Collecting the Internet So You Don't Have To

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Beware of the Leopard

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Dwayne Kristjanson
Dwayne Kristjanson Senior Programmer
Visual Lizard
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Dwayne Kristjanson Indifference Engine

As you may be vaguely aware, the CRTC has ruled that it's A-OK for Bell to charge overage fees to not only it's users, but also to resellers who make use of Bell's network to connect their customers. They did back off a little bit, and mandated a 15% discount for the little guys. Not for you, of course, but for those DSL resellers. That's possibly just enough to keep the competitions' noses above water, not that it matters to the end users. Canada already had the worst deals for internet and cellular connectivity in the (first) world. Now things are even worse. Yay.

However, since this has been portrayed in the media as a Bell Canada thing, you may not be aware that this affects everyone. They didn't really go to great lengths to make anyone aware of this. I just double-checked with my ISP (Shaw) and, yes, they will be charging for overuse. I was told $2.00 per GB over 100GB for my plan (Extreme), but online the number is $1.00 per GB. Not sure who to trust here (and in any case, according to some the actual cost to Shaw would be less than an penny per GB). According to customer service, in February and March I can expect a notice on how much I went over on my bill, and then in April they'll start charging. This is likely to be as much fun as per-minute phone charges. i.e. Full of inexplicable overages and sudden unexpected increases in your monthly bill. But even better, someone driving by your house can probably use your internet connection to download, well, whatever they want.

In any case, my monthly internet bills are set to double or quadruple, depending on whether or not I need to go up one level or two to match my current level of use. Unfortunately, I don't really know what that is. Apparently this month I used 107GB, but this month I used more than normal. But I'm not sure how much more. I'd be less annoyed with this if I hadn't tried this summer to get Shaw to activate the bandwidth usage logs associated with my account so I could see how much I was actually downloading. At the time I just wanted a rough idea of how much data I used so I would know for certain that I couldn't afford to get all my data by tethering over my phone. Since I already knew the answer to that question, I gave up after calling them every week or two for three months straight. Every time they said it was set up now, and every time they were wrong. If they'd actually set that up for me, I'd already know what to do. (I'm similarly annoyed with Rogers for my phone's data plan. The first two months were unlimited, but they wouldn't show me what I actually used so I'm going into month three blind.)

So, I'm not especially confident that what I was told today by Shaw is true. But I should hopefully have a few months to hack into my neighbours' wifi figure out what my usage actually is. If you, like me, are a Shaw customer, set up an account at my.shaw.ca and check that your bandwidth usage actually starts showing up. They'll be charging you for what you use, so they'd better keep you informed. I was told the website would be relaunched (it was) and that I could find my bandwidth usage there (I haven't been able to find that yet). If you don't use Shaw, find out where to go to get a detailed account of your bandwidth usage. Get to know how much data you actually use, keep a close eye on it, and lock down your wifi.

Update: Just spoke with Shaw technical support again, apparently they don't show your overage until you have gone over 2 months in a row. And, if I understand customer support correctly, they will stop showing this information if you go a month without going over. This is, to me, completely unacceptable. So I'll be harassing Shaw until I get that information.

Update 2: Finally got access to my bandwidth usage from Shaw's website. (Although my.shaw.ca is still down, secure.shaw.ca works somewhat.) For some reason they've hidden this link behind a popup combined with a meta-refresh. So if you block popups (and everyone should, they suck) you can't see your usage. The real link is https://secure.shaw.ca/customer_care/internet_usage/monthlyGB.asp. I'll be having words with them about the inanity of this. And for some reason I can only see usage for part of November, part of December and January. That better improve too. (And, no, we haven't won even if the government reverses the UBB decision. Not unless you were a customer of one of the DSL resellers directly affected. My bill is going up just due to a cash grab timed to look like it was related to this ruling.)