cheaper for a small community like ours (we have about 500 households) to offer communications services over the air. Once upon a time, if you wanted to rebroadcast six television services, you needed to buy six analog transmitters to put on your tower. Now you can buy a single digital transmitter and multiplex 8 or 10 television services, or highspeed wireless Internet. The most expensive part was the tower. As a community, we’re reinvesting money that would otherwise flow out of our community to cable and satellite providers in home-grown content and jobs."
TVO wrote to approximately 200 communities in Ontario where the educational broadcaster planned to decommission towers in the spring of 2012 to offer the towers to communities rather than dismantle them. Almost half of the communities accepted. Edwards concluded, "We were delighted at TVO’s public-minded thinking. The pubcaster saw the potential of the towers to communities and acted."
Under a two-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, CACTUS will be able to work with the communities who got TVO towers to explore the opportunity.
Contact: Catherine Edwards (819) 772-2862