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”:
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:
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.