House Call with Carol Hughes – May 18, 2018

Bringing the concerns of Northern Ontario to the CRTC

The May long weekend is approaching, marking the beginning of the beautiful summer months filled with camping, boating and travelling to visit friends and loved ones. For many of us, before we set out on the water or the road or even before we send our kids to school, we tune into The Weather Network to see the daily/weekly forecast, marine conditions or road conditions. But will this service always be available to us?

This fall, Pelmorex Weather Networks submitted an application to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to renew their license for seven more years, attempting to ensure the continued distribution of The Weather Network and MeteoMedia on basic TV cable services. However, CRTC is questioning whether or not The Weather Network meets the eligibility criteria for distribution on basic cable service.

In Northern and rural communities, such as those in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, access to accurate and readily available weather forecasting is essential. Whether it is winter storm reports  or spring and fall flooding warnings, to highway washouts such as what occurred along highways 17 and 101 in the past few years, Northerners have been able to rely on The Weather Network to provide them with quick and accurate weather and road conditions.

Our concerns over the potential loss of this service differ greatly from those in urban centres and that is the reason it was imperative  that they be raised at the CRTC hearings on this topic last week. One thing that separates us in the North from larger urban centres  is transportation. Unlike in urban centres, people in rural and Northern communities, for the most part, do not have the luxury of accessing public transportation and must rely on their personal vehicle to travel. To do this safely, they require good forecasting and road condition reports. This is especially true in the winter.

The unique needs of seniors also need to be recognized; these differ significantly from those of younger people who are far more connected with modern conveniences such as smart phones. The basic cable service of The Weather Network is an important tool to seniors as it allows them quick access to weather conditions at any time of day and in their preferred format.

Additionally, even those people who may want to embrace new technology and move to an online service may not have that choice. Many of our communities still have limited or no internet access, and what is offered is expensive and at times, unreliable, often forcing people to choose between television and internet access.

While forecasting and road conditions are essential in the winter months, they are equally vital in the summer as we open our shores to the thousands of tourists who visit our communities, many of whom are boaters. Boaters of all kinds depend on accurate marine forecasts and The Weather Network provides this for them. Whether someone is going offshore to fish or travelling across the lake, they need accurate, reliable forecasting.

The application submitted by Pelmorex Weather Networks received the support of over 13,000 Canadians and 35 Members of Parliament from across the country and party lines, showing just how vital it is to have this license renewed. This is one of those few topics whose importance transcends party lines. It is clear that people in our area and across the country rely on The Weather Network and MeteoMedia. Its removal from basic service would certainly be felt across the country, especially in Northern and rural communities.