After a year with Rogers there is finally an alternative. More on that change later. Preparing for the call to customer service, I wanted a top ten list of reasons to quit Rogers. I quickly came up with many more than ten.
1. Unless you like playing tetris, watching HD can be frustrating at times. Symptoms include stuttering audio, mainstream HD channels unavailable for weeks, and this. Annoying.
2. I don’t need my toddler to see violence on TV and yet if I want to show him On Demand children content we must navigate through a slow menu that exposes him to advertising for pay per view movies that often shows violent scenes. Useless.
3. I have no other device connected to the HDTV receiver but an HDCP compliant display via HDMI and yet I have to acknowledge every time I turn it on that I am being treated like a thief. Nobody did that to me in the day of analog TV and VHS tapes.
4. Broken DNS. To make a few bucks more, Rogers fiddles with the DNS – the system that maps the URL you type into the browser to an IP address corresponding to a server. This breaks the standard. Because of Rogers, my printer (Brother MFC-6490, highly recommended and good Linux support) could not update its firmware. If you’re savvy, you can get around Rogers’ DNS redirection by using dnsmasq’s “bogus-nxdomain” feature. Nevertheless, if you are really savvy, you switch to a standard-compliant ISP.
6. Bandwith allowance? Yes, unlike in most developed countries, it’s capped very low. I was lucky when I got my service: it was 25 GB/month. Now the same service cost more money and buys only 15GB/month. Are we trying to prevent usage of competing services like Tou.tv, Netflix or Vonage?
7. Speedboost, a seemingly generous practice of helping the poor speed-capped customers to some relief five times per calender year. Promised: 10.0/0.5
delivered: less than 2.5/0.5
8. The slow network. I pay for 3.0/0.25, and indeed I measured 3.0/0.25 a year ago. Over time it has progressively degraded to less than 2.5/0.25.
It may be related to the slow network, but I find the problems that I experience with Skype and Vonage to be very peculiar and specific to this ISP. I’ve been using Skype and Vonage for more than six years and nowhere have I had more disruptions than on Rogers’ network. Is it because they are competitors to Roger’s own home phone service?
9. Encrypted uploads are throttled. Not helpful when uploading source packages to Launchpad or SourceForge; or home movies to a server. Since I moved and became a Rogers customer I can no longer use my mutual off-site backup setup with a friend. We used to rsync our respective data automatically overnight via SSH, but we had to put this practice on hold. It’s cheaper to make a copy on a spare hard disk and snail-mail it to him!
10. Port 25 is blocked, as expected from every decent spam-fighting ISP, who offers eMail relaying through their own mail servers. With Rogers there is a catch: sender address must be registered. Of course this is only to prevent the so common practice of spoofing the From header. Too bad that registration is limited to five sender addresses only.
11. I explicitly asked from the start: no unsolicited marketing. And yet I had to remind Rogers three time and my request was ignored.
12. What really tipped me over was when Rogers messed a credit card charge last month. They sent me a “Returned cheque notice” asking me to fix the problem. Which problem? My credit card is in good standing. When the agent charged it, she mentioned that there would be an additional late payment charge. For their mistake? I protested and she back tracked, but the damage was done. I could not wait to quit.
What are the Alternatives, Really?
Whether it is in the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum; or in the technically minded Net Index: Canada ranks at the bottom in terms of telecommunication services and at the top in terms of telecommunication costs, and things are not moving in a positive direction.
In a nutshell: I am taking advantage of a bad regulatory decision in an even worse regulatory landscape. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a government agency that seems to have tasked itself with holding back Canada’s development, regulates telecommunication. It has (wrongly) imposed on ILECs (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers, like Rogers) to open their networks to CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers). The CLEC gets regulated entry to the ILEC’s network at “negoitated” wholesale rates and conditions fixed(!) by the CRTC and can give some of that savings back to me. This is bad. It’s uncompetitive. It’s unfair. It does not encourage investment nor innovation. It’s dirigisme. Short-term it is better than the pre-existing oligopoly, but long-term it is worse since it slows down massively the pace of investment and innovation.
Real competition is when the ILECs can do what they want with their network and consumer have a real alternative instead of piggy backing on them at an imposed lower price. Under real competition, my next provider could offer me not only the same service at a lower price; but better adapted service. In my opinion Canada needs real unbundling: the CLECs should get physical access (but not network access) to all the boxes where cables terminate (the Exchanges) as well as to the physical conduits between Exchanges; consumers should get control of the last mile between their premises and the Exchange and decide which LECs they want service from. Unbundling has driven tremedous growth in France. Ten years ago my friends there paid the equivalent of what I pay here today, and received a 5.0/0.8 service. Nowadays they pay the equivalent of $35 per month (including a 19.6% VAT) and they get: 28.0/1.0 Internet service with no bandwidth cap; home phone with unlimited free long distance and international calls to more than 90 countries; more than a 100 TV channels, some of which HD. All included. To get a somewhat comparable from Rogers I would have to shell out more than $150 (plus 13% HST) per month. Insane.
For now, consumers in Canada are better off switching to TekSavvy for their Internet needs and subscribing to the cable service because unless they also have an expensive old copper-wire phone service, the DSL service is “dry-loop-taxed” to the tunes of about $10/month, courtesy of another bad CRTC decision.
For the home phone, I recommend Vonage to the more conservative consumers, while I prepare my infrastructure to go even lower cost with voip.ms.
For TV, I can spend the budget that was allocated to Rogers cable on Blu-Ray or DVD rentals. Specifically for my son, I can buy him one DVD per month of his favorite TV show and I still have not matched the cost of Rogers’ cable.
For wireless, I use a prepaid service from Speakout or PetroCanada Mobility.
Bye bye, Rogers. If you want my business back, you better become competitive.
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