Archive for CRTC

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.

CRTC Asks Canadians To Help Measure The Performance Of Internet Service In Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 22, 2015 by itnerd

Now I have to admit that this is an interesting project. The CRTC yesterday put this press release out asking for Canadians to help it measure how their Internet service at home performs:

The CRTC is recruiting up to 6,200 Canadians to help measure the Internet services provided by the participating ISPs. Volunteers will receive a device, called a “Whitebox”, that they will connect to their modem or router. The Whitebox will periodically measure broadband performance, testing a number of parameters associated with the broadband Internet connection, including download and upload speeds. The measurement tests will run when users are not actively using their Internet connection. The privacy of Canadians will also be assured. No information concerning online activities will be collected.

The results of this project will enable Canadians to gain additional insight into network performance, including actual connection speeds, and provide them with a better undestanding of whether certain Internet services from participating ISPs are delivering speeds as advertised. These results will also provide data that will enable the CRTC to improve its broadband policy-making.

Using these results as a baseline, the CRTC intends to publish a comprehensive report highlighting the findings of this project. While the initial project is set to last for one year, the CRTC intends to continue gathering data beyond the initial year. The data will ultimately form part of the CRTC’s data collection and monitoring activities.

If you want to participate, you should sign up here. But I suggest that you hurry as I suspect that this will be popular.

One thing that I did find interesting is that Rogers put out a press release of its own very quickly. It had a very interesting stance:

Rogers Communications announced today it is pleased the CRTC is launching Measuring Broadband Canada, a new independent testing program that gives Canadians real information on the performance of their Internet provider.  The announcement follows the move by Rogers in 2012 to begin independent testing using global expert SamKnows, the same broadband testing firm announced by the CRTC today.

“This is great news for consumers,” said Robert Goodman, Senior Director of Internet, Rogers Communications.  “We urged our competitors to join us when we began independent testing three years ago so we’re thrilled the CRTC is taking this step forward today.  Canadians deserve the Internet speeds they pay for and more transparency means they can make more informed choices.” 

For the record, I checked the press releases archives for Bell, Teksavvy and Telus for anything similar and I could not find anything.

I find it interesting because I will admit that Rogers has put a lot of time, money and effort into making sure that customers get the speeds that they pay for. And they’re not only not shy about telling the world about it, but they use third parties like SamKnows (Warning: PDF) to back up their claims. Thus they likely see something like this as an opportunity to get another third party to validate how good their Internet service is compared to their competitors. But since it would come from the CRTC, a body that Rogers hasn’t exactly had the best relationship with, it would add extra weight to Rogers claims. And for bonus points, by calling out their competitors for not doing the same, they look like the good guy. This is smart marketing, assuming of course everything goes to plan.

So, will you be participating? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Hey IT Nerd! Does The CRTC Decision On Roaming Mean Lower Prices For Me?

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 6, 2015 by itnerd

Here’s a question that I got in my inbox yesterday:

Hello. The CRTC issued a decision to cap roaming rates that Robellus charges smaller wireless carriers. Do you think it will lower rates for me as I am on Wind and I get significant roaming charges on my bill?

Thanks!

Thanks for the question. First, let me post a link to the CRTC decision that came out yesterday that forces Rogers, Bell, and Telus (aka Robellus) to limit how much they charge the Wind Mobile’s of the world for roaming onto their networks. The reason why the CRTC is taking this action is this:

The CRTC has found that there is an insufficient level of competition among the national wireless companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – in the provision of wholesale roaming services. These companies can maintain rates and impose terms and conditions that would not prevail in a competitive market. Other Canadian wireless companies need to obtain these services under reasonable rates, terms and conditions in order to offer comparable broad or national wireless coverage to their own customers.

As such, the CRTC will regulate the rates that Bell, Rogers and Telus charge other companies for wholesale wireless roaming services. The CRTC has set interim rates for these services effective today, and is requiring the three companies to file final proposed rates by November 4, 2015.

Now, this will not make a difference at all. I’ve said it before and I will say it one more time. If you want to have a lower cell phone bill every month, you need to have real competition. That means that the government needs to encourage a big global telco on the scale of a Vodafone or a Deutsche Telekom to come into Canada, set up their own national infrastructure, and go toe to toe with the big three. That would make your bills drop because you’ll have an option that won’t be pushed around by the big three. Now the CRTC decision from yesterday may save you a few cents here and there, but it is not the game changer that Canada truly needs in the wireless market. After all as the CRTC said, there is an insufficient level of competition among the national wireless companies.

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