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Maclean Hunter investment offers multitude of benefits.

When Maclean Hunter Cable TV purchased Sault Ste. Marie's cable system 18 months ago it pledged to spend $2.3 million on capital projects.

The company has spent half that money already, and it plans to spend the remainder by the end of this year.

For the people of Sault Ste. Marie, the improvements will bring more channels, greater system reliability, improved community service and business telecommunications opportunities.

This May, Maclean Hunter will move into a new $1.4-million complex in the city's east end. With 5,400 square feet more than the company's crowded facility downtown, the new building will provide much-needed studio, storage and administration space.

The complex will be the central hub for a major system upgrade, which includes a fibre optic link which will feed into seven subsidiary hubs that distribute cable signals to the city's 28,000 subscribers.

The thin fibre optic cable contains 24 glass fibres, each the thickness of a strand of hair. A signal neither deteriorates nor distorts as it travels through the fibre from the central hub to a receiving hub at the other end of the system. With conventional wire cable, 40 pieces of equipment are needed to maintain signal quality along the line.

The system's reliability is being further improved by the addition of battery power which will hold the signal for up to four hours in the event of a power failure.

Frank DelBosco, the general manager of Maclean Hunter in the Sault is a 32-year-old veteran of the industry. He sees potential far beyond conventional television for the upgraded system.

"We are really short-changing ourselves by calling this an entertainment medium. It is an opportunity for communications," DelBosco says.

The fibre optic link will provide an opportunity for local businesses to carry a signal across the city for instantaneous data transfer and communications.

Banking, media services, education, retail shopping and security firms are some of the businesses that may benefit. Maclean Hunter needs only two fibres out of the cable's 24 fibres to service its customers, leaving considerable capacity for expanded use of the cable.

"Our link could be interconnected with other fibre optic systems or to satellite transmissions. The technology is there," DelBosco says. The potential is for global telecommunications.

"It's like a highway with all kinds of traffic going different ways - pedestrians, cars, trucks, bicycles. It's there, and we should use it."

Cable TV viewers will find more community-based programs in the Maclean Hunter approach. Besides offering city council and Greyhound hockey coverage, the community channel will adopt a format "primarily for the community and by the community," according to DelBosco.

This means that community groups will produce and record programs to be broadcast to interested viewers in the city.

For example, a grade six class produced a program that was broadcast and watched by other area school children.

"We have a line-up of people wanting to get on the community channel. We teach the volunteers how to work the cameras and then they are on their own," DelBosco says. Community volunteer groups are particularly interested.

In 1991 Maclean Hunter acquired a $250,000 mobile unit to record events in the community. With the completion of the new complex in the Sault's east end, the company will also have an indoor studio dedicated to community use. Prior to the construction, Maclean Hunter rented studio space from Mid Canada TV.

Another new service available to subscribers will be the education channel. Area schools will have access to the channel for airing shows they produce or acquire.

Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology regards the channel as a means of offering entry-level courses to more students than can be accommodated in a class-room setting.

Maclean Hunter has well-established cable franchises in Canada and the United States, and it has started construction of a system in the United Kingdom.

The parent company, Maclean Hunter Ltd., operates in Canada, the United States and Europe, with more than 12,000 employees and revenue of $1.5 billion. The company publishes leading consumer magazines in Canada and numerous business publications. It is also involved in radio broadcasting, commercial printing, book distribution, radio paging and trade and consumer shows.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus on Sault Ste. Marie
Author:Smith, Guy
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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