Here we are again. Exactly 4 years ago today I had an interview with the Edmonton Journal about Shaw. A few days after I was contacted by CTV Edmonton and had an on camera interview with them as well. 4 years ago I had written a series of articles about Shaw’s then new data caps on their accounts. They had attempted to put strict data caps on all internet accounts that were hilariously low. Many people called them on it, including myself. I wrote an article that attempted to explain it, people I knew who worked in local media contacted me, and before I knew it I had 15,000 page views and my name in the Journal and my face on TV. It might have been my 15 minutes of internet fame, but it was a big deal at the time. Shaw had tried to pull a very anti-consumer move, and they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Under immense pressure, Shaw caved. They scrapped their plans, and held a series of public consultation events, some of which I attended. Within a few months they had come up with changes that were for the good. New plans that, while still capped, had data limits that were significantly higher. The plans were significantly faster than they had offered before. Rolling out 100Mbit/s internet service when no other big provider in Canada was doing it on an affordable level. They promised more community involvement, more public consultation, which ended up resulting in the shaw community website. They started to run contests and promotions. I even helped facilitate one of them with them, helping spread the word on Shaw’s new services. Shaw seemed to really take the backlash and turn it into something good.
That has changed.
Effective either January 1 or Januray 6 depending on the service, Shaw has raised prices and decreased speeds on all of their plans. The price increases for existing customers are not nearly as bad as the speed decreases for new customers. This is an anti-consumer move, and one that really damages any good that Shaw has done in the past few years.
Before January 6 of this year, Shaw’s main plans were as follows
|High Speed 10||$55/month|
|High Speed 25||$60/Month|
And now, we have this:
The speeds have decreased either 40 or 50% depending on the plan, while the prices have gone down a small amount on some plans, but it is not proportional.
|Old Plan||New Plan||Change||Old Price||New Price||Change|
|High Speed 10||Internet 5||-50%||$55/month||$50/month||-9%|
|High Speed 25||Internet 15||-40%||$60/month||$60/month||0%|
|Broadband 50||Internet 30||-40%||$80/month||$70/month||-12.5%|
|Broadband 100||Internet 60||-40%||$90/month||$90/month||0%|
So as you can see, at best the new plans are a 40% reduction in speed for a 12.5% reduction in Price. That math simply does not add up. It seems that new customers will get less service for their dollar as compared to a month ago.
The Data caps are also dropping, which when you consider that we watch more and more HD video through services like Netflix, is even more concerning, especially at the higher priced plans.
|Old Plan||Data Cap||New Plan||Data Cap||Changes|
|High Speed 10||125GB||Internet 5||60GB||-52%|
|High Speed 25||250GB||Internet 15||125GB||-50%|
|Broadband 50||400GB||Internet 30||250GB||-37.5%|
|Broadband 100||500GB||Internet 60||400GB||-25%|
As you can see here as well, a new customer will get *significantly* lower data caps on plans. on what I would guess be the two most common plans, either a 50% reduction, or a 37.5% reduction. This is all happening at a time when users are watching more video online than ever before, and that is only going to increase, not decrease.
These plans are for new customers, so what happens if you are an existing customer? You will get to keep your current plan which will be described as a legacy plan, but the prices for those have gone up as well.
|Plan||Old Price||New Price||Change|
|High Speed 10||$55||$59||+$4 (7.2%)|
|High Speed 25||$60||$67||+$7 (11.7%)|
|Broadband 50||$80||$85||+$5 (6.25%)|
|Broadband 100||$90||$99||+$9 (10%)|
Prices for the legacy grandfathered plans have gone up by as mush as 11.7%, not a small margin. Even existing customers are not safe from these changes.
Shaw today posted their quarterly earnings today, January 14th. The company posted a $227 million profit in the last quarter. Now, admittedly that is a decline from the same quarter last year, when they made $245 Million. But we aren’t talking about a company that is about to start bleeding money. This is a company that made $227 million dollars in 3 months, and is raising prices. Now, Shaw is a bigger company than just their cable internet. They of course provide Cable TV service, own the Corus Entertainment radio chain, the Global TV chain, and many others. But the simple fact is that this is a company that is making hundreds of millions of dollars, and still raising prices.
Shaw has tried very hard to market these changes as improvements to service. Their promotional materials and documentation, for the most part, only lists the new plans and old plans in ways that make them look better. Here is one example as to how they frame their new plans.
|Old Plan||New Plan|
|N/A||Internet 5||New plan not previously available|
|High Speed 10||Internet 15|
|High Speed 25||Internet 30|
|Broadband 50||Internet 60|
As you can see, when looking at it this way, it looks like each plan has gotten faster, and there is even a new plan at the top. Everything looks great! Except where is the Broadband 100 in the comparison? Shaw is promising an “Internet 120” plan to replace broadband 100, but no date as to when that will launch. There is also the fact that cost is missing. The cost of the new to old plans do not match. Internet 5 for example looks like a new plan but it fits into the price of High Speed 10. The chart is shifted to make it look like a better service, when in fact the reality is a customer will either choose to pay the same for less, or more for the same.
Now what are the real reasons for these changes? Higher revenues is the easy thing, and the amount of money they bring in per customer will certainly go up. But it is clear to me that at least part of this move is to push off and prolong investing in upgrading the Shaw network. By pushing customers to plans with lower speeds, Shaw does not need to invest in as much capacity. Remember, the true cost of internet to any service provider is not how much data you use, it is how fast the connection is. A lower maximum speed for customers is better for Shaw, and forcing those who want faster connections to pay more is also better for Shaw.
Shaw will try to spin this too. They will claim that they will use the added revenues to invest in their network to increase capacity. They will invest more in Shaw Go WiFi. They will talk about how much better Shaw internet is compared to 4 years ago. They will say that these price changes will lead to a better customer experience overall.
Now, I don’t know about most people, but i’ve never used Shaw Go Wifi. i’m rarely in one place long enough to take real advantage of it, and in all honesty, I don’t want to use public wifi anyway. There are too many security concerns. And if Shaw were truly investing in their network and increasing capacity, these changes would not need to be made. In fact, their speeds should be going up, not down over time, if they invest in their network as they say they do. Shaw can spin this all they want, but the fact of the matter is that this is bad for the consumer.
Now, is there any part of these Shaw changes that are actually good for the average customer? No. There isn’t. This is not a move designed to be good for their customers in any way. This is bad for Shaw customers, in every way. And the only way to voice displeasure is to vote with your wallet. Reddit, DSLreports, and Shaw’s own community sites are full of people who are not happy with this change. And they have every right to be unhappy.
4 years ago Shaw made one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the company. People took notice, it gained momentum, and it reached critical mass. Shaw turned around the mistake and then managed to turn it into a huge win for them. Now, almost exactly 4 years later, they are repeating themselves. People are taking notice again. I hope this will gain momentum again. Will it reach critical mass and force Shaw to act? I’m not as confident this time, but you never know. All we can do is try. Hold their feet to the fire, and maybe once again, we can make a difference.