Canada's First Digital Broadcaster

'How Dreams Come True'

In the days before satellite delivery of television signals, a small company on the Prairies dreamt of a new way to serve its sparsely populated region. Sky Cable had developed a revolutionary wireless digital technology and had ambitions of becoming an international leader in the field. But the dream was becoming a nightmare. Three times it had applied for CRTC approval, and three times it was turned down.

Enter Bay Consulting Group and Hans Jansen with his vast broadcasting experience. “We had to think outside the box to find a way to persuade the CRTC it had been wrong,” says Hans.

Sky Cable’s applications had relied on their new, but still untested, technology. Bell Canada, fearful of the potential competition from wireless digital services, led the opposition to Sky Cable. Bell persuaded the CRTC that the Sky Cable approach was technically unfeasible, could not work and that it would be foolhardy to approve such a venture.

Hans decided to forget about defending Sky Cable’s new technology and shifted to a consumer-driven approach. There were three types of television audiences, he argued. Those served by cable, those who lived close enough to transmission towers to receive adequate reception from antennae and those who lived too far from the towers and were too expensive to serve by cable. Hans maintained that this last group, comprising thousands of people, was clearly underserved and being discriminated against by the CRTC. “We made an argument Bell could not refute,” he recalls. “And we had the data to support our case.”

He adds: “We forced the regulator to look beyond the status quo of monopolies controlling communications. The evidence was so overwhelming that the dam broke and truly free competition emerged.”

Sky Cable went on to become a leader in the field, although it was soon surpassed by yet another new technology, satellite servers, including Bell’s. However, Sky Cable, now known as SkyWeb, still offers broadband communications such as digital cable and high-speed Internet services in Manitoba, British Columbia, California and Hawaii.