EATV may reduce cable choices to cut costs

Iqaluit’s cable television operator is thinking of reducing channel package choices available to consumers.



IQALUIT — Some Iqaluit residents may soon pay higher prices for less choice in their cable television service.

Eastern Arctic TV Ltd. is considering cutting costs by reducing the number of channels it makes available to subscribers.

ACL, which now enjoys a CRTC-granted monopoly on cable television services in Nunavut, bought EATV from Iqaluit businessman Dave Fox two years ago.

EATV is now considering a system used in other Nunavut communities, where only one cable package made up of about 30 channels is offered for about $55 a month, said Terry Thompson, the manager of management services for Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., the owner of Eastern Arctic T.V. Ltd.

While the change is being considered, it is not a certainty.

“We are looking at changing the line-up, but we have not done anything to look at how we would do that and what the price might be,” Thompson said.

Thompson stressed no final decision has been made, but rumours of a major change taking place next month are already circulating throughout Iqaluit.

Iqaluit resident Taylor Parkhill said a neighbour who works at the cable company told him that come January, only one cable package at a cost of $70 a month would be available.

Parkhill previously worked for an affiliated company, the Toonoonik Hotel in Iqaluit. He said he doesn’t like Toonoonik Sahoonik, but his beef about the rumoured reduction in packages is valid.

“I’d still think it’s crazy not to have another option,” Parkhill said.

ACL currently offers three cable packages to Iqaluit subscribers. The basic 24 channel package costs $34 a month, the mid-range package is $54.50 a month for 33 channels, and the top package at $74 a month provides 55 channels.

Thompson said a $70 fee would be too expensive and is not an option. “You’d be shot on sight,” he said, adding any changes would only be made after consultation

“I would never do something like that without having some kind of consultation,” Thompson said, adding any change would have to be made “very, very carefully.”

When contacted, a manager at EATV would not comment on any package changes, because it has not “been approved yet.”

She said some customers may have been told the new system was going to start in January, but she restated “it hasn’t been approved yet by the head office in Winnipeg.”

Thompson said it will take a great deal of planning and thought before a restructuring of channel packages goes through.

And he said if customers don’t want the current line-up of channels changed, it won’t happen. “It may be that nothing can be done,” Thompson said.

Eastern Arctic is considering the change in an effort to reduce costs. The cable company is charged more by signal providers if a channel is only available on extended cable packaged.

The idea, Thompson said, would be to increase the number of channels offered on the basic package. Such a change would allow the cable company to cut the fees it pays to signal providers, and give consumers more channels for less money.

“The objective would be to provide the best package at a more economical cost,” Thompson said.

But such a change would also mean charging more than $34 for a beefed-up basic package, but less than the current $74 fee for a full extended package.

The ideal, Thompson said, would be to have one basic package. But he said a second extended package may be necessary depending upon subscribers demands.

In the new year, Thompson plans to send out questionnaires to find out which channels are most popular and which could be dropped without angering subscribers.

Eastern Arctic TV currently has about 1,000 subscribers in Iqaluit. There are about 1,200 potential cable subscribers in Iqaluit, according to CRTC records.

As a Class 3 cable company, EATV does not need approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to change its rates, said Denis Carmel, a media relations officer for the CRTC.

It’s licence, as well as licences held by a number of other ACL cable companies in Nunavut are up for renewal.

The CRTC is asking for anyone with who opposes the application to write to their offices.

If complaints are received, a public hearing into the licence renewal application may be held, Carmel said.

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