Well, being it is the one and only Access channel on Shaw Direct, and I receive it on my old 421C receivers at least, it can be safely said it is definitely 480i SD and stereo audio. AFAIK, the uplink for that transponder is at the facilites which Access operates from, as well as the former CHUM "educational" specialty channels such as BookTV and Court-TV, so you should be getting as good a studio quality signal as you can get from 480i.
The channel is open key in the sense that an unsubbed receiver can get it, not necessarily with no encrytpion (if that were possible with DCII). It is in DC-II though, not DVB. It should be relatively easy and cheap to get an old Shaw Direct/Star Choice receiver and regular Ku dish to get it. You don't even need to worry about V-codes, for it is on a vertical F1 transponders, which any Shaw Direct receiver should get, in a reset state even (once it acquires a channel map/list).
That all said, I don't know if them turning off broadcast transmitters will affect the state of that channel on Shaw Direct.
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