Shaw Delays Usage Based Billing Implementation–What Does This Mean?

Shaw today announced that it is going to, at least temporarily, suspend the service which would have enabled usage based billing on their internet plans. Usage Based Billing had gone into effect on January 1, 2011. For a more detailed explanation please see my article I wrote about this here.

In the press release, and on a page on the Shaw website, Peter Bissonnette, President of Shaw Communications, said: "We have been listening to the discussion taking place and determined that we want to hear directly from our own customers before we roll out any kind of program. Wherever we end up needs to work first and foremost for our customers."

Shaw will be conducting public consultation with its customers in it’s service area. Dates, times, and venues will be announced on February 14th.

[read] – Shaw press release

[read] – Shaw website

I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about what this really means. Now, I am pleased that Shaw is willing to at lest go through this process and listen to its customers. Obviously there has been enough of a negative response to this Shaw feels that it must at least try to salvage some positive PR out of this situation. I do commend them for doing this, as it does show that they are at least willing to listen.

Do I personally thing that this means they will stop the usage based billing altogether? In a word: no. Shaw launched a redesign of its website on February 7th, which includes a new data usage tool which is significantly more robust than the previous one. While I do not like the concept of the caps, I do think that Shaw has done a good job with this data usage tool on the new website. I highly doubt that they would have invested the resources into building this new tool for their new website unless they fully intend to go through with usage based billing.

So why have these public sessions? I think that it is so they can say that they have talked to their customers publicly about this new system. Shaw has been widely criticized by many, myself included, for it’s poor handling of the implementation of UBB. Doing this allows Shaw to save face and say that they have listened to their customers and gathered the feedback that the customers really wanted to give. I wish that they would have done this ahead of time, but at least they are offering this olive branch now.

While I am skeptical, and do not believe that this will change the fact that Shaw will put UBB in place in the end, I do believe that these public meetings can be good. If enough people voice their opinion, real change can be made. My ultimate wish is to have UBB overturned altogether. But I don’t believe that Shaw is willing to go that far, unless forced to by a massive outcry by its customers, or by legislation from government. Over 420,000 Canadians have signed a petition to stop UBB. That is not something that can be ignored. Perhaps if enough of those people speak up with Shaw, they will realize that this is something that is so un-popular with their customer base, they will not be able to go forward with UBB at all.

However, I am realistic. I said earlier that I fully expect Shaw to continue with UBB after this consultation process is over. While I completely disagree with UBB, we must deal with the most likely scenario. I have said in previous articles that I am not completely against the idea of usage caps; I am against the idea of unfair usage caps, which the current Shaw caps currently are. Shaw wants to punish the “heavy users” of today. What they fail to realize is that the heavy user of 2011 is the casual user of 2013. Or maybe they do realize that, and this is part of their plan. Either way, with internet usage trending up and while the current proposed caps of 60 and 100 GB may be adequate for most users today, it will not be soon. And what about the average family household with 4-5 internet users. As more and more people user the internet for more and more media rich activities, it will be nearly impossible for a household with more than one person to say under a cap of 60 or 100GB.

The real cost to Shaw is not the amount of data transferred, but how fast they can transfer it. I will talk more about this in a future article, but Shaw’s claims that bandwidth is limited and they can only transfer so much data is an exaggeration and a half truth. A cap of 60 or 100GB will do nothing to change Shaw’s overall service. Service providers in the United States that have put in service caps have limits of 250GB, because their goal is only to stop the true abusers of the system, not those who just want to watch a few movies or TV shows via legal services. If we must have UBB, let us have reasonable, realistic caps, not what we have now.

The way to make this happen is to get involved. We have an opportunity here. Shaw is counting on user apathy in these public consultations. If Shaw really values user feedback as much as they are indicating with this process, then it is up to its customers to make it actually have feedback to consider.  It is our responsibility to make this happen.  Be active, and let Shaw know that you are not happy.  Unless you do that, none of this matters.

Bandwidth Caps–The Critical Mass

The issue of bandwidth caps in Canada has hit critical mass. It is being widely reported by mainstream media, and more and more people are asking questions, and voicing their opposition to these limits. This has caused the House of Commons to respond to Canadians unrest.

So how did the tipping point get reached?

I believe the final straw came when news broke on January 31st, 2011 that a small ISP in Eastern Canada, Teksavvy, was being forced to significantly reduce what it could offer its customers. As I discussed in an earlier article, Bell and Rogers are now allowed to charge smaller ISPs that lease space on their networks on the same usage based model that it can for it's customers. This essentially means that those smaller ISPs are very limited in what it can offer to it's customers. This resulted in Teksavvy having to reduce it's bandwidth limit on customers in Ontario from 200GB a month down to 25GB. This is a reduction of nearly 88%. Even a single average Canadian can use 25GB of data per month, without using any online video service like Netflix.

The reaction to this news has been overwhelming, with people finally understanding what the usage based billing model means to Canadians, and what we can expect from our ISP's.

The link to the CBC article that really started this can be found here.

This specific case has even been carried on some US based technology news websites. Ars Technica and crutchgear both had articles about this, and Tech News Today, a daily tech news show produced by the TWiT network, covered it on their show on Monday, January 31st as well cnet's Buzz Out Loud covered the issue on Tuesday, February 1st.. This issue has interested our neighbours to the south in a big way, and goes to show how big of an issue this is.

[read] – Ars Technica

[read] – crunchgear

[read] – Tech News Today

[read] – Buzz Out Loud

What will the CRTC do?

Honeslty, I have no idea. The CRTC just recently ruled that the rate that Bell can charge small ISP's for overage is to be reduced by 15%. That is not much, but it is a start. With the Government ordering a review, anything is possible. However, the CRTC does not have a history of being friendly to consumers in it's decisions. The vast majority of its rulings in the recent past on ISPs and Usage Based Billing has been in the favour of the media companies, with little regard to the consumer. Perhaps with a government ordered review the CRTC may look more carefully at the wishes of Canadians, but it really is unknown.

What is the landscape looking like in the Government

The New Democratic Party(NDP) has been in opposition of UBB since the beginning, and now with the issue hitting critical mass, more people are finding that out. On February 1 the opposition Liberal party also stated that they are opposed to the UBB model in Canada.

The Conservative government has not come out with a firm stance. Stephen Harper has called UBB "troubling" and Industry minister Tony Clement has confirmed that the government will be reviewing the CRTC decision and that it will be watched closely.

What if the CRTC doesn't change it's ruling?

Well, in that unfortunate scenario, the Government could step in and overrule the CRTC decision. With the Liberals and the NDP already stating their opposition, this would pass the House of Commons quite quickly and easily. This is one of the few issues in recent memory that all major parties agree on, and I hope that they can come together for the good of the consumer on this issue.

So does this mean that the debate is over?

Not even close. There are no guarantees yet. The CRTC could rule to keep UBB as it is. And the Government could chose not to override that decision. There is still much work to do.

The best thing you can do right now is contact your Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper, and Tony Clement, to voice your opposition to UBB. The next thing you can do is sign the online petition at The petition has grown by almost 75,000 signatures in the last 24 hours, and as of this writing is around 250,000.

The time to act is now. The voice of the consumer is very powerful, and hundreds of thousands of voices together can be deafening, and hard to ignore. Sign the petition, write to your MP and to the Prime Minister. Without further action this could be nothing more than window dressing.

Anything else?

This is a note relating to Shaw users. Shaw took a good step today, February 1st, and enabled it's bandwidth monitor for all of its customers. This can be accessed from Be aware that clicking on the modem usage link tries to open a pop up to display the graph. Most browsers block pop up windows automatically now, and it will have to be disabled for Shaw's website. An annoyance, but at least we have the tool now.

I found that in the previous two billing cycles my household used 77.8GB in both months, well over the 60GB cap on the plan. This is troubling because those of us in the house, especially in the December-January billing cycle, were aware of the cap and were trying to lower our usage. We did not use Netflix at all and tried to curb our streaming video usage.

We will have to monitor our usage, and if we cannot get under 60GB, will probably have to upgrade to Shaw extreme. Based on our usage we would have had $36 in overage fees, with nothing but "normal" usage.

I personally hope that the CRTC reverses the decision to allow ISPs to implement Usage Based Billing. This is nothing but a cash grab for the service providers, while Shaw is currently enjoying record profits without the UBB system in place. It is simply not needed, and only serves to crush innovation and technology in Canada, when the future moving forward is based on that technology.

[read] – Conservative and Liberal parties talking about the topic

[read] – CRTC ordered to review the decision

[read] –

[sign] – Stop the meter petition

The New Shaw Reality-Bandwidth caps: wrapping it all together

As of January 1 of this year, Shaw has implemented some very significant changes to it's internet pricing structure that is going to affect a great number of users in the future.  They have decided to place a cap on how much data every user can download per month, and are starting to charge overage fees for users go over.  This is going to have a massive impact on how people use the internet going forward, and almost none of it is good.  I have written three articles about this subject, trying to make it as simple as possible for people to understand, since the information coming from Shaw has not been very clear. Part 1 is by far the largest, and gives the majority of the details about what exactly is happening, what this will effect, and what you can expect. It also details how shaw has communicated this to users, or lack of that communication.

The New Shaw Reality - Bandwidth Caps

This article spawned such a large response to me that I was compelled to write a followup article with new and expanded details.  This article is a bit shorter, and more focused based on the feedback I was given.  It compares Shaw to other ISP's in Canada, how this situation was allowed to happen, and answers a couple questions that were most common in my feedback.

The New Shaw Reality - Bandwidth Caps: How This Came to Be

The last post talks a bit about how users can monitor their bandwidth, including the options from Shaw.  Admittedly this article may not be that clear or easy, but that says more about the state of how difficult it is to actually monitor your bandwidth than anything.  The short version is that it actually isn't easy to do, especially for situations with multiple users and devices that share one connection.

The New Shaw Reality - Bandwidth Caps: How Can I Monitor My Usage

What I have written is really only a small piece of this pie.  I wrote these mainly because as small bits of information that were getting out to the general public people that I know were asking me if I knew anything about it.  And I really didn't want to say the same story 100 times.  The response that I have received to these articles has been much larger than I thought they would be, and I think speaks volumes to the complete lack of information that has been available.  Shaw representatives have pointed out to me that they do have page on their website which does explain it, however the vast majority of users simply have no idea that such a significant change has been made to their service, and that is not right.

This issue is not restricted to just Shaw.  Most major ISP's in Canada now place limits on internet plans.  I learned a lot during this whole process and most of it is not good.  For information about the entire topic of Usage Based Billing, and the ISP limits in general, a great resource I have used is, which has a lot of information about this subject, and is a definite read if you are looking for more information.  They have compiled most of the official news releases, and also try to explain the concept as well.  I also gathered information from other Shaw users on, where there is a user community that I gleamed the majority of the information for my first piece from.

As you read through this, please pass this information on to everyone you know who uses Shaw, or on a more general term anyone who uses Shaw, Rogers, or Bell in Canada, as this is an issue that affects them, and they may not know it.  Knowledge is power, and unfortunately there is simply not enough knowledge about this issue for the general consumer.

The New Shaw Reality–Bandwidth Caps: How Can I Monitor My Usage?

Editor’s note: This is post #3 about the new Shaw bandwidth caps.  For post #1, click here. For post #2, click here. As much as we may not like this prospect, Shaw’s bandwidth caps are currently a reality.  And the extremely low limits combined with increasing internet usage means that many people will have to actively monitor how much data they use every month.  This is especially true in cases of households with multiple users and multiple devices.  Unfortunately the answer to how to monitor how much data you transfer is not a simple or easy one.

Shouldn’t Shaw Be Telling Me How Much I Use?

In a perfect world, yes.  And they will, but only after you have gone over your limit once.  Once you do, Shaw will enable a bandwidth monitor for your account that can be accessed via your account page at  But until you go over your limit once Shaw simply does not provide a way for you to check.  Putting aside whether or not Shaw should be keeping that information from it’s users; one way to be able to monitor your bandwidth is to simply not worry about it until you go over, and then use Shaw’s tool to monitor every month.  Remember that you do get two “strikes” where you can go over your limit, and on the third time you begin getting charged.  So if you go over once, you will not be charged.  However, doing that means that you only have one more chance before you will start facing overage charges.

I Don’t Like That Idea. How Can I Monitor Myself

Well, that’s where it starts to get complicated.  If you have one computer, and that is the only device that uses your Shaw internet connection, the answer is quite simple.  Several free tools exist for windows that will monitor your bandwidth usage over time.  They are applications that install and run in the background.  The tool I recommend for Windows users is, helpfully enough, called Bandwidth Monitor [website].  It will monitor data usage on your PC, and provides daily, weekly, and monthly stats that all you to track history and your usage over time.  On the Apple side, Surplus Meter promises many of the same features, though I personally have not used it.

But Those Are Just For One Computer.

That’s correct.  And that’s where it gets complicated.  There are no “apps” to monitor data usage over time on things like iPods, iPads, game consoles, and other set top boxes that use services like Netflix.  As I type this, I personally have several different devices that are connected that, when powered on, can access the internet.  Monitoring all seven devices would be  impossible if I tried to do it from each device.  Even if there was a way to track every device I have, it would be difficult to continually monitor each device and get some kind of running total as you use them.

Ok, That’s Not Realistic At All. Is There Anything Else I Can Do?

Yes.  There is one thing you can do, which is monitoring the data usage at your router.  This unfortunately is the most complicated method, but also the best one for measuring a house with multiple devices connecting wirelessly or wired.  Because each router manufacturer uses different software, the best thing you can do is look at the user manual, either the printed one that came with the device or online.  You will usually access the router through your web browser by going to it’s address, which again will be in the users manual.

Once logged into the router, there may be options for monitoring your data usage.  Please note that not every router supports this, and it may not keep logs for very long.  My Router, which runs custom software(more on that later), allows me to monitor in a menu simply called “Bandwidth”  Others may be under tools, status, or Administration.  Again, if your router supports it the best way to find out is by reading the user manual.

You’re Not Being Very Helpful With That.

Unfortunately there are simply too many different makes and models of routers for me to really look into detail for each one.  Some families of routers will be similar, but many people, myself included, have older routers.  I wish I could spend the time to look up the info for many devices, but if I did that this document would be 200 pages long.  I also must stress enough that many home routers do not support this function out of the box anyway.  It’s not something most users ever need.

What’s This About Custom firmware?

This begins with a disclaimer:  Custom software on your router has the potential of causing it to be unusable, and voids your warranty. You use this type of software at your own risk.

Some routers support loading of custom, or third party operating systems.  These are more for power users, and can add or unlock functionality in the router.  These are not developed by the companies that make the routers, and are provided as-is.  You install them onto your router, replacing the firmware that came on the device.  The two most popular custom firmware options are DD-WRT, and Tomato.  Each website has guides on installation.  They will tell you whether your router is compatible, provide a guide on how to install, and instructions how to use the firmware after it is installed.  I personally have been using the Tomato firmware for years with great success, and it has allowed me to monitor my bandwidth with one caveat that is common with most routers.  It will store the data as long as the router is turned on, but if the device is reset or power is lost it does not keep that data.  This is because routers usually have very small amounts of memory in them, only enough to run the firmware on the device.  There is simply no place to store that kind of data long term.

I use Tomato to monitor my usage now, and look at it about once a week.  The advantage of monitoring at the router is that it captures all network traffic coming through the shaw cable modem, no matter what device generates it.  The downside is that not many routers can actually do this.  And I cannot stress this enough:  Do not attempt to load custom firmware if you are uncomfortable with the fact that it may break your router.

This Seems Really Hard.

That’s because it actually is pretty hard.  There quite frankly are very few good solutions for monitoring data transfer in a household.  Software exists to do it on a PC by PC basis but in a home with multiple devices it is very hard.

In all honestly, the Shaw tool on your customer care page is likely the best way to monitor your data transfer at home.  It’s just very unfortunate that Shaw will not turn that feature on until you have exceeded your limit once, thus eliminating one of two “strikes” before you even know how much data you use.  What Shaw should be doing is enabling this tool for all accounts now, so users have a chance to see what kind of usage they have.

My other hope is that eventually router manufacturers will build data monitors into all future routers, and make them very easy to find/use.  As more and more ISPs institute data caps, whether the limit is 60GB or 250GB, users need an easy way to monitor their usage.  Until then, we just have to do the best we can with the tools at hand, and hope that there are no surprises on the bill when it comes.

The New Shaw Reality – Bandwidth caps: How this came to be

Editor's note: This is article #2 about Shaw's new bandwidth caps.  For article #1, please click here I received such a large response to my first post about the new Shaw Bandwidth caps, that I feel that I need to write more. I have had many questions, suggestions, and comments from people who want to know more, or have asked me to talk about certain things, and I am happy to oblige. This is the first of two more articles, the next one will talk specifically about how to monitor your bandwidth, but for now, I want to talk about how this came to be, and expand a bit more on my previous article.

Is Shaw The Only One Doing This?

If you’re in western Canada you may be surprised to learn that no, Shaw is not the first. Bell and Rogers, who are the big Internet Service Providers(ISP) in eastern Canada already have caps on their plans. Some smaller regional ISP’s are also starting to put limits on it’s users, because Bell and Rogers, who they usually lease network infrastructure from, are starting to place limits on them.  Not all regional ISP’s have these limits on their plans.

How Does Shaw Compare To The Other Providers With Caps?

To be totally honest, I’ve learned a lot as I’ve looked up my information for these articles. Shaw actually compares favorably to Rogers, and actually provides a bit more when compared to Bell at similar price points. So are Shaw’s limits exactly revolutionary?  No. That still doesn’t make them good, and them doing this will only increase awareness of what other Canadians have had to face. And it should also help to increase the awareness that these limits at their current levels by all of the ISP’s does nothing but harm the general consumer in the long term.

What About Telus?

Telus’ website does state that they have a limit of 125GB/month on their internet plans. Several people have pointed that out to me, and one individual did tell me that he was told Telus does charge overages. However, every other piece of information that I have been able to find indicates that Telus does not currently enforce this limit. In my last article I referenced a CTV story where a Telus representative stated that Telus has no intention on enforcing any limits. You can find a video of that story here:

That being said, even if Telus does being to enforce their stated limits and charging people who go over, their limit is still higher than Shaw’s at a comparable price. That does mean that Telus is still a better option if both enforced their stated limits.

So How Exactly Did This All Come About?

In May of 2010, the Canadian Radio-television Communications Commission (CRTC) approved a Bell request that allowed Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Canada to move to a Usage Based Billing(UBB) model. This means that ISP’s can charge customers based on the amount of data they use, rather than an unlimited package for a fixed price. This is the framework that has allowed Shaw, Bell, and Rogers to begin capping and charging users. As stated Telus does have a stated limit, but does not currently enforce those limits.

Wait, Doesn’t Shaw own both a Cable business, and the TV Network on it?

Shaw is a very large company that now operates a TV Network (Global TV), a Cable TV business, and an Internet service. They also operate a home phone service, and will be launching a cellular network in 2011. Shaw is absolutely not the only company that is in this situation. Rogers owns the CityTV network along with its TV, internet, phone, and cellular services. Bell is waiting for CRTC approval to buy CTV.

Many people feel that having a single company own an entire channel of content, from the content itself, to the delivery method to the end user is a bad thing for consumers. Now, whether we like it or not this is the reality in Canada, and to be totally honest, I’m not completely against it. The simple fact is that there are not many companies in Canada big enough to effectively support the kind of infrastructure it takes to run all of those services. This is partly because of past practices made to limit competition in those spaces, but facts are facts now. There is very little avenue for new companies to come in and challenge, because the cost would be prohibitive. This type of problem exists even in the United States, where Comcast, a very large ISP and Cable provider is seeking regulatory approval to purchase NBC. Now, there are things that can be done to minimize the issues brought up by this, and to make the situation better, such as the CRTC putting conditions and restrictions on those companies. The CRTC is making efforts in this space. For example as part of Shaw purchasing Global TV, Shaw must ensure that it make Global TV available to its competitors cable networks at a competitive and comparable rate.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Could the CRTC do more? Yes. I think the system can work, as long as proper regulations are put in place to ensure that the landscape is as fair as it can possibly be.

But Shaw Hasn’t Been Completely Honest About This At All.

You’re right. Thanks to some helpful readers from the first article on this subject, I’m able to prove one of my favorite things of this whole situation. I mentioned that Shaw changed it’s Terms of Service on it’s website to reflect lower Bandwidth caps, but did not update revision date on the document. This means that Shaw edited the document without stating that it has been edited. The document changed, and they are trying to show that it hasn’t changed in months.

I am able to show this using a service by Google called Google Cache. Google Cache is a system in which Google stores older versions of web pages for archival purposes. This allows people to go back and see what websites looked like in the past.

The following is how the Shaw Terms of Service page read on December 16, 2010. The last updated date on the document is July 20, 2010.

· The guidelines for Bandwidth Usage/month for each service package are the following: Shaw High-Speed Lite — 13 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed — 75 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed Extreme — 125 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed Warp — 250 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed Nitro — 500 GigaByte

Now here are the Shaw Terms of Service read on January 9, 2011. Again, the last updated date on the document is July 20, 2010.

· The guidelines for Bandwidth Usage/month for each service package are the following: Shaw High-Speed Lite — 15 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed — 60 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed Extreme — 100 GigaByte;  Shaw High-Speed Warp Internet — 175 GigaByte; Shaw High-Speed Nitro — 350 GigaByte

The link to the Google cache webpage is here:

And the current Terms of Service can be found here:

Now, this may be an oversight by whoever did update the page. Anything is possible. However, the simple fact that Shaw chose to update its Terms of Service in a manner in which is made to look like they haven’t changed in months is something that is very worrying. Many people would call such a move deceptive, and anti-customer. I hope that this error does get corrected very soon.

EDIT: Please note that as of January 13, 2011, the Shaw Terms of Service have been updated to show the revision date of December 15, 2010.  This change was made after the publishing of this article.

On a personal note I am glad to see that Shaw has corrected the error on the page.  I can only hope it was simply an oversight on their part.

What Happens if People Steal My Bandwidth?

Then you’re pretty much screwed. Do you have a wifi network that is not password protected? If you do, you should lock it immediately, for many reasons that go beyond bandwidth. But think about this. If you have a wireless network that is not password protected, anyone who can get within range of it, and the range is usually enough to reach a front sidewalk, or several apartments over, can access it and start using your internet connection. If that person wants to, they can start downloading anything they want, and it will count against your cap. This happens in most cases completely without the knowledge of the person who has the open wifi network. A person over the course of several days could download several hundred gigabytes and you would not know until you get your bill. This is a reality that still exists. Every time I go to an area with higher density houses, there are usually several wireless networks, most of them are completely open. This is something that will shock many people. Now, granted this is something that has nothing to do with Shaw, and is something it is completely up to the user to manage, but it becomes all that much more important.

So What’s Next?

As I have said, there are only a few things a person can do. The first is to live with the new caps, and hope that you do not go over. The second is to call Shaw to voice your concerns. And the third is to switch to another provider. Needless to say I am a proponent of at the very least calling Shaw to voice your concerns. As I stated in my previous article, please be respectful if you choose to contact Shaw. Calling and yelling and demanding they reverse their changes now will not solve any problems, especially if you are talking to a front line staff member who has no control over any of those decision that are being made.

At the end of the day, the moves made by Shaw, and most of the rest of Canadian ISP’s, do nothing except hurt the consumer. They are protectionist, and expose a company that is afraid of new content delivery systems taking away from their businesses. It hurts customers who don’t even know what bandwidth is. Shaw has decided to not inform its users of this change. And unless users read their bill line-by-line every single month, most will simply have no idea what is going on.  The most troubling thing about this is that this change likely will not have a big impact right away.  It won’t start to hurt users next month, or the month after.  This is something that might really come to a head several months from now as the internet usage of the general public goes up naturally.  As more people discover content sources that are internet based the usage will go up significantly. I’ve said a few times through two articles that I’m not completely against the ideas of bandwidth caps; however the methods that Shaw has used to implement this new system have left me discouraged and frustrated. To make a change to one of their biggest services without informing it’s customers is something that cannot be forgiven or excused. That is the single biggest reason why I am upset about this process. Shaw is putting an already controversial system into place, and doing so this quietly only makes them look worse.