You know things are pretty pathetic when an announcement from Rogers that SMS updates are re-enabled for Twitter (after 7 months of downtime), without any pricing trickery, is a cause for rejoicing. Update: I spoke too soon
I have a new post at Techdirt, from the nobody-likes-anti-features dept: Rogers Looks For New Ways To Annoy Customers, Hijacks Failed DNS Lookups.
Yeah, I’m just a little bit annoyed. I’m working on a post to detail how to circumvent it with OpenDNS, which is my short-term solution while I investigate other ISPs (not that there are many).
I thought I’d celebrate the official launch of the iPhone in Canada by noting a few of the reasons I won’t be caught dead with one.
- The iPhone isn’t free software, like the Android or OpenMoko. As the FSF points out, why take a device you can’t control when there are devices you can?
- The iPhone is extremely hostile to GNU/Linux. For previous iPods, developers already had to reverse engineer a proprietary iTunesDB file to sync with programs that aren’t iTunes, but Apple decided to throw a security hash on the iTunesDB file for the iPhone and iPod touch. To help a friend sync her iPhone to her Ubuntu laptop, I needed to unlock the phone (so she could use it in Canada), jailbreak it, install an OpenSSH server, mount the iPhone to the laptop over ssh via WiFi and then sync. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. Not caring enough to support GNU/Linux is understandable, but throwing up roadblocks for those that will do it for Apple is dumb and insulting.
- The iPhone is not a truly open platform for developers. There are technical and contractual problems, including apparent incompatibility with free software. The app store seems like a great idea, except that it’s the only way Apple wants developers to create software for the iPhone.
- Rogers’ ridiculous pricing plans and lame attempts to appease the “very small group of early adopters,” because, you know, no one else wants to browse the web. Though, apparently Rogers didn’t get many phones, in stark contrast to the absolute frenzy here in Australia with three GSM providers all getting healthy stocks of the new device. Serves Rogers right.
- From a purely technical perspective, it’s not quite there yet. I have three devices: phone, pda, digital audio player. By “there,” I mean that I’d love it if I could reduce that to one device, or even two. It’s a phone, not quite a PDA (I couldn’t use it to take lecture notes like I do with my Palm Pilot), and not quite the digital audio player I’d like (my collection is ~27GB and I use Ogg Vorbis). I’d rather try to get another few years out of my current hardware and let Moore’s Law work a little bit more magic.
However… that FreeRunner is looking pretty good.
This is getting just a little bit ridiculous. Rogers’ rates are already insanely high since they have a GSM monopoly in Canada. Their absolutely unrealistic pricing plans for the iPhone appear to have even got the attention of Cupertino. Now, despite the ongoing investigation by the CRTC into Bell’s throttling practices (which is generating enough bad publicity), Bell and Telus are in a race to the bottom in the value they offer customers through their mobile pricing plans. They want to start charging customers 15 cents per received SMS message.
Even at 10¢, a text message already costs the customer sending it almost five times more than it does to send the equivalent amount of data to the Hubble telescope. 15¢ per text message means that any time a customer sends or receives a message (which can’t be bigger than 140 bytes), they are paying the equivalent of at least $1,101 per megabyte—and, if they are, say, Bell customers sending a message to other Bell customers, Bell makes the equivalent of at least $2,202 per megabyte. And we’re, uh, guessing that some of that’s profit.
Bell unsurprisingly tries to make this somehow seem necessary.
The growth in text messages has been nothing short of phenomenal. This volume places tremendous demands on our network and we can’t afford to provide this service for free anymore.
Somehow, I find that hard to believe. This is like the postal service charging you to receive mail, despite the sender already having paid the postage. (In which case, when ordering something online you’d have to pay shipping and “receiving”.)
What are they thinking? So unapologetically greedy… yet the only alternative is Rogers.
Do we really need another reason to hate Rogers? Jack Kapica got a bill for the first half of his trip to Rio, where he was charged for 5,151 kb of data transfer. Guess how much? No, no, guess again. This is Rogers, it needs to be insanely higher than what you think is insanely high.
That’s $46.81 per megabyte. God forbid he watched a video on YouTube during the second half of his trip. He might have to remortgage his house.
Don’t cry yet, it gets worse.
It was my fault, of course. I knew Canadians pay the world’s highest data rates, but I had no idea how much I was incurring while on the road.
So I went to a Rogers store and asked the sales clerk how I could have calculated the charges as they occurred. I expected there to be some website that could tell me what I routinely learn from taxi cabs: a real-time fare update. So where do I look?
I can’t do it, I was told by the sales clerk. It’s not possible.
“Because Rogers tells all of its cellphone manufacturers to disable that feature in our cellphones,” he said in a manner that suggested I was the last person to learn this. Perhaps I was.
And why does Rogers do that?
That’s when he dropped the one-word bomb: “Revenue.”
Talk about honesty.
Talk about pure and unadulterated greed.
Evil, evil, evil…
Last week, Rogers began experimenting with something called deep packet inspection to insert their own content into web pages that its users view. They began by displaying some users’ account statuses when they visited Google.
This is wrong for a variety of reasons. The information may (or may not) be useful in this case, but once you grant your Internet service provider (ISP) real estate on any web page they choose, where do you draw the line? What’s to stop them from inserting ads on Google’s homepage? What rights does Google have over the integrity of the content they’re trying to provide users? More importantly, there are better ways to display this sort of information for a user without altering the content of arbitrary websites, such as using a proxy page (as Mike Masnick points out in his coverage).
When your service provider delivers content to you from a content provider, you don’t expect them to alter that content. If your service provider is snooping through the content, that alone raises privacy concerns. But changing it is a clear violation of trust. When someone sends me a letter in the mail, I expect Canada Post to deliver it to me without opening it. More to the point, I expect the contents of that envelope to be from the sender, period. Would we grant our mail carrier the right to open up a piece of our mail and insert its own content packaged with the contents from the sender? That would be unacceptable, both to the sender and the receiver. If Canada Post wants to send me its own content, it is free to include that with my mail (ie. beside it), but not inside a piece of mail.
Rogers is my Internet service provider, not my Internet content provider. I don’t expect Rogers to be altering content sent to me from other sources (like Google). In the same way it would be unacceptable for Canada Post to open my mail and put something inside the envelope, it is completely unacceptable for Rogers to inspect my packages and insert something into a web page I’m viewing.
Rogers says it is experimenting with this right now and testing customer feedback. Let’s hope people realize what a dangerous precedent this sets and that Rogers listens to its customers. Miracles can happen…