Cable communications pioneer Bill Stanley inducted into Wall of Fame

Author: UNB Engineering

Posted on Sep 22, 2022

Category: , Alumni Spotlight

Bill Stanley (BScEE’62) grew up on the island of Grand Manan in New Brunswick listening to long-wave radio and fascinated by both local stations and those from across the border in Maine. Though he was supposed to enroll in an arts degree at UNB, he found the registration lineup too long and decided he’d switch to electrical engineering.

Although he said the program was difficult for him, he enjoyed it, and after graduating in 1962 went to work with Northern Electric based out of Montreal, troubleshooting microwave radio networks and doing site maintenance. That led him to other projects and he soon became an expert in certain modes of radio transmission.

Newly married, he snagged the role of chief engineer and manager of an ageing cable system in Edmundston, NB. “Cable was in its infancy and it was a fun thing to do, and comfortable for me because of the transmission knowledge I’d gained. The parent company out of Beverly Hills, California asked me to rebuild the system and grow the customer base. It was a success. This led to me being recruited as Chief Engineer of a new cable subsidiary of a major utility in the U.S., and I spent the next five years traveling the country building and managing cable systems for what became Sprint Corporation.”

When the CRTC changed its rules to allow Canadian cable companies to import signals from the U.S., Bill moved back home to New Brunswick and reconnected with friends and peers – including James MacMurray (LL.D.’85), who became his partner in co-founding Fundy Cable. “James taught me the business side, and we eventually grew the company to serve 98% of cable customers in NB.”

Bill became known for developing novel, industry-wide business models and solutions to extend the delivery of cable and information technology services from urban centres to mixed-urban and rural areas. In fact, in the mid-1970’s, he developed what became known as “the Stanley Formula”, an equitable method of signal cost distribution, accepted by the cable industry and its regulator, that ensured the wide-spread licensing of cable television systems and enabled both small and large communities to successfully establish cable businesses and channels.  This proved critical for the broad deployment of these services throughout the Maritime provinces.

“That was a really fun challenge. I went to a cottage for the weekend and reverse-engineered a formula that would be fair to everyone. I pitched it to the CRTC and they bought into it. It was a thrilling thing to do.”

In 1989, Bill sold Fundy Cable to Shaw Communications and became interested in other novel and entrepreneurial ideas, including decarbonizing natural gas. “I initially partnered with a family in Montreal and a small team at McGill University to work on prototypes. It was a slow and long process, and we eventually moved the research operation to Fredericton and teamed up with UNB while establishing the company Atlantic Hydrogen Inc.  I felt an obligation to commit to climate change research, and still do. We were pioneers at that early time, and although Atlantic Hydrogen didn’t survive, I continue to work to take it a step further.”

Bill says he’s always been an entrepreneur at heart and aspired to stay ahead of the trend. “I was lucky to ride the wave of cable TV. I hope that I can use some of my knowledge and experience to improve technology that will have a positive impact on climate change as well.”

Bill was inducted into UNB's Engineering Wall of Fame in September, as part of receiving the Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award. Congratulations, Bill, on the well-deserved honour! 

View the complete Wall of Fame and recipients.