Archive for CRTC

CRTC Fails Miserably To Address Compliance Issues With netTALK

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 25, 2016 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about netTALK, the VoIP provider who in a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. In my last story on this topic, Jeremy Cooperstock wrote a letter to the CRTC in regards to netTALK being a non-compliant provider according to the CRTC and CCTS, and the fact that netTALK failed to deliver on their promise of one year of free service. Mr Cooperstock got a reply from the CRTC via Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Here it is: 

Dear Mr. Cooperstock:

As discussed on Friday over the phone, the issue in question is not within the CRTC’s purview. Should you wish to pursue the matter, we would advise you to seek legal representation.

So… At this point you have to ask what good is the CRTC? After all, thousands of Canadians had their phone service offline for days. And it’s not like the fact that netTALK is a non-compliant telco is a new discoveryThere’s no way that should be acceptable to the CRTC, but clearly it is. And that quite frankly an #EpicFail. Canadians deserve better from their telco regulators. One wonders if better will ever come.

Now when it comes to netTALK, my advice remains the same. They are a non-compliant member of the CCTS. From what I can tell, they have never made a penny. Plus they don’t follow through on their promises. Avoid them at all costs as they are a telco that won’t be around in the long term. That will only hurt you in the end.

I will continue to monitor this for any new developments from either the CRTC or netTALK.

netTALK Back In The News For All The Wrong Reasons

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

It’s been a few months since I wrote anything about VoIP provider netTALK who last made the news because they got into a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. One of the things that I discovered that the CRTC threatened netTALK with “enforcement action” back in 2013 because they didn’t join the CCTS which is something that netTALK has to do. But here we are in 2016 and no “enforcement action” appears to have been taken to date. 

Well, one person wants to know why. I was alerted to a letter written by Jeremy Cooperstock to Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Among other things, Mr. Copperstock mentions this: 

As we discussed on Friday, I understand from the CCTS that netTALK is a non-compliant provider whom they referred to the CRTC in April for enforcement action. When I asked the CCTS “But do [netTALK’s] customers still have no recourse for the broken promises?”, I was referred to the June 8 letter from the CRTC and directed to contact you.

If you click on the first link, you will see that there is clear evidence that netTALK continues to be a non-compliant provider and nothing has been done about it by the CRTC or CCTS. If you click the second link, you will notice that the CRTC has decided to do nothing about the fact that thousands of Canadians had their phone service taken offline for days. That further highlights the fact that there needs to be a telecommunications regulator in Canada who is prepared to hold telcos accountable for the actions.

There’s one other thing that I need to point out in this letter:

As for my own situation, after complaining on September 24 that the service renewal letter I received did not include any compensation for being deprived of telephone service for five days in January of this year, I was only offered, in response, a single month of free service (a value of approximately $4).


Needless to say, this is a clear breach of the earlier offer of one year of free service as compensation for the outage that deprived approximately 27,000 Canadians of their telephone service.

It is one thing for netTALK and Iristel to engage in mudslinging during a commercial dispute, but quite another when netTALK issues a written commitment to its customers and then reneges on this undertaking.

What he’s referring to is the fact that during this dispute, netTALK promised a year of free service, then appeared to backtrack on that once service was restored to affected customers. That left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. And this is one among many reasons why netTALK needs to be avoided at all costs.

I will monitor this to see where this goes as clearly this story is far from over and it will be interesting to see if the CRTC and CCTS do the right thing and do some sort of “enforcement action” against netTALK. If they don’t, it tells you all you need to know about both of those regulatory bodies. As in, they don’t work for the interests of Canadians.

CRTC Says Canadians Pay More For Cell Service Than Anyone

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 19, 2016 by itnerd

If you’re Canadian and you have a cell phone, you will not be shocked by what I am about to say. You pay more for your cell phone than any other country on Earth. The proof is in a CRTC report that popped up here on the CRTC website. In short, the study looked at the cost of telecommunications services in Canada, compared to the other G7 countries. Specifically the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. When all the numbers were crunched, the study found that Canada ranked highest among all seven when it came to the price of mobile phone service, at an average of $41.08 for a basic plan including 150 minutes. However, the average U.S. plan of the same size is only $27, while it falls to $17 in Italy and Germany.


I’ve said it before and I will say it again. This is why Canada needs real competition. Not the faux competition that we get with the Bell/Rogers/Telus oligopoly. But a true national carrier that will force a far more competitive environment when it comes to the cell phone marketplace. Now that can come from inside Canada if a company like Wind or Videotron ever decided to go to town against the “big three” carriers. More likely it will have to come from a foreign company such as Vodafone or Deutsche Telekom.(AKA: T-Mobile) who would have to come in and set up their own coast to coast network. For the latter to happen, you’d need government support to ensure that a foreign entity could come in and set up shop. That’s something that I do not sense that the current Liberal government seems interested in doing. Though they are free to surprise me. All I know is that Canadians need relief from the prices that they pay for cell phone service. But seeing as this is the ninth report to my recollection that has said that Canadians pay too much for cell phone service, one has to wonder if change will ever come.

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.