ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 96-223

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Ottawa, 13 June 1996
Decision CRTC 96-223
Câblevision Gatineauval inc.
La Pêche and Hull-West (including parts of Wakefield, Farm Point and Chelsea) Quebec - 952717700 - 952718500
Short-term Licence Renewal - Extension of Service Area Denied
Following a Public Hearing in the National Capital Region beginning on 15 April 1996, the Commission renews the Class 2 (fewer than 2,000 subscribers) licence held by Câblevision Gatineauval inc., for the cable distribution undertaking serving the above-mentioned communities, from 1 September 1996 to 28 February 1998. This short renewal term will enable the Commission to verify whether the licensee has completed improvements aimed at enhancing the quality of the signal received by subscribers and customer service.
With the exception of the requirements stipulated in section 23 of the Cable Television Regulations, 1986 (the regulations), the operation of this undertaking is regulated pursuant to Parts I, III and IV of the regulations and the licence will be subject to the conditions in effect under the current licence as well as to those conditions specified in the licence to be issued.
For the reasons set out below, the Commission denies the application by the licensee to extend the licensed service area of the undertaking to include a part of the Edelweiss Valley, comprising some 460 homes.
In Decision CRTC 92-746 dated 26 October 1992, the Commission renewed the licence of this undertaking for a two-year term, expiring 31 August 1995, owing, in particular, to interventions and complaints regarding the quality of signal reception and customer service. The Commission subsequently granted an administrative licence renewal until 31 August 1996.
During the current licence term, the Commission has continued to receive complaints from subscribers of this undertaking, which now has about 550 subscribers. The complaints relate to, among other things, delays in receiving service, frequent service outages, the poor quality of the signal received by subscribers, the list of signals provided, and customer service. In September 1995, the Commission asked the Department of Industry to conduct a technical evaluation of the licensee's facilities. The Department noted several serious deficiencies relating to maintenance of the facilities, which have caused a general degradation of all channels. In the circumstances and in view of the many complaints, the Commission called the licensee to appear at the 15 April 1996 hearing to discuss the reasons why the licence of this undertaking should be renewed and, if necessary, to consider alternate means of serving the residents of this area.
Following the release of the notice of public hearing, the Commission received eight interventions from subscribers, one of which contained ten signatures, and another, seven signatures. Owing to poor overall service quality, the interveners opposed the licence renewal or asked that the licence be renewed for a short term or made subject to specific conditions.
At the hearing, the licensee stated that its undertaking is located in a region plagued by frequent electrical outages and malfunctions caused by lightning and tornadoes. The licensee argued that many of the technical problems cited in the interveners' complaints were, therefore, beyond its control. It indicated that recent changes in technology, such as the introduction of digital video compression, also caused numerous problems in adaptation.
The licensee also mentioned the measures it had taken to improve its signal quality following the September 1995 report by the Department of Industry in which deficiencies were noted. In fall 1995, a technical specialist readjusted the antenna sites. Since early 1996, the licensee has employed a full-time technician. In addition, the licensee installed new equipment that is more resistant to electrical outages, and is continuing improvements to the head end. The licensee estimates that the changes required to improve its signal are about 80% finished and should be completed within a few weeks after the public hearing.
On 9 April 1996, the Department of Industry conducted a second evaluation of the quality of the undertaking's signal received by subscribers. Although there was an overall improvement in image and sound quality, the report noted that corrective measures at the head end have not been completed and that the undertaking's video signal quality is not yet reliable and consistent. The report recommends that the Broadcasting Certificate be renewed for a short term.
With regard to the complaints about customer service, the licensee mentioned the improvements it had made to enable subscribers to contact the customer service office more easily and to expedite its response to service calls during office hours as well as after business hours and during weekends. In addition, the community channel displays the telephone numbers for customers to call as well as a list of the signals currently distributed. The licensee also plans to conduct subscriber surveys to ensure that programming meets customer expectations.
Having reviewed all the relevant facts in this application, the Commission considers that a licence renewal is justified. Plant improvements have enhanced signal quality, and steps have been taken to improve customer service and response to complaints. However, because some deficiencies persisted and improvements were not yet completed as of the public hearing, the Commission has decided to renew the licence for a term of only 18 months.
Further, the Commission is not prepared to authorize the licensee to extend its licensed area and serve new subscribers until it has demonstrated that it can provide satisfactory service to its existing subscribers. The Commission will examine the licensee's progress at the time of its next licence renewal, either in the summer or the fall of 1997, to verify that the licensee has taken all measures required to carry on its undertaking in compliance with existing standards.
 The Commission notes the comments in the written interventions filed by Radio Nord inc. and Laurentien Câble TV inc., as well as the licensee's replies thereto at the public hearing.
 This decision is to be appended to the licence.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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