By Keith McNeill
Residents of the North Thompson Valley from Vavenby to Westsyde who get their cable TV and/or Internet from Raftview Communications were surprised recently to receive an email from their communication provider telling them that the business had been sold to Telus.
Operating under various names such as Clearwater Cable and Mercuryspeed, Raftview has been a fixture in the valley for 30 years.
“We feel the time is right to transition our business for the benefit of our valued customers,” said Raftview president Paul Caissie in a letter emailed to subscribers on July 6.
“The acquisition of Raftview will enable Telus to enhance reliability and provide exceptional network capacity for local residents and businesses for generations to come,” he added.
Caissie said that Telus would operate Raftview as part of its Mascon brand (Telus’ cable operations).
The change would not require any action by subscribers, he said. Prices and billing for current services will remain the same. At this time, Raftview will still be the primary contact for subscribers to change their TV or Internet package at this time.
Caissie said that all of the Raftview staff, including the management team, will work with Mascon throughout the transition and continue to provide service and support.
“We thank you for your loyalty and for trusting in us for your TV and Internet solutions,” the Raftview president said. “We have appreciated the opportunity to serve you and we are excited for Mascon to provide the next generation of communications and entertainment for our valued customers.”
Caissie invited subscribers to contact their local Raftview Communications office if they have any questions.
“Our customer service representatives will be the first to know of any changes or updates,” he said.
Company has long history
His and his wife Karen’s involvement in the business began 30 years ago when they took over the shares belonging to the Al Miller, a former Clearwater businessman who used to be the manager of the local Royal Bank, owned the Hub market and gas station, and built the Woodside Apartments.
Miller had not been able to pay the couple for the work they had been doing and so gave them shares in the business.
“It came to the point where my wife and I decided we needed either to walk away or to buy out the majority ownership,” Caissie recalled.
At that time there were three different companies offering cable TV in Clearwater but only Al Miller’s had a federal license. The others just had licenses from the province of B.C., which Miller correctly saw didn’t have jurisdiction.
The question came to a head in a lawsuit involving two Salmon Arm cable companies – one with a provincial license and the other with a federal one.
The one with a provincial license, Mascon, lost the case but remained in business.
Caissie later bought Barriere Cable from Mascon. More recently, Telus bought out Mascon.
Now that Raftview has been sold, it will operate under the Mascon brand.
“So it’s come full circle,” Caissie said, adding, “Those were the wild west days of the cable industry.”
Caissie got his start selling satellite television. There used to be very large dishes in the Raftview yard, each pointing at a different satellite.
As technology developed, the company branched out into cable internet, wireless broadband and so on.
The Raftview president was proud that his company was one of the first cable systems in Canada to go 100 per cent digital.
He was also proud that Raftview had provided high speed Internet to Clearwater and Barriere long before any other providers, such as Telus.
Getting adequate bandwidth was always a struggle, which was why the company built its own microwave system to connect with Kamloops.
“At the time, that cost us a lot of money, but it enabled us to really get into high speed Internet when we did,” he recalled.
Some people tend to get emotional when their cable TV or Internet does not work, he said.
“People always knew they could talk to the boss and I would listen. I was always available and we always stood by everything we did. I’m not saying we didn’t make mistakes but I was always ready to say, ‘We screwed up and we’re going to try to make it better so we can move on.’”
One thing he wouldn’t tolerate, however, was customers abusing his staff.
“There’s no call for that,” he said.
Besides running his own business, Caissie also made his mark by serving three terms as Thompson-Nicola Regional District director for Area A (which then included Clearwater).
He ran unsuccessfully to be provincial MLA.
“In retrospect, that defeat was a good thing but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss politics,” he said. “It’s exhilarating but it sucks the life out of you and your family.”
He felt that he was selling the business at the right time.
Although there are still quite a few independent cable companies around, they are quickly being bought up by the larger operators.
Staying in business would have meant taking on large debts to pay for new infrastructure, something he was not willing to do at this stage of his life.
The company president said he and Karen plan to stay at their farm in Upper Clearwater.
“It’s been a slice,” he said. “The people of this community have been deeply supportive and I am deeply appreciative.”