Posted tagged ‘canada’

Rogers, iPhone and Conspiracy Theory

2008/07/10

It was very interesting to observe during last few weeks – since WWDC announcement – the wave of expectations building up here in Canada. After all, we will finally officially have the iPhone and will be allowed to join the family of first-category nations, legally iPhonized, blessed by his Steveness himself. Selection of Rogers as carrier was no surprise. Rogers is only company that (IMHO) actually can run 3G iPhone – at least around here in Ontario / Quebec. You see, here in True North, we do not really have anything remotly resembling true competition in telecom space. Nor we have a reasonably good telecoms selling the phone service – only bad, really bad and terrible.

Many speculations were published about pricing, and when it was made official few days ago, public outroar of disapproval happened. The pricing published here was so bad, that quickly on-line petition started at the website ruinediphone.com, which signed by over 60000 people. Pretty large number, considering the nation of 30 milion. The sentiment of the comments on the site is well expressed by the fact that another URL which redirects you to the site is http://f***yourogers.com/ – try it out :-).

Two days ago, there seems to be some announcement that for $30 more, you can get 6 GB data plan on top of your existing voice plan with Rogers. That made many people quite happy and probably many more decided to buy after all. But was it really good news and did the petition really forced large company to backpedal ? Does democracy work in business world ?

Here is my cynical view of what could have just happened. Disclaimer (for the lawyers and themalike): this is pure fiction and any resemblance to real life event is purely accidental.

Assume that you are in charge of marketing for a company R that is about to sell product P and wants to get as much as possible money over the fair price (which includes reasonable margin) N. Your goal is to sell for double that price – 2*N.

What you do is announce price plans quoting 3*N and wait for unhappy customer feedback. You fuel that sentiment, so soon many more people are aware of that and word of mouth spreads. You even help to grow the sentiment in the website http://ruinedP.com/ and see happily how more and more people get involved.

Then, few days before launch, you “beg down”, and announce the big price break – down to 2*N. Sentiment swings, and many people are now happy to pay what is in reality outrageous sum of money for the P. And because of the campaign and petition, many more people now know about the product and may consider buying – after all, they are about to save big after the price break, aren’t they ? And you can still in wiggle out of the promised break by fine-print rules, ifs and whens ….

Yes, you get some really bad sentiment and bad publicity – but it is publicity and it is free :-). Many newspapers and channels (even those owned by you) reported on that. And, if you get lucky, maybe even some eager-beaver politicians may take the bait and join the game “to defend interest of the public”.

But back to reality: on Friday, when the sale starts, we will see how many people will go and buy.
I hope that as few as possible. Because even after the price “break” (which we still do not know if and how it will be applied because Rogers site still shows old pricing info), it is still a bad deal compared to the USA.

The amount of money you pay is actually much higher and is cleverly hidden is variety of fees – system access, value pack fees, and just-because-we-can-we-will-charge-you-pack fees. This way the cheapest 60 dollar plan is more like 85 / month and the more likely 100+ month. Which means that over lifetime you will pay 300 for the phone, 35 activation plus 3600 for monthly fees – over $4000. And that, my friends is lot of money for giving up the freedom to be inaccessible by email and have possibility to spend even more time on the web …

If you are developer, 4000 bucks buys you a Mac Pro, Macbook Pro plus Mac Mini, or about 6 Windows desktop PC’s. If you are not a geek (which makes me wonder – why are you then reading this blog 😉 ), $4000 is nice escape from frozen Canadian winter for you and your family to warm Caribbean …

Without options to choose from and any competition, all you can do is to vote with your dollars. Because, honestly, your dollars are the only thing Rogers is interested in. I am their customer for over 10 years so I have some first hand experience.

Voting means: Do not buy. Wait.

The ONLY thing that will drive price down is lack of demand. Or competition.

If you absolutely MUST have iPhone, you can still “vote” – cancel some other Rogers services or switch them to competition: other cell phones, internet, TV – and let Rogers KNOW that you are going away and why. In worst case, the customer retention department will kick in and you can get some freebies 🙂 Because unlike with iPhone, here you have some alternatives.

Unfortunately, switching is always an inconvenience for the end user and none of the competitors is much better (sometimes quite a lot worse) than Rogers, so it is really up to you how far are you willing to go in order to send a message.

Or – if you are mainly after the new platform and mobile apps, you can get iPod touch and get most of the experience – minus phone and minus the montly fees for less than subsidized iPhone price.

I personally will wait. I have iPod Touch, so I am looking forward to new apps. And I will re-evaluate the iPhone need after all you, my impatient friends can share the news about your montly bills and how much you actually shot over the ridiculous amounts of data bandwidth in them…

No words necessary. No DRM either …

2008/06/15

DMCA for Canada ? Act now !

2008/06/02

I have got a letter from Online Rights Canada. I believe that what is about to hapen, may have pretty deep implications down the stream. Minimum thing I can do is try to help spreading the word.

Here is the message:

Dear Online Rights Canada Supporter,

We understand that the government will imminently introduce legislation to amend the Copyright Act – and it intends to push it through quickly. We at Online Rights Canada wanted to let you know what was ahead in the next few weeks, and what you can do to protect Canada from a new DMCA.

When we do get a copyright bill, we need a period to study the bill, and we need thorough Committee hearings that offer a wide range of stakeholders the opportunity to present their views to the Canadian government. We need to challenge Parliament to give provide oversight. If the current government tries to rush this bill through the Summer, we need to stop it in its tracks.

All the signs suggest that the bill will be a Canadian version of the American DMCA with a veneer of consumer concessions. The bill will likely include laws modeled on the DMCA instead of the approach adopted by earlier Canadian proposals. Concessions may include a time-shifting right and a format-shifting right, legalizing consumer use of the VCR and iPod after all these years. However, by protecting DRM at the same time, the government kills those consumer rights anywhere the content is locked down!

What can you do? Advocacy! Contact your MP – use the advocacy tools at http://www.CopyrightforCanadians.ca and the Facebook group, Fair Copyright for Canadians http://www.faircopyrightforcanada.ca/ to make sure Ottawa knows your views.

And get others to do so, as well – we’ll need a summer full of copyright activism to make sure that Ottawa knows that Canada’s copyright laws have to put Canadians’ interests first!

To start, take two minutes to send our first letter to MPs about the impending bill.

Just visit:

http://www.onlinerights.ca/get_active/copyright_for_canadians/

and start spreading the word to your Member of Parliament!

Thanks again,

Online Rights Canada

Rogers, Bell and Net neutrality

2008/05/03

I do not blog on political issues, but this one is kind of different.

Couple of weeks ago I received a letter from my ISP provider (Rogers Cable), stating that days of unlimited downloads are over. More or less. Rogers capped the monthly transfer depending on your subscription plan, which in my case means maximum 95 GB / month for sum of upload and download.

They started to monitor the traffic in December and will start charging for the transfer exceeding the cap in June.

After overcoming feelings of being cheated (after all, I signed up for “unlimited” service and that !@#$ ISP did change the level of the service unilaterally) and discovering there is probably no real alternative (I could not find reasonably priced ISP that would not be reselling Bell ADSL service), I started to think about what does this actually mean and what are the consequences.

If you have limited capacity resource (like bandwidth) and potentially unlimited demand, some measures must be taken. In ideal world – when the number of subscribers is optimal with respect to capacity and their behaviour is not trying to consume as much bandwidth as humanly possible – you may get by without restrictions.

In real world where some people are downloading movies in hundreds of gigabytes, this approach does not work quite so good. Limiting consumption of the bandwidth is the solution most providers end up implementing.

This can be done two way: transfer cap and traffic shaping. In transfer cap, ISP measures the total volume transfered. In traffic shaping the ISP goes after protocols that usually related with really high volumes and try to throttle them. Usual victim is Bittorrent, which is quite often used to download illegal copyrighted content in form of movies and music, as well as other Peer-To-Peer protocols used in file sharing.

It is not easy to choose between these two bad (from consumer standpoint) solutions to congestion problem. I am no way a Rogers fanboy (despite of – or because of – being their customer for almost 10 years), but I think that their solution is better one.

I do not download movies or MP3 from torrent sites, but I have two large issues with traffic shaping approach. First, who decides which traffic is being throttled and how ? Torrent is preferred way how to distribute large binary images of Linux distributions or VMWare appliances, and targeting torrents significantly affects the open source communities, which cannot pay for data bandwidth and host the downloads on sites like Amazon S3. These projects are put into same category like PirateBay just because they use same protocol – so this approach is violation of the presumption of innocence.

To make absurdity of the approach more obvious, this is same logic as if somebody would start dropping HTTP just because there are sites on the net that are providing illegal or dangerous content: viruses, exploits, pornography … For the argument that (unlike in HTTP case) most of torrent traffic is illegal (which is an assumption, because nobody has really good data), let’s have a look at email: assumably around 90% of all email traffic is spam. Why not fight the bad guys by crippling SMTP/POP3 traffic, if we use same logic ?

My second issue is that, once the traffic shaping is acceptable business practice, who guarantees that only reason for throttling is to (assumably) limit possibly illegal content and not e.g. hurt the service of competition providing e.g. VOIP services ?

Recently the whole issue of traffic shaping got lot of attention in Canada – read the excellent blog of Michael Geist. There are even plans to organize a Net Neutrality rally on Parlament Hill – see the http://netneutralityrally.ca/ – so if you are in Ottawa on given date, give it a thought.

So however I hate Roger’s cap, I have to agree that this time, they approached the problem correctly. Only two concerns: with more and more services moving online, the 95GB is definitely not enough. I am subscriber of MSDN/Technet as well as Apple Developer’s Connection and with updates, patches etc I can easily need 40-50 GB a month just for the downloads they provide. Also more and more audio and video is delivered online – I just checked the size of Movies folder in iTunes, containing only video’s of Apple developers series and few selected videocasts and it has well over 120 GB. Add using YouTube, Lynda.com, Safari books online and similar and the final number will be well above. Unless the monthly allowance will increase, we will run out pretty soon.

Second concerns is about reliability of the traffic data. I am not measuring my internet traffic, but quite often I think there may be pretty large gap between what I was doing online and what daily meter (available from Roger’s website) reports.

I think that what we in Canada really need is more competition in the telecom and ISP area. The comparison of what Canadians can get for their money to USA in data and wireless plans looks pretty depressing – and do not even try to compare with Scandinavia or some Asian countries. Unless there is real alternative to Rogers (other than Bell), there will be hardly any pressure on prices and services offered. Maybe we should think about opening the regulation of the telecom market and allowing more foreign competition during next election campaign ?

Oh, one more thing: Steve Gibson of Security Now! fame did excellent coverage of the issues network capacity and network congestion. I highly recommend to listen to this episode if you haven’t done so.