Fredericton — When Arlene and Mike Kent bought their dream home — a century-old mansion on the capital city’s coveted Waterloo Row — they also assumed they would have the freedom to choose a cable television package that worked for them.
They were wrong.
The historical property located at 58 Waterloo Row was once the home of premier Louis Robichaud, and former chief justice Joseph Michaud. It is part of a preservation area, representing one of Fredericton’s oldest neighbourhoods.
“We tried Rogers and they were horrible, just the worst,” said Arlene. “They wanted us to pay extra for timezone shifting. Their DVR always screwed up and recorded the wrong program, it went down way too often, and their customer service was abysmal.
“We tried Bell’s Fibre Op TV and it was great, but they kept jacking the price up every month. They claimed it was to ‘improve service,’ but nothing changed. Then they duped us into paying an extra $4 a month for Crave TV, which seemed cool, but we never watched it. We considered cutting the cord altogether and getting Netflix, but being New Brunswickers, we’re uncomfortable with that level of change.”
The Kents love their posh Waterloo Row abode, but having such an incredible, enviable view of the river could not compare to being able to watch their favourite reality show, Love It or List It, at whatever time was most convenient for them.
“I found a leaflet in the mailbox,” said Arlene. “It was an advertisement for Shaw Direct; they were cheaper than Rogers and Bell, their basic channel bundles had everything we liked and they were offering a 12-month fixed-price guarantee. I went to Mike and we decided, ‘Hey, why not, let’s live on the wild side.’ We called that evening and booked an installation appointment.”
Unlike the competitors, Shaw’s service is wireless, transmitted into homes via tiny satellite dishes that are attached to the sides of houses. Satellites being a 20th-century innovation, they did not exist in the 19th century, and therefore are in violation of Fredericton’s rigid heritage bylaws.
“It’s a beautiful house, with a beautiful yard — there’s no need to stick something so gaudy on the side of it,” said next-door neighbour Mark Jordan during an address to city council last week. “I live beside them and I’m a writer. If I have to look out my window and see something so… modern, it puts me at risk of severing my pretentious, psychic link to the literary masters of yesteryear!”
At the last council meeting there were 6 presentations in opposition to the installation of the under 24-inch Shaw satellite dish. In addition, hundreds of citizens have rallied against the desecration of the heritage property that does not belong to them. Exactly 799 people even took the time to type their name on a Change.org petition, because “some things are bigger than you or me,” according to one anonymous supporter in the comments section.
“We just don’t understand,” said Arlene. “We’ve been bullied by our neighbours, by people online. We’ve been slandered, we even had a spool of old-fashioned analog cable left on our doorstep as a warning. We’re confused and scared. We bought this house; we pay tax to the city. We should be able to do whatever we want to our property… I mean, do we own it or not?”
“The city owns it,” said Kaitlyn Randall, the councillor for Ward 11, and not affiliated with Rogers TV. “We’re happy to take the Kents’ money — they’re rich and privileged enough to buy real estate on Waterloo Row, but they’re not that rich and they’re certainly not connected to the right people to be above the law. We’re not talking about cutting down a tree on public property because it’s blocking a wealthy resident’s view of the green. This satellite dish compromises the historical integrity of the whole city.”
Fredericton City Council and the preservation review board (of which Randall is also a member, but she’s totally not biased) has decided to delay their final decision until later this month. Meanwhile, for Waterloo residents, the stressful saga continues.
And, believe it or not, there are some non-rich people who live on Waterloo Row. They rent and dwell on the part of the street that’s closer to the Princess Margaret Bridge/Lincoln Road cutoff. The Manatee tried to interview some of these peasants, but all of them refused to comment except for clearing their throats and coughing.