Category Archives: telecommunications

Government has its head in the sand with privacy

Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Harper pauses while speaking during a campaign stop at an automobile parts factory in Brampton

There’s stubborn, and then there’s Canada’s federal government.

The steadfast refusal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Justice Minister Peter MacKay to listen to reason when it comes to Bill C-13, their proposed cyber-bullying privacy legislation, is really quite astounding. They’re like the figurative donkeys that refuse to budge, which might be funny if the rights of the entire country weren’t at stake.

C-13, properly known as the “Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act,” has been roundly criticized since its introduction last year for being too broad. While few pundits have disagreed with its supposed intent – the outlawing of cyber-bullying – the proposed legislation also covers all manner of unrelated activities, from stealing cable signals to wire taps.

The most contentious part of the bill is that it would give immunity to telecom service providers when they hand over subscriber information to security agencies and polices forces. With customers having no legal recourse against those companies in such situations, the already voluminous extent to which they are sharing this information will certainly increase dramatically. Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


The reality of wireless bills in one simple chart

Further to my post yesterday about whether wireless bills have gone down… I got an email from Geoff White, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, that hit the nail more closely on the head than the new report from J.D. Power has.

While that survey suggests that consumers are suffering from mass delusion, some simple reality checking shows that’s hardly the case. Here is PIAC’s comparison of basic smartphone plans from one of the big carriers from August 2012 and March 2014:


It’s true that subscribers are now getting more voice minutes, a faster network and a shorter amortization period on their subsidized phone (two years rather than three), but is that worth the big hike when the matching rise in the consumer price index over the same time was only 1.24 per cent?

As PIAC puts it: “In just two years the basic entry point into smartphone ownership (and with a bare minimum of data) has increased 46 per cent. This and similar price increases cannot be seen as positive for anyone except the service providers themselves.”

Unfortunately, that’s far closer to the reality consumers are experiencing than J.D. Power’s findings.

*PIAC’s data appears to have had an error in the overage calculation. The original chart above listed the pricing as “same” but has since been amended to indicate overage cost more in 2014.


Posted by on May 9, 2014 in mobile, telecommunications


No, wireless bills aren’t actually going down

cell-phone-billSo wireless bills are going down? Wha? How’s that possible?

Canadians are paying an average of $76 per month if on a two-year contract or $81 if on a three-year agreement which, according to a new report from J.D. Power, means “on average, monthly bills for wireless service have dropped by $7 for customers in Canada, helping to improve overall satisfaction.” Much of this is thanks to the CRTC’s Wireless Code of Conduct that took effect in December, which capped roaming fees and eliminated three-year contracts, the report says.

The results seem to disagree with what has actually been going on. Firstly, the big carriers all raised their fees last summer ahead of the Wireless Code’s arrival, then hiked them again starting in January, and now they’re starting to raise them again by chipping away at the discount customers get for supplying their own devices. Even Bay Street analysts agree that regular price increases are resuming now that the competitive threat of new entrants such as Wind and Mobilicity has subsided.

So what gives, J.D. Power?

“It’s a reported monthly spend,” said Adrian Chung, the report’s author, in an interview. “It certainly isn’t the ARPU (average revenue per user) number that the carriers will indicate in their financials.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 8, 2014 in mobile, telecommunications


Telco-abetted spying is perverse on many levels

SurveillanceEven after a few days of digestion, it’s still hard to decide on the most alarming part of this week’s big privacy revelations. In case you missed it, it turns out that Canadian law enforcement agencies are requesting basic subscriber information without a warrant from telecommunications providers on a mass level – in 2011, it was a whopping 1.1 million times. As University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist calculates, that’s one request every 27 seconds. By that math, there will be 10 or so requests made in the time it takes to read this post.

Aside from that big initial number is the equally concerning 785,000: that’s how many times just three companies disclosed the requested information. When all other providers – the ones who didn’t own up to it – are factored in, the total number is doubtlessly higher. As shocking as the enforcement agencies’ demands are, it’s at least equally outrageous that telecom companies are so easily rolling over and coughing up their customers’ data when they are not required to do so. It sure looks like they almost never say “no.”

To this end, the Canadian government is moving to implement Bill C-13, which would give telecom companies immunity from criminal or civil liability for doing exactly this sort of thing. I’m no lawyer, but the fact that such a move is on might suggest that they are indeed liable until such a law is enacted. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 2, 2014 in privacy, telecommunications


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


2013 blog in review: it was (almost) all telecom

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

What a year it was. 2013 was a year of ups and downs, both in the news world and for myself personally. Over the past few weeks, I’ve covered off some of the highlights and low-lights of the past year’s news events. Closer to home, my wife and I lost a beloved pet, but on the plus side we bought a house and I finally finished off my second book. Here’s hoping that 2014 has more upsides than downsides for everyone out there.

This coming year will also mark the five-year anniversary of this blog, which I launched back in 2009 as a promotional vehicle for my first book. Along the way, it morphed from into this site, with the focus also shifting dramatically when I dove into the freelance world three years ago. At first, most of my posts were devoted to developments in the three industries covered off in the book – military, fast food and pornography – but that ultimately expanded to all technology.

The early days seem funny now as a result, with my first few year-end summaries tending to turn up porn-related posts as the most-read of the year. Taking a look at this year’s most-read list is a good snapshot of just how distant those days are, with an entirely different topic – telecommunications – now overwhelmingly dominant.

10. How cellphone negotiations go in Canada (Jan. 14)

This one was a tongue-in-cheek conversation between a fictional customer looking to buy an iPhone and a wireless carrier service agent, but it was really a thinly veiled attempt to dissemble numerous industry talking points. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in blogging, media, roku, telecommunications