If you are one of the estimated thousands of Toronto residents who use bootleg satellite TV, beware, Bell Canada may be coming after you.
Bell has confirmed it is sending out a letter to people it suspects of pirating satellite signals, demanding they pay Bell $1,000 or face the legal consequences.
Jason Laszlo, Bell’s associate director of media relations, told TorontoObserver: “Signal theft has wide reaching impacts and we believe strongly in taking appropriate steps to prosecute those in the wrong and reverse any public perception that this is okay.”
The letter states: “Should you fail to respond to this letter or should you choose to reject Bell ExpressVu’s settlement offer, please be advised that Bell ExpressVu will take appropriate steps to protect its rights, including initiating legal proceedings in court seeking the award of damages and other relief.”
Said Laszlo, “Bell takes this issue very seriously and consistently takes action to counter any illegal use of our broadcast signal.” He said Bell works closely with government agencies, industry and law enforcement to track down and prosecute signal thieves.
It has also been alleged that Bell is sending out agents to electronics shops in the Toronto area that sell satellite dishes and receivers.
Ragu Bala, the owner of Fortune Computers said: “Bell people were here to check if we sell programmed receivers. We sell about 40 to 45 receivers each month but we don’t add the software needed to get free TV.” Bala alleged the agents who visited his Scarborough shop produced Bell Canada identity cards.
Laszlo, when questioned on the store visitations, did not respond.
Since the introduction of satellite TV, Bell has been using electronic counter measures, such as changing the codes of receiver cards, in order to counter the hackers.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the body responsible for regulating Canada’s broadcasting and telecommunications industry, estimates there are up to 700,000 Canadians who get satellite TV signals illegally and said that is costing the Canadian broadcasting industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Users of illegal satellite signals however, say they buy receivers and other equipment in order to gain access to a wider choice of popular foreign language and religious programming currently not available on Bell ExpressVue.
Thirty-seven-year-old Shelina Datoo, a recent immigrant to Toronto, learned about accessing free satellite signals from her neighbour: “I bought the receiver to keep up with the news and religious event from back home because there are no channels from India on Canadian TV.”
The CRTC has initiated a process of informal consultation with key industry players in order to encourage them to develop and commit to implementing specific measures to combat signal piracy on a number of fronts, including: Implementing an effective inventory control system; establishing best practices for Bell ExpressVu satellite dealers; utilizing modern technologies to shut down signal thieves; and prosecuting illegal satellite dealers.
For more information on the regulations governing the use of satellite reception link to: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LEGISINFO/index.asp?Language=E&query=4086&Session=12&List=ls#5txt and http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/NEWS/RELEASES/2003/r030320.htm