6th February 2011

The New Canadian Internet

I would like to say, before getting too deep into the raging pool that has become the User-Based Billing debate, I’m not a policy wonk, so am not as familiar with CRTC proceedings, guidelines and rules as I probably should be, and I am more than likely also lacking in knowledge when it comes to government policy as well. As the average consumer, however – I feel that the CRTC is not doing what it should to truly be making the Canadian market competitive, and I do feel that it’s time for Industry Canada to step in and write some new rules that would take effect sooner rather than later. I think that there is also more than just a little advantage-taking of those consumers who are even less telecom savvy than me.

We’ve been making use of the internet ever since it became available to outside consumers – you remember the days of placing your phone’s handset near the modem? Trying to play Doom and being killed before you could see the screen? Yes, since then. We advanced through those days of early dial-up, and snagged those first “unlimited” plans from Telus, evolving to Rogers’ cable service, migrating to Shaw when the two telecomms sliced up the country between them, basically with Rogers taking the east and Shaw taking the west – I know it’s more detailed than that, but I’m trying to keep things at least a bit simple.  Shaw Bandwidth Usage

In fact we have been with Shaw so long that the CSR I was speaking with at the company yesterday had to completely reformat our bill to bring it up to date, because it was still written the old way. Of course in the process of doing so, and changing a couple of our digital channels around, she removed our third IP address, knocking the Cavechild offline. So Scott had to call Shaw again (our third call of the day) to have the IP address restored. I had called them earlier to ask why we don’t have the option of subscribing to Investigation Discovery. We used to have CourtTV, until that was removed from the selection, and the Investigation Discovery web site states that the channel is available from cable and satellite providers in Canada. Unless you’re a Shaw customer. The CSR I spoke with on that call put in his own request for the channel as well, which was amusing in its own way.

I also used that phone call to pass along my unhappiness about losing 25gb off of our previous I-Extreme cap of 125gb per month, which with the bundle we have, costs $47.00 per month (plus $10.00 for the extra IP address). It’s really hard to not get mad at the CSRs who are on the front line of consumer angst – it’s not their fault that corporate made the choice to take away our 25gb and still charge the same price. It’s even harder to not get mad when they tell us about the extra data packages we can buy – why should we have to pay more money to get back the data limits we already had?

Let’s look at Shaw’s extra data plans, just for the fun of it. These are the options we have, with Shaw’s claims that “the more data you purchase, the more you save – data as low as 20 cents per GB.”

* 10 GB for $5.00 per month
* 60 GB for $20.00 per month
* 250 GB for $50.00 for month

So an extra $10.00 per month will almost put us back to where we were before the case of the disappearing 25gb, but again, I reiterate – why should we have to pay extra for what we already had. We received no advance notice of the cap decrease, and we certainly didn’t receive a decrease in fees. There has been much discussion of late on various community forums, most notably on Broadband Reports, and the discussion is not of a happy tone.

Yesterday afternoon we were sitting at 113.96gb transfer, 13.96gb over our cap. This morning we were at 116gb – that’s with the Cavechild not being home all day Saturday, light computer use, and about 6 hours of playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the 360 (intense de-stressing treatment). It will be interesting to see what we use up today, with the Cavechild being home and gaming, on top of my using the ‘net to write this as well as uploading files to our server. Oh, and to clarify, we have three IP addresses because we have three heavy-use computers, all of which also have their own secured wireless for two laptops (three when my daughter is here), two Xbox 360s, a Wii, a DS, an iPod Touch and an all-in-one wireless printer.

Another option that Shaw suggests to its customers is upgrading to the next plan level. For us, that would mean going with Nitro, which is $97.00 per month for 175gb of transfer  and our upload/download speeds could increase. Between Extreme-I and Warp there is a difference of $50.00, which in reality we could just use to buy the 250gb data package – that makes sense, right? We certainly wouldn’t be purchasing the Nitro plan, which has a very attractive offering of 350gb transfer per month, a blazing 100 Mbps download speed and 5 Mbps upload speed – but we’d still have to pay for that third IP address. That is – we could have the Nitro option if it was available in our area with its low price point of $150.00, which it isn’t.

Going back to our phone calls with Shaw yesterday – the secondShaw Bandwidth Usage 1 phone call was a simple removal and realignment of some of our digital channels, because while we can add to our Digital TV channels through Shaw’s site, we can’t remove them. The CSR I spoke with on this call was also affected by the cap decrease, as she also suffered from 25gb of missing transfer allowance. It would be nice if we could just completely remove the channels we definitely never watch, like the French ones that our language laws require be offered in every home (sorry, Quebec), Speed, E!, Cosmopolitan TV and The Shopping Channel, along with a few others we simply don’t watch. About the only time we watch Spike is for the Video Game Awards, and if the quality of that show doesn’t improve, we won’t be watching that anymore either. If the cable companies can micro-manage what digital channels we do or don’t have, why can’t we have full choice for options on plans involving Digital TV? But I digress from the internet issue.

While searching around on Shaw’s web site for something – I can’t remember now what it was, but that happens when one gets older – I ended up skimming through some of Shaw’s previous Annual Reports from the long-past 1990’s, and it was interesting to see what the company’s outlook was at the end of the last century, when the report states that the company’s revenue increased almost four fold over the previous year:

Television – Industry Outlook: The cable industry is moving from a highly regulated environment to one based on fair and sustainable competition.

Internet – Industry Outlook: The Internet industry provides one of the most dynamic opportunities for growth in the new millennium. Internet analysts expect that the growth of the Internet and e-commerce is a global megatrend that will revolutionize the way we communicate, learn, gather information and conduct transactions – this is truly a paradigm shift of monumental proportions.

Goals and Strategies:

• To be a market leader by providing consumers with superior value through high-speed Internet access,
broadband content, exceptional service and affordable monthly cost
• Maintain market leadership including the launch of Web-enabled interactive TV and other Internet-protocol based communications services
• To leverage off the existing and future cablesystem infrastructureShaw Benefits

Also in 1999, Shaw “completed significant network upgrades to enable two-way cable transmission for the delivery of high-speed Internet access, impulse pay-per-view, Web-enabled interactive TV and bi-directional service.”

I just found out where our 25gb went. In looking at an old “Benefits” statement from Shaw – the original file name had “0607” in it, so it’s possibly from 2007, but the Nitro transfer limit is listed as 150gb, and in the current packages listing, it’s 175gb. There are no limits stated for the “lesser” packages, though – I find this somewhat telling, don’t you? Nitro got a cap increase while all of the other plans got data transfer limits lowered. Read the rest of this entry »

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