Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: canada

WIND Mobile Launches Reasonable Data Plans In Canada

WIND Mobile’s pricing plans brought a breath of fresh air to the Canadian wireless landscape last December, but customers have been asking for less expensive data. WIND offered a great $35/month unlimited data add-on, but nothing below that for general purpose data.

Well, today, WIND announced new data add-ons. Just like their voice plans (and unlike what I was used to with Rogers), WIND’s data add-ons are brilliantly simple and easy to understand.

Here’s my take:

Add-On Social Charged Infinite
Cost $10/month (+ overage)
$20/month (+ overage)
$35/month. Period.
Data Included 50 MB/month
500 MB/month
Overage rate 20¢/MB
$10 / 50 MB
$20 / 500 MB
n / a
Monthly break-even 100 MB
x 20¢/MB = $20
875 MB
x 4¢/MB = $35
n / a
My Thoughts Makes sense if you only use mobile data occasionally, or for mostly text.

e.g. My mom, who uses mobile data mostly for email, and occasionally to browse the web

Makes sense if you browse the web regularly, and stream/download audio or video sometimes.

e.g. My fiancée, an average web user (email, social networking sites, chat, photos, maps, the occasional audio/video stream)

Makes sense if you stream/download audio or video a lot, or if you want to tether your mobile device with your laptop.

e.g. A geek like me, especially if I’m tethering, though I might even consider downgrading to Charged.

The monthly break-even point is not necessarily the long-term break-even point. Even if you go over the monthly break-even point occasionally, a smaller plan might be less expensive on average over time.

Pay Before to cap spending. If you’re concerned about overage charges, you can go Pay Before and only put in as much money as you’re willing to spend each month. Unlike other carriers, WIND offers Pay Before customers access to the same plans and add-ons.

Although these rates only apply in Home Zones, WIND is expanding it’s Home Zones daily, with the ambition of building a national 3G network. Right now, the Home Zones are Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa and Edmonton.

No More Getting Ripped Off

Coming from a family that’s been ripped off by Rogers for way too long, this is a breath of fresh air. Working through a Rogers bill involves a labyrinth of plans (fixed versus flex rate, Pay-As-You-Go versus regular wireless), vague details, ridiculous contracts, outrageous early cancellation fees, and sales reps who don’t understand half of it. The game is to do a detailed analysis of your usage and their offerings (including the fine print and hidden costs), and try to match them up as best you can. Otherwise, Rogers will happily take as much of your money as it can. Bell and Telus are hardly different.

I’m thankful for a wireless company that is trying to earn money by making things easy to understand, rather than profiting from confusion.

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The Sad State Of Mobile Competition in Canada, As Evidenced By Twitter SMS Support

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

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Canadian Blank CD Levy To Increase By Another 38%

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

The Copyright Board of Canada has decided to increase the levy on blank CDs from 21 cents to 29 cents each. The levy is a sort of “you’re a criminal tax” that assumes blank CDs are going to be used for unauthorized copying. Blank CDs in Canada are now often more expensive than blank DVDs (which have no levy and hold more data), and most of that cost goes directly to the record industry. In 2006, about 70% went to the labels, but it seems like even more now, with actual price of CD-Rs dropping. With a 21 cent levy, a pack of 50 CD-Rs sells for about $12 before tax. That’s 24 cents per CD-R — 87.5% of the price goes to the record industry. And that’s before the 8 cent increase.

The board notes that sales of blank CDs are declining, but justifies the increase by arguing that compression allows people to store more songs on a CD. Meanwhile, there’s no levy on digital audio players (the Canadian record industry was worried it would legalize downloading and seemed to prefer to push for tougher copyright legislation instead). What’s going to happen when the Copyright Board realizes that blank CD sales are likely declining, not because everyone is using compression, but because less people are using CDs? This “you’re a criminal tax” has always been a short-term band-aid solution that’s not going to fix the record industry’s problem. Do Canadians really need to pay the record industry $30 million a year for the right to burn a few songs onto a CD every now and then? Luckily, the current government has expressed a desire to cancel the levy, though we’ll have to wait and see if they can follow through.

Read the comments on Techdirt.

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Photos from the Olympics

My mom has been uploading photos (or sending photos to me to upload) to Flickr from Beijing. She’s at the Olympics, working on the Canadian core medical team. There are some great shots! (Unfortunately, none are from competition.)

Those are just a few of my favourites. View the whole Beijing 2008 set to see the rest.

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Canadian Telcos: The Battle of Who Could Care Less

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.

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Green Party of Canada officially supports free software

The Green Party of Canada has become the first Canadian political party to officially support free and open source software in its election platform. The policy has both philosophical and technical motivations.

The Green Party’s policy explains briefly how free and open source software is compatible with Green ideas:

As computer hardware improves, it is important that software programs are readily modifiable by the people who buy and use them.

Free software gives users the ability to work together enhancing and refining the programs they use. It is a pure public good rather than a private good.

The Green Party supports the goals and ideals of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and believes that Canada’s competitiveness in global information technology (IT) will be greatly enhanced by strongly supporting FLOSS.

They outline two specific “Green Solutions”:

  • Ensure that all new software developed for or by government is based on open standards and encourage and support a nationwide transition to FLOSS in all critical government IT systems. This will make Canada’s IT infrastructure more secure and robust, lower administration and licensing costs and develop IT skills.
  • Support the transition to FLOSS throughout the educational system.

Although the Green Party has yet to win a seat in any federal or provincial elections in Canada, they are becoming more and more relevant with support reaching double-digits (in terms of their percentage of the popular vote) in recent years. They are breaking new ground by including free and open source software in their party policy, and although it’s quite unlikely that they’ll be in power anytime soon, they may be able to help raise some support and awareness for the cause. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll make enough noise that they might get the attention of other parties.

The policy is rather simple, but it makes perfect sense. For a government to rely on proprietary software puts its country at the mercy of a (most often foreign) private corporation for its IT needs. By using free and open source software, Canada can have real control over its own IT. Open standards are important for the government as well, since, for example, public documents should be accessible to everyone, not just the users of one particular proprietary operating system. (Just look at the trouble the BBC is having for snubbing non-Windows users – they’re not even government.)

Free software also makes sense for schools, especially secondary and tertiary schools. There’s the fact that it tends to cost a lot less (and is often available at no cost), the enhanced security that it provides, but there’s a very simple reason why free software is a must for academic institutions: you can learn from it. You can’t learn from proprietary software. Not only are you not given the source, but you’re usually legally forbidden to reverse engineer a program to try to discover how it works. Free software on the other hand protects your freedom to study the code to see what a program does, not only for security reasons but also for the purpose of education.

People tend to associate the Green Party with the environment, and while their policies are much wider reaching, environmental issues are still often at the core. And free software is no exception. Free software allows you to make use of older hardware in a way that the forced-upgrade business models of proprietary software developers never will. To run Windows Vista, most people need to buy a new computer. Meanwhile, with GNU/Linux, 10 year old computers are being recycled as workstations and web servers. Recently, the Green Party in the UK joined up with the Free Software Foundation in support for free software to boycott Vista because of the environmental concerns of forced hardware upgrades. also points out that the combination of technical and economic advantages free software provides allows the Greens to stay competitive on a much smaller budget.

There are so many reasons why free software makes sense, and it’s great that the Green Party of Canada has taken the lead on trying to bring the issue into the political arena.

(Now, if only they weren’t completely pro-abortion and antiCatholic, I might actually consider voting for them. 😛 )

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Ubuntu Canadian Team

Ubuntu Canada Logo

Look what I found:

“We will be hosting an Ubuntu Toronto User Group Meeting on… 25 July, 2007 6:30 PM… held at the linuxcaffe…”

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