Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Eh+ Gamer vs Eastlink: Day One

Day One

     I've decided to start a blog detailing what will surely be a battle of wills between myself and the powers that be. Once upon a time in The Land of Canada, there were three telecom giants who ruled with an iron fist, known as Rogers, Telus and the dark, insidious forces at Bell. Little internet providers would cower in fear at these mighty beasts, and in areas with no contender, they ruled without mercy and without customer service. Fast forward 20 years later, and it's only become worse. That Canada's telecom is a horrible monopoly is nothing new to anyone, but all too often I hear the refrain "What can I do about it?"

     Let me tell you what I've decided to do about it.

     My battle is with one of the larger of the small Telecom companies, not large enough to be considered one of the giants, but large enough to reach halfway across Canada. I do believe they are one of the 'good guys', and side with the customer more often than not. Their customer service staff are quick, intelligent, friendly and always willing to go the extra mile, and I have enjoyed a good relationship with them for years, ranging back to when I would refer customers to them as an apartment manager and in my various positions of technical expertise. As a denizen of the internet, I do not watch much cable, and VOIP is sufficient to get whatever phone calls I need done. For the longest time, I have subscribed to the 'Watch,  Surf and Talk bundle', where I was enjoying a lavish internet speed of 80 Megabits per second uncapped, HD cable, and a phone number at a tolerable $124-$130.00 a month. This bundle however eventually did go up in price, and now costs $152.00.

     $25.00 a month extra doesn't seem like a lot, especially when you are fortunate to be on salary, but with contemplation, it adds up to a lot. That could be a weeks worth of meals (budgeted properly), NetFlix and Crunchy Roll with enough leftover for more popcorn than one could ever want, 3 movie theatre shows (or one with a drink and popcorn, but that's a battle for another day). Alas, keeping my services bundled is what keeps them 'cheap'. Let's take a look at what happens to the pricing when you play with the system.

Watch, Surf (Unlimited) and Talk: $153.30 per month (ignoring promo price) + $20 for 80 mbps
Watch and Surf (Unlimited): $133.80 per month + $20 for 80 mbps
Surf And Talk: $88.95 per month + $20 for 80 mbps
Internet Alone: $107.95 + $20.00 for 80 mbps

    Well, holy crap Batman. That's a lot of numbers, but what it boils down to is the the lowest you can pay for all 3 services is $153.50 + tax, for any 2 with the internet is $88.95, and internet alone is somehow more expensive than getting your phone service with it. How does that even make sense? How can you provide two services for less than you can provide one. That would be like walking onto a Car Dealers lot and having them say "Well sir, the Ferrari Italia is $229,000, or you can get the Ferrari Italia and the Ferrari Spider for $150,000."

   "So essentially, I can buy two cars cheaper than I can buy one?"

   Seems like a no brainer for cost. But let's take a more in depth look at it, for not all is created equal. The Surf and Talk bundle and standalone, they claim (more on this in a moment), does not have unlimited internet. It is capped at 250 GB/Month, $1.00 overage charges for every gigabyte after. Unlimited internet is available for ANOTHER $35.00 a month. So let's factor that into our prices and see what we come up with.

Watch, Surf and Talk: $153.00 (ignoring promo price)
Watch and Surf: $133.80
Surf and Talk (Unlimited): $123.95
Internet Alone: $142.00

    Before taxes, the least you can pay for unlimited internet with Eastlink is $123.95. To add full tier digital HD cable to that package is only $10.00 (but don't forget your receiver rental fee!).

     Now. The issue of usage caps has been the subject of public discourse for years. As a programmer, I can tell you it's bogus. In 99% of all cases, network congestion is either artificially generated non existent. They will tell you it's to 'ensure an equal distribution of the internet' and complain about the 1% of internet uses who use more than their share. There is plenty of internet to go around, but notice how much of the bundling seems to lean towards cable. Eastlink is a cable company, they make advertising revenue off their channel, which they carry on their service. They sell you Pay Per View content and movie rentals through the remote - it's a gateway through which you can give even more money to their pockets. Why is phone and internet less expensive than internet alone, because with phone they can charge you long distance; not as lucrative as cable, but still a pretty good deal. But that's the rules of the game, what are we to do?

     I said 'no more'.

     I cancelled my cable service, as many have done before me in other places. On the Eastlink website, the Watch and Surf price is listed as $88.45, and mentions nothing about capped internet. A marketing oversight perhaps, or perhaps deception. I checked the internet speeds page - internet usage caps apply on stand-alone internet service. So, I called them on it, called up and requested to drop my cable. Explained the situation to the representative. The conversation went something like this.

    "There is a cap, sir."
    "There isn't one listed on the webpage, what's my cap"
    "It's not listed sir, but there is a cap, you will be charged if you go over the limit"
    "You can't charge a cap if you don't list what the cap is or that there is one"
    "It says specifically, sir, that internet is unlimited in Watch Surf and Talk, and Surf and Talk bundles"
    "And beneath that it says the data usage cap applies to standalone customers."
    "-And Watch and Surf."
    "Show me where it says that. I am not a standalone customer"
    "It doesn't, but there is a cap."

     Hold the phone. In the real world, that's called false advertising. If you sell someone a service and don't put explicitly in the contract that there is a limitation on it, that's unfortunate for you. You have to list terms and conditions, you can't rent someone a car and tell them AFTER the fact 'Oh, and by the way, thats $20.00 a kilometer and $40.00 every time you press the brakes". I debated whether I should simply let the point rest and accept what Eastlink was saying. When I did, I was reminded of all the websites and all the blogs that complain that we don't have enough choice in Canada, we are at their mercy. There is nothing the consumer can do. They make the game and they set the rules, we have to play it.

     Wait a second. That's silly, of course there is something I can do. I don't have to play the game.

     And there is something all Canadians can do, and I haven't seen anyone put forward the idea yet in any real earnest. We hold the power to shift the balance, and we hold the power to take back the market. They set the rules of the game, but we don't have to play it. We can petition the government and the CRTC all we like, but nothing works corporate miracles like the voting power of the dollar. I am calling Eastlink out on this, and I intend to take it as far as I can go. If they don't honor their advertised package, then I will also cancel my phone service and go with basic internet only at $47.00 a month (which is unlimited). Instead of earning an extra $35 (After losing $80 in the first place), they will have set themselves back another $40. If they then cap or discontinue that, I will switch to another provider, or find another alternative. I will make it hurt them to play the game. If enough people adopt that mindset, even for one month, sooner or later shareholders will get angry and the game will change. It happened to the music industry, it's happening to the software/games industry, it's time it happened to telecom, and I encourage you to look at your own services as I did and decide if you are sick enough of the game to take action.

     This is day one.


1) Eastlink Bundle Pricing
Last Checked: May 22nd, 2014

2) Eastlink Internet Options
Last Checked: May 22nd, 2014

3) Eastlink Surf and Talk Bundle
Last Checked: May 22nd, 2014