Opinion » Dot Comrade

Wireless rates go up, customer satisfaction sinks



Hey, you know that thing you carry around in your pocket and spend too much time on? Yeah, well the rates for that just went up and there's pretty much nothing you can do about it. Over the weekend, wireless rates for Bell and Rogers (and all of their subsidiaries) went up by $5 because they hate you. Just kidding, they just want more money.

But still, the rates went up and that means you're paying $120 more over your two-year term. Now, if you want get the nicest and most sought-after phones, you have to pay at least $80 a month for their "premium" plans, the only ones eligible for the top-end smartphones. Want an iPhone, Galaxy phone or something similar? Time to cough up at least $80 a month over a two-year term, on top of a couple of hundred for the phone.

The real stinger is that literally nothing has changed in the plans; they just increased them by $5. You still only get 500MB of data for the lowest ($80) plan, and if you want to go bigger, you can get 1GB for $85, 2GB for $90 and 4GB for $110. Never mind that they have $69 plans (formerly $64) offering a 1GB of data and pretty much everything else along similar lines.

And what about Telus, the third carrier that makes up the trifecta of evil? Well they actually raised their prices back in January, so this is just catch-up for Bell and Rogers.

Asked to comment, PR flaks for the companies basically said they want to improve customers' experiences, blah, blah, blah. If they had to spin it, they could have at least tried, right? Why not blame the sagging Canadian dollar? The costs of video games have gone up $5 earlier this year, which retailers are blaming on exactly that. It might not be true, but at least make an effort to convince us.

Meanwhile, Wind Mobile is struggling to maintain its foothold in Canada. As perhaps the only real competitor to the big three, the independent Toronto-based company was hit hard earlier in March when its foreign owner VimpelCom Ltd. assessed Wind's value at zero. The assessment came during the posting of VempelCom's latest quarterly report, which posted a $2.67 billion loss.

When those numbers were released, VimpelCom said in a statement to the Financial Post, "The Company fully impaired its assets in Canada, mainly relating to the challenges the Company is facing in the country, which resulted in the strategic decision to withdraw from the 700 MHz spectrum auction and the reassessment of the prospects for continuing operations in the country."

The spectrum auction mentioned took place earlier this year and was for a carrier frequency in B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Wind had entered the bidding, but later dropped out when it could not afford to move on. Instead the Quebec-based Videotron came out victorious, but the big three also gained access to the spectrum, because money.

And basically, that's where we stand with Canada's wireless options today. We have a dying independent carrier that offered much cheaper plans but could not muster the customer base to move on, we have a Quebec company that could consider entering three new provinces and we have the big three raising prices because they can.

Some might say users had their chance at an independent provider in Wind, while others blame the feds for not reigning in what some are see as blatant collusion. Others might see it as capitalism reigning supreme. Either way, enjoy that hefty 500MB of data, make sure you don't spend it all in once place.

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