Monday, March 4, 2013

Canadian Data Prices – Price Gouging Once Again Rears it Ugly Head …

This is one seriously disgusting story.


To make a long story a bit shorter … man is afraid of roaming charges (a healthy fear in Canada, but also a damning one – thanks so much Rogers et al) … man’s son gets terrible sun burn and is allowed to play with cell phone in hotel room while others are out playing (father’s enormous mistake, but should be be bankrupted for it?) … son turns off airplane mode (son’s mistake, but why should he even know that a venerable Canadian institution is just lying in wait to destroy his family financially?) … and after only 12 hours, he racks up 700MB of data charges for a bill of $22,000 ….

Seems fair, doesn’t it? Well …. duuuuuhhhhhh …. it’s a gargantuan rip-off, unfortunately more than a little typical of Canadian data prices, where a data high for a few hours costs far more than a high from the same period of time from street drugs. The only difference appears to be the legality of the former and the illegality of the latter. I would like to see a “war on data gouging” and legalization and appropriate control and management of street drugs. What a change that reversal would be for our great country …

By the way, if you are wondering how much data 700MB is, it’s one CD give or take. Not a DVD, that’s 4.5GB for one layer and 9GB for two layers. No … just a CD from the 80s. The value of that data would be about $0.30 if it were stored on a writable CD today. But were it stored on a modern 3TB hard drive, it would be worth about 3 cents, again give or take a small percentage.

So if you stream that data onto your phone in another country, you rack up $22,000 in charges. That being only 733,333 times the cost of storing it on a hard drive. Or let’s be more fair (a concept that seems foreign in this story) and compare directly against Mexican and Canadian at-home charges. That amount of data at home is about $40 at Rogers and $20 in Mexico. That’s still 550 times and 1100 times the charges when roaming, respectively.

Need any more input to form an opinion on whether this is a gouge?

So what to do?

Well, the CRTC apparently woke from its slumber recently, and said that it is looking at capping roaming fees. To be clear:

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has heard from many Canadians upset about roaming charges and it has proposed capping those fees at $50, as part of a new mandatory code of conduct for wireless providers.

Note that they even have to call it a “code of conduct” because this particular industry cannot be counted on to follow a palatable one without it being imposed. That’s not a surprise, I suppose, in a corporatist world where the whole point of the exercise is to squeeze customers dry so that unbridled growth can be maintained for one more quarter. One shudders to imagine what they will come up with when the market finally saturates …

By the way, the providers’ response was this ringing endorsement of their commitment to veracity:

The major carriers told CRTC hearings mandated caps would be technically difficult, if not impossible to administer. New rules are expected this summer.

Now, I worked in telecommunications software for 18 years and I call total and utter bullshit on that statement. Capping an account at 50 bucks roaming within a period is no different from any other cap that they happily administer today … like the lousy download limits they impose unless you are willing to pay 100 bucks a month for your internet service, another area where highway robbery is the norm in Canada.

And to top all of this off with a poignant ending …

“When I heard $22,000 and my son happened to hear $22,000, he went into a fetal position and was crying. It was just mind boggling for him,” said Matt Buie, who has an account with Fido, which is owned by Rogers.

One wonders if our data service providers have even the slightest clue of how deeply such avarice cuts into families when they step into one of the many little “traps” that have been set for them …