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Videotron Launches 6GB/$30 Smartphone Plan; Will Bell, Rogers, and Telus Follow?

Phillip Dampier June 29, 2011 Canada, Competition, Vidéotron, Wireless Broadband 2 Comments

Videotron has opened a new window of opportunity for wireless users looking for higher usage smartphone data allowances with the introduction of a 6GB for $30 plan the company says is available for a limited time only.

Canadian wireless customers are well used to 6GB data plans — they show up periodically from Bell, Rogers, and Telus, usually coinciding with the launch of another new version of Apple’s iPhone, but Videotron seeks to heat up the competition this summer with a new offer.

Videotron, a popular wireless carrier in Quebec, may be able to inspire counteroffers from other carriers re-launching similarly priced promotions in the days ahead.

Compared to pricing in the United States, this is a reasonably good deal.  AT&T charges $25 for just 2GB per month and Verizon will seek $30 for the same allowance early next month.

Canada’s Deregulation Dog & Pony Show: Super-Sized Companies Demand to Get Bigger

Phillip Dampier June 21, 2011 Bell (Canada), Canada, Competition, Data Caps, Editorial & Site News, Online Video, Public Policy & Gov't, Rogers, Shaw, Vidéotron Comments Off on Canada’s Deregulation Dog & Pony Show: Super-Sized Companies Demand to Get Bigger

Unless Canada deregulates the media industry further, a “technological storm” by “audiovisual Wal-Marts” will harm or destroy Canada’s media companies.  No doubt looking directly at Netflix, those were the views of Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau at the outset of hearings held this week by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on media ownership and vertical integration issues.

Canada’s media landscape is rapidly consolidating at a rate that will allow even ordinary Canadians with a passing interest in the issue to recognize the handful of remaining media moguls and identify them by name.  Phone companies that own major Canadian television networks, cable operators that own cell phone companies, and mergers among the dwindling pack have left consumers soaking in Shaw, Rogers, Bell, and Quebecor — whether they flip on their televisions, make a cell phone call, read a newspaper, or download something from the Internet.  Talk about vertical integration!  Now the supersized are back for more deregulation so they can trade programming rights between themselves, fend off the devil — Netflix, and of course continue to buy each other out.

There is one exception, of course.  Allowing party crashers.  While all of the incumbent players want the rules loosened up on their respective media and telecommunications operations, they are hellbent on keeping foreign competition out of Canada — the only real deep pockets sufficient to break up a convenient cartel of phone and cable companies.  Rogers and Shaw stay on their respective sides of a line dividing eastern Canada’s turf for Rogers and western Canada’s territory for Shaw.  Bell and Telus do much the same.  Quebecor provides cable for Quebec, and a handful of much smaller players fight for any remaining crumbs.

For Americans, it would be the equivalent of turning over your telephone, broadband, cable, television, newspapers, magazines, and radio stations to Rupert Murdoch or ex-media baron Ted Turner.

For Canadians, these hearings come just a tad too late.  Shaw Communications is absorbing their latest buyout — Canwest Media’s TV assets, which are hardly meager.  Shaw will run more than two dozen local broadcast TV outlets, 30 cable and satellite networks, and Global — a major broadcast network.  Bell is still popping Rolaids over its digestion of the enormous CTV and smaller upstart A-Channel network.  When it’s finished, “A” will become “CTV Two.”

The Globe and Mail notes between them, Bell, Shaw, Rogers and Quebecor control:

  • 86 per cent of cable and satellite distribution;
  • 70 per cent of wireless revenues;
  • 63 per cent of the wired telephone market;
  • 49 per cent of Internet Service Provider revenues;
  • 42 per cent of radio;
  • 40 per cent of the television universe;
  • 19 per cent of the newspaper and magazine markets;
  • 60 per cent of total revenues from all of the above media sectors combined.

As far as growth goes, as Alan Keyes used to proclaim, “that’s geometric!”

But it’s still not enough now that Netflix has arrived in Canada.  Despite the fact the operation has been challenged by punitive usage caps restricting viewing (or lowering its video quality), Netflix and new technology companies like it are the 21st century boogeymen for these multi-billion dollar media corporations.  The only way to defend against it?  Deregulate to allow them to trade viewing rights, grow larger, and charge whatever they like.  Somehow that seems to miss the point: Netflix is popular because it costs less, allows people to stream the shows they actually want to watch at a time of their choosing, and let’s families drop some overpriced premium channels and video rental fees along the way.

Bell’s dollar-a-holler researcher expanded on why large media conglomerates miss the point, even if he did so unintentionally.

According to University of Alberta economics professor, Jeffrey Church, “vertical integration is beneficial for consumers.” Sit down as you read why:

  • it reflects efficiencies, spurs competitive innovation and is a global trend;
  • telecom, media and Internet markets in Canada are “highly competitive;”
  • our ‘small media economy’ needs a few deep-pocketed national champions to compete globally and invest heavily in innovation at home;
  • instances of harm are mostly imaginary and few and far between;
  • it helps keep “consumers . . . within the regulated system” (Shaw’s submission, p. 4).

Like cattle.

Capping the Cappers: Putting Limits on How Many Licenses Rogers, Telus and Bell Can Buy

Anthony Lacavera

Large Canadian telecommunications companies like Rogers, Telus, and Bell are loudly protesting a proposal to cap the maximum number of wireless licenses they can beg, borrow, or buy.

The proposal, from Wind Mobile and Quebecor Inc.’s Vidéotron Ltée, would tell some of Canada’s largest telecom companies they cannot buy up every available wireless license that becomes available in the future in an effort to lock out would-be competitors.  Both companies fear that without such a license cap, the deep pockets of larger providers could sustain a wireless cartel to keep mobile competition at bay.

“Competition doesn’t just ‘happen’,” said Wind Mobile’s Anthony Lacavera. “True competition and the long term benefits of competition for Canadians will occur when, and if, our regulatory framework is improved, our access to foreign capital is unhindered and the playing field is leveled to the benefit of Canadians.”

Lacavera’s upstart Wind Mobile has faced incumbent provider-fueled scrutiny over claims of foreign ownership violations in an effort to keep Wind’s discount service out of Canada.  In addition to fending off regulatory challenges, Lacavera is wary of Conservative Party policy towards wireless competition, which he suspects is too shallow and lacks important protections against further marketplace concentration.

The idea of a license limit met with predictable hostility from the three larger incumbents.

On Wednesday, Telus’ chief financial officer rejected the idea out of hand, telling the government they should not be giving advantages to discount carriers and foreign entities over Telus, which he said was more focused on “innovation.”

Wind Mobile

Rogers called a license cap “a slap in the face” to millions of their customers, and Bell pulled an AT&T — without allowing companies like Bell to have the chance to outbid everyone else, Canada will run the “risk of lagging” behind the United States, harm innovation, and deprive the government of much needed auction revenue.

Bell CEO George Cope also warned letting foreign companies into the Canadian market could leave rural Canada with older technology.  At the risk of shooting down his own earlier argument, Cope specifically targeted his remarks at U.S. carriers, who presumably could be among Canada’s future wireless players.  In Cope’s mind, U.S. providers like AT&T would treat Canada as an afterthought.

“If you really believe that if a U.S. carrier had owned Bell at the time we launched HSPA+ (an advanced iteration of 3G), do you really believe Prince Edward Island, that province, would have had HSPA+ before Chicago?” Cope asked. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Large incumbent carriers also accused the smaller competing upstarts of simply trying to boost their own value before they sell out.  Telus and Rogers should know — they fought over buying that competition, like Microcell’s Fido, which Rogers eventually acquired in 2004.

Harper Gov’t Issues Statement on Usage-Based Billing Cable Company Misrepresents As Approval


On Monday, the Federal Minister of Industry Tony Clement issued a statement about Internet Overcharging that was so non-committal, media companies are interpreting his comments as “for” and “against” usage-based billing.

Tony Clement’s full statement:

“On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, the CRTC announced its decision to allow wholesale and retail internet service providers to charge customers for exceeding the monthly usage of data transfer permitted with their broadband Internet package. This will mean, for the first time, that many smaller and regional internet service providers will be required to move to a system of usage-based billing for their customers.

I am aware that an appeal has been initiated by a market participant. As Canada’s Industry Minister, it is my job to help encourage an innovative and competitive marketplace, and to ensure Canadian consumers have real choices in the services they purchase. I can assure that, as with any ruling, this decision will be studied carefully to ensure that competition, innovation and consumers were all fairly considered.

The Harper Government is committed to encouraging choice and competition in wireless and internet markets. Increased choice results in more competition, which means lower prices and better quality services for Canadians. We have always been clear on our policies in this regard and will continue on this path.

Our Conservative Government is focused on the economy and creating a positive environment for job creators and business to flourish. Canadians can count on us to do what is in the best interest of consumers.”

AgenceQMI and Videotron are both owned by Quebecor Media

CBC Radio made mention of Clement’s comments and indicated the minister had expressed concerns about the billing scheme, but readers of wire service reports from AgenceQMI are getting an entirely different view — Clement’s approval of the new pricing scheme.

In a French language story headlined, “Minister Clement justifies the end of unlimited Internet packages,” the news agency got just a little creative in interpreting Clement’s statement (roughly translated from the French original):

He also argues that billing based on actual usage would more efficiently manage Internet traffic and bandwidth and provide a better experience for light users, currently impacted by massive data exchanges among the Internet’s heaviest users.

Minister Clement, who supports this decision, said in a statement that it is his duty to encourage a more competitive market.

It’s hardly a coincidence that AgenceQMI‘s creative spin of Clement’s statement just happens to match the position of Videotron, Quebec’s largest cable company.  They are both owned by Quebecor Media.  Videotron engages in Internet Overcharging that left one Montreal student with an $1,800 broadband bill.

HissyFitWatch: Don’t Take a Picture of a Videotron Store or An Employee Will Threaten to Punch You

A Montreal blogger experienced the wrath of some Videotron employees when he casually snapped a photo of their recently-remodeled store in the Carrefour Agrignon.

Elias Makos shares the crazy story of his experience last November:

Walking to the Best Buy, I noticed the Videotron store, which has recently been remodeled as the company focuses more and more on its new cell phone services. Not only was the store remodeled, but there was a ratio of about 6 employees per customer in the store.  This was hilarious to me, and even more so when I think about how Videotron’s parent company, Quebecor, has locked out 253 Journal de Montreal employees for almost two years now. Apparently the company can’t pay for journalism but can afford an army of numbskulls selling cell phone contracts.

So I took out my phone and snapped one picture of the store from about 20 feet away. Put my phone back in my pocket and walked to Best Buy. About a minute later, I feel a hand on my back.

The photo worth a thousand punches to the face. (Courtesy: Elias Makos)

“Why did you take a picture of me?”

I was floored. “What?” I said, realizing that it was a Videotron employee from the store. He asked the same question again. I looked at him, flabbergasted that he even cared. He looked very nervous, like he knew he and his store was incompetent. He told me not to take pictures of his store, or else. I stared at him, realized I didn’t have to tell him a thing, and walked away, although not before I must have gave him the most confused look in my life.

I get to Best Buy, walk to the games section (major cutie working there today!) and found several new copies of both games. I was happy. I picked both games up. Then, out of nowhere, this guy approaches me.

“If you take another photo of my store, I’m going to punch you.”

Minutes later, the mall’s security guards approached Makos demanding he delete the photos, claiming taking photographs inside the mall violates mall policies.

Makos’ story turned into a bigger story on CBC Radio, with company officials trading accusations with Makos over whether the public has a right to snap pictures of its stores.

Foolishly, Videotron didn’t learn the cardinal rules of good public relations — strong-arming a member of the public and reflexively taking the side of the goon-employees who subsequently stalked Makos inside the mall will never turn out well no matter how you defend it.

CBC Radio Montreal talks with area blogger Elias Makos, who related his ridiculous encounter with some bored (and boorish) Videotron employees at the local mall who were more than a little camera shy. (12 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.


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Stop the Cap!