Archive for CRTC

T9-1-1 Service Goes Live In Canada

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

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association announced today that in partnerships with public safety agencies across the country and the CRTC, that T9-1-1 service has launched in Canada.

T9-1-1 provides 9-1-1 call centres with the ability to converse via text messaging with a DHHSI person during an emergency. When a DHHSI person requires 9-1-1 services, they dial 9-1-1 on their cell phone. There is no need for a caller to speak or hear, as the 9-1-1 call taker should receive an indicator that advises them to communicate with the caller via text messaging. The 9-1-1 call taker then initiates text messaging with the caller to address the emergency.

The service, which began rolling out in March 2014, is now available to the vast majority of Canadians, including in many parts of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, and province-wide in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Islandand Saskatchewan. Some 9-1-1 call centres are still making the necessary upgrades to their systems and will launch the T9-1-1 service in the coming months.

T9-1-1 is only available to those in the DHHSI community. A DHHSI person must first register for T9-1-1 with their wireless service provider and must have an eligible cell phone before being able to utilize this service. All information about T9-1-1, including registration details and areas of service availability, can be found at www.TextWith911.ca.

One key thing to point out is that voice calling remains the only way to communicate with 9-1-1 services for a person that is not deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or with speech impairment. Text messages sent directly to the digits “9-1-1” do not reach emergency services.

Why “Pick And Pay” Is A #Fail For Canadian Consumers

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

Starting today, the CRTC has mandated that cable companies on top of offering you a “skinny bundle”, offer you the ability to “pick and pay” for only the channels that you want rather than being forced into a bundle of channels that you may or may not want.

It sounds good on the surface, but it’s really a #Fail for Canadian consumers, and the root of that failure is the CRTC. I say that because the core issue is that Canadians are paying way too much for their telco services.And on top of the fact that Canadian Telcos found ways to keep people from picking the “skinny bundle”, the CRTC made the startling comment that the point of the “skinny bundle” wasn’t to save consumers money. Instead, it was to give consumers choice. That in itself is a very illogical statement.

Fast forward to today and the launch of “pick and pay” where you can pick the channels you want and pay anywhere from $4 a month to as high as $20 or more for some speciality channels. The good news is that you can pick the channels that you want. The bad news is that it won’t save you money. The CBC has this example:

“Am I allowed to laugh?” said Gilda Spitz when asked for her reaction to the prices for the new line-up of stand-alone channels offered by Rogers. Most cost $4 or $7 each.

As of Thursday, TV providers must offer individual pick and pay specialty channels plus ones grouped in theme packs that customers can add to their TV plans.

Spitz, who lives in Toronto, had signed up her 88-year-old mother for a basic $24.99 TV package with Rogers. But her mother, Liza Eshanou, only wanted to watch two all-news networks not included — CNN and CP24.

So, Spitz was paying $15 extra per month for two theme packs that included those networks. When Rogers launched pick and pay on Wednesday, she hoped for a better deal

But she didn’t get it.

Turns out, to add CNN and CP24 individually, Spitz would pay $14 a month instead of $15. That’s only a $1 savings, and her mother would lose a handful of extra channels included in the theme packs.

“That’s ludicrous; that’s ridiculous,” said Spitz.

I agree. That’s just ludicrous. What Rogers and the other telcos have done is constructed a system that ensures that they make the same amount of money from you regardless of whether you choose the channels that you want, or you pick a bundle. That’s because the CRTC by its own admission doesn’t regulate prices:

The CRTC is not expressing concern over channel prices. Although it mandated a basic TV package priced at $25 or less, the commission told CBC News it doesn’t regulate retail rates.

“Prices for certain channels may be higher for this reason,” said spokeswoman Céline Legault in an email.

Of course the fact that the CRTC is made up of people who used to work for telcos like Bell, Rogers, Telus and the like might have something to do with that, and the fact that they don’t get that what Canadians want is their telco services at a fair price. And at present, they are getting anything but that. Thus further illustrating that the CRTC needs to be deep sixed for a government body that will actually protect consumers in Canada when it comes to their telco services, rather than being the foxes guarding the henhouse.

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).

And:

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.

#Fail

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.