Wednesday, October 24, 2012

City Council hears annual CityWest presentation

Monday's marathon City Council session provided for the opportunity for CityWest to make its annual pilgrimage to Council Chambers offering up an update on the city owned communications company.

Led by Vice Chair Jack Payne, a delegation for CityWest management and board members sat around the council table as Mr. Payne provided for the State of the Company address for 2012.

Among those in attendance with the Vice Chair, were the CEO Bill Craig, CFO Chris Marett and Board members Steve Lake, Rhoda Witherly and Bruce Kerr.

Mr. Payne provided the overview of the company's affairs and the accomplishments and challenges that CityWest has had over the last year, which featured a number of points.

In his opening remarks, he advised that at the moment there are 46,676 customers of CityWest from Prince Rupert to Houston, putting CityWest as number two in the market with 32 per cent penetration of the area, compared to Telus which is the top provider in the region at 44 per cent.

With growth anticipated throughout the Northwest, CityWest hopes to be positioned to benefit from that increase in opportunity through the region.

The Vice Chair also reviewed some of the changes in the technology of the communications industry, and outlined the spectre of the increased competition now in place in the region. He also explained how consolidation among the major companies is changing the nature of the business.

Among the CityWest Accomplishments this year:

They have met the bandwidth challenge, offering a new service called Quantum that offers faster speeds and no caps on usage.

There is now labour certainty at CityWest with two new labour deals in place over the last year with IBEW, the union representing workers at CityWest.

CityWest has made Cable TV improvements, adding more content with the installation of a "super dish" at their head end location.

Opened a Kitimat office to increase their local presence in that community, in addition to the offices located in Prince Rupert and Terrace.

Among the challenges facing CityWest were desires to improve the customer service experience and the introduction of new services to the community.

The main concern however seems to be the mobile or cellular market.

A service which CityWest would appear to be ready to surrender on. 

Steve Lake took over this aspect of the presentation, offering up some insight into the impact of other national cellular providers in the market, as well as some technical information and the limitations of the current status of the CityWest mobile (cel) network. 

Advising that at this point the company can't justify any further investment into that facet of their operations and can't bring it up to anticipated demands today and in the future.

To that end, they are currently seeking potential partners for that service, in effect becoming an agent for a larger company offering mobile services. 

It's a situation that CityWest hopes to resolve in the near future.

Vice Chair Payne then continued on with his presentation, advising of some new opportunities for CityWest, a potential new Wi Fi service for the downtown and Cow Bay areas, hopefully to be up and running by tourist season of 2013.

It will be available for use to CityWest customers and be made available to others for purchase on a roaming fee for use basis.

The presentation once again pumped up the Quantum Internet service recently put in place at CityWest, improvement of technical delivery of services across the region and their desire to continue to improve the level of customer service through the company, eliminating the current voice mail system that is place.

Council members then were offered up the opportunity to ask a number of questions, though interestingly enough, none of those questions revolved around the financials.

In the course of the question period, there were no inquiries as to the current financial status of CityWest, no inquiries as to the annual dividend (which in the past has always been a much anticipated bit of news delivery), or other items of a financial concern to the taxpayers who after all, are the investors of the Company.

Instead, council members basically asked a number of low maintenance questions of their guests.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson inquired about the introduction of e billing, while Councillor Kinney reprised his annual concern over the lack of cel service along the highway to Terrace and Councillor Ashley asked if there were any improvements planned for access to information from CityWest.

To that end the CityWest panel pointed to their website, which apparently will soon feature a feedback section and perhaps even a process where the Chairman will take part in live time discussions sometime in the new year.

Councillor Thorkelson asked about bandwidth concerns for gaming and other heavy bandwidth users and Councillor Rice inquired about the prospects of providing "hot spot" signage along the highway advising if cel service is available in some areas.

Councillor Ashley offered up a revenue generating idea, something called the "spot checker" which might address the emergency access issues in regard to Councillor Kinney's highway concerns.

You can review the presentation from the city's audio archive of the council meeting the CityWest review runs from 1 hour 14 minute portion to 1 hour 45 minute mark.

Our past items on communcation across the Northwest can be found in our Archive section

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