The final frontier of free speech is under fire.
Companies like Bell and Telus want to turn the internet’s open highways of information sharing into embargoed toll roads.
These corporate fundamentalists currently hold the reigns of telecommunications power in Canada.
They’re barely restrained by some weak federal regulations and they want to be untied from that legislative post so they can run wild in the marketplace.
While these powers-that-be own the green pastures of the internet, information currently roams free there, grazing peacefully.
If government lets industry out of the barn they’d probably grab their lassoes and stampede all over us consumers like a bunch of cowboys drunk on moonshine.
They’d round up the info-cattle and stick ’em in huge corrals that we’d have to pay to visit just to get a few drops of milk.
Google started in a Menlo Park garage not so many moons ago, the dream of a couple of university kids who imagined they could somehow manage to make the wondrous new web easier to explore.
They clearly succeeded and now the company is a multi-billion dollar snowball rolling down a steep powder slope acquiring ever more bulk and brawn as it goes.
Google’s growth pattern is not unlike other major software firms like Microsoft and Adobe. Yet unlike these other companies’ brands, Google’s still rings fresh and young in the public ear. Maybe it’s the cutesy logo or that plain-jane innocence of its web site layout.
Whatever it is, despite its size Google has avoided being perceived of as an evil empire bent on controlling the world. Yet, more than any other software firm, that may be its very mission.
I got tipped off by Tim Querengesser over at the News that the rates for using 1X data services off-plan are pretty high.
Sure enough, I just chatted with a CSR at Bell Mobility and if you’re a standard cell phone handset user and you hop on the 1X network without a data plan, Bell will charge you $51 per MB.
The off-plan rate is dependent on the device you’re using. For example, my Treo off-plan would set me back a mere $15 per MB. (I’m currently on a plan with Bell that reduces that cost to 40¢).
But the kicker is the fact that nowhere does Bell advertise these rates. I searched their web site and couldn’t come up with any information regarding off-plan 1X data rates. Worse, it took the CSR I talked to a full 15 minutes to dig up the information himself!
He even commented on the relatively high volume of calls he gets from customers with unexpected $600 cell phones bills.
Bell needs to act more responsibly in regards to informing its customers about these sorts of surprise costs. In my opinion, a mobile device should be blocked from 1X data access until it is signed onto a plan. Not only to protect consumers from mind-numbing bills, but consider if a child got hold of a 1X device unbeknownst to his or her parents and hit the web, imagine what content and personalities they could access.
UPDATE: I should note that, despite Bell’s nefarious rate policy, the company’s telephone CSRs have always been gracious enough to backdate any data charges within a billing period for me. So if you’ve been playing with 1X for a while but you’re not on a plan, call *611 right away and talk to a CSR. They’ll sort you out with a plan make sure you don’t get dinged (too badly).
A few weeks back a number of Bell bigwigs including Senior
Vice-President Jim Jaques visited Whitehorse to announce a significant
upgrade to the North’s cell network. At long last, we’ve joined the
modern age with internet access on our cell phones.
But don’t let the hype fool you. We’re still laggards on the world stage.
That said, I won’t snub the upgrade. I am grateful that Whitehorse has
at very long last managed to rank high enough on Bell’s corporate
economic strategy to receive some more technological hand-me-downs from
our southern urban big brothers and sisters.
It’s sort of like we just landed a pair of decade-old Air Jordans and can give Grandpa his rubber boots back.