26th May 2011

Another Playdate With Shaw

Shaw CableWay back on March 8th we went to a Customer Consultation evening hosted by Shaw, our ISP. The reason for this desire to meet face to face with customers was the backlash Shaw experienced from customers like us in response to the User Based Billing issue. The corporation hosted over 30 such meetings across its service area during the first consultation, and judging from the meeting we attended tonight, Shaw listened.

As with the first consultation evening, this one was led by Chris Kucharski, VP Operations, and one of the first points he made was that Shaw heard the message, loud and clear. He stated that at times it was hard to hear people who (like us) had been long term customers, and who, because of the way Shaw initially handled the UBB issue, had lost trust and faith in the company. Throughout each of the original consultation sessions, there was a commonality of thinking that Shaw needed to become transparent in its communication with its customers, who wanted more options when it came to the speed and data usage of their internet access – and the company freely admitted that it learned some very hard lessons throughout that process.

Over the past three months, the teams at Shaw went over all of the feedback they had received both in person and via the internet, and they came to the decision that Shaw’s future involved unleashing their internet customers, not reigning them in. This was followed by a collective mind shift on the company’s focus as it began to really explore what it could accomplish in the way of service provision and pricing to support the ever-growing usage of the internet in our daily lives. None of these considerations would have been possible without the exchanges that went on between the corporation and its customers, and this was a dialogue that Shaw wanted to keep open as it moves into the future.

There are approximately 366 000 Shaw customers still on analogue cable, and over the next 16 months, those customers will be converted to full digital cable. As those customers are moved off of analogue, there will be an increasing capacity of bandwidth available to improve internet services and options. These improvements will be a rolling capacity improvement as each of those analogue customers will have to be visited and their services converted. Those who need to be upgraded to digital will receive their digital boxes at no charge, and while this will cost the company a lot of money, and we know that those costs will be passed along to the consumer in the course of doing business, but to be honest I really don’t have a problem with that, simply because when all is said and done, everyone will benefit.

Some of those benefits have already been realized by those who subscribe to the Extreme internet package, with the bandwidth speed and data transfer allowance already receiving an upgrade that sees the transfer allowance more than double. The new, what I will call lower-tier, packages are shown in the image below – I will get into the higher-tiered packages later in this article.

Shaw Upgraded Plans

These transfer allowance improvements are evidence that Shaw was indeed listening to its customers – and are available with no price increase over the current plans. Those of us on the higher-tiered broadband packages will have to wait until June for new options, but I will come to that in a bit.

The topic of the Transfer Usage Tool used by Shaw to show its customers how much data transfer they’ve used, but as was shown in the first round of consultations, this tool does not reflect real-time usage and is in fact two days behind in its reporting. It was also shown to be inaccurate and unreliable. Shaw’s programming engineers will be revisiting the reporting tool and making several improvements in it over the coming months.

There was also the question of Shaw’s flexibility as customer usage of the internet will inevitably change over time as the internet and data transfers become more and more important to the average Canadian as well as to business. Mr. Kucharski stated that as with these new plans, Shaw would review the plans and options when usage changes became apparent. One of the most important issues that started the whole uprising among internet users was very conspicuous in its absence with these new plans. There are no per gigabyte charges. At all.

Should a customer consistently go over his or her transfer cap month after month (not that that has ever happened in our house), they will be contacted by Shaw to discuss plan options as the plan they are on obviously isn’t working for them. The corporation is still working on the best avenue to pursue in regards to those who are consistently over, but they promise to not be combative or punitive. Those customers on plans with transfer limits who go over will be automatically bumped up to the next plan level for the remainder of the month, but again, the company is looking at the best way to communicate this action to the consumer.

During the first round of consultations there had been discussion of educating people to do their downloading during off-peak hours, something that would not always be convenient for those with home offices or who telecommute. After taking the beating that it did during the consultation period, Shaw wanted to take the most open and customer-friendly approach to any changes they made with their internet offerings, and throttling or rewarding off-peak usage simply did not have a place in the new packages. While there will inevitably be a need for some education in regards to transfer usage, the company again felt it better to unleash its customers and give them the internet experience they expected than to leave them feeling sour and limited. Read the rest of this entry »

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26th May 2011

Revelations Revealed

ubisoftUbisoft has released new product details for Assassin’s Creed® Revelations, allowing us to see what is coming as the battle between Assassin and Templar continues its richly immersive tale when it launches on the Xbox 360® , the PlayStation®3 and Windows PC this November. Assassin’s Creed Revelations is available now for pre-order in the Ubi Store.Assassin's Creed Revelations Constantinople

Assassin’s Creed Revelations follows master assassin Ezio Auditore as he walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey to recover five ancient seals that hold the keys to the future of the Assassins brotherhood. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

  • Hone the deadly art of assassination – As Ezio Auditore, wield the lethal skills of a wiser, more efficient assassin. Armed with a new arsenal of weapons and abilities including the hookblade, bomb crafting and a heightened Eagle Sense, you can kill with death-dealing proficiency.
  • Herald the return of a legend – Assassin’s Creed Revelations features the return of Altaïr as a playable character, the hero of the original Assassin’s Creed.
  • Journey to the Constantinople –Explore picturesque settings, from Masyaf, the mountain stronghold of the Assassins during the Third Crusade to the vibrant and exotic Constantinople, the jewel of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. Navigate crowded streets and vistas, through a cauldron of cultures as Constantinople comes to life.
  • Meet new players to the Assassins Creed lore –Encounter memorable personalities, including fellow master assassin Yusuf Tazim, Prince Suleiman, destined to become one of the greatest monarchs in history, and Sofia Sorto, a simple woman who vies for Ezio’s heart.
  • Test your skills as an assassin against your friends – the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded with more modes, more enthralling maps and new characters

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26th May 2011

GrowLab Set To Accelerate Vancouver Startups

growlabProminent Canadian and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors today announced the launch of a new accelerator program based in Vancouver. GrowLab is a “startup boot camp” for entrepreneurs whose companies can receive up to $25,000 in seed funding, four months of mentorship, free office space and the opportunity to pitch investors at the end of the program for follow-on funding. The program will be based in Vancouver for the first three months: the fourth month will be spent in San Francisco. GrowLab is now accepting applications for its fall program, with five companies to be chosen for the first cohort,  which will be starting in August 2011.bdc

“We created GrowLab to provide financing and mentor support to help build tomorrow’s great companies,” says Leonard Brody, President of Clarity Digital and one of GrowLab’s founders. “Our approach is entrepreneur-centric. We’re founded on the principal that if we find and support talented entrepreneurs, their ideas can grow into truly disruptive companies.”

In an effort to continue building a strong start up ecosystem, the accelerator has signed on many high-profile angel and venture investors. Its three lead investors are the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), iNovia Capital and BlackBerry Partners Fund.

BDC Venture Capital VP for Strategic Initiatives, Senia Rapisarda says, “BDC VC has always had a strong focus on early-stage technology development. Accelerators like GrowLab play a pivotal role in providing entrepreneurs with “smart capital” – both financing and expertise. Accelerators mentor entrepreneurs. They also provide them with the introductions and global connections they need to hasten the time to market. BDC is pleased to partner with GrowLab and establish the first accelerator of its kind in the country – one that will formally link Vancouver and Canada to Silicon Valley.” Read the rest of this entry »

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26th May 2011

OpenMedia Releases Telecom Report

open mediaBuilding on the success of a 480,000 signature petition launched earlier this year, award-winning public engagement organization OpenMedia.ca today released a citizen-powered report that exposes the weaknesses of closed communications models. Titled Casting An Open Net, the report counters popular arguments by major telecom companies that want to impose punitive pricing schemes, in which Canadians pay more for Internet and get less. The findings are clear: there is no technical or economic justification for restricting access to legal online content.

The report is the first of its kind: a comprehensive look at economic, technical, cultural aspects of Internet openness, as well as Canadian views on net neutrality and international comparisons. It shows that the Internet’s open architecture has become central to the success of our economy, our culture and our society, but that it is under threat by large, vertically-integrated telecom companies that seek to control, and even to discourage, use of the Internet. Read the rest of this entry »

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26th May 2011

Impact Award Winners Announced At mesh11

ciraThe Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) announced the winners of its first annual .CA Impact Awards at the mesh conference in Toronto, on the evening of May 25. Winners were chosen for using their .CA websites to make a positive cultural, technical, economic, or social impact. Four winners received $5,000 each as well as national recognition.

“At CIRA, we try to keep track of all the great .CA websites out there, but with over 1.6 million registered .CA sites it’s hard to keep up,” says Byron Holland, President and CEO of CIRA. “The .CA Impact Awards has really opened our eyes to some of the amazing work done on the web by Canadians. It’s truly inspiring.”

The awards were broken down in four broad categories, the winners for each category are:

  • eLearning: ArtsAlive.CA, an educational performing arts website produced by the National Arts Centre, is the pre-eminent resource for performing arts education in Canada, engaging Canadians through information, multimedia and activities.
  • Small Business: OpenMedia.CA uses its .CA website to protect the open Internet and to promote the innovation and free speech that it enables. OpenMedia.ca is currently the home of the viral Stop the Metre campaign, bringing the public together to fight for a more affordable Internet.
  • Non-Profit: UppercaseGallery.CA is now an online artist community, featuring a blog, exhibitions, and a magazine. UppercaseGallery began as a gallery in downtown Calgary that featured the work of emerging and established graphic designers before moving online. Its .CA domain name allows Uppercase Gallery to clearly define itself as Canadian, as much of its web traffic is international.
  • Web Technology and Design: NewPad.CA is an online apartment-hunting portal intended to make apartment hunting easier by mapping out online apartment listings in cities across Canada.

The .CA Impact Awards are part of CIRA’s ongoing commitment to invest in Canada’s Internet community and are designed to recognize youth, educators, not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, technology developers and web designers.

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