Archive for CRTC

WTF? CRTC Chairman Says That He Never Promised You Lower Cable Bills

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 23, 2016 by itnerd

CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais spoke to The Globe and Mail today and had this to say on the so called “skinny” cable bundle that seems not to have gone over well with cable companies. Not to mention that consumers aren’t thrilled with how cable companies are selling this bundle:

“People may have thought, mistakenly, that the CRTC was going to reduce everybody’s cable bills – that’s not what we promised. We said we’re going to give you more choice,” Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, said in an interview.

He said the commission’s aim has been to give consumers “tools to solve their own problems,” and used a personal anecdote to drive home his point. “I myself … looked at my offerings and slimmed it down,” Mr. Blais said, after giving a speech about anti-spam legislation in Toronto on Tuesday. “Was it easy? No. … You have to keep going up the chain into [the] loyalty program. It requires effort.”

Wait. I remember writing a year ago that the CRTC made the cable companies do three things:

  1. They made cable companies adopt a “pick and pay” option which means that you can pick only the channels that you want and pay for them. So you don’t have to pick a bundle full of channels you don’t want anymore.
  2. They made cable companies offer a “basic” cable option that can be no more than $25 a month and will consist of local stations and mandatory channels, such as APTN, TVO, CPAC, educational channels and accessibility channels, with the option to include up to four American “affiliate” channels (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox), plus PBS.
  3. Consumers no longer have to give 30 days notice to dump their current cable company.

Attached to that story was a statement from the CRTC that said this among other things:

More and more Canadians are watching the content they want, when they want, and on multiple devices. They are enjoying the freedom and benefits that come from living in a World of Choice.

They told us that the bundles offered by the cable and satellite companies were large, unwieldy and expensive. They expressed frustration that, in order to access a particular channel, they had to buy others that they didn’t want.

Today’s decision is all about choice and affordability.

Note the last line:

Today’s decision is all about choice and affordability.

So, yes Mr. Blais, the CRTC DID promise lower cable bills. Now you’re backtracking on it. This is precisely the reason why the CRTC needs to dumped in favor of a regulatory body that actually is effective at protecting Canadians from this sort of thing. I truly hope when Canadians clue in, they’ll start sending e-mails to the CRTC with their local MP’s copied on it demanding action on that front. Because this sort of non-sense from the CRTC is unacceptable.

 

 

Skinny TV Bundles Take Effect In Canada Today

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 1, 2016 by itnerd

Today is the day that the CRTC says that all Canadian TV providers have to provide a $25 basic or “Skinny” TV bundle. Why? Because the options that are currently offered to consumers are expensive and force consumers to take channels that they don’t want to get the channels that they do want.

Now if you are wondering what different TV providers are offering, The Globe And Mail has done a great of putting together a list of what’s on the table from Canada’s TV providers. But it seems that one provider has caught the attention of some for being a bit shady when it comes to these “Skinny” TV bundles. That provider is Bell. The CBC has found that Bell is apparently telling staff to not discuss the $25 bundle:

The Bell training document states: “Do not promote the Starter TV package. There will be no advertising, and this package should only be discussed if the customer initiates the conversation.”

It also shows that costs for the Fibe TV “Starter” pack can go much higher than the initial $24.95 monthly fee. The plan comes with about 20 mandatory Canadian channels. Customers can then add individual pick-and-pay channels priced at either $4 or $7.

As with other packages, people will also have to shell out extra monthly fees for the TV receiver or box rental and high definition programming. In addition, according to the document, to get Fibe TV, customers must subscribe to a Bell internet package.

On top of that, according to another apparent Bell training document posted online, the company will not offer any deals to “Starter” customers.

The document said there will be no bundle discounts, no hardware or PVR deals, and “no TV sweetener offers” with the package.

Fibe is Bell’s high-speed fibre optic network. It also offers separate plans for satellite TV.

The Bell document obtained by CBC News lays out the pricing for the Fibe “Starter” with some add-ons.

Combined with ultra-high-speed internet, a couple of $7 pick-and-pay channels and the TV box rental, according to Bell’s own calculations, a customer would pay a total of $130.35.

That’s more than five times the initial price of the basic package.

Lovely. CBC reached out to Bell and the CRTC for clarification and this happened:

CBC News reached out to the CRTC and asked if Bell could require customers to buy Bell internet when signing up for the “Starter” basic pack, as indicated in the company document.

Soon after, we heard from a Bell employee who told us that “Starter TV no longer has to be linked with internet. [Bell] just backed off.” However, subsequent contact with a Bell representative on Sunday confirmed that customers getting the Fibe starter pack must also purchase Bell internet service.

CBC News asked the company for a response to this story. “Sorry I wouldn’t comment on anonymous claims or documents you are finding,” Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said in an email.

She also wouldn’t confirm any details about the “Starter” pack. “We wouldn’t pre-announce pricing,” she said. “It’s a competitive business.”

Michelis added:  “We will follow all CRTC rules, we always do.”

I have to admit that this sounds shady. One wonders if similar discussions have happened on the boardrooms of other TV providers. After all, for most of them, TV is a huge cash cow for them and being forced to take less money from consumers would not be terribly appealing. Thus, I wonder how much traction these “Skinny” TV bundles are truly going to get.

netTALK / Iristel: What We Now Know Now That This Appears To Be Over [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on January 21, 2016 by itnerd

Now that it appears that 75,000 Canadian netTALK customers have their phone service back, I think it’s time to take a look at this whole situation and see what we now know from this experience.

The first thing that we now know is that netTALK’s as a company isn’t on stable ground. And that comes through by its own admission in documents filed with the SEC. In fact, a lot of their dirty laundry got exposed as part of this, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. That combined with the fact that Walmart and Best Buy have allegedly stopped selling their products in Canada (Please note that I am still awaiting confirmation of that) and all the negative press they’ve received means one simple thing: They will have trouble retaining customers and attracting new customers will be difficult, if not impossible. Now to be fair, they have promised to compensate Canadian customers who were affected by this outage, but that may not mean much if they aren’t around to follow through. And it may be too late as many of those consumers are considering other VoIP options. And that may hasten netTALK’s demise. One other thing that’s worth considering is the fact that netTALK is now in bed with Primus who just went into Chapter 15 bankruptcy. That has to give one cause to pause.

The second thing that we know is that a company by the name of Iristel exists. Prior to this episode I have never heard of this company, and I am sure the average Canadian hadn’t heard of them either. But as part of looking into this matter, I ended up talking to their PR guy, their VP of Operations, and trading Tweets with their CEO. On the upside, they came across for the most part as straight shooters, and everything they said was on the level for the most part. The downers in this were the fact that they let netTALK run up a $2 million bill before pulling the plug and starting this whole nightmare. That was likely not the smartest thing for them to do. Though I suspect, the prior relationship of Samer Bishay with netTALK as he was at one time the President of netTALK and is now the CEO of Iristel has something to do with that. Not to mention that Bishay’s bombastic style of tweeting rubbed people the wrong way. On that front, my advice to him is to get someone else to do his social media for him. In any event, this company is now on the map. But I suspect not in an entirely positive way. They will have some fence mending to do with the Canadian public going forward. Good luck with that.

The third thing that came of this is the CRTC and the CCTS and their lack of will and ability in terms of making sure that Canadians have reliable telecommunication services. I discovered that the CRTC threatened netTALK with “enforcement action” back in 2013 because they didn’t join the CCTS. But here we are in 2016 and no “enforcement action” appears to have been taken. You have to wonder why that was and if it could have stopped this whole gong show from happening? Plus during this whole debacle, you never got the sense that the CRTC had no ability or will to resolve this other than putting out a few Tweets saying that they were talking to the parties involved. As for the CCTS, I got numerous e-mails, comments, and even a complete chat log from a reader where he recorded a conversation between him and the CCTS where the CCTS said that they couldn’t help in this situation. That means that both of Canada’s telecommunications regulatory bodies are broken and are in desperate need of reform. Something that frequent readers of this blog know that I have been saying for years. This episode highlights the fact that Canadians need change in that area and we need it now. I hope that the Federal Government is listening and will take action on that front because Canadians deserve better.

The final thing that came out of this is the fact that you have to choose your VoIP provider carefully. People go to VoIP to save money as these are very difficult economic times. I get that. But you have to do your homework. First of all, see if the provider that you want to use is a part of the CCTS participating providers list. Though the CCTS is kind of useless, at least a provider on this list is trying to be a reputable player in the Canadian telecommunications industry. But that isn’t the only place to look. In this regard, the search engine of your choice is your friend. Everything I found out about netTALK and Iristel was found via Google very easily. You can really find out a lot about a telecom provider just by spending the time to look. Finally, if the price is too good to be true, it likely is. After all, being a telecom isn’t a low cost business. The price that you pay has to reflect that. So If the VoIP service that you’re considering is substantially lower than others, that should make you say “hmmmm.”

Finally, I would like to say thanks to all the people who read this blog and follow me on Twitter. A special thanks go to those who sent me feedback and tips on this issue. The tips that you provided allowed me to follow this story and uncover new information for you. I really appreciate each and every single one of you and I hope I’ve been of service to you in this matter. I also hope to be of service to you going forward.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging and reviewing of everything from smartphones to cars. I hope.

UPDATE: Primus reached out to me tonight to say this:

Just wanted to clarify one point in your blog where you write:
“One other thing that’s worth considering is the fact that netTALK is now in bed with Primus who just went into Chapter 15 bankruptcy. That has to give one cause to pause.”
Primus is seeking creditor protection in both the U.S. and Canada to facilitate its sale to Birch. Primus is not bankrupt, which you’ll appreciate is a very different legal condition and undertaking. 
Okay. Point taken.
UPDATE #2: Best Buy Canada has confirmed that they aren’t selling netTALK products:

What Is The CRTC Doing In The netTALK / Iristel Dispute?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on January 20, 2016 by itnerd

A consistent question that has been asked since the start of the netTALK / Iristel dispute is what the CRTC is doing. After all, they are supposed to be the guys who regulate Canada’s telecom industry to make sure that all is as it should be. But the closest thing to a comment that the CRTC has made is a Tweet like this one:

That’s it. That leaves many people wondering what that means? Are they working towards a resolution? If so, is there a timeline on how long it will take to resolve this? After all, it’s estimated that 75,000 Canadians are without proper phone service. That’s not a trivial number of people. Thus you’d think there’d be some sort more robust comment from Canada’s telecom regulator if for no other reason to put minds at ease.

What likely doesn’t help the situation is the fact that I’ve found that the CRTC threatened netTALK with an “enforcement action” back in late 2013 because netTALK didn’t join the CCTS which is the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. But it seems that no “enforcement action” was ever taken. So I’ve been wondering if this could have been headed off earlier. I am also wondering if it makes the CRTC look like a toothless tiger. As a result, I’ve asked the CRTC questions like this via Twitter:

As of yet, I have had no response.

What’s really needed here is the CRTC is to step up and say something like “We are aware of the issues with netTALK and Iristel. These are the things that we’re doing to resolve it. This is how long we think it will take. And we have other options from an enforcement standpoint if things drag on.” Then they need to say something like “We’ll look at what happened in 2013 to see what happened there and how we can improve things to stop a situation like that from happening again.”

So how about it CRTC? Will you explain what your path to resolution is to the 75,000 affected by this fiasco, as well as to the many many others who are watching this situation closely?

Remember, Canada is watching.

CRTC Asks For Your Input To Stop Telephone Number “Spoofing”

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 23, 2015 by itnerd

If you’ve ever heard the phone ring, look at the call display and seen what you thought was a legitimate number on the display, then picked up the phone to find a telemarketer or scammer on the other end of the line, you’ve been a victim of spoofing. In the telephone sense, it’s when a telemarketer or scammer uses a fake number on your call display to entice you to pick up the phone. It isn’t all that hard to do as there are many services out there that are just a Google search away to facilitate this. This isn’t helping to keep a telemarketer or scammer at bay and the CRTC wants to do something about it:

Canadians can participate in this consultation by sharing their views on:

  • the technical solutions available to help them manage unsolicited or illegitimate calls
  • barriers they may face to adopting or using these solutions, and
  • new and innovative solutions that could help them manage unsolicited telecommunications and illegitimate telemarketing calls.

The CRTC is asking the telecommunications industry to provide a summary of current options and features to block these sorts of annoying calls by Sept. 4. The public consultation is open to comments until Oct. 16. We’ll see what happens beyond that. But this is a good first step with hopefully more to come.

CRTC Says Big Telcos Must Open Up Fiber Optic Networks To Upstarts

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 23, 2015 by itnerd

Yesterday, the CRTC released a decision that forces big telcos must open up access to their fiber optic networks to competitors such as Primus, Distributel or TekSavvy. Keep in mind that big telcos are already required to do this with their copper based networks. Thus doing the same thing with fiber optic networks it levels the playing field and fosters competition.

Another change is that competitors are forced to use an “aggregated” model of service. Meaning that they tap into a single point of access and there may only be one per province. Because of that, they pay more because they have to pay to have data shuffled back and forth based on distance. Now the CRTC says that competitors must agree to a “disaggregated” model of service, where they are required to plug in much closer to the final consumer, at a regional point of access.The smaller companies would then have to arrange transport of data from that regional interface to their own offices, either by installing their own fiber optic cable, or by leasing it from an existing company. This is designed to discourage smaller competitors from acting as mere resellers of existing bandwidth. Instead, they in theory would add to the available bandwidth. But it also should reduce the cost that competitors have to pay.

It should be noted that big telcos will be allowed to charge fees for sharing their fiber optic cables in order to make a profit on their investments. The pricing model will be worked out with each company on the basis of actual cost, plus a markup of about 30 per cent. So it isn’t as if they have lost per se. Although I’m pretty sure the big telcos won’t see it that way.

One thing that I should note is that it will take a long time to see the effects of this. So if you’re hoping to switch ISPs to get faster Internet access on fiber optic cable, and the lower prices that come with dealing with an upstart ISP, you may have to wait for a while yet.

Two Tech Innovations That Will Make Canadians Safer

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 26, 2015 by itnerd

If you’re Canadian, you might want to pay attention to this as there are two things that hit the streets that will make you or someone you love safer.

First up is Facebook which is bringing it’s Amber Alert system to Canada. The will send Amber Alerts to Facebook Users in the first critical hours after a child has been abducted. Comprehensive information including a photograph and all available details about the abducted child will be provided on Facebook’s mobile News Feed. The Alert will only appear in the feeds of people who are in the designated search area and users will be able to share the Alert easily and instantly with friends and family.

Here’s Jordan Banks, Global Head of Vertical Strategy and Managing Director with more on this via a video that requires Flash.

Next up is the CRTC. They announced today that they were awarded the Innovative Team Award from the Association of Professional Executive of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) for the organization’s work on Text with 9-1-1 services. This new service enables hearing and speech-impaired Canadians to access emergency services. The rollout of Text with 9-1-1 started this spring and will finish up by the end of this year.

Both of these will make Canadians safer by either giving more people the ability to get help, getting help to our kids in their hour of need. Kudos to the organizations that are bringing these innovations forward.

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