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Tagged: telecom

Canadian Telcos Appoint Ex-Cabinet Ministers To Their Boards

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

Two of Canada’s big three telcos have recently appointed former cabinet ministers of the ruling party’s government to their respective boards. A few weeks ago, Bell appointed Jim Prentice, who was responsible for telecom policy and regulating companies like Bell while serving as Minister of Industry in 2007-2008. Then, while former cabinet minister Stockwell Day’s new “government relations” not-a-lobbying-firm has raised concerns about loopholes in lobbying laws, this past weekend Telus named Day to its board. (How long until Rogers aligns with industry standards and finds an ex-minister of their own?) OpenMedia.ca decried both appointments as examples of big telecom “cozying up to the government,” but journalist Peter Nowak argues it’s the system’s fault: “Lobbying is so pervasive and deeply integrated” into the system that the only way to deal with it seems to be to “fight fire with fire,” as even new wireless carriers have quickly learned — i.e. don’t hate the players, hate the game.

Neither Prentice nor Day will be lobbyists, but it seems obvious that their knowledge of government is being sought for the purposes of lobbying. In the broadband space, Bell has been butting heads with the government and regulators over issues like wholesale usage-based billing. In the wireless space, the next spectrum auction is approaching and incumbents want to avoid a repeat of the last auction, where 40% of the spectrum was reserved for new entrants and the government forced incumbents to offer roaming agreements — rules ironically set by Bell’s new board member, Jim Prentice.

Are these appointments examples of regulatory capture? It might appear that way. It’s certainly a case of telcos gearing up for a heavy round of lobbying that’s unlikely to favor consumers, but it’s hardly a case of blatant revolving doors. Day was not actually responsible for telecom policy, and Prentice was behind rules that angered incumbents. If the government favors incumbents in the next spectrum auction or backs down on wholesale usage-based billing, that would be a different story, but Canadian incumbents are scrambling because they’ve lost some big battles. This isn’t so much a cause for deep concern as it is a challenge to those who favor more competition in Canada to keep pressing the government to follow through on what it’s started.

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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
 
unlimited
 
Overage rate 20¢/MB
$10 / 50 MB
 
4¢/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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