Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Cellphones Government

Cell Phone Cost Calculator Killed In Canada 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the careful-with-that-light-of-day dept.
inject_hotmail.com writes "Internet and law genius Michael Geist writes about some shenanigans by the cell phone carriers and the Canadian government in his column in The Star. Canadian taxpayers funded a 'Cell Phone Cost Calculator' so that the average person could theoretically wade through the disjointed and incongruent package offerings. The calculator wound up being yanked a couple weeks before launch. Geist suggests that the major cell carriers lobbied the appropriate public officials to have the program nixed because it would bite into their profit if the general public could make sense out of pricing and fees. Geist continues, 'Sensing that [Tony] Clement (Industry Minister) was facing pressure to block the calculator, Canadian consumer groups wrote to the minister, urging him to stick with it.' Moving forward, Michael makes a novel suggestion, one that would show an immense level of understanding by the government: 'With public dollars having funded the mothballed project, the government should now consider releasing the calculator's source code and enable other groups to pick up where the OCA (Office of Consumer Affairs) left off.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cell Phone Cost Calculator Killed In Canada

Comments Filter:
  • Oh well. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:28AM (#29330875)
    Obviously its in my best interest if the Phone Company wants to rape me in the ass with my Phone Bills. That's what it said on the TeeVee anyway.
    • No leaks? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:41AM (#29331307) Homepage Journal

      No one with access to the code cares enough to post it to Wikileaks? Strange..... Does Canada execute whistle blowers or something? I always thought they were at least as free as the United States. Someone put it out there, and let it go viral. Screw the politicians. Better yet, hope they drown in the saunas and pools they build in their back yards with all that bribe money.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:54AM (#29331405)

        We'll get to it. It's just the line up at Tim's Drive thru is a bit slow.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jo42 (227475)

          Contrary to popular belief, Tim Horton's is not coffee. It is brown coloured water that tastes strange - at best.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It may sound a little odd, but in Canada, our public service is wrather a-political. Advancement is merit based throughout the whole thing, and the only political supervision they have is a parrel BOD at the top. One of the reasons this arangement functions is that public servants are responsible for not fucking over politicians. Always be very nice, and don't contradict what the politicans say. They do it for all political parties, and the parties mainly keep their noses out of their bussiness. Some e

  • Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:31AM (#29330893)

    to have the program nixed because it would bite into their profit if the general public could make sense out of pricing and fees

    OMG competition! Think of the shareholders!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)

      OMG competition! Think of the shareholders!

      Every business would rather not have competition. The problem here isn't that they tried to eliminate it, it's that the people who put the site up took it down. The deeper problem is that politicians yield to pressure from companies, thus giving said companies power beyond simply controlling their own property.

    • Re:Free market (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @11:59AM (#29331869)
      Scott Adams was right [wikipedia.org] : 'Adams introduced the word confusopoly in this book. The word is a combination of confusion and monopoly (or rather oligopoly), defining it as "a group of companies with similar products who intentionally confuse customers instead of competing on price". Examples of industries in which confusopolies exist (according to Adams) include telephone service, insurance, mortgage loans, banking, and financial services.'
      • by causality (777677)

        The word is a combination of confusion and monopoly (or rather oligopoly), defining it as "a group of companies with similar products who intentionally confuse customers instead of competing on price". Examples of industries in which confusopolies exist (according to Adams) include telephone service, insurance, mortgage loans, banking, and financial services.

        In other words, things about which the general public is largely ignorant. I suspect that the only reason why the software industry is not included

      • Do you inform your opponent in a game of chess that the move which he is about to make is a mistake or do you instead exploit that mistake to win the game? Perhaps in a friendly game, one between student and master for example, such service may be rendered as part of the learning process. However, eventually everyone must learn to compete in the real game where there are winners and losers and ignorance has a price tag attached. If you don't like a deal or believe that the other side is holding out or obfus
        • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jurily (900488) <jurily AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:49PM (#29332705)

          People get poor deals on telephone service, mortgages and financial services because they are ignorant and lazy not because they are unable to do better if they put some effort into the negotiations.

          You can't have PhD's in every single area of your life. And please don't bring up financial services when even the knowledgeable (those who do this for a living) ran head forward into the the wall. And how do you negotiate with a multi-billion dollar company? They'll just tell you to go away.

          Bah. Who am I fooling. Money is God, customers are Opponents (if not the Enemy), and if they buy your product and it's bad for them, they deserve it and they should feel bad!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by prod-you (940679)
          Not everyone has the time to become a Cellphone grandmaster. This was a tool for the people to use to simplify the process.
          This is like the grandmaster burning the novice's move book, because it might give the novice a chance.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by causality (777677)

          However, eventually everyone must learn to compete in the real game where there are winners and losers and ignorance has a price tag attached. If you don't like a deal or believe that the other side is holding out or obfuscating then threaten to walk away and follow through if you aren't satisfied. People get poor deals on telephone service, mortgages and financial services because they are ignorant and lazy not because they are unable to do better if they put some effort into the negotiations.

          Part of the

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          Do you inform your opponent in a game of chess that the move which he is about to make is a mistake or do you instead exploit that mistake to win the game?

          I have money and want a service or product. They have a service or product and want my money. We should be working together to trade, not engaging in battle. So why should it be a battle that employs deceit? And yes, chess does involve deceit, as it is a battle, and there are specific "feint" moves intended to deceive. But if an industry does it, t
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by billcopc (196330)

            They think of it as a battle, because that's how society has dressed it up for centuries. "us vs them" is a very seductive packaging for any idea.

            Now if only people could realize that we spend most of our lives talking about, worrying about and being slaves to money, well then maybe they'd find a way to write money out of the equation and we could go back to fucking like rabbits.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by faffod (905810)
      Another way to put it: a free market works when the consumers are educated about the entire cost of their purchase.
      • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

        by yuna49 (905461) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @02:31PM (#29333075)

        No matter how educated I might want to be about the options available, I'm still limited to choosing among just those options. I'd like a cellular plan whose cost covers only the network portion and doesn't include a device subsidy. I've looked, and AFAICT, none of the major operators are willing to sell me just a connectivity plan.

        I've been on the same plan for about seven years now because I'm a grandfathered Cingular user. Any plan I might switch to costs more for the same level of service as I have now. In comparison to the cost of wireline telephony or Internet connectivity, rising prices for cellular service make absolutely no sense. Since it seems likely that the cost of providing cellular service must have declined in the past decade as past investments in plant are paid off, I'm guessing the carriers are making some significant profits.

        I'm all for educating consumers, but even an educated body of consumers can't do much when confronted with oligopoly pricing. There's no "free" market in cellphone service that I can see. If there were, I'd be able to go to AT&T or T-Mobile or some competing GSM carrier, buy a voice-only plan for $30/month, get a SIM chip, and stick it in my existing phone.

  • Free press (Score:5, Insightful)

    by da_matta (854422) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:37AM (#29330915)
    This is where you need free press that attack like a pack of pitbulls and demand to know who ordered the cancellation and why. Nothing teaches politicians honest like public humiliation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But this is Canada, our politicians are already a humiliation.

      So good luck with that strategy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Compared with the rest of the developed world i.e. Europe and the US (in some respects) we are country miles behind in the adoption and the availability of technology. I know this comes to many as a surprise but if you have ever visited Western Europe i.e. UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark in the last 10- 15 years you know exactly what I mean. Even just take a trip to a Best Buy in the US, you will find products choices not available in Canada. Why I don't know but I suspect it has to do with unenlighten

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kent_eh (543303)
        Sorry to burst your conspiracy theory, but it all comes down to profit margins, and general corporate laziness.
        Canada has a pretty low population (and even lower population density) than most of the places you mentioned. The retailers know that the marketplace won't sustain high profits if there is a lot of aggressive competition, so the companies generally don't enter into aggressive competition with each other. If I'm selling widget X and you're selling thingie Y, I'm not going to start selling thingie Y
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by radtea (464814)

          Sorry to burst your conspiracy theory, but it all comes down to profit margins, and general corporate laziness.

          And with particular regard to the GP's point that there is stuff available at Best Buy in the US that isn't in Canada, this has mostly to do with a combination of the US having a larger population and a wider income distribution. That means that low-end items that would have a substantial market in the US simply wouldn't get picked up frequently enough in Canada to make it worth going through the

        • Re:Free press (Score:5, Insightful)

          by causality (777677) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @11:35AM (#29331665)

          Sorry to burst your conspiracy theory, but it all comes down to profit margins, and general corporate laziness. Canada has a pretty low population (and even lower population density) than most of the places you mentioned. The retailers know that the marketplace won't sustain high profits if there is a lot of aggressive competition, so the companies generally don't enter into aggressive competition with each other. If I'm selling widget X and you're selling thingie Y, I'm not going to start selling thingie Y, because it won't be profitable to have half of a small pie. And a price war in a small market leads to mutually assured destruction.

          But that actually IS a conspiracy theory. It's a valid one, too. When all or most of the companies in a market collude together to produce a situation that benefits them at the potential expense of everyone else, like what you just described, they are indeed conspiring. That they do it out of mutual self-interest and not on behalf of a more abstract agenda doesn't change this. That they do it by means of business decisions and not by secret meetings in smoky back rooms doesn't change this either.

          We really need to get over the term "conspiracy theory." "Conspiracy theory" does not mean "instant way to halt all debate by stigmatizing your opponent," nor does it mean "instant excuse for dismissal without examination." It means "theory concerning people who work together in certain ways." There's nothing magical about the word "conspiracy" either. If you work at a company that makes widgets, you and all of your coworkers are conspiring to make widgets.

          It's sort of like the word "sanction" in that it does not necessarily indicate a bad or undesirable activity, it's just often used that way and has taken on a connotation which excludes other things that it can mean. This is particularly true in the minds of people who don't really understand the words they are using. If you do a good deed and are rewarded for it, you have been sanctioned. However, if you read a headline which says "U.N. sanctions $NATION" it's assumed that $NATION was punished in some way. Something similar has happened to the concept of a conspiracy theory and all of the well-meaning yet not very courageous people who tiptoe around that phrase when it really is the one that applies.

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Insightful. Don't you know, there are no conspiracies. All of the laws against conspiracy to commit crimes are just there to make you think that there are conspiracies. When you think there are conspiracies, you are just being duped by "them". When you think that sometimes crimes (or non-criminal acts) are discussed ahead of time by more one person, you are just falling for their plan. After all, that just what "they" want you to think.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by billcopc (196330)

            However, if you read a headline which says "U.N. sanctions $NATION" it's assumed that $NATION was punished in some way.

            That has less to do with the word "sanction" and more to do with the U.N., which never does anything good in the world, so whenever they appear in the news, we assume it's bad news.

            Perhaps a more familiar term for these corporate conspiracies would be "cartel", or did I attend the only high school that taught what a cartel is and why they're evil ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by beadfulthings (975812)

      Pit bulls--the real ones--are notoriously illegal in Ontario: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/dola-pubsfty/dola-pubsfty.asp [gov.on.ca]. Apparently that's not so in the rest of Canada, but since the government is located there, the press might want to consider attacking like a pack of chihuahuas, or perhaps Cocker Spaniels.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @11:49AM (#29331783)

        Don't be making fun of the land pirañas. Chihuahuas are funny little dogs individually, but if they're ever again allowed to form large packs you'll find out why they were universally feared in days of yore.

      • by causality (777677)

        Pit bulls--the real ones--are notoriously illegal in Ontario

        I generally oppose such restrictions, viewing them as the government's way of telling us that it needs to have its size and power reduced because it has run out of real problems to address. However, I will tell you why I don't care much (either way) about this one. By and large, people seem to want to own pit bulls because they think it's cute or flattering to have a creature that is kind to them (the owner) and aggressive or potentially aggress

        • Dogs are great for lonely people. They are also great for lots of other things, but "self defense" should not be one of them. A dog is not unduly bothered by the things we call "conscience", and it is by human standards retarded and hopelessly emotionally dependent (upon its owner). Its natural weapon will hurt you in much the same way a pair of rusty, dirty scissors would do. What would people say if you hired a human bodyguard like that?

          Oh, I'm sure they would be afraid of your Norman Bates-with-scissors

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shma (863063)
      Unfortunately, most of the newspapers in Canada are owned by one company, CanWest Global [canwestglobal.com], which has exerted its editorial control over city papers so they match the the political leanings of its owners [wikipedia.org] (first helping the Liberal party, now the Conservatives).
    • Re:Free press (Score:4, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:42AM (#29331315)

      This is where you need free press that attack like a pack of pitbulls and demand to know who ordered the cancellation and why. Nothing teaches politicians honest like public humiliation.

      Unfortunately you need good honest people to become interested in politics too. Otherwise every election is just a "lesser evil" type of choice and you never get anything like the self-correcting system that you describe here. The ability to choose your form of corruption is not real honesty, just like the ability to choose your master is not real freedom.

    • by Jurily (900488)

      Nothing teaches politicians honest like public humiliation.

      Hit their wallet.

    • by tyldis (712367)

      Here in Norway there is a similar service. The best part? It is actualy run by a government agency to aid consumers in the jungle of cellphone and broadband plans. (http://www.telepriser.no/ , in Norwegian only)

    • by billcopc (196330)

      Humiliation doesn't work on our politicians, they bathe in it every single goddamned day and THEY LOVE IT!

      What we need is a JFK style assassination or two, a little scare to wake them out of their circle-talking stupor.

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:44AM (#29330947) Homepage
    It seems to be the worst country when it comes to vendor lock-in (firmware branding, sim locking), long contracts, high costs and craptastic prepaid packages. The one GSM network they have there (Rogers) is only GSM by technology, they use IMEI numbers to make sure people are using the right branded device for the data plan they're on. In any country where there is no CDMA that shit wouldn't fly, of course the Gubmint there don't feel like doing anything about it.

    Believe it or not things are actually better in the States because in Canada absolutely nobody understands the concept of a SIM card or an unlocked phone. If I ever visit that country I'm taking an Iridium phone because I'd rather pay $1.45 a minute than support those goons.

    Besides the sales assistants there have probably been brainwashed to outright refuse to sell any prepaid SIM cards they might have and do all they can to convince you to take out a 36-month contract even after clearly explaining to them you are only staying for two weeks
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by corsec67 (627446)

      Besides the sales assistants there have probably been brainwashed to outright refuse to sell any prepaid SIM cards they might have and do all they can to convince you to take out a 36-month contract even after clearly explaining to them you are only staying for two weeks

      Yeah, in the US, you can walk in to Safeway and get a $10 TracFone.

      Try Japan:
      To buy a pre-paid cell phone (you have to buy the phone, even if you just want the SIM card), you have to be registered with city hall, have the right kind of visa

      • by slazzy (864185)
        We have good cellular pre-paid prices in Canada, they are just hard to find. Try Petro-Canada mobility or 7-11 Speakout wireless with their 1 - year expiring minute plans. All piggy back on the rogers network, but prices as low as $2 a month with free caller ID and voicemail goes a lot easier on the pocketbook. Swap the sim into your iphone if you perfer, no data but low prices for voice and text.
        • by saskboy (600063)

          Now SaskTel has good prepaid. For $20, I can phone as infrequently as I need to, and the minutes don't expire if I make a 1 second call every 2 or 3 months (or something like that). The minutes used to expire if you didn't add another $20 card in that time, but a law change prevented that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NoYob (1630681)
      Besides the sales assistants there have probably been brainwashed to outright refuse to sell any prepaid SIM cards they might have and do all they can to convince you to take out a 36-month contract even after clearly explaining to them you are only staying for two weeks

      Commissioned sales reps or their manager is on commission and is forcing their subordinates to push that crap.

      I am very wary of commissioned sales people at the retail level. Their mentality always degrades to a slash and burn - do whatever

      • by causality (777677)

        I am very wary of commissioned sales people at the retail level. Their mentality always degrades to a slash and burn - do whatever is takes to sell the highest commissioned items and who gives a shit if it's the wrong thing or if the customer never comes back.

        Eh, at some point the customer needs to have a spine. A small amount of preparedness (good old planning ahead, that thing that seems to have fallen out of fashion) in the form of having already evaluated your needs and chosen your product or service

      • They're just leaving the market open for someone to swoop in who accepts the modest commissions on helping *a lot* of people getting what they really want/need.

        Of course, it's our responsibility as consumers, when we find such a salesman, to make sure they keep getting more business than their contemporaries (unless and until they decide to sacrifice all that good will for a few quick unnecessarily high commission sales.)

    • by notjosh (1632271) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:03AM (#29331057)
      I've just moved to Canada and brought my (legally) unlocked iPhone from Australia with me. I have a two year working visa here. Rogers were unhelpful, and said a) they could not let my phone on the network, and b) they could offer me a new iPhone with a three year contract (despite my insistence I'd only be here for two at most, legally). Fido (a Rogers company, of course) were more helpful, offering a month-to-month plan (i.e. no contract) with relatively acceptable rates and allowed me to use my device on the network. Fido++ I avoided any contract at all, though, because there's strong rumour that Bell and Telus are launching a combined GSM network sometime this month (or next) so they can cash in on the iPhone and try and get some roaming dollars when people arrive for the Winter Olympics next year. So competition is soon to arrive, and Canada's mobile telephony options should be much more interesting soon!
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:33AM (#29331259)

        Don't tell Rogers it's an iPhone. Just tell them you have an unlocked phone and need a SIM card. NOT over the phone - go in person to a mall kiosk or store. Get them to start doing the paperwork, THEN show them the phone, when asked. They'll make a big deal out of "checking" it to see if it really is unlocked. But since they've started the paperwork already....

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CodeBuster (516420)

          THEN show them the phone, when asked. They'll make a big deal out of "checking" it to see if it really is unlocked. But since they've started the paperwork already....

          Why even show them the phone at all? Or if you must, bring in a older GSM phone that uses the same sim card. Companies have no compunction about lying to you so why should you tell them the truth when a lie will do? The real world plays hardball, so should you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Piranhaa (672441)

        Although Rogers and Fido appear as two separate companies, they are technically the same. Rogers purchased Fido years ago, so they are now the same company. Perhaps the rep you spoke with at Fido was new or just really didn't care to the same extent as the Rogers rep.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by captmonkey (903151)
        I have some bad news for you: Rogers owns Fido. I'm not surprised that Rogers was unhelpful (they are major a**holes when it comes to customer service)but in a couple of years, fido may be going down the same route. The only difference between rogers and fido is the market they are targeting.
    • by cob666 (656740) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:07AM (#29331087) Homepage
      I live the the US and visit Canada quite frequently. I use Verizon Wireless as my carrier in the states and even though I detest a lot of their business practices, they are the only carrier here that has a plan that provides unlimited usage in Canada. For something like $9 per month we get unlimited calling into Canada and while we're traveling in Canada we get unlimited calling with zero roaming costs. For our data plan, we pay an extra $30 per month to get unlimited data usage in Canada. Even with the extra costs, we're still paying less than what it would cost us to have a Canadian cell plan.
      • by rtaylor (70602)

        Really? As a Canadian who visits the US about once a month I would seriously consider using a US carrier with that type rate for Canadian roaming. It's a better deal than living in Montreal and roaming to Toronto.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Yup, it's pretty awful. Not QUITE as bad as you paint it though. We certainly do know what unlocked phones are. I had one before getting an iPhone. Ten years ago it wasn't worth it - the contract cancellation fee was $200 and you generally got more of a subsidy than that on the phone. Now, it probably is worth it - the contract cancellation fee is $400 + $100 if you have a data plan. We also know what SIM cards are. Not that it helps much unless you go to Europe - service initiation fees in the US us

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Max von H. (19283)

      It seems to be the worst country when it comes to vendor lock-in (firmware branding, sim locking), long contracts, high costs and craptastic prepaid packages. The one GSM network they have there (Rogers) is only GSM by technology, they use IMEI numbers to make sure people are using the right branded device for the data plan they're on. In any country where there is no CDMA that shit wouldn't fly, of course the Gubmint there don't feel like doing anything about it.

      This is BS.

      I moved to Canada 18 months ago and got a Rogers SIM card that I just popped into my unlocked european phone and it worked. I eventually changed over to Fido for a better plan (no contract) and bought an unlocked phone, no worries. You can get prepaid SIM cards basically anywhere and they'll never, ever ask for the IMEI.

      If you only need a cheap prepaid, I recomment Speakeasy that's sold by 7-11. Credit lasts for 1 year and you can get a nearly free phone if needed.

      I do agree that the cell phone m

  • If they were serious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Atrox666 (957601) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:46AM (#29330957)

    If they were serious about consumer protection they'd just pass a law that requires full clear standardized disclosure of pricing.
    Failure should result in fines that have significant impact on shareholder value and should be grounds for terminating a contract.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by txoof (553270)

      And nothing was lost

      While this sounds like dishonest shenanigans on the part of the cellphone companies, I doubt it would have changed anything. Consumers are not the brightest bunch out there. As an aggregate group, we make some pretty stupid decisions based very little on long-term costs. Evidence the SUV. Many millions of (mostly) useless, overpowered, gas guzzling and expensive-to maintain sport futility vehicles were sold in the US, Canada and Australia over the past few years. Until oil hit $10

      • bell curve (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        While this sounds like dishonest shenanigans on the part of the cellphone companies, I doubt it would have changed anything. Consumers are not the brightest bunch out there.

        Nothing against their dignity as human beings, but by definition half the population is on the left-hand side of the bell curve.

        Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
        -- H. L. Mencken (I'm sure this is true regardless of country)

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        We also seem to be quite willing to pay $0.20 for text messages even though it has been publicly known for years that the messages are next to free for the companies to provide.

        And what generally happens to free services?
        Hint: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons [wikipedia.org]

        In short, it's not the price of plans that attracts users to particular companies, it's the devices and services.

        [Citation Needed]
        Talking down the intelligence of the consumer and then appealing to common sense is not a substitute for statistical data.

  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:52AM (#29330989)

    Can we find the algorithm of this calculator anywhere and Streisand Effect it?

    • by GNU(slash)Nickname (761984) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @11:01AM (#29331443)

      Can we find the algorithm of this calculator anywhere and Streisand Effect it?

      The calculator (as designed) relies on the cellcos to provide and maintain current pricing data. It will only work with the weight of government regulation behind it to force them to do so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stephanruby (542433)

      According to an Industry Canada spokesperson, "technical limitations" were to blame.

      The quote above is the "official" reason the project was canceled, and for once, only this once I promise, I believe the official line. This kind of project has been tried before by many-many people. As a software project alone, without the support of some strong coercive governmental standardization laws, it's a huge and an almost impossible undertaking.

      • it's a huge and an almost impossible undertaking.

        Out of curiosity - why is that?

        I realize that finding where that information is stored, listing it, keeping it up to date (a script could notify you of plan changes on the page, though), etc. is a big initial undertaking, but after that...?

        In fact.. presuming this site has all the plans listed accurately...
        http://www.cellphones.ca/cell-plans/ [cellphones.ca] ...what's to stop them*, or anybody, from taking that data and making a calculator? Or better, the service mentioned

  • 'With public dollars having funded the mothballed project, the government should now consider releasing the calculator's source code and enable other groups to pick up where the OCA (Office of Consumer Affairs) left off.'"

    That would only make sense if the government (the Conservative Party) weren't neoconservative. They aren't going to stick it to their main constituents; the business lobby and their sycophants. Of course, in these type of observations their will be neoconservatives claiming that the Conservative Party isn't Right Wing.

  • by kroyd (29866) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:09AM (#29331105)

    Since 2002 the "Norwegian Post and Telecommunication Authority" has had a calculator offering much of the same for the Norwegian market. In addition to mobile phones it also covers telephony and broadband. Basically, all providers are required by law to provide their pricing structures to the authority, so that the services can be compared. For mobile phones this will involve entering your typical number of minutes (to other mobile phones and landlines), text messages, mms messages and kilobytes.

    I'm sure someone will moan that this is socialism, since it is a service that could be offered by the market, or that people could do themselves, or that services such as this can never be efficient anyway. There are some arguments against this: The Norwegian market is small (4.5 million people), with lots of mountains and a low population density, and strict rules about required coverage by the licensees. Manpower is also extremely expensive, and most workers are members of a union. So, clearly, Norway should have really high prices, right?

    Wrong - according to the calculator my mobile phone costs should be about 0,- every month, with a 0,- establishment fee for the contract. (About 100 outgoing text messages, 100 minutes outgoing, and 1mb. No mms messages)

    Why is this? It is of course hard to find the "perfect truth", but here are some informed guesses: The market is very regulated, in order to enforce competition. Perhaps the most important (to the consumer) point of this is that you can move your phone number to any other operator, either for free or for some very small cost. While there are only three GSM licensees there are 16 or so "virtual operators", who operate by putting a box inside the switches of the GSM licensees, and basically resell their bandwidth. The authority is also able to punish any collusion between the operators, and to require changes in price structures between the operators.

    Clearly, all this (regulated) competition is good for the Norwegian consumer, but is it good for the telecom companies? The biggest Norwegian operator (Telenor) has according to wikipedia 143 million subscribers, so clearly all this competition does something to the companies, which can't be all bad. Telenor used to be a state-owned monopoly, which was well known for being hugely inefficient and slow. In markets where there can only be a limited number of providers (such as bandwidth in the GSM bands) there is no natural encouragement for companies to become more efficient, if you want to make more money it is easy to just add another hidden fee. Only by allowing for virtual operators and implementing the pricing calculator the benefits of having a market was realized.

    (The same system was implemented for electrical power providers, but it failed for the banking system - allowing people to move their account numbers between banks was evidently too expensive..)

    • by xaxa (988988)

      The same system ... failed for the banking system - allowing people to move their account numbers between banks was evidently too expensive..)

      The UK banks won't let you keep your account number (the first half [sort code] identifies the bank, I assume they don't want to lose this convenience) but when you open a new account they'll offer to transfer over any direct debits, inform your employer for you and so on. (NatWest [natwest.com]'s explanation of this.) I assume they offer this to try and attract new customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814)

      Only by allowing for virtual operators and implementing the pricing calculator the benefits of having a market was realized.

      This is an excellent example of the so-called "Second Best Theorem" in economics, which is a proof that the Frist Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics [wikipedia.org] is completely useless as a policy tool, because an arbitrarily small deviation from ideal premises can result in an arbitrarily large deviation from ideal (Pareto optimal) outcomes.

      This means that the claim in the above-liked Wikiped

    • by Zerth (26112)

      There are some arguments against this: The Norwegian market is small (4.5 million people),

      The biggest Norwegian operator (Telenor) has according to wikipedia 143 million subscribers

      .

      Does Norway have a lot of visitors, a very interesting phone/person ratio, or does Telenor provides service outside the country?

      • by kroyd (29866)

        There are some arguments against this: The Norwegian market is small (4.5 million people),

        The biggest Norwegian operator (Telenor) has according to wikipedia 143 million subscribers

        .

        Does Norway have a lot of visitors, a very interesting phone/person ratio, or does Telenor provides service outside the country?

        Telenor operates over much of Europe and Asia these days, through subsidiaries and such.

        My point was just that enforcing competition is a good thing in the long term, even if the companies involved will complain a lot in the short term. The operators complained a lot when the reforms were implemented, but I don't think they would have been where they are today without being kicked away from their complacent near-monopoly status. Both the companies involved and the consumers (citizens) made a profit from the

  • by AndGodSed (968378) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:33AM (#29331261) Homepage Journal

    When are people going to begin to realise that as far as consumers go there is no free market. Sure you can get a better deal at carrier B than carrier C but you will never get the BEST DEAL POSSIBLE because they don't want to give it to you. Profit is paramount, but these guys are really taking it too far.

  • CUB Cell Phone Saver (Score:5, Informative)

    by SrLnclt (870345) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:36AM (#29331273)
    For those of us in the states, the Citizen Utility Board of Illinois (CUB) already has a calculator similar to this. Just upload a recent bill or two, and it will tell you what the cheapest plan is for you on each of the top carriers. http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/cellphonesaver.html [citizensutilityboard.org]
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @12:18PM (#29332015)
    It seems that more and more everything in American Capitalism and it's "light" version : Canadian Capitalism is a game. There's the credit card game, the investing game, the phone bill game, the health care game, the tax system game. Everywhere there are these ridiculously complex games that are used to confuse and bilk people out of all their money. Mainly it hurts people who don't have the time, don't have the wits-- or in the case of the super complicated games like the tax game-- don't have the money to hire professional game players (lawyers, accountants) to help them win.
  • by delineate (1632313) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @12:23PM (#29332063)

    I'm hesitant to say this 'cause I know ./ is going to crash it, But there's actually a privately developed calculator in beta right now.

    cellplanexpert.ca [cellplanexpert.ca]

    It's a work in progress and txting+data is yet to come, but otherwise it's very comprehensive. You can get a feel for how complicated plans actually are in Canada (if you care to actually research) from the long questionnaire process.

    The big problem in Canada is that in most provinces, there are only 2 independent networks Rogers (GSM) and "Belus" (Bell in Ontario & Quebec + Telus in BC and Alberta - the two are co-dependant on each other's network -CDMA variants). So providers and all their various subsidiaries compete on who can best obfuscate the highest prices, not who can lower them the most. This means there are a plethora of options, features, hidden rates and costs to wade through. This might change if the new carriers emerging from the recent spectrum auction actuall stay independent, and are not bought out by the big players like the last round. In provinces where there's even 3 independent players (Saskatchewan, Manitoba) it's significantly more competitive.

    Full disclaimer - it's my site.

  • Slashdot Surreality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:17PM (#29332471)
    There is something surreal about a post putatively defending "consumers" from cell phone companies, when those consumers are being forced at the threat of gunpoint to fund a "cell phone cost calculator," while on the other hand their interactions with cell phone companies are entirely voluntarily.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Intresting rant. However, from my knowledge of the regulatory organizations I've dealt with, it's a lie. Ever see the "regulatory fees" tacked on your bills? In many cases, the regulatory organizations are self-funding. So this would be funded with a contract between the phone companies and the state. The phone companies voluntarily entered into a contract with a state that required them to fund the orgaization that provides oversight. And this was to be a product of one of those oversight organizatio
  • Remember Folks! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@nOsPaM.digitalfreaks.org> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:22PM (#29332515)
    Remember folks, in a perfect market, every actor has perfect, instant access to all the information about the market.

    But somehow, YOU'RE the one who's "anti-market" if you want to see this service work.

"If I do not want others to quote me, I do not speak." -- Phil Wayne

Working...