CRTC rules against Usage Based Billing

The CRTC has made a very important, and surprising, ruling on the state of usage based billing on wholesale ISP's in Canada.  While this actually won't affect most people reading this, it is a pretty important and precedent setting ruling.  The most surprising thing about the ruling? The fact that it is actually pro-consumer, not pro-big business.

UPDATED: see the bottom of the post for an update

To keep it simple, the CRTC has ruled that Bell cannot charge wholesale ISP's based on how much data moves through the network.  Bell can, however, charge based on speed of the connection.  As a quick reminder, wholesale ISP's are smaller, often local ISPs that do not have their own network.  They lease space from large ISP's such as Bell, and resell that service to consumers.  So while this ruling does not affect the consumer directly, this will have an impact in the long run.

I made the point months ago that charging wholesale ISP's, or even regular users, on a usage based billing system that puts a limit on how much data a user can download each month makes zero sense.  I won't go back into it, but you can find the previous posts from January 2011 and on on this site that will explain all of it.  The nuts and bolts are that the true cost to the ISP is not how much data moves through a connection, but how fast the connection actually is.  Data is a nearly infinite resource; I'm creating data typing this post right now.  But how fast you can get that data is limited, and it does cost ISP's more to offer faster connections.

In a nutshell, with this ruling are that the CRTC has seen the truth to this argument, and has said that Bell can charge wholesale ISP's more for a bigger, faster connection, but not for how much data moves through.  This is a very fair ruling as it does reflect the true cost of internet service.  Wholesale ISP's should be charged more to lease more bandwidth (the actually term for the speed of the connection) from Bell, as that really is where the cost is.  I don't think you'll find many rational arguments against that, as it is fair for everyone.

Why this is important is that it is precedent setting.  Since Bell can't do it, It will be nearly impossible for Rogers, Telus or Shaw to charge wholesale ISP's on usage based billing now as well.  It also means that there is a stronger argument for the general consumer should not be subject to usage based billing.  If large ISP's can't do it for their wholesale customers, why should the general consumer face that type of restriction.  I have always been a proponent of this, and this does give another bullet in the chamber for the groups that are lobbying for it.

The last thing I will say is that I'm very surprised at the ruling, in a good way.  The CRTC very rarely makes consumer friendly rulings of this magnitude.  Traditionally it has catered to larger businesses.  This ruling helps small businesses the most, but will have a long term positive impact on the state of internet and content delivery in Canada.  There are many CRTC rules which I think are so anti-consumer they hurt more than they help (simulcasting sports broadcasting is my favourite example), but this ruling is a surprising breath of fresh air, and a very welcome one.

UPDATE: Since the posting of this article some new news and clarifications have come out.  I have also included links to the original article, as well as the two new articles for this update below.

The Canadian Association of Internet Providers (can no one come up with better names for these types of organizations?) has come out against the ruling, saying that it will drive up costs for consumers who subscribe to those wholesale ISP's, since those who want faster connections will likely have to pay more.  Now, this actually may be true, but then that will make those ISP's and customers of those ISP's on a similar playing field that customers on Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw are.   They may even be in a better position because there does not have to be a data limit on their plans, like the larger ISP's have chosen to impliment.

The rhetoric is quite funny.  The large ISP's are unhappy because they wanted to implement usage based billing on the smaller ISP's in an effort to make more money.  Small ISP's are unhappy because they don't like the prospect of having to pay more to the larger ISP's in any way.  Usually, when both sides of the business are unhappy, that is generally a good thing for the consumer.  I know that there is a possibility that a consumer using a small ISP will have to pay a bit more, however the deal remains fair to all sides, and does accurately reflect the real cost of delivering internet.

There has also been an update on exactly how the wholesale ISP's will have to pay for their connection speed.  According to Ars Technica, the Large ISP's will have two methods to charge the wholesale providers.  They can either charge a flat rate, or force the small ISP to pay up front at the beginning of the month for however much capacity they want/need for that month.  That is something I personally don't like, because having to pay ahead of time will lead to guess work.  If the ISP pays for too much capacity, they will pay for more than what they need and end up paying more than they need to.  If they buy too little, it will cause congestion for their customers and slow down their internet.  this is not a good situation for the wholesale ISP's and one that they are likely going to have a difficult time handling.  You will likely see them having to pay for far more than what they usually need on a given month, especially in the beginning, to ensure there is no drop off in capacity.  what I would have liked to have seen is for the wholesale ISP's use what they need in a given month, and then pay the large ISP's the appropriate amount. No more, no less.  This would have been a much more fair deal for those small wholesale ISPs.

[read] - CRTC offers compromise on usage based billing (CBC)

[read] - CRTC ruling may boost prices (CBC)

[read] - Canadian regulators ditch usage based billing for independent ISP's

Shaw presents new Internet packages

On January 7th, 2011 I wrote this article which detailed Shaw’s plans to begin enforcing data caps on their internet plans in what was said was an effort to combat congestion on the network. over 11 subsequent posts (this will be number 13), I’ve detailed a lot more in those posts here if you would like to read further about them.  In a nutshell, Shaw was going to put very low caps into place, coupled that with lowering those caps right before the announcement, and did fall into a bit of bad luck in regards to other internet issues in the CRTC that did not even affect them.  But, this is not about the last 5 months, this post is about today, and I’m pleased to say that the news is good.  Very good.

So, what’s the deal?

I’m going to just get this out of the way and say that, in my opinion, Shaw has just become the industry leader in Canada when it comes to internet pricing. This is a statement that I can make without hesitation, but am shocked to say.  Going into the second round of customer consultations tonight, didn’t know what to expect, but did have some ideas.  My personal belief was that Shaw was going to offer internet packages that separated speed from data limits, letting users pick both their speed, and the amount of data per month.  This would not have been a terrible solution, but would have still resulted in capped internet, and possibly high costs for high amounts of data.  What came out of the meeting surprised me, and in almost the best way possible.

Quite The Statement. Now Get To The Details.

Shaw High Speed Lite, High Speed, and High Speed Extreme will remain, with the exception of the data limits, which are being increased by a factor of 2 or 2.5.  This will mean that for Shaw High Speed Extreme, users will get 25Mbps download speeds and 250GB limits for the same price they are paying now.  I think that this plan should be the minimum now for most users, as it provides a good balance of speed, data, and price, and will be good for most users today.  When compared to the new plans I will detail, I personally do not believe that High Speed does not offer a good price/performance value anymore.

The new plans.  Ah, the new plans.  I will say up front that most of them do have data caps, and the pricing is a bit higher, but the value in them is something that has never been seen in Canada to this point.  For the vast majority of customers who run what Shaw now calls “legacy TV” for $59 + the cost of your TV package, you get a data plan of 50Mbps download speed (6.25 Megabytes/second), 3Mbps upload speed (375 KiloBytes/second), and a data cap of 400GB.  400GB is now the starting point for the new plans.  In the short term, the plans will run all the way up to 100Mbps download speed with unlimited data for $120 + the cost of TV.  This compares to the current cost of Warp speed internet which has 50Mbps download speed and a 175GB data cap for $97 when bundled with TV.  Shaw plans to add 250Mbps download speeds with unlimited data for that same $120/month to all markets within the next 16 months, shifting the 100Mbps plan down to a cheaper price point.

To be frank, these new plans are fantastic.  High speed Extreme remains, but with higher data caps, at current prices.  that alone will be enough for most users today.  However, the value of the Broadband 50 plan (50Mbps, 400GB) at $59 is simply out of this world. The closest plan today is Warp Speed, which is the same speed, lower cap, and $30 more expensive.  Compared to today’s High speed extreme, Broadband 50 has 3.2x the data and 2x the speed for $10 more. The value there is hard to ignore.  The new plans go into place June 7, 2011, you will be able to order them then.  You can find a link to the full list of plans at the bottom of this article.

But There Are Still Caps…

Yes, on most plans there are still caps, which means the ability of users to go over the caps.  In the short term, nothing is going to change from the way it is today.  Shaw continues to have an “acceptable use policy” which, translated into English, means that users can go over the cap, but only users who abuse it the most will be contacted and warned.  That is a bit vague, and that was brought up during our meeting, but essentially if you’ve never had a problem to this point you won’t have a problem now.

And even with the caps in place, they are high, very high.  Consider that Shaw claims only 10% of users go over the current caps today, and those caps have been raised at least 2x.  These limits are significantly higher than anything offered by any other ISP in Canada at similar price points.  In Alberta Telus offers 25Mbps with a 250GB limit for $52/month. Shaw will offer double the speed and 1.6x the data for $9 more. In Eastern Canada, Bell offers a similar 25Mbps plan with only 75GB of data for $56/month. Shaw offers double the speed and  5.3x the data for $3 more.  And do not forget that the top tier plan does feature unlimited internet, so if 750GB or 1TB of internet is truly not enough for you, an unlimited option is available.  These limits will be what they should be, a way only to punish users who truly abuse the system the most.

There will be a new system in the future, however this is one piece that has yet to be fully fleshed out. It is tentatively called the bump up plan, which will be some kind of provision that if a person reaches their data limit, they will be bumped up to the next plan instead of having a per GB charge.  I will again stress that Shaw did say there is much work to do with this, and that a plan will be put into place in the coming months of exactly how this will work (warning customers ahead of time, pro-rating costs, etc), and that this plan will not be put into place until 2012. There will be more details on this in the months to come.

Do You Have Anything Bad To Say?

Sure, these plans aren’t perfect. There are a few oddities, and things that could use some tweaking.  For example, the High Speed Lite plan is 1Mbps with a 30GB data cap, at a cost of $27/month when bundled with TV. A new plan called Unlimited Lite will also be offered that has a 1Mbps speed but with unlimited data.  The cost of this plan will be $59/month when bundled with TV.  That cost is the exact same as the Broadband 50 plan, which offers 50x the speed and 400GB data. Now, the 1Mbps may be unlimited, the average user of such a slow speed plan will be hard pressed to use anywhere near 100GB of data simply because the speed is not fast enough to get that kind of data in a month.  The pricing on Lite unlimited is very awkward, and I would argue that the plan itself is unnecessary.

My only other real complaint is the fact that the new broadband plans all require TV bundled in with them.  There is no option to buy those packaged stand alone.  You will still be able to buy High Speed Lite, High Speed, and High Speed Extreme stand alone, but not the new Broadband plans.  Now, that being said, a customer can get the Broadband 50 plan, and the lowest cost TV package offered will bring the cost to $84.90/month.  This package is less expensive than buying Warp Speed stand alone for $107/month. The user gets more data, the same speed, and TV for $22/month less, and if you really do not want TV, you do not have to plug in the cable box.

that being said, it would be nice if those plans would be offered stand alone. Some users truly do not want a TV package, and under this new plan they will be forced to pay for TV to get a new plan. This is clearly a business decision by Shaw to ensure as many people as possible subscribe to their TV services, and I understand the reasoning behind it.  It is just not a decision I personally agree with.

How Is Shaw Actually Going To Make This Work?

I almost feel like I’ve buried the lead here, because how Shaw is going to accomplish this is a pretty significant step for them.  Over the coming months, Shaw is going to transition most of their analog cable offerings to digital only.  The significance of this shift cannot be understated.  Right now, Shaw has 4 levels of analog cable.  Basic, and tiers 1, 2, and 3.  This transition will leave Basic cable on Analog, but the three tiers will be moving to digital only.  This will mean that a user in a major market will only be able to get approximately 40 channels without a cable box.  Anything more will require a digital cable box.  Shaw says doing this will triple the amount of bandwidth available on their current network infrastructure, which will allow them to offer the speeds shown in the new Broadband plans.

Again, the scale of this transition is quite large, and was the biggest surprise for me.  This type of transition was inevitable, and was going to need to be done eventually, but this plan has accelerated any plans.  Shaw currently has over 300,000 subscribers that have at least Tier 1 level of service and are analog only.  Every single one of those customers will need to be contacted and Shaw is going to work with them on this change.  Final plans are not in place yet, options are being explored including giving each user a free digital box, lowering the cost of the box for the users, and making basic cable cheaper and having them drop down to that. Shaw will be doing this transition beginning in August and will be done region by region, city by city, and neighborhood by neighborhood. it is expected that it will take up to a year to complete.  Once the transition is complete in the area you live, the Broadband 250 plans, which offer the 250Mbit download speeds.

Sounds Like a Big Change For Shaw.

It is, and moves them firmly into the 21st century.  Eventually the Basic Analog will have to be eliminated, but this is a significant step for them.  A move like this really begins to transition Shaw away from a Cable company with internet, to a content distribution company.  TV will still remain a very big part of their business, but this type of move really puts the internet where it should be, equal or higher than TV on their priority list.  Cable TV as we know it will eventually go away. It won’t be next year, or 10 years from now, but it will eventually make way for an entirely internet driven system of content delivery, and this is the biggest step Shaw has made in this direction to date.

I said it at the beginning, and I will say it again. The plans that Shaw unveiled today moves them firmly into the lead in internet pricing in this country.  Shaw will now offer plans that the competition quite frankly cannot compare to.  The bar has been raised, and it has been set very high.  This type of innovation is something that frankly is not seen in this industry.  Shaw has taken a leap forward while others are standing still. Even Telus, who has improved the most in the past 2-3 years, is left behind by this offering. For all of the bad press and attention Shaw has received in the last 5-6 months, Shaw deserves to be applauded, for they got this one right. It’s that simple.

[Read] – New Shaw Internet Packages

Shaw to preview new internet packages

Yesterday, May 20th, I received an email from Shaw inviting me to attend a new customer consultation session in Edmonton this week.  In the invitation Shaw has told indicated that this consultation session is "another discussion as we look at our proposed Internet packaging."  A quick polling of some friends who attended the first round of sessions, as well as a quick search on several internet forums indicate that there are other sessions planned, however I have no further details on how many or where they will be.  The emails all seem to have gone out yesterday afternoon, so information is still coming in.

As you can imagine, this has come straight out of the blue.  The first customer consultation sessions took place in March, and a lot happened in them, which you can read here.  After the session the representatives from Shaw did say that they planned to keep the customer base involved as time went on, however I did not expect this development at all.  I get the sense that big things are happening, but I just don't know what. I'm sure I will find out more this week.

In the post I linked to earlier I speculated on what I think the eventual plans will be, but in reality I don't know what is actually going to be proposed at these sessions.  Because I don't know what to expect, I'm neither optimistic, or nervous.  I'm just interested; very interested.

As per usual, I will be posting my thoughts after the consultation session this week. Look for it later in the week. You can also follow me on twitter for information as I can provide it.

For my complete coverage over the last few months regarding Shaw, and Usage Based Internet Billing in general, click here.

The Shaw Customer Discussion Sessions

On March 21st, I had the opportunity to attend one of the Shaw Internet Customer Consultation Sessions.  It was a good session, and I had so much to say that I actually had written 1500 words down in a blog post that I completely scrapped before starting this one.  That may seem excessive, but after re-reading it I realized all I was doing was a play-by-play of the session, which is not what I actually want to do.  What you’ll read here is are my thoughts on on the session as a whole. If I went into huge detail, this would be a lot bigger than anyone, myself included, wants. My overall feeling coming out of the meeting was simply that Shaw is trying to find a way to make more money off of a subscriber base that is not growing.  That in itself is not really shocking, but to actually hear it be presented that way is what is actually interesting.  Shaw shared more information that I expected them to in this meeting, and because of that I have a different perspective.  Shaw told us that in the past, the majority of new revenues came from the addition of customers, but that in the recent past the amount of new customers being added has dropped dramatically.  Basically it comes down to the fact that the markets they are in are full and built out and that there are not many new subscribers in them.  Shaw is looking for ways to grow its revenue stream with what is essentially a stagnated customer base.  In the past, they have done this by annual rate increases.  But the claim is that now those annual rate increases do not cover the increasing cost of running the network.  More on that a little later.

A good chunk of the talk focused on network congestion.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the majority of the network use is in the evening, and that was confirmed. Peak times are from roughly 5pm-midnight each day.  Shaw’s primary focus at this point is dealing with that congestion.  How they do that is something called a node split.  A node is pretty much exactly as it sounds; which is to say a central node for the internet connections.  Each node services 500-1000 homes, and the nodes then feed into a “community hub,” of which several exist in each city.  Those hubs then feed into a single datacenter in each city, which is connected to Shaw’s “backbone” network.  It was indicated to us that the majority of the congestion exists between the node and the homes.  It makes sense, because as people use more data, it means that the node can be pushed to the capacity of what it can handle.  Node splits are pretty simple.  Assuming 800 homes on a node, node splitting is when a new node is built, and that node takes about 400 homes, leaving each node at 400 homes.  This essentially doubles the capacity of the existing node, and adds new capacity with a new node.  It was indicated that Shaw currently does up to 500 node splits every single year, and that 300-400 are always being planned as they monitor more congestion.  However, with the rate of growth of internet usage, they have actually had to inject more money this fiscal year into doing more node splits.  My math based on the cost information they gave us, along with headroom and other costs, puts it probably in the 160 additional node area.  This means that Shaw is trying to do roughly 660 node splits this year instead of the normal 500.

Now, it may sound like they are doing a lot to try to combat congestion, and they are.  But after looking at some data, listening to points other attendees made at the meeting, this sounds good but they could be doing a lot more.  An attendee at the table I was at pointed out something that I hadn't noticed, which is that the amount of money Shaw is investing in capital expenditures(which are infrastructure projects like building new nodes, upgrading equipment, etc.), has not kept up with the growth in revenue in the past few years.  This means that Shaw is investing less for every dollar in revenue than they have in the past.  This injection of money to do the additional node splits and upgrades this year is a very good start, but I personally think that Shaw can, and should, put a lot more investment into capital so it can work better to meet that demand.  It is simply the cost of doing business.  Shaw did tell us that there are many factors why this stat is the way it is, and that there still must be a profit margin for the company, which is a valid point.  However, the internet market is the real growth market right now in terms of usage, more so than TV or Phone, and more money does need to go there.  An employee threw a very large number at us for how much money they have invested to build out their network in the last decade.  It is impressive, and it is why the Shaw network is as robust as it is now.  But if congestion is still an issue, than it is not enough.

There was talk regarding how to deal with the congestion.  Lots of talk.  Most of the discussion revolved around how to reduce congestion during the peak times of 5pm-midnight.  My view on this is simple: the only way to reduce the congestion is the build more infrastructure.  The plan to cap data usage will not fix the problem of the congestion.  the core of the problem is that it’s not the actual data that is the problem, but the rate of speed in which the data is being downloaded that is.  I go a lot more into that topic in this post. This is the main reason why I don’t like Usage Based Billing.  Any method of capping someone’s internet will not really change their usage.  All it will do is add yet another tax onto that usage.  there was a suggestion to make data rates higher during peak periods.  Again, that will not solve the problem because people are not going to be watching many Netflix movies at three o’clock in the morning.  There were other ideas worth merit, such as offering unlimited data to those customers subscribing to Shaw’s “Triple play.”  Triple play users are those users who have Shaw TV, internet, and Phone.  Other ideas included increasing the caps dramatically.  But I will re-iterate my personal opinion that any form of a cap on datawill only serve as a tax, and as one person pointed out, there will be people who will try to reach that cap every month to “get their money’s worth” where they otherwise might not.  If that occurs on any large scale, that would only add to the problem, not solve it.

As I said above, Shaw shared a lot of information that I didn't expect them to share.  There were not many questions that were not answered in that room.  That was a very encouraging sign in the entire process.  For the most part, I was very impressed with how the employees talked with us, and handled us.  They seemed honest, willing to listen, and genuinely accepted the points we made.  They were very honest about the fact that they throttle bittorrent uploads “intelligently” which they described as throttling when a node became congested because of bittorrent traffic. They admitted that they know where the growth is, and that they are going to struggle to meet that growth.  and one of the more interesting things to come out of it was that they did say that these meetings were being done to help them find a way to generate more revenue so they could do the necessary upgrades to keep their network running as well as possible.  That is where the UBB plans stemmed from.

The one aspect of the presentation which I really didn't like were the charts and graphs they had at the front of the room.  Actually, really didn't like is probably an understatement.  Shaw was very open with us on almost every respect, but those graphs truly looked like they and something to hide.  One graph showed data usage over the last 10 years, and showed a “60% increase since July 2010” but had absolutely ZERO scale to it.  There was no way of knowing if the increases were from 4GB to 10, 40 to 100, or 40000 to 1000000.  Without a proper scale of the actual increase, that graph was 100% useless.  I questioned someone on that, and I was told that the graph served only to “begin the talks, and give people a sense of scale.”  For me, it did the exact opposite.  While I have no reason to dispute that there has been that 60% increase, without an actual scale to use, that graph was immediately dismissed.  They had a similar chart that showed that 45% of all traffic was peer to peer, but didn't indicate exactly how much traffic that really is.  That chart is again immediately dismissed because it does not contain any actual data.  No matter how open Shaw was in the meeting, the charts attempting to show scale were completely ineffective in their intended purpose.

One other thing that I was really frustrated with was a phrase that I heard way too much during the meeting.  “If you were Shaw, what would you do?”  I completely understand the reason the reason why they ask that question.  It is meant to stir the discussion.  However we heard that question, or a variation of that question so many time it did seem at times that Shaw was trying to ask that instead of giving us an answer.  A couple attendees told me that they felt that became frustrating, and I agree.  Sometimes we wanted an answer, and were given another question.  I wanted to actually hear what Shaw wanted to do, not say what I think they should do.  Constantly asking us for our perspective when what we wanted was theirs added a level of difficulty to the meeting that didn’t need to be there.

I’m really torn on what I feel coming out of this meeting.  On one hand, I’m really happy that this happened, and it really did feel like Shaw was truly asking for customer input, and that that input did mean something.  They were more candid and forthcoming than I ever thought they would be, yet still felt like they were holding back just a bit.  They didn’t want to steer the discussion in any specific direction, other than trying to keep it specific to internet discussion.  But yet it did feel like the talk kept going to “we need to increase the amount of money we take in to make this work”  I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel encouraged and discouraged at the same time, but that’s kind of how I feel.  I’m happy that Shaw did these meetings, not many companies as large as Shaw would, but I’m still very apprehensive for the future.

This may come down to an economics question that I’m really not qualified to answer.  Shaw says that it is costing them more to maintain their network, and usual rate increases do not keep up.  This in theory should mean that Shaw will have to find either new ways to gain revenue, or do the work more efficiently.  The numbers do show that they do not put as much into capital projects as they have in the past, and that is at the very least where they should start.  But the simple fact that is that under the UBB system, there will be not one bill that goes down, and many that go up.  This is not a system that the general consumer wants.  I heard the phrase “cost of doing business” a lot from a number of attendees.  I agree with them.  Keeping the network running at the standard that Shaw has set frankly is the cost of doing business.  And while I think most people can stomach rate increases, going to UBB is not something they can really tolerate long term, since the usage patterns dictate that usage is only going up.  An employee told us that Shaw is a company that does not believe in contracts, which means that they have to win our business every single day.  Well if winning our business every single day is the cost of doing business, than Shaw needs to put the money into it to do that.  If Shaw has enough money to spend $2 Billion to buy a TV network and invest Billions of dollars into building a mobile network for cell phones, than it should have the money to maintain its internet network.  It’s as simple as that.

At the end of the day I really do believe that something will change.  I’m not sure when, but at some point in the future Shaw will change it’s structure of delivery and pricing on its internet service.  I have zero knowledge of what that may be, but my gut feeling is that we will see some kind of system where the bandwidth, or rate of speed, you get will be offered at a low cost, and the amount of data you get will be separate.  An example of this is that a user could get the regular high speed plan now, but get it with 250GB of data per month, or get high speed extreme with 100GB.  Separating those out does have advantages, but also carries more overhead and difficulty for users, and still does cap the plans.  I’m not a fan of this plan, but the more I think about it, the more I fear that this will be the eventual endgame.  My personal preference is that Shaw keep the status quo; not because I just want unlimited internet all the time, but because I believe that that is truly the best way for the internet to function.  As several attendees can confirm, my data usage is not nearly as high as some other people who attended.  But I do believe in un-metered internet.  I believe that Shaw can, and should, be able to invest the necessary money into network upgrades without such mechanisms as UBB.  Annual rate increases are fine with me, those are the cost of *my* doing business, but anything beyond that is simply another tax on the consumer.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what I took out of that meeting.  I took six pages of notes and have read through them enough times that my head is starting to spin.  I ended up not writing at all what I thought I would write about, because if I did that this would be 10,000 words long.  Talking about every single thing that was said, every point made, would simply be too much, and would end up being just a huge ramble of a post.  That speaks volumes to the fact that this discussion as a whole is not over, and there is much more to come in the future.  I could talk for hours about Shaw, UBB, and the internet in general, because the internet is much more important than most people realize, though I think that that is slowly starting to change. Radically changing the structure of how we pay for the internet would be like trying to change the structure of how we pay for electricity or water, and this industry is less than 20 years old.  I’m very interested to see what Shaw will do at the end of all of this.  they have a difficult balancing act to walk.  Now we get to see if they’ll fall.

Shaw Customer Discussions – First Impressions

Today was my day to participate in the Shaw customer discussions on Internet billing.  It was a 2 hour session that turned into 3 hours, followed by coffee with a couple people.  I will be posting a lot more about this in the coming days, but for tonight I just wanted to get out some quick bullet points.

  • Overall I was impressed with the atmosphere and tone.  The representatives from Shaw were talking to us, not at us, and welcomed discussions and questions
  • There was a lot of discussions, but not many answers.  For every question that was asked by an attendee, it seems that there was a question from a Shaw representative.  I understand that this was to try to gather more ideas and information, but did get a tad frustrating.
  • It really seems like Shaw does not know what the endgame here will be.  The representative I spent most of my time talking to spoke at great length about how the customer backlash to the UBB plans was much more than they ever thought, and that it really did cause them to pause.
  • The Shaw representatives did take a fair amount of notes, cataloging almost every idea that was tossed around. One employee collected all of the notes taken so they can be transcribed
  • The general feeling in the room was very anti UBB, but I do think that more fair ideas were presented.
  • The tone of most attendees was much less confrontational that I thought it would be, I think because the Shaw representatives were very open and willing to listen.
  • After coming out of the meeting, I don’t know what the endgame to this entire process will be.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but for all the discussions I did not leave with many answers.
  • the graphs were hilarious, and not in a good way.

there is a lot more to come.  I took six pages of notes that I need to re-read and organize into something I can actually post here.  I also have to filter out what I should, and am willing to post.  I will try to get the full breakdown and insight into the discussions up as soon as possible, but it's after 11 and I need to go to sleep.  On a personal note I’m getting a root canal Tuesday afternoon, so getting the post up Tuesday will be entirely dependent on how I feel and how medicated I am.  You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to that.