Unlimited On-Device Mobile Browsing?

I’ve been a “pay as you go” customer of Rogers for a number of years; I use my own devices, don’t actually use my “phone” as phone very much, and I’m uncomfortable with the notion of being locked into a long-term contract.

Generally this works very well; the one place it breaks down is with data, where Rogers has always billed an exorbitant 5 cents/KB data rate. This means that simple things like checking my email can easily cost me $10. Suffice to say, I almost never use my phone on Rogers’ data network.

Which I why I looked forward with much anticipation to the announcement a few months ago that Rogers would be switching to an “all you can eat” daily method for data billing. 

Sure enough, I looked at their website this morning and, hidden in tiny type down at the bottom of the “Mobile Browsing” (big red arrow mine) section I found the text “Effective November 23, 2009 the pay-per-use rate for mobile browsing will be $1/day (24 hrs) for unlimited browsing”:

Screen Shot from Rogers.com

Just to be sure that this “unlimited browsing” was actually that, and not a hobbled “unlimited browsing of Yahoo Internet Life”-style browsing, I waded through the long Rogers customer support telephone tree until I got to talk to a real person.

I explained that I was using an unlocked Nokia N95, and that I wanted to ensure that the rate for any data usage – checking email, browsing the web, using SSH, whatever – was $1/day, unlimited.

They told me that because I was using a “smart phone,” this isn’t, in fact, the case, and that if my device was detected by their network as a “smart phone” I would be billed at $2.99/day for up to 20MB of data usage.

Setting aside the inane distinctions of “smart” vs. “dumb” phones, I decided that $2.99/day was better than 5 cents/KB and launched a little test.

I fired up my browser, selected the “Rogers Internet” access point, and used some data: checked my email, browsed the web, launched Google Maps.  I then logged in to Rogers’ billing page to verify that I’d been billed $2.99.  I had not:

Rogers Billing History screen shot

Instead of the promised $2.99, I was billed $5.00 for 100KB of data use.  Or the ye olde 5 cents/KB.

Another call, another representative. 

When you were asked to agree to the $1.00/day ‘day pass’ charge, did you agree?” she asked me. 

I told here I’d never seen a request to agree to a day pass: I just connected to the web and started browsing.  This confused her, but she admitted that they “just been trained” in this new system.

A little more research and the answer emerged: apparently Rogers considers me to have a “grey market” phone, and so my rate for “unlimited on-device mobile browsing” isn’t $1/day, isn’t $2.99/day but is, rather, $4.99/day. It’s not clear whether this includes a 20MB cap or not.

The reason I was billed for “100KB of usage,” apparently, is that the kludge they use for the new “unlimited” method for billing is to use the old 5 cents/KB system with a made-up amount of data usage.

Now in a pinch $4.99/day is still better than 5 cents/KB.

But Rogers makes has no information at all about the various “tiers” of their new prepaid billing model. 

Add that to their artificial classification of my phone as “grey market” because I didn’t buy it from them, and their attempt to manage the Internet on their own terms by classifying phones that aren’t locked down with hobbled pseudo-Internet applications as “smart phones” and billing more for them, and Rogers hasn’t done a lot to win my business today.

I’d consider switching to Telus or Bell now that they have a network that I can use my GSM phone on, but after spending some time looking for the equivalent information about their data plans on their websites, I’m not convinced they had a substantially better conception of the universe than Rogers does.  Witness this online chat with a Bell.ca salesperson (initiated by them in a pop-up window when I went to browse their pre-paid rates page):

Bell didn’t exactly swoop in with a customer service save here.  Add that to the fact that the information I was given here contradicts information I was given over the phone a few weeks ago (where I was told that I can just buy a pre-paid SIM from Bell), and I’m thinking I’ll stay with the devil I know.


Ryan Filsinger's picture
Ryan Filsinger on November 24, 2009 - 18:35 Permalink

I’m somewhat convinced the mobile market in Canada is one big massive conspiracy. It’s full of fine print, unhelpful customer service, confusing terms, layers of red tape and generally useless plans. I don’t think the market here was ready for Smart Phones and their capabilities. They all yell from the roof tops of their new high speed networks, but nobody offers unlimited data for the iPhone and they all force 3 year contracts where in the South they only force 2 years.

I was really hoping the spectrum action last year was really going to open up the market to some actually competitive rates, but that doesnt to have happened. There is an interesting company out there called http://mycellphonemyterms.com/ that might actually be good for us consumer navigating the mindfield that is cell phones. But they aren’t setup for shop here in the Martimes yet.

Someone please come rescue us consumers.

Bob Shand's picture
Bob Shand on November 24, 2009 - 18:41 Permalink

The cellphone market in Canada is pretty hideous, especially when compared to Europe. I have little respect for the CRTC, they seem to allow the big companies get away with too much.

Dico Reijers's picture
Dico Reijers on November 24, 2009 - 23:57 Permalink

I just returned from Thailand and you can go into any 7-11 and buy a sim card for about $2 or $3 and you’re on your way! My friend who’s lived there for 3 years now has a pay-as-you-go plan for both voice/data and uses his phone without hesitation (even texting to Canada) and says he rarely runs up more than $25/month. Makes me wonder why Canadian telcom companies charge so much and make everything so difficult.

Clark's picture
Clark on November 25, 2009 - 05:10 Permalink

The mobile market in Canada really sucks. I signed up for the most expensive all I can consume data plan in Taiwan to get a deep discount on a phone and I pay the equivalent of $1/day. The phone is unlocked, as are the iPhones.

Stephen Pate's picture
Stephen Pate on November 25, 2009 - 14:20 Permalink

Try the iPhone account fees. I pay something like $50 for phone and data. I use it for email all the time. When I went to Ontario, I surfed the Internet in the car for two days up and two days back looking for mandolin chords, watched youtube and other foolishness, wrote stories for my blog and generally ignored the cost.

The fee was still $50 for the month.

The contract is not unlimited but as the guy at future shop said — you’d have to be downloading all day long and your battery will die first.

My telus contract before that was upcharge-city.

Jason's picture
Jason on November 29, 2009 - 22:13 Permalink

Here is a good one for you. I have a unlocked iphone on pay as you go rogers. I tryed at first using a bit of data transfer a month ago and no charges. I continued to use data for over a month now and nothing. I called them up to ask how much data I have tranfered with my phone and they said I havent transfered anything. SO I start researching and I find other people in the same boat. I started paying the unlimited browsing just incase (off topic). My only consern is can they hit me with a bill if this escilates or because its pay as you go, they will empty my account and they cant go any further with it.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on December 1, 2009 - 21:03 Permalink

This is so par for the course. I wouldn’t be surprised if they taught this kind of ripoff in business schools now as standard practice.

ben K's picture
ben K on December 3, 2009 - 03:29 Permalink

Jason: Same here; I have been enjoying free data service on my Rogers paygo phone for several months… until yesterday. It appears that they have closed this loophole as of December. MobileSafari now redirects to http://rogers.mobi:8080/ on any request, and solicits me to buy a $2.99/d data plan.

You might be the same jason from the modsuperstar.ca blog where I had posted about this before — am going to post this same observation over there, for closure.


Ralph B's picture
Ralph B on May 11, 2010 - 00:19 Permalink

same thing just hapend to me. and i had to laugh real hard. how stupid of me to beleve i could brouwse the web unlimited for just $1. shame on me….
we came from europe in 2001. it took us 3 years to accept canada’s extreme cellphone prices. and still use the simple $25 plans. as for data…. it was way cheaper to deploy our own small data network. it was a bit of a investment, but at least we can work with technology not offered by rogers or bell yet. unlimited. were ahead of 2 professional company’s ??
Rogers and Bell are dragging Canada down on the technology scale. c’mon people, wake up! it’s 2010!!!
I go back to europe once a year. and put my old sim card back in my phone. and are amazed by the new free services offerd. with my phone. the same phone rogers only let me call and TXT with…..

yunizar HASANU's picture
yunizar HASANU on January 26, 2011 - 12:14 Permalink

I went back to indonesia at january 2011, when I as in jakarta , I can use internet for only $12 / month and I can talk and text for almost $20, so total I use is $32, In Canada , I’m tha roger’s costumer, it’s sucked, without data plan, I spend $55/ month, I don’t understand why rogers to expensive than the others???