Part 1 – Shaw Direct: The Saviour of Free TV in Rural and Remote Canada?

Dear Minister Moore,

Ever tried channel surfing in a one TV channel town?

It’s doable but not much fun.

You just end up back at the same channel.

Channel surfing hasn’t been the same at my parents’ place in Denbigh, Ontario since Canada’s digital television transition last year.

After close to 40 years of receiving a robust total of five TV channels over-the-air (OTA) in Denbigh, the selection of OTA TV channels available in the area was reduced to just one after August 31, 2011.

While my parents were thankful for the lone analogue Global TV station that remained beaming at them from a distant but visible transmitter tower down the road in Vennachar, they missed the local content and variety provided by the other channels they were able to receive in the past.

Seven months of one TV channel surfing and a whole bunch of VHS and DVD watching later, my parents’ free slate of television stations surged to a staggering 7 (Canadian) channels yesterday morning.

This return to multi-station bliss was care of Shaw Direct and their Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) program.

In short, Shaw told the CRTC back in 2010 that as part of their request to purchase Global TV, they would to provide Canadians who lost OTA TV stations as a result of the digital television transition with a free satellite receiver, a free dish, free installation and a free selection of basic channels.

The LTSS program was originally scheduled to end in November, 2011 but Shaw received an extension for the program by the CRTC until November, 2012 since Shaw had failed to pay out the benefits associated with their approved Global TV purchase.

After being told a number of times in 2011 that he was ineligible for the LTSS program, my Dad was told in Winter 2012 that he was indeed eligible. Go figure.

Shaw first sent the satellite receiver.

While Shaw did courier the receiver free of charge, when my Dad opened the box he discovered an old, scuffed Star Choice receiver (Star Choice was the previous name for Shaw Direct).

It ain’t pretty and it doesn’t have an HDMI output but hey, it’s free. Hopefully it lasts for a few more years. Not sure about the LTSS replacement receiver policy.

Dad advised Shaw that he had the receiver and they then booked an installer 2.5 hours away in Kingston to install the dish.

The installer arrived around 10:30 AM yesterday morning and quickly got to work.

Satellite dishes need line of sight to lock a signal so Dad suggested placing the dish at the top of the property near the road.

The installer was worried about a few trees blocking the signal. Dad brought out his gas chainsaw and cut them down and Bro hauled them away.

There could still be signal problems once the trees leaf-out in the coming months but hopefully not.

Using a small unit that emitted a CF-18ish missile-locking beep, the installer found the best position for the dish and screwed it into the side of a hefty maple tree.

After a few phone calls to Shaw and some other tweaks, my parents had six English stations and one French station.

Part 2 to follow soon…

Best,

Steven

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41 Responses to Part 1 – Shaw Direct: The Saviour of Free TV in Rural and Remote Canada?

  1. Brenda says:

    Thanks for the update Steven. I’m glad to hear your parents were able to upgrade and now receive 6 TV stations. I am thinking of contacting Shaw to see if they can do anything for me. I already have an old Star Choice dish hooked up so maybe they can just come out and tweak it? Worth a try I guess. Wish me luck. 🙂

    • Eric Alexander Ian M'Connachie says:

      Hi Brenda, hi Steven.
      I am in a similar predicament, living in the sticks between Huntsville & North Bay. Apparently the only channel i will have by the end of the summer is the least enjoyable one: CTV .. I’d like to find out about this LTSS program. I really don’t care whether i get more than the 3 channels i used to get. I would be happy with just 2! CBC & TVO, the 2 i am losing. (I already lost Global after the analog switch last year.)
      Any further word on this offer from Shaw Direct?

      • Hi Eric,

        Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you should be eligible for the LTSS. Call Shaw toll-free at 1.888.782.7602. Have your postal code ready and let us know how it goes.

        Best,

        Steven

    • Brenda, My parents are actually now getting 12 channels through the LTSS which is pretty cool. Not local though. Looking forward to your install update in July.

  2. Brenda says:

    Will keep you posted Steven. By the time some people realize this program, it will be too late for them to take advantage of it. I have an old StarChoice dish and receiver installed here but they haven’t been active for 10 years. Not sure what they’ll say about that but it could save the guy some work????

  3. Pingback: Canada’s Analog Public TV Shuts Down Forcing Rural Viewers to Pay Cable, Satellite Services | Stop the Cap!

  4. Joanne Schmidt says:

    Eric – Have you got any feedback from Shaw yet ?- I contacted then on Tuesday and returned the form right away, but haven’t heard back. Perhaps they are very busy now. I’m still living close by AHSS, and have never had anything but rabbit ears – but do want to be able to watch T.V. occasionally.
    Glad you’re back/still in the area – there are many trees, but it’s not really the sticks!
    J. Schmidt

  5. Eric Alexander Ian M'Connachie says:

    Hi all.. I was away part of the summer, so didn’t get started until about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I am happy to report that it all happened rather rapidly, and easily, once i telephoned Shaw Direct using the toll-free number (888.782.7602).
    Basically, during the telephone call they asked for my physical address (including postal code) & a couple of other questions. I was told that it looked like i am eligible, and that once i fill out a necessary form, they would send me a receiver (like the one above). Once i received that, they said, which would take a week or two, i was to call an installation number (888.554.7827) & set up an appointment to have the whole thing set up. They then immediately emailed me an LTSS form (PDF). I downloaded it, printed it off, filled it out, scanned it, and sent it back.
    Then, nothing. I waited.. No response from Shaw at that point, but i was patient, reasoning no news is good news. About a week and a half later, one morning, there was a UPS vehicle in my driveway. So now i had the receiver. I phoned the install number, and a few days later a local installer contacted me. The next morning, he arrived very early, and after finding a suitable location for the dish, had the whole set up running within two hours (including the time needed for the signals to download). I now have about a dozen channels, most of which are repeats (ie, Global Kenora, Global Toronto. CBC Thunder Bay. CBC Toronto. CBC Barrie ). But, i have the channels i had before, including my beloved TVO
    If anyone has any further questions or would like more info, let me know. .

    PS- One word of note. The contractors, from what i can gather, are not necessarily treated all that well by the company. Be nice to them. They work long hours, drive long distances for often little or no remuneration, & they have to pay for much of the equipment out of pocket. If anything at all goes wrong, no matter how innocuous (say, they can’t get a signal because there are too many trees, or your house has bad positioning) they don’t get paid. They can drive up to 3 hours one way, and plus the cost of tools and equipment, yet still get nothing. My installer was well into his 60s. I gave him a good tip, and asked him to take his grandson (who he had with him) for a good meal

  6. Eric Alexander Ian M'Connachie says:

    PPS – Steven. Great website. I’m sending people in this direction to get started. November is approaching. I do have a question though: What do you think is the long term situation? I mean, will this LTSS “golden egg” just continue on indefinitely? And if so, with what limitations?

  7. Brenda says:

    Eric,
    So far as I can tell from reading the fine print on the initial form (PDF) that you sent back;

    “.. If you wish to move to a different location, you will need to re-qualify or upgrade your services to full service… once qualified you may cancel at any time ..
    If the account is disconnected the account will not be able to reconnect on the LTSS program. If the account is reconnected it will have to be with monthly billed programming..”

    So in a nutshell, don’t disconnect it unless you are moving or are going to upgrade to billed programming.

    Cheers

  8. Gene says:

    Thank you for shining a light on this issue. I live in a small city in Manitoba that’s been without CBC coverage since 2009. That always bugged me as a tax payer, not being able to watch CBC.

    I just called the phone number, the on-hold time was minimal, and the representative was a decent guy. He tried to upsell me to a compelling $29/month plan (50 channels, including TSN) but I reluctantly went with the free basic offering. He had a good point, it might be a month before I get service, and it will not be HD, whereas the $29 plan is HD and would be installed within two days.

    He asked I be patient, since thousands of people are registering. We’ll see.

    Thanks again.

  9. K Frasre says:

    Reading your comments with interest! Just now hearing about and applying for Shaw’s LTSS solution here in rural NS. Found out by lucky chance and spread the word locally here in Pictou County to friends etc. Hopefully the word will get passed around in time to be some help! Have now received the declaration form and returning it ASAP.

  10. Linda Klemenz says:

    I’m wondering is this program done for? I too live in Rural Saskatchewan, and have on;y one T.V. station, CTV, I’m getting really tired of this, I miss CBC!!! I thought this was the station paid for by us, Canadian’s. Is it too late for me????

  11. Brenda says:

    Hurray for that news Steven!
    I will tell anyone who is interested. 🙂
    Good luck getting yours Linda. I’m sufficiently happy with mine.

  12. G Knickle says:

    I called Shaw today and was rudely informed that I was misinformed and that the program had ended November 2012. He further informed me that since in the past I was a Shaw customer and that would also disqualify me from this program. I was a happy customer in Ontario but since moving to rural Nova Scotia my service was terrible. We are in the snow belt in central Nova Scotia; the installer situated the dish in the side of my front porch 3 feet from the ground. I told him the railing would move with a frost and the snow at times would cover the dish in that location. I was told to take it or leave it. Our reception signal was 17 (17% signal) which meant for extended times we were without a signal. After cancelling the service and installing an antanna I received many calls from Shaw to reconsider, they would move the dish to a better location, offered 6 months free but the same installer would decide where the dish would be located. I declined. The program stated that you would qualify if you were not a satelite customer for 90 days. We haven’t been a satelite customer of Shaw for over 3 years.

    • Hi, G. Thanks for the comment. Call Shaw back. You’ll likely get a different person. Tell them you want to apply to the #LTSS. If they say no, hang up, call Shaw back again and ask yet another person. I’m not joking. Give it three more attempts and let me know how it goes. I bet they’ll eventually say yes. Steven

  13. Brenda says:

    I was also told by the installer that came to my house that they only do a basic bare bones hook up of the dish. Consequently he ran the cable up the side of my house and then ‘across the roof’ to the dish on the old TV aerial. I mentioned it at the time but again was reminded they only do a basic hook up. I knew this would cause problems for me as it is a steel roof and the cable lays on a major snow run off from two peaks. Sure enough I have been up on the roof trying to clear the snow and ice and keep the cable free! I am beginning to wonder if it was worth it? I can foresee that I will have to reroute that cable at some point some how. What a headache!

  14. Yvonne Macdonald says:

    wow just hung up with Shaw direct and cannot believe the rule is that is you don’t own the land you don’t qualify…..we live on a quarter section of land rented have been here for years….now because of this we cannot get tv…..sad affair…cowboys out here alberta don’t own much but we live on the land…..and usually coop’s own the land…..or colonies…..

    • Hi Yvonne,

      Thanks for the note. I’ve never heard of this requirement.

      Call back and try again with someone else at Shaw.

      If they still won’t let you apply to the LTSS, send an appeal to Shaw and the CRTC.

      Steven

    • Suzanne says:

      Yes, I’d try again, my mom lives on a corner of my sisters property in rural Manitoba and it was never an issue about her “owning” the land. They came and installed it, No questions asked! My sister has it too! All on the same 80 acres… What a great program it is, we only had 2 channels growing up in rural Saskatchewan so when my mom moved here and could actually watch her CBC shows without blurry fuzzy reception, it was a great day! lol…

  15. Joanne Schmidt says:

    I don’t remember being asked about owning the land, but I do, so perhaps I didn’t pay attention. However I don’t see why ownership should affect the service.
    I have had two approaches from Shaw to purchase more service from them, The first was a phone call, telling me that since I had the LST service I could get a hundred channels for just a little bit of money for 6 months or so – (no indication of what it would cost after that!) I said I wasn’t interested because I’d ever be able to watch all of the 100 channels, and I was assured that I wouldn’t have to watch them all at once 🙂 I repeated that I wasn’t interested in having such a choice – and he hung up. A couple of weeks later I received an offer in the mail for something similar. If you could choose the channels you want in a package, I might agree to more channels – but I don ‘t want to pay for 90 channels I won’t likely watch in order to see 7 or 8 that I would enjoy.

  16. Elizabeth Dornbush says:

    I had the LTSS installled in July 2012. Today the receiver stopped working. After two and a half hours on the phone with a technician and still no signal to the TV we were told that’s all they will do for a free account……no service call. We had to ask to speak to a supervisor and wait quite a while to get the name of the local company who can provide service……at his rates. Tomorrow I will call CRTC to see if there was no provision made for ongoing service. These receivers are reconditionned and I’ll bet mine isn’t the only one breaking down now.

  17. Brenda says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Sorry to hear about your receiver. Not much surprises me anymore in this world of corporate greed. No doubt my receiver is on borrowed time too. We had an ice storm here and my power was out for 3 days. I was surprised that my receiver faired okay through it.
    Are you just not getting a signal or has the receiver completely quit?

  18. Shawn says:

    If your dish is on a tree, just turn it about a half inch one way, try that and if that didn’t work try tweaking it the other way, trees grow right to left not straight up and down. I have installed the Shaw systems for the last 13 years and this is the main cause of loosing signal is alignment issues. I have installed 20 to 30 LTSS systems and they will send out a guy for a service call, I know this because I have done them. Just be adamant with them and don’t take no for a answer. The CRTC has to cover the service call. Its the federal gov that paid for the installation (its your right as a Canadian to have access to local news, its the law). You do not have to own the property, just have the owners permission, that’s all.

    Good Luck!!

    • Ev MacMillan says:

      Hi Shawn, I live in rural Nova Scotia and have had LTSS since Dec 1912.. I had my roofing replaced where the dish was and although they put it back in the same place, I have lost the signal. They tell me I need to foot the bill to have it realigned, tried to sell me different packages and finally gave me the number of a local Shaw Direct dealer. It is a week before I get my pension and although the roofing company is willing to pay for the alignment, he will charge $115 + 15% HST and will not bill the roofing company and since I just paid for my roof to be re-shingled, I have $67 left in my chequing account and he will not take a mastercard. I tried all day yesterday to get someone else but they are few on the ground. I did wonder about the federal government’s involvement and my right to have CBC news. I will try again to see if someone else will be more helpful. Shaw Direct makes it sound like they are providing this service gratis where it appears they are just proving themselves with a bank of customers for high priced programming for more programs and no choice of what you are paying for.
      Ev

      • Hi Ev. Thanks for the comment. Sorry to hear about the trouble. The LTSS application notes that Shaw doesn’t cover the cost of any LTSS repairs or service calls after the initial installation. I think your best bet is to get the roofing company to pay for the service call since it sounds like they messed up the dish alignment. Contrary to Shawn’s note, the CRTC does not pay for LTSS service calls. Shaw administers and funds the LTSS. Best, Steven.

    • Hi Shawn. Thanks for the comment about your LTSS installations. Note that the CRTC does not cover LTSS service calls. While the CRTC did approve the LTSS, Shaw both administers and funds the program. Best, Steven

  19. Mike says:

    I applied about a month ago and got the receiver today. Looks reasonably new. No dish, though. Is that not supposed to come with the package? Or, do I have to arrange for installation first?

    • Hi Mike. Glad you got your box! The next step is to call #Shaw and tell them you have it. They will then arrange for an installer to come with the free dish to connect to the box. Best, Steven

  20. Marg says:

    Called tonight to order the service. Warnick g: you cannot have had ANY. Cable or satellite. Service in past 90 days. First learned of this at the dump where we took our TVs this week as we have had no signal!
    Thanks for providing this information

  21. Brian says:

    The program is still alive and kicking (despite the Nov 30, 2013 expiry date listed on Shaw’s website). To apply, go to Shaw Direct at http://www.shawdirect.ca/dtv (Click on the link “Shut down of analog over-the-air television transmitters”). I had mine installed last week in Salmon Arm, BC.

    • Great news, Brian. Keep in touch. I’ve bugged Shaw before about updating the application expiry date on their site. They wrote back and said they know it needs updating. (?)

  22. Patiently Waiting says:

    Just called in my second request for application form….This time the person I talked to was far more professional and expect to get it soon…first time I called Shaw it was if she ws trying to talk me out of it and according to my last call had not done anything with my info///There was no record in her system of me calling…

  23. A. says:

    Just in case anyone finds this on Google like I did – it is NOT possible to move your LTSS service if you move. At this point it’s considered a “grandfather” plan as no new registrations will be accepted and no changes (like an address change) can be made to the account other than to close it. Sucks for me as I have no TV service, LTSS, OTA or otherwise, at my new house. Shaw and the CRTC have no plans to provide any further free service in the future so they say the only option going forward is a paid plan.

  24. Doug Grisack says:

    Some different thoughts on LTSS. I’ve had mine here in Lethbridge since loss of CBC in 2011 I think it was. The guy who installed it was good, but a bit surly. I combine the satellite output channel 3 signal with my four local digital stations (Need to get that antenna up a bit and see if I can grab KRTV) and feed my 3 tv’s. It works OK. I have a wireless UHF remote control extender that means I can control the sat box upstairs and down. We get Edmonton and Calgary CBC/CTV/CTV2/Global, and the two stations in Lloydminster AB/SK for some reason, but not our Lethbridge stations on satellite. Also sometimes CITY from Edmonton but never Calgary, and usually CITY from Montreal. We also get it digital locally. Also APTN and shopping network and one radio station. I wish they’d throw in some freebie previews and what harm would there be in some other time zones for Canadian networks.
    I, too, had to realign after a roofing job. They (Shaw) wanted a hundred bucks so I did it myself with my wife, the built in signal strength meter in the sat box, and FRS radios.
    They used to send a bill for $0 which I loved but now they don’t; not for a few years.
    It’s worked OK so far, but still no substitute for how nice OTA digital CBC would be.

    • Hi Doug. Thanks for sharing your LTSS experience! What is your understanding in terms of how long the LTSS (as is) will be offered? Please advise, Steven

      • Doug Grisack says:

        Steven, Thanks for the reply. I forgot to note earlier that the very reason I was able to benefit from the LTSS programme at all was as a result of stumbling upon your site back in the day; shaw simply made no serious effort to inform anyone it existed.
        Currently, I do now know how long LTSS will be offered as is. They had a long past deadline for new sign ups and a couple of extensions to that, I believe, but as far as maintaining it for those of us using it currently, I imagine if they aren’t mandated to continue it they will discontinue it some day, they’re definitely not up to doing anything out of the goodness of their corporate heart. This even though it’s absolutely no skin off their teeth to provide the signals to users where they have absolutely no interest or obligation to maintain the equipment.

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