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HissyFitWatch: Canadian Telecom Companies Annoyed Consumers Getting The Upper Hand

Phillip Dampier February 12, 2014 Bell (Canada), Canada, Cogeco, Competition, Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Internet Overcharging, Online Video, Public Policy & Gov't, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Vidéotron Comments Off on HissyFitWatch: Canadian Telecom Companies Annoyed Consumers Getting The Upper Hand
Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

As the United States battles back against the introduction of usage caps and rising prices for broadband service, increased competition and regulated open wholesale access to some of Canada’s largest broadband providers have given Canadians an advantage in forcing providers to cut prices and improve service.

Canadians can now easily get unlimited broadband access from one of several independent ISPs that piggyback service on cable and phone networks. Some large ISPs have even introduced all-you-can eat broadband options for customers long-capped by the handful of big players. As customers consider switching providers, cable and phone companies have been forced to cut prices, especially for their best customers. Even cell service is now up for negotiation.

The more services a customer bundles with their provider, the bigger the discount they can negotiate, say analysts who track customer retention. Bell, Rogers, Telus, and others have a major interest keeping your business, even if it means reducing your price.

“It’s far more lucrative for the telecom company to keep you there for the third or fourth service,” telecom analyst Troy Crandall told AP. It cuts down on marketing, service and installation calls, he added.

Getting the best deal often depends on your services, payment history, and how long you have been a customer. Cellphone discounts are the hardest to win, but customers are getting them if they have been loyal, carry a large balance and almost never pay late.

telus shawBigger discounts can be had for television and Internet service — cable television remains immensely profitable in Canada and broadband is cheap to offer, especially in cities. Americans often pay $80 or more for digital cable television packages, Canadians pay an average of $60.

Internet service in Canada now averages $45 a month, but many plans include usage caps. It costs more to take to the cap off.

Because of Canada’s past usage cap pervasiveness, online video is not as plentiful in Canada as it is in the United States. There has been considerably less cord-cutting in the north. Despite that, Canadians are ravenous online viewers of what they can find to watch (either legally or otherwise). As usage allowances disappear or become more generous, online video and the Internet will continue to grow in importance for service providers.

Customers should negotiate with their provider for a better deal, particularly if Bell’s Fibe TV is in town. Bell has been among the most aggressive in price cutting its fiber to the neighborhood television service for new customers ready to say goodbye to Rogers or Vidéotron.

Shaw and Telus battle for market share in the west and also have room to cut customer bills and still make a handsome profit.

Shaw Cable Announces Another Significant Rate Hike; Second Increase So Far This Year

Shaw-LogoWhen Jeff McDonaghe celebrated the beginning of 2013, his cable and Internet bill from Shaw Communications was roughly $117 a month. In April, Shaw announced a wide-ranging rate increase that cost the Calgary resident an extra $7 a month. Now Shaw is back for more with another rate increase that will cost the McDonaghe family an additional $11 a month. His October bill: nearly $135 — $18 more a month.

“Shaw seems to have gotten quite comfortable raising rates at least twice a year, because my bill has gone up like clockwork every six months or so,” McDonaghe tells Stop the Cap!

Shaw representatives blamed the “price adjustment” on the cost of programming, its upgraded “digital gateway” set-top box, and higher licensing and regulatory fees.

Customer_Bulletin_news_tabletSeptember 2013 Rate Adjustment

At Shaw, we’re committed to providing quality products and services at the best value for all customers.

To continue delivering the best entertainment options, you may notice a few changes to your monthly bill, effective September 1, 2013.

For customers in Manitoba and Ontario (excluding Hamilton), these changes will take effect on October 1, 2013.

Changes are as follows:

Internet Monthly rate as of September 1, 2013
High Speed 10 $55.00
High Speed 20 $60.00
Broadband 50 $80.00
Broadband 100 $90.00
Broadband 250 $120.00
Television Monthly rate as of September 1, 2013
TSN Jets $10.00
Sportsnet World $17.00
Adult Channels
(Playboy, Penthouse, Red Hot, Hustler)
Adult Bundles
(pick two channels)
Pick and Pays
(at current $2.95 price)
Oasis and Discovery World $4.00
Multicultural Channels +$0.05 above current rates
Home Phone Monthly rate as of September 1, 2013
Personal Phone $30.00
Second Phone Line $10.00
Distinctive Ring $4.00
Voicemail and Call Waiting $6.00
Bundle Monthly rate as of September 1, 2013
Starter Bundle
(includes Shaw Gateway Whole Home HDPVR and two Portals on a two-year service agreement)
Plus Bundle
(includes Shaw Gateway Whole Home HDPVR and two Portals on a two-year service agreement)
Large Bundle
(includes Shaw Gateway Whole Home HDPVR and two Portals on a two-year service agreement)
X-Large Bundle
(includes Shaw Gateway Whole Home HDPVR and two Portals on a two-year service agreement)

Some of the most significant rate hikes will affect grandfathered service plans, leaving some customers scratching their heads.

Shaw’s old 20Mbps plan (no longer listed on the company’s website) now costs $60 a month, the same price charged for Shaw’s newer 25Mbps tier.

The company’s old “discount” Internet plan delivered DSL-like speed of 7.5Mbps for $45 a month. On Sept. 1, Shaw raised its price to $50. Today, Shaw’s entry-level 10Mbps broadband package sells for $55 a month — only $5 more — with a 125GB monthly usage cap.

Despite the company’s claims of increased costs, Shaw reported $250 million in profits during the third quarter of this year, delivering better than anticipated results with a promise to return some of the excess cash to shareholders in the form of dividends.

telus shaw“Given the improvement in free cash flow and assuming continued favorable market conditions, our board plans to target dividend increases of five to ten percent over the next two years,” said Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications.

Shaw’s financial gains come at the cost of its declining customer base. During the summer, Shaw lost at least 26,578 basic cable subscribers due to increased competition from Telus’ TV service. The company did better adding broadband customers (4,157), but its greatest growth has come from its phone business, where the company picked up 17,719 new landline customers.

Drew McReynolds from RBC Capital Markets said Shaw was growing revenue mostly by “better monetizing the existing subscriber base.”

“Shaw’s revenue and EBITDA beat was mostly due to price increases,” added Greg MacDonald, managing director at Macquarie Capital Markets Canada.

Former CEO Jim Shaw is costing Shaw some of its earnings as well with a pension payout of almost $500,000 a month. In fact, the Shaw family that founded the cable company has three generations of pension and salary obligations it expects to be honored:

  • J.R. Shaw, the company chairman has an annual pension of $5.4 million;
  • Jim Shaw, J.R.’s son, now gets $5.95 million annually;
  • Bradley Shaw, Jim’s brother and current CEO is eligible for a $3.97 million pension at age 65. His accrued pension obligation is $37.6 million.

Jim Shaw’s pension alone has cost Shaw more than $71 million in financing expenses because the company’s executive pension plan is not pre-financed; the costs are instead paid from annual cash flow as a compensation expense.

“Those price hikes are going to executive compensation and to shareholder dividend payments, because my service has not improved a bit despite paying almost $20 more a month this year,” complains McDonaghe. “The best mere mortals like ourselves can get when threatening to cancel are some temporary credits of around $5 a month for each of their services. Even with those credits, my bill is still higher.”

Shaw Buys Calgary-Based ENMAX Envision Fiber Network to Strengthen Service in Alberta

Phillip Dampier April 11, 2013 Broadband Speed, Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Shaw, Wireless Broadband Comments Off on Shaw Buys Calgary-Based ENMAX Envision Fiber Network to Strengthen Service in Alberta

ShawShaw Communications has acquired Calgary’s largest fiber optic cable network in a $225 million deal with ENMAX Corp. in a bid to strengthen its ability to serve large corporate customers who need more bandwidth than Shaw is now positioned to offer.

ENMAX sells its Envision fiber service to large corporate clients in and around downtown Calgary and to those businesses that need dedicated connectivity across multiple offices. The acquisition will further enhance Shaw’s dominance in Calgary. Shaw remains western Canada’s largest cable operator with an emphasis on serving Alberta and British Columbia.

Shaw’s business plan, revamped last year, is much closer to American cable operators than Rogers Communications — the dominant cable company in eastern Canada. Shaw abandoned its mobile ambitions and will stay out of the cellular business. In January, Shaw announced its intentions to sell its AWS wireless spectrum holding to Rogers.

Shaw has also ended efforts to expand eastward after announcing it would sell Mountain Cablevision, Ltd., which serves parts of Hamilton and the Niagara Region of Ontario, to Rogers.

In 2013, Shaw subscribers can expect to see a broadening of the company’s growing Wi-Fi network — available free of charge to its broadband customers, a major upgrade to its DreamGallery set-top box software interface, and the completion of plans to switch its cable television lineup to an all-digital format by the end of this year.

The Big Get Bigger: Rogers Acquires Shaw’s Unused Wireless Spectrum, Mountain Cablevision

Phillip Dampier January 15, 2013 Canada, Competition, Rogers, Shaw, Wireless Broadband 1 Comment
Mountain Cablevision was part of Shaw Communications but now will be owned by Rogers.

Mountain Cablevision was owned by Shaw Communications but has been purchased by Rogers.

Rogers Communications, already Canada’s largest mobile-phone company, will grow even larger with the acquisition of Shaw Communications’ unused wireless spectrum and a Shaw-owned cable company making inroads in Rogers’ backyard in southwestern Ontario.

Rogers has agreed to pay $300 million for the spectrum and $400 million for Hamilton, Ont.-based Mountain Cablevision, Ltd. In return, Shaw will acquire a one-third interest in Rogers’ TVtropolis network.

Shaw is getting a premium price for the wireless spectrum it acquired in 2008 for $190 million. Shaw, like many American cable companies, originally planned to launch competing mobile phone service but aborted the effort in 2011, deciding to invest in its broadband service and construct a Wi-Fi network in western Canada instead.

Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed told Bloomberg News the spectrum is needed to meet growing demands from Canadian wireless broadband customers.

“The wireless business is defined by what I would describe as an explosion in terms of usage,” Mohamed said. The new spectrum “will help us meet that demand in terms of capacity and speed.”

Rogers is by no means finished acquiring spectrum. The company plans to borrow as much as $800 million to purchase more at the next Canadian spectrum auction later this year.

Shaw Admits It Is Not Actually Measuring Your Broadband Usage (Yet)

Phillip Dampier October 1, 2012 Canada, Consumer News, Internet Overcharging, Shaw 1 Comment

Shaw Cable, Canada’s dominant broadband provider in the west, has admitted it has stopped enforcing usage caps as the company upgrades its Internet Overcharging scheme.

Jim MacDonald, a Stop the Cap! reader, long-standing Shaw customer and member of the company’s “Shaw Friends” program noticed on a recent bill he qualified for “additional Internet usage” by belonging to the company’s loyalty club.

“I used Shaw’s concierge chat to learn more about what this means and found I would qualify for an additional 25GB allowance as a Shaw Friend, but the representative didn’t seem to think it was an important distinction,” MacDonald writes.

Apparently that is true, considering a Shaw representative admits the company has stopped monitoring customers’ Internet use:

MacDonald: I am wondering how I can get the extra 25GB added to my account as a Shaw Friend. The usage meter does not seem to reflect anything about it.

Shaw: We plan to apply that extra usage in the near future. I’m not exactly certain of the date but it should be soon. But no worries, we are not even monitoring the data right now. Once upgrades are complete and when we do monitor, you will have the extra space on your account and visible on the ‘view usage’ screen.

Canada’s Analog Public TV Shuts Down Forcing Rural Viewers to Pay Cable, Satellite Services

Phillip Dampier July 31, 2012 Audio, Canada, Consumer News, EastLink, Public Policy & Gov't, Shaw Comments Off on Canada’s Analog Public TV Shuts Down Forcing Rural Viewers to Pay Cable, Satellite Services

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today shut down more than 600 analog television transmitters primarily serving rural viewers, forcing most to either go without television to sign up for commercial satellite or cable television service.

Because of Canada’s great expanse, the country’s public broadcaster has relied on hundreds of terrestrial low-power television transmitters to cover smaller communities and rural areas outside of the reach of CBC stations in larger cities. These transmitters provide relays of 27 regional English and French stations and have allowed rural residents to enjoy free over-the-air television.

While larger communities are now able to watch digital television signals in place of older analog service, the CBC has decided not to replace existing analog repeater transmitters with digital ones, effectively ending service for many rural Canadians who will now receive no over the air signals at all. Budget challenges and a decision from the CRTC that declared the CBC has no obligation to broadcast its programming has been met with resistance across rural Canada, particularly because taxpayers in cities large and small finance the CBC’s operations.

As of today, the CBC will rely entirely on the 27 digital television stations it will continue to operate over the public airwaves nationwide. Critics say that is contrary to the CBC’s mandate in the Broadcasting Act, which declares the CBC is Canada’s “national public broadcaster.”

 “The TV transmitter infrastructure is worth millions and was paid for by Canadian taxpayers,” says Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations. “More than 2000 Canadians protested the shutdown in letters to the CRTC last month. They asked that the infrastructure be offered to communities to maintain for themselves. The federal government seems to be doing everything it can to cripple the national broadcaster and turn it into a pay specialty service, available to well-heeled Canadians in big cities.”

“The CBC-TV and Radio-Canada analog transmitter shutdown is a sad chapter in Canada’s digital transition,” says Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild. “We understand that CBC is in a financial bind with $155 million in cuts required by 2015. Something had to give. Evidently infrastructure outside of major cities is not a priority for the federal government, despite rhetoric about the digital economy.”

The CBC says the change will impact only 2 percent of Canadians that do not already receive digital television service or have signed up with a pay television provider. But the concept of “free TV” has changed forever for rural viewers.

For some cable viewers, the CBC’s digital solution is also presenting problems, especially in the Maritimes. In rural Newfoundland and Labrador, EastLink viewers may lose their closest local CBC station and be forced to watch programming from a CBC station is Halifax, Nova Scotia instead, at least until Shaw begins carrying additional CBC stations on satellite.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today shut down more than 600 relay transmitters providing rural Canada with over-the-air access to the public broadcaster with a mandate to serve all of Canada. Now, viewers in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are going to be stuck watching “local” news and weather intended for Halifax, Nova Scotia. CBC Radio in Newfoundland and Labrador talks with the CBC about the reason for the disruption. (July 30, 2012) (8 minutes)
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Shaw’s “Local Television Satellite Solution”

In 2010, Shaw Communications, which owns Shaw Cable and Shaw Direct — a major satellite TV provider, announced its intention to buy Global TV — a major Canadian television network. For Americans, this would be the equivalent of Comcast owning your local cable company, NBC, and DirecTV. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s telecommunications regulator, agreed to a deal offered by Shaw to acquire Global in return for offering Canadians who have not had satellite or cable service in the last 90 days a temporary free satellite solution for receiving “local stations.”

This customer ran out of luck when he needed Shaw to install just over 250 feet of cable from the nearest clear spot for the satellite to his home. Shaw limits installers to 250 feet, no more. The installer packed up and left shortly after learning an exception would have to be made. (Photo: PGM/Dude, ‘Where’s My TV?’ blog)

Shaw’s Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) offers qualified Canadians free satellite service with a handful of over-the-air stations, assuming they apply by November 2012.

Assuming your postal code is within a “qualified reception zone,” and you somehow know about the barely promoted service, Shaw will provide a satellite dish, receiver, and reasonable installation at no charge.

Unfortunately, many Canadians have no idea Shaw is offering the service, and are opting to purchase a regular Shaw Direct package, signing up with another satellite provider, or subscribing to cable where available. Very little about the service is found on Shaw Direct’s website, and those interested are required to call the company for further information. Even those made aware of Shaw’s offer have found challenges signing up.

Steven James May, who runs the “Dude, Where is My TV?” blog reports his parents, who live in rural Denbigh, Ontario were first made aware of Shaw’s LTSS when he told them about it. Several initial attempts to sign up for the service were dashed when Shaw responded Denbigh residents were not qualified for LTSS based on the postal code provided. When May’s parents eventually did qualify, they were sent a well-used and scuffed Star Choice satellite receiver retired from the days Shaw Direct was known as Star Choice.

After installation, the Ontario residents ended up with a dozen primarily over-the-air channels from across Canada:

  • 2 Shaw Direct’s home channel
  • 9 Knowledge Network
  • 23 CTV 2 Alberta
  • 37 CBC Toronto
  • 39 Global Toronto
  • 40 CityTV Toronto
  • 41 CHCH Hamilton
  • 42 OMNI
  • 44 CTV Toronto
  • 50 MCTV Sudbury (CTV)
  • 52 Global Thunder Bay
  • 55 TVOntario (Educational)

While enticing, Denbigh residents have effectively lost “local service” because the community is forced to watch local news for Toronto, Hamilton, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Calgary — all much further away than the nearest large city for them — Ottawa. Residents that used to watch CJOH (CTV Ottawa) and CBOT (CBC Ottawa) over-the-air now must get accustomed to news and weather for Toronto, a considerable distance to the west.

“This is a major public policy failure,” adds Edwards. “Everyone has known that the digital transition was coming for two decades. It’s supposed to increase our communications services, yet no one would step up to the plate and take leadership to make sure that neither rural Canada nor our national public broadcaster would be crippled: not Heritage, not the CRTC, not the CBC, and certainly not the federal government.”

Calgary Fire Causes Chaos for Shaw’s Phone, Internet Customers Across Western Canada

Phillip Dampier July 12, 2012 Canada, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Shaw, Video Comments Off on Calgary Fire Causes Chaos for Shaw’s Phone, Internet Customers Across Western Canada

Some 30,000 Shaw customers, mostly in Calgary, spent much of yesterday without phone service, and many more western Canadians experienced Internet problems as a result of a small electrical fire at a Shaw Communications facility in downtown Calgary.

Described by a news report as “chaos,” the fire also brought down at least three Calgary radio stations, an area bank’s ATM network, hospital communications, government offices, and Calgary’s 311 government information service.

A transformer fire on the 13th floor at Shaw’s Calgary headquarters, combined with the sprinkler system that put the fire out, proved the old adage that water and electricity don’t mix. Calgary’s power company disconnected electrical service to the building, creating additional outages for corporate customers who use Shaw’s data center, also inside the building.

As a result of the fire and its impact, Calgary officials decided to activate the city’s municipal emergency plan.

Shaw’s Internet service problems were felt as far away as Vancouver, according to news reports. As of late this afternoon, Shaw’s website is still offline.

While phone service has largely been restored, everything is not back to normal at Shaw’s headquarters, where many workers were turned away as late as this afternoon. Several streets around the building remained closed as of this morning.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency director Bruce Burrell called the incident “a major telecommunications failure,” and noted it was felt across the province and beyond.

Shaw joined local and provincial officials to assess the incident and the fire department response, as well as reviewing its impact.

It has been a difficult week for Calgary and Alberta generally. On Monday, just as the Calgary Stampede Rodeo fired into high gear, Alberta’s electricity companies began rolling blackouts after six power generators went down.

Questions are being raised about the impact of both events.

CTV Calgary covers the impact of the fire at Shaw Communications’ headquarters in Calgary, Alb. and the cleanup still ongoing.  (6 minutes)

Shaw Reinstating Cable Radio Service; Angry Customers Win Reprieve

Phillip Dampier July 11, 2012 Canada, Consumer News, Shaw Comments Off on Shaw Reinstating Cable Radio Service; Angry Customers Win Reprieve

Some Shaw Cable customers accustomed to their cable FM radio have successfully won the fight to reinstate the service.

Comox Valley in British Columbia appears to be the epicenter of the protests. When several popular FM radio signals imported from western Canada and the U.S. went missing in April, local residents complained loudly the service was dropped without warning.

Cable FM radio has been a part of Shaw Cable for years and years, and long-standing customers have held on to the service. Cable radio works by connecting Shaw’s cable to the antenna input of a traditional FM radio. Cable radio signals then appear up and down the FM dial.  The service has always been a complimentary add-on, and Shaw suspected its time of usefulness had come and gone as consumers gravitated towards satellite and online radio.

They were wrong.

“We certainly listened to the feedback we received,” Greg Pultz, vice president of operations for Shaw told the Comox Valley Echo. “We decided to [restore] the most popular [channels]. We freed up some capacity – we found a way that we could do both.”

That makes listeners like Rosemary Baxter happy.

“All of a sudden one morning I turned on the radio – and it was like a tomb in here,” Baxter told the newspaper.

Baxter’s gain is The Source’s loss. The electronics chain was doing a steady business selling small, portable $40 FM transmitters that allowed Shaw customers to stream radio stations over the Internet and hear them on their FM radios.

Shaw’s restoration of the service brings back a half-dozen of the most-requested stations, mostly non-commercial or public radio stations. Shaw cable radio customers on and around Vancouver Island can find signals on these frequencies:

  • 88.1 – CBC Radio One (Victoria, B.C.)
  • 88.3 – CBC Radio Two (Vancouver, B.C.)
  • 88.5 – KPLU Jazz (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • 88.7 – KUOW NPR (Seattle, Wash.)
  • 89.5 – KING Classical (Seattle, Wash.)
  • 89.9 – CBUF Première Chaîne/Radio-Canada (Vancouver, B.C.)

“We’ve had lots of very positive feedback from customers,” Pultz told the newspaper. “We are just thrilled that we have a good relationship with our customers and that we can make changes when they speak up.”

He also apologized to Shaw customers for any inconvenience.

Shaw Cable Ending Aggressive Pricing Promotions; Price War is “Lose, Lose Situation”

Phillip Dampier July 5, 2012 Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Internet Overcharging, Shaw, Telus, Wireless Broadband Comments Off on Shaw Cable Ending Aggressive Pricing Promotions; Price War is “Lose, Lose Situation”

Shaw Communications executives last week announced, to the relief of Wall Street, the cable company is pulling back on great deals for cable TV, Internet and phone service this summer.

In an effort to appease Wall Street analysts like Phillip Huang, a researcher for UBS Investment Bank — who fear lower prices could “spiral into a price war, which obviously would be a lose, lose situation,” Shaw has made it clear it intends to stop some of its most aggressive promotions this summer.

“When you talk about promotions in the market, we’ve been very disciplined in that regard,” Shaw executives told analysts on last week’s quarterly results conference call. “It’s a highly competitive environment and will continue to be that way and we’re going to operate in a certain fashion.”

That “certain fashion” has cost them at least 21,500 subscribers who have already left Shaw this past quarter, most headed to Shaw’s biggest competitor Telus.

But some Wall Street analysts remain unsatisfied, noting there are major differences in telecommunications pricing in Canada. Western Canadians pay substantially less for phone, cable, and broadband service than their counterparts in Ontario and Quebec. Shaw and Telus customers also have much larger usage allowances for broadband service, and Telus so far has not enforced what limits they have.

Analysts peppered Shaw executives about why they are not raising prices to match what Bell, Rogers, and Vidéotron customers further east are paying.

Jay Mehr, Shaw’s senior vice president of operations told investors to hang in there.

“We still believe that we have some good pricing power when discipline really comes back into this market,” Mehr said on the call with investors. That signals Shaw is prepared to raise prices when aggressive deals end.

Wall Street also questioned why the company does not use long-term contracts to lock customers in place:


Glen Campbell – BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division: […] On service contracts: You’ve been pretty firm in not using them. Your competitor clearly does. […] Can you talk about the reasons for not going down the service contract road and whether you might reconsider that position?

Bradley S. Shaw – Shaw Communications: Well, there’s arguments for contracts as you — I guess, it’s really what these contracts do. As you said, we have equipment. Our [indiscernible] space — our Easy Own plan certainly is a very consumer-friendly plan as customers are getting something, and they’re agreeing to pay for it over time. And that creates kind of a natural kind of a relationship. What we don’t want to have happen is having customers, who are feeling confined by a contract, who otherwise would like to do something else. We don’t think that’s consumer-friendly. And so we’re looking at ways that we’d have more consumer-friendly kind of relationships but that still create some kind of a longer-term relationship that you can count on. But we don’t want to have the ball and chain kind of contracts that others have adopted.

[…] From a customer point of view. But also, the nature of contracts is there needs to be an enticement to get the customer sign a contract, and that enticement tends to be what we’re seeing in the market, which is fairly significant giveaways of hardware and other devices to be able to incent that. And so it will have has an impact on your cost of acquisition, and we’re trying to manage that. As Peter said, our Easy Own program is a very customer-friendly way for people to come on and make a commitment to us. And at the end of the period, they own their equipment. They haven’t had to pay upfront, and so it’s a nice way to manage that without being heavy-handed.

Shaw’s Exo Wi-Fi service is coming soon across western Canada.

Some other developments at Shaw, reported during the conference call:

  • Spending on upgrades will continue to be on the aggressive side as the company builds out its new Exo Wi-Fi network and converts cable systems to digital service, creating additional space for broadband speed increases and other services;
  • Broadband delivers the highest profit margins of all of Shaw’s services, so it remains a very important part of Shaw’s package;
  • Customers are gravitating towards higher speed broadband packages, delivering extra revenue;
  • The company has re-priced some of its plans and offers to be more friendly to broadband-only customers;
  • Shaw is working to gain approval from communities across western Canada to deploy its Wi-Fi network, with plans to begin limited promotion of the new service by late fall or early 2013. Shaw expects its Wi-Fi network to have substantial coverage across the region within three years;
  • Shaw plans to work with U.S. cable operators to participate in a Wi-Fi roaming network that will allow its customers access to the Wi-Fi networks being built in the United States;
  • Shaw’s “TV Everywhere” project is being designed to protect existing video revenue. Rights are being acquired across the board for broadband, tablets and other mobile devices for a robust on-demand service. But live streaming is secondary.

Shaw Communications Pushes Former Cable Radio Listeners to Extra-Cost ‘Galaxie’ Radio Service

Phillip Dampier May 21, 2012 Canada, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Shaw 8 Comments

Shaw is ripping the wires out of its analog FM cable radio service, formerly delivered free of charge to all Shaw subscribers.

Shaw Communications’ plans to abandon its analog cable FM radio service, delivered free of charge to basic Shaw subscribers, has been met with resistance by customers who appreciated the improved reception the service delivered.

Some noted Shaw is eliminating the free service and replacing it with one that requires a digital cable subscription to receive. Shaw:

Shaw previously offered customers access to FM radio stations free of charge with their coax cable connection, as part of their Shaw service. Given that many of our customers no longer use these stations, we are in the process of removing this service across our systems.

Removing FM radio stations allows us to free up additional bandwidth, which means Shaw can deliver faster Internet speeds, increased High-Definition content and more Shaw Exo On Demand programming. This change is part of Shaw’s dedication to providing our customers with leading edge technology through our superior Shaw Exo network.

How can I access my radio stations?

There are a number of options for customers to continue listening to radio stations:

  • Most radio stations offer their services via online streaming. We have provided links to local radio stations’ websites to allow you to stream their programming online. You can access these lists below.
  • You can also purchase a radio transmitter at stores like Best Buy or Future Shop, which will allow you to tune into your favourite radio stations. These devices cost as little as $30 and require an Internet connection to receive any “out-of-market” services. Installation can be as easy as plugging in the transmitter into the “Audio Out” feed of your computer, and gives you access to thousands of stations around the world.

We also offer a number of commercial free radio stations through our Galaxie service – customers with a digital box have access to up to 55 channels to enjoy a variety of music styles and offerings. To learn more about Galaxie, visit: http://vod.shaw.ca/music/galaxie_player/

The problem with both of Shaw’s options, according to readers who have contacted Stop the Cap!, is that they come at an added cost.

“Shaw would love it if we streamed those radio stations, which all count against our bandwidth cap, instead of listening to them for free on the cable radio,” says Irene Delasquay from Prince George, B.C. “Galaxie is just a music jukebox service that requires you to buy a digital cable subscription and rent a box to listen, and I don’t want all that extra equipment and expense.”

Some wonder why Shaw is discontinuing the service in the first place. Shirley and Meg Bonney told the Comox Valley Echo:

When we finally we able to speak to a person at Shaw we were told that they “didn’t think that many people were using the FM frequencies”. Had they ever inquired? Had they even tried to find out? Or had they just made a biased assumption – perhaps to try to force people to buy their digital black box in order to access even more of their own, commercial music channels?

We were also told that the CBC frequencies were a “gift” from Shaw.

Many readers who have been in touch with Shaw are being told their best alternative is streaming radio signals over a personal computer, but that presents a problem for some who don’t have a personal computer, have located it in an inconvenient room to listen, or who do not want to waste electricity running a computer just to listen to the radio.

While cable radio is no longer common in many parts of the United States, the vast expanse of Canada combined with an often-insufficient network of low-powered FM repeater transmitters, has made reception of commercial and certain public radio signals difficult, especially inside homes.

Roger and Isabel Thomas feel the loss hurts their ability to stay in touch with informative programming long-abandoned by commercial stations and cable networks:

The FM service provided us with daylong (and night-time) enjoyable, culturally stimulating, commercial free listening. It kept us abreast of national and world-wide events and allowed us to enjoy our selection of favourite music, eclectic though it may have been.

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  • SAL-e: “Nearly everyone on the list is part of the Clinton campaign’s network of tech advisers, which helped draft the Democratic nominee’s tech policy platf...
  • Steve P.: Can someone explain Google Fiber to me? Don't they cover a small portion of 7 cities? About a fraction of 1% of the country, and not showing any signs...
  • Josh: Wow, that's nuts. If I lived in a Time-Warner area, that those copy restrictions *ALONE* would make me dump their service. I'm not trying to do any...
  • Dan: They need to bite the bullet, hire Amdocs to gut their ordering platform and copper facilities lookup tools, hire ATG to fix online ordering *after* A...
  • xnappo: Interesting view point SAL-e - one I have heard many times, but still thanks for the input....
  • SAL-e: "... I am paying their salary ..." No. You don't pay their salaries. The commissioners of the FCC are appointed bureaucrats by US president and appro...
  • Berfunkle: I wouldn't mind OTA 4K television. Where else are you going to get 4K content? The cable cos? LOL They don't even provide 1080P! It's a hassle and c...

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