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Shaw takes ownership of Whistler Cable

Transition expected to take several weeks



By Andrew Mitchell

Shaw Communications formally took over ownership of Whistler Cable on Sunday, Oct. 1, and is hoping to make the transition complete in less than a month.

Peter Bissette, president of Shaw, promised to make the transition as easy and painless as possible for Whistler Cable customers.

“Customers don’t have to do anything,” he said. “We will be notifying each customer and letting them know Shaw is their new provider of services, and there is a conversion process that takes place moving customers from their current billing system to our own. We have our group in Vancouver operating that system, and they’ve already been up to meet the (Whistler Cable) employees there to evaluate the service and service levels.”

The fact that Whistler Cable is relatively advanced in terms of the types of cable and Internet services, compared to most local cable providers, makes the transition relatively easy. By way of comparison, the transition to Shaw on Salt Spring Island took three months as Shaw quadrupled the number of channels offered, rebuilt the delivery system, and launched Internet and Voice Over IP telephony services. Salt Spring now has the same service levels as Victoria.

Bissonnette believes there will be some additional hardware and staff required in Whistler to bring service levels up to Shaw standards, and it will take a few weeks before they can connect the fibre optic line being installed by Bell Canada — Shaw bought 12 strands of fibre from Bell’s Olympic installation — to the Shaw networks in Vancouver.

“That will be our transport to Squamish, Lions Bay and Whistler,” said Bissonnette. All signals we offer in Vancouver we’ll be able to offer in Whistler… making Whistler an extension of the large, urban cable service we’re already offering.”

One thing that Whistler Cable offers that Shaw does not is a wireless Internet service in Whistler Village. Bissonnette says Shaw is looking at how to incorporate that service into its regular operations.

While the Whistler Cable name will exist for a little while longer, new customers will actually be signing up for Shaw services and products. Shaw should be more visible by next week.

“We want to get Shaw trucks going into Whistler next week, on the fast track. We want Shaw visibility in there as soon as possible, in the office, in our products, in signage, etcetera,” said Bissonnette.

The announcement that Shaw was buying out Whistler Cable was made in mid-August. Until then Whistler Cable was the last independent cable provider in Western Canada, following years of acquisitions by Canada’s largest cable companies.

Whistler Cable first went on air in 1981, after the Saperstein family was granted a licence by the CRTC in 1979.

Details of the sale to Shaw were not released.

Shaw will continue to offer community and resort programming, but what that might look like is yet to be determined.

“We’re just at the stage where we’re getting oriented and making sure we have the resources in place,” said Bissonnette. “It’s like buying a car. We’ve got the keys, now we’re checking under the hood, looking at the gas gauge, adjusting the seats, looking at the colour — that’s the stage of the transition we’re in right now.”