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Category Archives: bell

The internet’s fate is being decided right now

"Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!"

“Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!” (Image courtesy Marvel)

There probably isn’t anything more exciting to watch right now for tech nerds than the situation regarding net neutrality that’s unfolding in both the United States and Canada. In the space of a week, it has gone from a fomenting revolt to a full-out war, especially down south.

Following last week’s letter from 150 technology companies, Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler backed down somewhat on his original proposal to allow internet providers to institute so-called paid prioritization of traffic, or the effective creation of a fast lane for online companies willing to pay extra.

Feeling the heat from big tech firms including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, not to mention some of his fellow commissioners, Wheeler instead suggested that the FCC might want to consider reclassifying internet provision so that it qualifies as a telecommunications service, which could then be subject to regulations.

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SaskTel cries poor over wireless competition

PalpatineOne could be forgiven for thinking a story last week about SaskTel’s wireless woes was an article from The Onion. The story, which featured chief executive Ron Styles complaining about too much wireless competition in his home province of Saskatchewan, did indeed read like something from the notorious news parody outlet:

The CEO of SaskTel says he is heading to Ottawa to argue that new federal regulations are hurting the Crown corporation’s bottom line.“We just need to make our case … that some of the things they are putting in place … are having unintended consequences,” Styles said as he outlined the position he will take when he meets with federal government officials.

The humour, of course, lies in the apparent fact that Styles hasn’t been paying attention to anything regarding his industry for… oh, the past few years. Those lower profits – and therefore lower prices – are actually exactly what the federal government has been desiring for some time, not just in Saskatchewan but in every part of Canada. It’s reminiscent of the Emperor telling Luke Skywalker near the end of Return of the Jedi that when his friends arrive at the Death Star, they’ll find the shields to be “quite operational,” except in this case our young executive Padawan must be learning that the consequences his company is experiencing are, in fact, “quite intentional.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in bell, rogers, telecom, telus

 

Four really is the magic number in wireless

monkeyThere was considerable confusion last week over the price hikes being instituted by Canada’s Big Three wireless carriers. Several news outlets jumped on the fact that Bell, Rogers and Telus were raising rates, perhaps too exuberantly in some cases where reports suggested that all three were moving in collusive tandem at the exact same time. Telus was quick to point out – as both wireless specialty site MobileSyrup and I mentioned in our respective posts – that its hikes had in fact taken place in January. Bell and Rogers were simply playing catch-up.

Daniel Bader at MobileSyrup had an excellent follow-up the other day explaining the exact nature of the increases, as well as some background on the recent wireless spectrum auction and the future of Videotron. In a nutshell, Telus kicked off the whole smorgasbord in January by raising its basic rates and lowering some of its data fees. The end result was that many plans maintained the same price, although higher fees are now likely for households with multiple phones. Bell and Rogers followed suit and, by matching Telus’s plans, pushed through big increases in some cases.

A few important points may have been lost amid the specifics of which plans went up and which didn’t. First and foremost is the resumption of the status quo, where the Big Three are once again moving prices in virtual tandem. With the threat of start-ups Wind and Mobilicity now subsided, regular virtually synchronized rate hikes are now back for the foreseeable future. Actual collusion is irrelevant and unnecessary when real competition has been neutralized.

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in bell, mobile, rogers, telus

 

Wireless carriers are begging for it with rate hikes

fight-clubIn case you haven’t heard, all three of Canada’s major wireless carriers are raising the rates on their plans, all coincidentally by $5. It’s hard to figure out which department to file this one under: it could go under “Are You &$%$# Kidding Me?” or “Oligopoly 101,” but it most likely qualifies for “Digging Our Own Graves.”

Telus, which recently announced it was quitting the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association lobby group, was the first to strike, with leaks in January basically informing the other two of what the acceptable fee increases would be. Bell and Rogers of course followed Canada’s “uncarrier” (chortle) and now all three are moving in unison.

This marks the second major fee increase since the summer, when the Big Three all simultaneously brought in hikes to coincide with the elimination of three-year contracts. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in bell, mobile, rogers, telus

 

Videotron has at least 6 wireless options

VideotronAfter months of will-they, won’t-they, Videotron has indeed pulled the trigger on acquiring wireless spectrum licenses for much of the rest of Canada. The Montreal-based cable company has emerged as perhaps the biggest winner of the 700 MHz auction, with licenses in its home province of Quebec but also Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. And so begins a new game of will-they, won’t-they.

As several observers note in my analysis of what the auction results mean for consumers, there’s no guarantee that Videotron’s parent Quebecor will in fact roll out service. As the company itself said in a release on Wednesday night, getting the licenses means it has “several options.” What are those possibilities? There are at least five, plus one I’m really hoping for:

Do nothing: At $233 million, Quebecor got the licenses at a relative steal thanks to having few competitors in the auction. With new carriers Mobilicity in creditor protection and Wind pulling out at the last minute because of a lack of funding from its Russia-based backer Vimpelcom, the path was clear for the Montreal company to swoop in and grab licenses on the cheap. Its only potential competitors were regional wireless providers such as Eastlink, MTS and Sasktel, plus Vancouver-based internet provider Novus and Feenix, a Toronto-based operation started by entrepreneur Mobilicity founder John Bitove. However, none of the regional players had shown much interest in expanding out of their home territories while both Novus and Feenix were relative minnows compared to deep-pocketed Quebecor. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in bell, rogers, telecommunications, telus, videotron

 

Let’s talk about pathetic download limits

Despite Lara Croft being British, Tomb Raider is largely Canadian.

Despite Lara Croft being British, the new Tomb Raider is largely Canadian.

With the arrival of next-generation video game consoles, Canada’s woeful internet usage limits are about to be thrust back into the spotlight. As a National Post article by the eminent Chad Sapieha explained this week, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 come with some innate issues in this country.

A simple update for Dead Rising 3 – a Canadian-made game for the Xbox One – released last week is a whopping 13 gigabytes in size. This sort of thing, where higher-resolution games require bigger and bigger downloads, is a growing problem because it’s going to cause many gamers to exceed their monthly usage limits, according to the article. Internet subscribers in Canada’s most populated regions typically get between 20 and 80 GB a month before they start seeing usurious overage charges.

I can sympathize, having downloaded Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition last week in order to review it (its multiplayer mode, by the way, is courtesy of Eidos Montreal while the Xbox One remaster is from Vancouver’s United Front Games, making it a very Canadian product overall). That file was a whopping 16 GB. Fortunately, I switched to a smaller internet provider a while ago and have 300 GB of monthly usage. Even still, with frequent game downloads like this one and a healthy amount of Netflix usage, my household comes close to even that limit on a regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in bell, rogers, video games

 

Net neutrality is like a utility, except that it isn’t

FedEx jets: why the internet is nothing like the postal service.

FedEx jets: why the internet is nothing like the postal service.

Net neutrality has certainly taken a beating of late on both sides of the border. In the United States last week, a federal court effectively killed what few rules there were that prevented internet providers from discriminating between different types of traffic. That followed an announcement a few weeks ago by AT&T that it was introducing a “sponsored data” feature for smartphones that would allow websites and online service providers to pay for exempting their content from users’ monthly data caps.

In Canada, meanwhile, a version of that is ongoing with Bell offering its own mobile television at a rate that’s significantly discounted from regular online video. Canada has rules that enshrine net neutrality and they have indeed been invoked in a complaint about Bell’s service to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

In each of these cases, the very notion of net neutrality – or the idea that the traffic and content that flows across the internet should be free from unnecessary discrimination by network providers – will be sorely tested this year. On the downside for users, internet providers have now had several years to adjust to the principle and have gotten pretty good at figuring out ways around it, hence the increasing usage of data caps as a way to privilege certain services. On the plus side for advocates, the providers still haven’t been able to counter the principle itself, which has the advantage of being tied to such fundamental long-term concerns as innovation and competition. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in bell, comcast, net neutrality