CANADA/TECHNOLOGY - Bell Canada and Rogers Telecommunications have embarked on a mission to start charging Canadians more money for their internet services, namely by jacking up the prices on their internet service plans (often without informing the customer) and continuing their practice of deliberately over-billing customers.
Various news media have been publishing on this topic for the past couple months so feel free to check out other sources and what they have to say.
Last week hundreds of thousands of Canadians signed a petition saying they would boycott internet service providers Rogers and Bell if they continued with their practice of "metering" internet usage. (Metering means they are charging extra for the more people download, and more so they keep upping the amount they are charging.)
Even the government of Canada has responded by ordering the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to set new regulations on the topic of internet metering and overcharging of customers. The same day the CRTC announced it would review the current practices over the next 60 days and proposed changes.
However it should be noted that CRTC decisions and regulations are often disappointing and lack enforcement, which leaves Canadians to take the matter into their own hands. (We will try to come back to that topic.)
Lets start with what Rogers and Bell keep doing which is causing such a fuss.
#1. They are imposing caps on internet usage, thus allowing them to overcharge users who go over the cap.
#2. They keep lowering the caps on internet usage, causing more and more people to be overcharged for their internet.
#3. They keep ignoring contracts and agreements signed 5+ years ago that guaranteed unlimited bandwidth indefinitely.
#4. They keep increasing the rate at which they overcharge customers (even though internet bandwidth is technically becoming cheaper, not more expensive).
#5. They overcharge for extra unwanted services on bills that often go unnoticed by customers.
#6. They incorrectly charge the wrong amount, often directly to a customer's bank or credit card which makes it difficult to get the amount reimbursed.
#7. They deliberately use machine operators and long lineups for customer complaints so that customers get tired of being on the phone with them and hang up.
#8. Even if you stop being a customer, they keep your phone number on record and then sick telemarketers on you in an attempt to get you back and get access to your bank and/or credit card again.
#9. If you cancel your service, they charge you an extra month in advance. (You have to cancel your credit card or change your bank account to prevent this.)
#10. They charge you a fee just for canceling your service, even if you're not on a time sensitive contract.
And if you've gone through any of this nonsense you can probably think of a couple more reasons why you hate Rogers and Bell (ie. not just for their internet services, but also their phone bills too).
The problem however is that Bell and Rogers have a virtual monopoly on the internet provider business in Canada. Smaller providers do exist, but are often buying their access to the system from Bell or Rogers (who in turn meter their amounts as well, thus you wouldn't save any money unless you found a company which isn't subcontracting from one of the big networks).
In other words even if you did try to avoid Bell or Rogers, you would have to get your internet most likely from someone buying their access from the wholesalers. Canadians are screwed due to lack of choice in the market.
Meanwhile this monopoly and metering of internet usage (and even caps on speed) is effecting Canada's ability to compete on a business level. WHY?
#1. Because the internet in Canada is slooooooow.
The networks impose caps on speed levels and then charge users different rates for access to higher speeds. If you go to any other country there is no cap on speed. ie. In South Korea you can easily download items 5x faster and they are charged pennies in comparison to what Canadians pay.
#2. Compare the Cap Difference
U.S. giant Comcast has a 250 gigabyte per month cap. In Canada many internet providers have caps of a mere 2 GB/month, and after that they start charging an arm and a leg. (Source: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.)
#3. Bell Canada admits over-charging 10% of customers
We think the number might be a lot higher than that. The extra charges are widespread. When we ask people in Canada what they are being charged, slightly over half of the people we've spoken to say they've been overcharged for their internet usage on a regular basis. So customers (and businesses, which frequently have internet at work) are undoubtedly being overcharged on a regular basis.
#4. Other countries aren't doing this
ie. In Britain (and many other countries) customers are charged the amount they were promised. This means other countries are more competitive on a business platform.
#5. Negative effect on the Canadian digital economy
This cap and overcharge system is harming innovation and keeping new business models out of Canada. The virtual monopoly of Bell and Rogers means other companies simply cannot compete, and is thus breaking Canada's fair competition laws.
So how do we, as Canadians, solve this problem?
#1. We need to ban this automatic over-billing of customers.
#2. We need to allow other companies easy access to Canada's internet market by removing foreign investment barriers.
#3. We need to allow more wireless broadband services in the forthcoming spectrum auction.
#4. More Canadians needs to switch to companies which are not reliant on the dominant ISPs.
#5. We need Canarie (Canada’s research and education high speed network provider) to offer alternatives to the mass population instead of just schools and universities.
#6. The Canadian government needs to impose open access requirements into new residential developments, municipal construction, and other initiatives so that its not all owned by Rogers or Bell.
#7. We need a national network, owned by the Canadian government / operated by the CRTC, which can be sold wholesale to anyone who wants to offer internet service.
#8. The CRTC needs to be more aggressive in auditing internet service providers to know whether they are continuously over billing customers. And fine them + demand customer refunds.
And for those of us currently being overcharged, we need to look at our bills more often, set up our credit card/bank info differently so that we do NOT pay automatically and only pay when we see fit.
And on top of that, threaten to switch providers and see if they will offer a discount.
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