Friday, September 21, 2007

Quebecor chief takes aim at Big 3 cellular networks

Sep 21, 2007 04:30 AM
Chris Sorensen
Business Reporter

The war of words between the country's three big cellphone companies and would-be competitors continued yesterday as Quebecor Inc. CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau accused the industry's incumbents of stifling competition and innovation in the key wireless sector.

Péladeau, who is hoping to convince Ottawa to set aside wireless spectrum for new competitors in an upcoming federal auction, accused the industry's three major players – Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. – of maintaining a "stranglehold" on wireless competition and customers' wallets.

"This stranglehold on competition leads us not only to higher prices," said Péladeau, who spoke at a luncheon in Toronto hosted by the Empire Club. "It leads to less services and less innovation. Where Canada once led the world in wireless, we now lag behind."

Montreal-based Quebecor is hoping to add a wireless network to its publishing, printing and cable TV businesses, saying it believes the future of all media is in wireless applications. Péladeau says the firm intends to build a network, possibly even on a national basis, if it is successful in securing the necessary spectrum at an upcoming auction.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice said earlier this week that the government will move ahead with its spectrum auction, but did not say what the rules for the process would be.

Quebecor and other potential wireless competitors, such as MTS Allstream Inc., want spectrum to be put aside for new entrants, arguing an open auction would allow the deep-pocketed incumbent carriers to pay vast amounts for spectrum to block others from entering the market.

Executives from all three of the incumbents were present at yesterday's event and were quick to take issue with Péladeau's comments.

"No matter how they try to slice it, they want subsidies from the federal government and their competitors to get into the business," said Ken Engelhart, vice-president of regulatory affairs for Rogers, the country's largest wireless operator.

While Engelhart acknowledged Rogers did not pay up-front for spectrum when it started in the business two decades ago, he also noted that the cable company lost "billions and billions" trying to develop what has only recently become a profitable industry. "And now they're coming along when the market is finally profitable ... and saying, `We should get subsidies to help us get into this business'?"

Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility, said the company isn't opposed to more competition as long as there is a "level playing field."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Break Bell-Telus-Rogers wireless 'stranglehold,' Quebecor CEO urges Ottawa

TORONTO - The federal government must quickly end the "stranglehold" that Canada's three big wireless telecommunications operators have, says Pierre Karl Peladeau, the president and chief executive of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B)

Peladeau continued his campaign to open it for new competition, including from a wireless services that Quebecor Media would like to launch, during a speech Thursday at the Empire Club in downtown Toronto..

He said Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B), BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) and Telus Inc. (TSX:T) said "have a stranglehold on the market."

He called on the Industry department in Ottawa to quickly set the rules and date for its planned auction of radio frequency spectrum that will be used for mobile services.

Quebecor, which currently doesn't have its own wireless network, and Winnipeg-based MTS Allstream, which has only a regional wireless network in Manitoba, have been calling on the federal government to ensure some of the new spectrum licences go to new players.

The big three wireless networks, however, counter that all companies bidding on wireless spectrum should be treated equally - which many observers suggest would be an advantage to them since they already have their national networks in place.

Peladeau brought a weapon to his speech, the much sought-after Apple iPhone, which he brandished to the lunch-time audience at the elegant Royal York hotel.

"It's a small taste of the true potential of the wireless future, but - like you - I have not had a chance to actually use an iPhone," Peladeau said as he briefly waved around the shiny pocket-sized mobile entertainment device.

"Americans can pay about $60 a month to use the iPhone. In Canada, this same phone will likely cost between $260 to $879 a month."

Apple's phone is currently being offered only in the United States and only through one U.S. carrier. Rogers, which is the only Canadian carrier with a GPS network that's compatible with the iPhone, has said it's interested in the device but hasn't announced it will carry it.

Sales of the iPhone beat expectations when it first became available in the United State in late June. This week Apple Inc. announced that the phone would be unveiled in the U.K. and Germany in November, while France Telecom's Orange has said it will carry the product at the same time.

Peladeau accused the big three players of denying Canadians lower prices and more innovation, linking the development of the national wireless industry to "the monopoly on the old telephone."

"Canada once led the world in telecommunications services and with the right competitive environment we can do so again," he declared. "Better prices, better services, and better technology will give Canadian consumers a break and will allow our businesses to compete.

Peladeau said Quebecor Media - owner of Quebec cable-TV operator Videotron, the Sun Media newspaper group and French-language television network TVA and other media businesses - is ready to invest heavily in an advanced mobile network if it can be assured a level playing field against the established players.

But the chief executive stopped short of comfirming any intentions to make Quebecor a national competitor for wireless consumers.

"At this stage we don't have the capacity to allow our own judgement. We'll wait until the rules are known and Industry Canada releases what will be the process to the auction," he said in question session afterwards.

"From there we will advise."

Quebecor has more than enough money to enter the spectrum race without any government help suggested Michael Hennessy, vice-president of Telus' broadband and video policy.

"Nobody can stop him from being in the market today by buying up all the spectrum, he said.

He said the real issue is: why does Quebecor need government favours while at the same time asking to get rid of federal regulations.

On Wednesday, Quebecor announced that newspaper executive Michael Sifton would step into the role of president and CEO of Sun Media Corp., which Quebecor Media Inc. owns.

Peladeau wouldn't confirm whether the move could signal future layoffs at Sun Media, which has cut jobs in recent years.

"Mike is fully responsible of running Sun Media. At this stage there is no such plan because he is coming into the business. From there we'll see what's going to happen."
Break Bell-Telus-Rogers wireless 'stranglehold,' Quebecor CEO urges Ottawa

TORONTO - The federal government must quickly end the "stranglehold" that Canada's three big wireless telecommunications operators have, says Pierre Karl Peladeau, the president and chief executive of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B)

Peladeau continued his campaign to open it for new competition, including from a wireless services that Quebecor Media would like to launch, during a speech Thursday at the Empire Club in downtown Toronto..

He said Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B), BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) and Telus Inc. (TSX:T) said "have a stranglehold on the market."

He called on the Industry department in Ottawa to quickly set the rules and date for its planned auction of radio frequency spectrum that will be used for mobile services.

Quebecor, which currently doesn't have its own wireless network, and Winnipeg-based MTS Allstream, which has only a regional wireless network in Manitoba, have been calling on the federal government to ensure some of the new spectrum licences go to new players.

The big three wireless networks, however, counter that all companies bidding on wireless spectrum should be treated equally - which many observers suggest would be an advantage to them since they already have their national networks in place.

Peladeau brought a weapon to his speech, the much sought-after Apple iPhone, which he brandished to the lunch-time audience at the elegant Royal York hotel.

"It's a small taste of the true potential of the wireless future, but - like you - I have not had a chance to actually use an iPhone," Peladeau said as he briefly waved around the shiny pocket-sized mobile entertainment device.

"Americans can pay about $60 a month to use the iPhone. In Canada, this same phone will likely cost between $260 to $879 a month."

Apple's phone is currently being offered only in the United States and only through one U.S. carrier. Rogers, which is the only Canadian carrier with a GPS network that's compatible with the iPhone, has said it's interested in the device but hasn't announced it will carry it.

Sales of the iPhone beat expectations when it first became available in the United State in late June. This week Apple Inc. announced that the phone would be unveiled in the U.K. and Germany in November, while France Telecom's Orange has said it will carry the product at the same time.

Peladeau accused the big three players of denying Canadians lower prices and more innovation, linking the development of the national wireless industry to "the monopoly on the old telephone."

"Canada once led the world in telecommunications services and with the right competitive environment we can do so again," he declared. "Better prices, better services, and better technology will give Canadian consumers a break and will allow our businesses to compete.

Peladeau said Quebecor Media - owner of Quebec cable-TV operator Videotron, the Sun Media newspaper group and French-language television network TVA and other media businesses - is ready to invest heavily in an advanced mobile network if it can be assured a level playing field against the established players.

But the chief executive stopped short of comfirming any intentions to make Quebecor a national competitor for wireless consumers.

"At this stage we don't have the capacity to allow our own judgement. We'll wait until the rules are known and Industry Canada releases what will be the process to the auction," he said in question session afterwards.

"From there we will advise."

Quebecor has more than enough money to enter the spectrum race without any government help suggested Michael Hennessy, vice-president of Telus' broadband and video policy.

"Nobody can stop him from being in the market today by buying up all the spectrum, he said.

He said the real issue is: why does Quebecor need government favours while at the same time asking to get rid of federal regulations.

On Wednesday, Quebecor announced that newspaper executive Michael Sifton would step into the role of president and CEO of Sun Media Corp., which Quebecor Media Inc. owns.

Peladeau wouldn't confirm whether the move could signal future layoffs at Sun Media, which has cut jobs in recent years.

"Mike is fully responsible of running Sun Media. At this stage there is no such plan because he is coming into the business. From there we'll see what's going to happen."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Hal Fishman 1931-2007

Legendary KTLA Anchorman Hal Fishman, the longest-running anchor in television history, and a presence in Los Angeles broadcasting for nearly five decades that many in the city grew up knowing and trusting, has died at the age of 75. Hal's strong connection with Southern Californians, along with his journalistic integrity, made him one of the brightest stars in KTLA's 60-year history.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Aging Ontario bridges at risk, engineer says

Toronto's venerable bridges

There are 530 bridges under City of Toronto control, with many of the major ones having long ago passed the half-century mark.

Some of the oldest and largest include:

The Prince Edward Viaduct , which was opened in 1918.

The Leaside Bridge, opened in 1927.

The Queen St. Bridge opened in 1911.

All of these structures span the Don River and its valley and all are in the process of or have recently undergone major rehabilitations.

The elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway was built between 1955 and 1966 and underwent an extensive rehabilitation program over the past decade.

Despite this, a basketball-sized chunk of the structure plummeted on the roadway near Lake Shore Blvd. and York St. in January, narrowly missing a car.

John Bryson, manager of structures and expressways for the city, said at the time the roadway was safe and in no danger of collapse.

In the wake of a deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis, a top Ontario engineer says many bridges in this province are reaching the end of their intended lifespan and need significant maintenance funding to avoid a similar catastrophe here.

"It's likely we will see more tragedies if we don't make sure that we spend enough money to maintain the infrastructure," said Ghani Razaqpur, chair of the civil engineering department at McMaster University.

The official death count from Wednesday's rush-hour collapse stood at four yesterday, with 79 injuries. But more bodies had been spotted in the water and as many as 30 people still reported missing.

Federal highway officials in Washington yesterday alerted states to immediately inspect all of the 700 bridges across the country that have a design similar to the collapsed Minnesota structure, which was built in 1967.

Razaqpur emphasized that the state of the province's bridges is currently satisfactory. But he pointed out that many were built in the 1960s with a "design life" of 50 years.

"That doesn't mean they're going to fall. That means they will require heavy maintenance to keep them going," said Razaqpur, who is past president of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, as well as director of McMaster's Centre for Effective Design of Structures.

There are approximately 2,800 bridges under provincial jurisdiction in Ontario.

Municipalities have responsibility for approximately 13,000 bridges and large culverts. There are 530 bridges under the city of Toronto's control.

Maintaining bridges is more than just a question of spending money, Razaqpur said. He called for changes in the way bridges are inspected. Inspections are largely visually based and more high-tech techniques should be employed, he argued.

"You can go to a bridge and look at it ... but you wouldn't be able to detect all the flaws this way," he said. "That's where some of these unfortunate collapses occur."

There should be more inspections using ground-penetrating radar, which lets you see if the supporting rebar inside the concrete is damaged, he said, explaining that this technology could have helped prevent the collapse of a bridge in Montreal last fall.

It's possible that X-ray technology used in the aircraft industry to assess metal fatigue could be adapted to steel bridges, Razaqpur continued, adding that technologies could also be borrowed from the health sector.

"All of these are trying to see something that's not visible to the naked eye," he said.

According to information provided by the province's transportation ministry, the province conducts visual inspections of its bridges annually.

The province does some "non-destructive" testing such as ultrasound to determine the condition of concrete and steel.

Ministry officials say bridges older than 25 years are visually inspected every five years by engineers trained to spot structural fatigue. These inspectors will then recommend which areas of the bridges receive ultrasound scans. The province also does "destructive testing" by removing core samples from bridges to assess the condition of concrete and steel.

Again performed mainly on bridges older than 25 years, these tests occur every five to 10 years, depending on recommendations made during visual inspections conducted by engineers every two years.

Steel bridges are tested for steel fatigue every five years.

Joe Tiernay, executive director of the Ontario Good Roads Association, said he's satisfied with the condition of bridges in the province.

"We're quite confident that the bridges in Ontario are safe," he said. "Municipalities would close bridges if it came to the point that they ever felt they were unsafe," he added.

Tiernay noted that municipalities are required to inspect their bridges every two years, but he did not have details of the municipal inspection process readily available.

He questioned whether municipalities could afford to pay for more high-tech bridge inspections.

"I'm sure that X-ray technology would certainly be an improvement if it was available. But at what cost? Municipalities are struggling right now to find adequate funding to maintain the infrastructure they have," he said.

The City of Laval, the scene of two fatal overpass collapses in the last five years, dispatched a pair of safety experts to Minneapolis to lend a hand to local officials, and to study the way American authorities handle the investigation, the Star's Sean Gordon reports.

A public inquiry into the most recent collapse – which killed five and injured six in Laval last September – is ongoing.

On Tuesday the City of Montreal identified nine overpasses and bridges that will be put under increased scrutiny.

In the wake of Wednesday's events, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay closed one of the structures to heavy truck traffic, and said the Minnesota catastrophe should prompt all governments to review their inspection and upkeep practices for bridges and overpasses.


With files from Joseph Hall and Associated Press

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Black bears becoming bolder
CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/CP

Up-close encounters with humans in cottage country have resort owners on edge
Curtis Rush
Staff Reporter
Black bear encounters with humans in Central Ontario have exploded this summer, according to resort owners and Ministry of Natural Resources statistics.

Bears have been seen wandering dangerously close to downtown areas in Bracebridge, Peterborough, public parks and upscale Muskoka resorts filled with guests.

In the past few weeks, the Ontario Provincial Police in Bracebridge has had to shoot at least two bears that turned aggressive or became a threat.

Bear sightings close to Bracebridge Public School forced school officials to close outdoor recess for the final two days of classes, the Bracebridge Examiner reported.

At the Wigamog Inn Resort in Haliburton last week, kids playing dodge ball at the camp had to be locked in the outdoor tennis courts until a bear was scared off, leaving both parents and kids frightened.

Resorts from Clevelands House in Minett, Ont., to Cranberry Marsh Cove Resort in Bala, 20 minutes to the south, to the Delta Sherwood Inn in Port Carling have had brushes with bears.

Resort owners fear that the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in 1999 has led to the increase in the bear population.

The Ministry of Natural Resources disputes this notion, saying on its website, www.bears.mnr.gov.on.ca, that the bear population could have increased as much as 7.5 per cent per year since the cancellation of the spring hunt , but it's "extremely unlikely."
Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources, says the bear population has remained consistent in Ontario with anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 bears, although certain areas seem to be experienced an increase in occurences.

Bear occurrences in the Parry Sound area have exploded this year, with 694 occurrences as of July 8 compared to 251 at the same time last year, according to numbers by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Sudbury tops the list at 963 occurrences followed by Parry Sound and Timmins with 437 occurrences.

(An occurrence is registered when ministry have to take follow-up action following a call. To date, there has been only one bear attack reported, and a forestry worker in the Thunder Bay area suffered only scratches as he fought off a bear while kicking it repeatedly).

Kowalski said some well-known bear areas such as Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario are reporting sightings down this year.

At the Delta Rocky Crest Resort, a 65-room resort on Hamer Bay in Parry Sound, general manager Alan Boivin says most sightings occur on the prized golf course, but staff is so fearful of a bear encounter that employess don’t walk alone to the trash bin at the clubhouse.

“We see a bear here every day, mostly in the morning,” he said. “I’ve been up here four years and I’ve never seen it as bad as this year.”

But mostly the bears don’t bother people, resort owners say.

However, that almost changed last week at Clevelands House.

Jeff Herrington, a cook at the luxury resort situated in the heart of Muskoka on 408 acres, was preparing a meal at about 10 p.m. last Wednesday when a guest told him that a bear was at the back door of the kitchen trying to get in.

Herrington walked outside to see for himself.

That move proved almost fatal.

A black bear, about 250 pounds cornered by a fence and wall, charged at Herrington.

The 37-year-old screamed, turned and ran for it, with the bear in pursuit.

The bear was less than a metre behind, trying to swipe at his legs, when Herrington dove over a railing and crawled on all fours into Lake Rosseau to escape.

Three people sipping drinks on the veranda couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

"It was the most terrifying experience I’ve had in my life," Herrington said. “I would have been a goner. It took me four hours to stop shaking.”

The bear gave up the chase but raced up a path to the gift shop and almost attacked a 12-year-old girl. Her screams scared the animal off.

Two days later, the bear came back and became aggressive again, hissing at guests.

Resort owners took no chances, since this bear was believed to be the same one that had been trapped and relocated 11 days earlier, and phoned the OPP to shoot to kill.

Police found the bear trapped under the main dining room. When officers arrived, it twice took a run at the officers.

Five bullets were needed to kill the bruin.

Guests were awakened at 10:30 p.m. by the sounds of gunshots, and many didn’t know what had happened until breakfast the next day.
Resort owners say they don’t know what to do other than post signs and warn people not to wander about late at night.

At the Cranberry Cove Resort, which has 43 rooms on 43 acres in Muskoka, owner Shawn Leon, 48, says some vacationers are “quite stupid” that they walk up to bears hoping to snap a close-up picture.

Leon says repeated calls to the Ministry of Natural Resources to set more traps go unanswered and he’s thinking of calling in the police to shoot them. “From a liability standpoint, we don’t want bears on the property because we have guests,” he said. “We can’t fence the whole property.”
Sandy Cornell, assistant manager at Clevelands House, says the ministry needs to set more traps.

However, Kowalski said the ministry doesn’t want to put down more traps because “that is not the preferred response."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Irate HD Customers tell Global to stop butchering High-def television signals
Published January 23rd, 2007 in Canadian Digital News, HDTV, OTA Television and Television Providers.

Digital Home readers continue to speak out today about the butchering of NFL High definition football broadcasts that aired on Global Television this past weekend.

As we told you in Signal Substitution ruins football game for HD fans football fans who tuned into Fox television on many Canadian cable and satellite outlets were instead forced to watch a Global high definition (HD) television broadcast that many readers say was deeply flawed and virtually unwatchable.

Digital Home viewed the broadcast and found the picture to be extremely pixelated, plagued with motion artifacts and a picture that at times appeared out of focus. Watching the broadcast using a Panasonic 1080p projector on a 100? screen, we found the image problems so bad that we had to avert our gaze from the screen on multiple occasions.


Many readers complained about the the loss of 5.1 audio, the resulting poor quality audio and how it appeared like there was a foggy haze over the entire broadcast.

In our Digital Forum discussion thread NFL Football Global Simsub Disgrace - January 21st http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=57156, forum members continue to urge readers to call, email and write to the CRTC, Global television, their cable and satellite provider and Tory MP in order to stop the Global network from airing their beloved Superbowl in high definition.

Canadians wishing to complain about the poor quality sound and video on Global rebroadcasts are encouraged to let your thoughts be known to the following:

* File a complaint with the CRTC here
* Call your local Cable or Satellite provider and ask that they not simulcast the Global broadcasts unless they agree NOT to adulterate the originating broadcast.
* Email your Federal MP which oversees the CRTC and the Broadcasting act. (complete list with email addresses)

Finally, contact Global Television at the following consumer feedback email addresses and let them know your concerns:

* galtwasser@globaltv.com
* rheilman@globaltv.com
* switchboard.cict@globaltv.com
* viewerrelations@globaltv.com
* quebecprog@globaltv.ca
* maritimeviewerconcerns@globaltv.com