Thursday, June 17, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Wednesday, June 16, 2010)

CityWest prepares to celebrate it's birthday, the Chamber identifies the economy as a major concern and the Nass fishery opens up, some of the highlights of the day's news for Wednesday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
CITYWEST IS DIALING UP THE NEXT CENTURY -- Citywest prepares to celebrate it's 100th birthday with celebrations on June 17th at the 3rd Avenue West offices of the city owned phone and cable provider. The Daily looks back at the history of the company as well as taking a glimpse into the future.

The Gwaii Haanas National Park expansion runs into some delays as the passage through the federal system runs into some party politics on Parliament Hill.

Gerald Kiesman's quest for more awareness of post traumatic stress gets a review from the Wednesday edition of the daily.

The Sports section takes a look at the Prince Rupert Seamen's rugby season thus far as well as a recap of the recent Seafest Soccer tournament held in Port Edward.

(Daily News Archives for Wednesday, June 16, 2010)

CityWest is dialing up the next century 
Heels dragging on park expansion
Walking a path of healing for post traumatic stress 
Bicycles need a good home

The Northern View
Local economy biggest concern of Prince Rupert businesses, according to Chamber of Commerce survey -- A chamber of commerce survey of local business identifies the state of the economy in Prince Rupert as their main concern (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Official Renaming of Haida Gwaii Tomorrow -- The Province makes the renaming of the Queen Charlottes Official tomorrow as a ceremony takes place on Haida Gwaii to enshrine the long used identification of the islands (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Prince Rupert business is thanking an anonymous sumaritan -- A local business which had its front windows damaged by a distraught man in April is partially reimbursed by what is described as a well wisher. (see article here) (CFTK TV 7's Sahar Nassimdoost also provided this video report)  

CFTK TV 7 News
Sockeye Fishery opens on the Nass -- The fishery on the Nass River opens, as DFO begins the process of tracking the projected return of 600,000 sockeye (see article here) CFTK's Kathy Brooks provided this video report  on the story)

CBC News Northern BC, Daybreak North
Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now.

The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story
CityWest is dialing up the next century 
By Monica Lamb-Yorski 
Staff Writer
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 

CityWest is celebrating its centennial on June 17 with cake, coffee, tea and giveaways.

Because the citizens of Prince Rupert are the corporation’s only shareholders, it’s a time to have our cake and eat it too.

 “One hundred years for a company in the scheme of things is not a long time, but what strikes you is the technological advances that have been made,” said Sales and Marketing Manager Chad Cunningham. “If you look back at 1907 and 1909 it was such a different world. There has been a lot of change.”

The first communication link to Prince Rupert from the outside world was through a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway telegraph line in 1907.

By 1909, local business owners formed a telephone company. In 1910, soon after the City was incorporated, City Council passed a motion to purchase the company.

For many years the phone company was housed in City Hall when it was located on Fulton Street.

In 1952, telephone services moved to its present building on Third Ave. West, formerly the provincial government liquor store. At the same time four-digit dialling was implemented.

 “That was on an electronic switch so for the first time we didn’t need operators anymore, you dialed one, two, three, four and went through to the person you were calling,” explained Cunningham.

 A share in the revenues of long distance via B.C. Tel emerged for Citytel in 1962.

 “B.C. Tel at the time had all the trunks connecting in and out of Prince Rupert. We were for the first time able to charge them a fee to terminate the call on our lines here. If a guy in Vancouver was calling you in Prince Rupert, we would get a portion of that because we would carry it basically in our office to your house,” Cunningham said.

By 1976, the CRTC came into effect and established some new rules for long distance revenue sharing that ended up being quite lucrative for the company.

 “For Citytel, the amount of revenue on the first interconnect agreement was a thousand dollars a year in 1962. In 1976, the new agreement was worth six hundred and ninety thousand dollars a year,” explained Cunningham.

 A new 8000-line switch was installed in 1979 and the company launched seven-digit dialing. While it was the end of the ‘red 221’, it would be almost a decade later before party lines were discontinued.

 Even when they took the party lines away in 1988, people were unhappy because they were less expensive. It was an unpopular decision to get rid of them.

A year earlier, the company had installed a digital switch to introduce new calling features.

 “If you look at the company, it was really static from 1909 until 1991. It wasn’t until the 1990s that it started to expand and introduce new products,” Cunningham pointed out.

 Rob Brown, the company’s current CEO, started as an apprentice linesman for Citytel in 1974.

 His first major project was helping to build a 200-pair nineteen-gage copper cable from the Citytel building to Digby Island.

 “The port was building their bulk terminal at the time and the cable went right by McMillan Fish and what used to be Okabe Shipyards,” Brown recalled.

 “It went from there over to Digby. The port was going to take that over so we had to relocate it. We built a whole new pole line out and around the back end of the port, down by submarine over to Digby and then installed all new cable and poles all the way to the airport.”

It was interesting to be an apprentice, he added. “Having the ability to jump right in and do all aspects of telephone line crew. It was huge. A guy today would hardly get that work.”

From a linesman he became a residential installer, and then moved to business installation when new switchboards were developed.

“They used to have a 25 pair or bigger cable to run one phone,” he remembered “It had lights in it and the phone did all kinds of weird things. Then it evolved when I was still doing that to a two wire digital phone. We couldn’t figure it out. We were old school, but then as we saw how it worked it was so neat to see the changes in technology, making things smaller and putting the smarts into the units, rather than in the phone,” Brown explained.

“Today the new switches only need one wire, one phone plugged in and you can have the world,” he added.

One of the biggest advances has been cellular service, first introduced by Citytel in 1993. And at the time it was the smallest company in Canada to offer the service.

There were no cell phones west of Prince George then, recalled Brown. “Telus had a switch there. We did a survey in Prince Rupert and came up with a guesstimate that four hundred customers would take a cell phone. That’s when we were close to 18,000 people here.”

Citytel put in a switch for cellular, and within a year it was at capacity, necessitating a bigger switch.

Two years later, Internet dial up was introduced by the company, followed by high speed in 1998.

 “Back then we were first in a lot of areas. First with high speed Internet and two Meg DSL we launched here in Prince Rupert. We even had Microsoft Corporation from Redmond come and visit us to test a couple of their neat conferencing features they had because we were the only community around that really had that kind of speed over the local network,” Brown said.

 In 2003, the company expanded further, offering long distance to its customers. Seven years later, confirmed Cunningham, 62 percent of the 7,600 phone lines in Prince Rupert access CityWest’s long distance plan.

When the City of Prince Rupert, under the administration of Victor Kumar, challenged Citytel in 2005 to increase its revenue, Brown was Operations Manager under General Manager Bruce Kerr.

According to Brown, because the suggestion was made by the City to start expanding the business beyond Prince Rupert, it was decided to form a separate corporation.

Citytel incorporated, became CityWest, and soon afterwards purchased Monarch Cable.

Cunningham was marketing manager at Monarch at the time and moved over to work with CityWest.

And since incorporation, the company has grown from a $10,000,000 entity, to over $20,000,000, according to Brown.

With expansion comes challenges and one of the biggest has been around cellular service.

As they continue to evolve, the company has been forced to look for a partner and move over from its own platform to theirs.

 “That’s where we’ve run into all these issues and lost control of that platform and depended on a different manufacturer and company. We’re still working on that. It’s probably one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever run into.

 “We couldn’t have afforded to do everything on our own and then integrate with everyone for text messaging and Internet access on your phone. Where it’s headed is just unbelievable,” Brown commented.

CityWest added digital cable Prince Rupert and Terrace in 2007 and recently the company was approved for a licence with the CRTC to provide on-demand Digital TV service in 2011.

For Cunningham this is an interesting week.

 “In the same week we’re celebrating one hundred years and we’re installing our first phone lines in Terrace. Our Kitimat project is still under way. We’re on the verge of launching telephone and digital cable there in the summer or early fall,” he said.

 “I think this whole event for us is about where we’ve come, but also about what we’re going to do next to move ahead,” Cunningham added.

 The centennial celebration takes place between 2:00 and 4 :00 p.m. at CityWest on Third Avenue West and everyone is invited.

No comments: